Updated February 2021
About a year ago I wrote an article about the many ways I live for less in Panama compared to what it cost to live in Dallas Texas. Today I updated the article with current 2021 prices. There has not been much of an increase in prices in the last couple of years. Some restaurants have raised their prices but there is always a more affordable restaurant just down the road.
Can you really live for less in Panama? Well, it depends on how you live, where you live in Panama, and where you’re coming from. For most people, it is possible to live for less in Panama.
Some people reevaluate their priorities when they move to Panama. Instead of the 3000 Sf house with a big yard they had back home, they downsize to a comfortable 1500SF house in Panama. You can reduce your costs by moving into a smaller house in Panama
Other people go from a 1500SF house back home to a 5000SF house on an estate in Panama. Obviously, a bigger house will always cost more to maintain and take more time to manage.
I know a lady who lives in Panama for $800 a month which includes rent. She lives in a modest furnished one-bedroom Panamanian style house that she rents for $100 a month. She says she is completely comfortable and has everything she needs.
Another couple lives comfortably on $4000 a month in a 3500sf house and they eat out just about every day plus they travel internationally 3-4 times a year. They have a large property so they have additional expenses of a full-time groundskeeper.
Many ex-pats are living WELL in Panama on a fixed income of $1200 – $2000 per month.
So, Live Better and Live for Less are subjective. But as you can see from the information below, no matter where or how you live in Panama, there are many different ways you can live for less. If you forego the big house with the big property, you will certainly reduce your costs.
Sure some things will cost more in Panama. But there are many ways you can live better and live for less… much less.. in Panama. No matter what size home you live in, whether you rent or buy, there are many ways you can live for less in Panama. See details below…
The cost per kilowatt-hour in Panama is the same that I paid in Texas. But the big difference is that in Boquete, where I live, I don’t need an air conditioner or heater running 24/7 as I did in Texas where my electricity bill went from $250 – $350 a month. In Boquete, my electric bill is under $30 a month.
In Texas, I paid $70 per month for metered water. In Panama, I pay $100 a year for unlimited water use.
Plus I get an additional 25% discount off all utility costs because I’m over 55 and have a residency visa.
Just these two items alone save me over $3000 per year.
Tour client Soup and Sue Campbell lived in Fairbanks Alaska before moving to Panama. His annual heating and electric bill was $8500 and now it is less than $500 per year. That’s an $8000 a year savings.. and living for less in Panama
If you moved from New York, California, London, or Dubai, you’ll think Panama prices are a bargain. But if you move from Texas, Oklahoma, Florida or Arizona, (areas most popular with retirees) the house prices in Panama could be about the same or higher… unless you know where to go to find great bargains.
A year ago, a guy from my tour bought a 1800sf house on an acre for $35,000 in Caldera. I got a call last week about a house for sale in Volcan for only $95,000. It’s a 1600sf house fully furnished with a detached two-car garage on 1 1/2 acre with a stream at the back of the property. A friend purchased a house near the beach for $55,000 in Puerto Armuelles. So there are great “deals” out there but they are not usually advertised online or listed with real estate agents. To find great real estate deals, you will need to be in the town and talk to a lot of people.
The acquisition cost of the house is not the only thing you need to take into consideration. Buying a house is a one-time expense. You also have to take in to consideration the monthly or annual expenses of Panama vs. where you live now.
Saving $3000 to $8000 a year on utility costs alone makes it possible to live for less in Panama. But there are many other savings.
I paid about $3500 a year for property taxes for my house in Texas. I pay ZERO property taxes on my home in Panama. That’s because houses built before 2012 got a 20-year tax exemption. And any home purchased for less than $120,000 will never have property taxes. My Panama house was built in 2007 so I still have many years with no property taxes for the exemption then no property taxes after that. Even when I do pay property taxes, it will be less than $500 a year.
House insurance in Texas cost me $1500 a year. I pay $200 a year for house insurance in Panama.
Over the next 20 years, that’s a $70,000 savings compared to what I paid in Texas.
House insurance in Texas cost me $1500 a year. In Panama, I pay $200 per year for house insurance. That’s a $1300 a year saving for house insurance!
According to http://www.valuepenguin.com homeowners, insurance rates continue to rise at a steady rate throughout the United States, up over 50% in the last 10 years. The Florida average for median-priced house insurance is $1933 per year which does not include Flood Insurance which is required in much of Florida.
Don’t rush into buying a house! I recommend that you wait at least 6-12 months before making a buying decision. This will give you time to make sure you like living in Panama. And it will give you time to make sure you like the area you have selected. You need to get your permanent Visa before you buy real estate in Panama.
Renting is a lot more affordable in Panama than it is in other countries, including the United States. In Texas, you’ll pay $1200 a month for a $125,000 house. That is unfurnished and does not include any utilities. A $125,000 house in Panama, fully furnished and all bills paid, will rent for $700 to $750 in 2021. The Panama house will probably include a weekly or bi-weekly gardener too. Plus you don’t have to deal with the upkeep and maintenance when you rent.
If you buy a house priced at over $250,000 in Panama it could take many years to sell it in Panama. You can’t move on with your life and other plans if you are stuck trying to sell a house. Instead of investing in buying a house, you could put the money into a savings account in Panama and earn 1.5% to 2.5% interest. It’s hard to put a price on the FREEDOM to move when you want to!
It’s not just what you pay for rent or buying a house …. you have to take into consideration the QUALITY of life too.
Read how ex-pat Debbie F. explains how she lives better for less in Panama.
The home I purchased in Panama is probably at least half of what a similar home in an oceanfront community in the USA would have cost me. Not to mention, my utility bill last month was under $40 for everything – electric, water, trash included. I don’t need AC here, but in Arizona, we were rarely under $200, even in the winter, and near $400/month in the summer – just for electricity! Another plus to my monthly budget is the local Farmer’s Markets. Again, I pay about 1/2 the price I paid at Farmer’s Markets in the states for wonderful, fresh, and organic produce in Panama.
Veggies – Panama $2/large bag organic greens vs US $4-6/ bag of mixed organic greens
I also have about 30 Amazon Parrots, a couple of large iguanas, and a cute turtle that visit my yard regularly. I call them my free “wild pets” because they take care of themselves!
Healthcare in Panama is a big saving, especially if you don’t qualify for Medicare yet. If I stayed in the United States, I would pay about $12,000 a year for insurance, with a very high deductible, which would not be as good as the health insurance I have in Panama.
In Panama, I pay less than $102 per month for health insurance. I previously had international health insurance but could not justify the expense. Now, I just get travelers insurance when I travel. Honestly, I just pay the $15 fee (without insurance) when I need to see a doctor. I rarely use insurance in Panama.
Before moving to Panama, my health insurance was $750 per month. That’s a $9,000 a year savings!
Because it is so affordable to go to a doctor, many people decide to put that insurance money in savings then self-insure. Even though I have insurance, I just pay the $15 fee when I need to see a doctor.
In Panama, it is $12 to $20 for a doctor visit. A specialist will cost $40 to $50. These prices are without insurance!
And the doctors in Panama put the CARE back into healthcare. They will spend as much time as they need to evaluate your situation, carefully explain your options, and even give you their cell phone number so you can call them if you are not better quickly.
A few years ago I had to go to the emergency room at Hospital Chiriqui in Panama. I was in so much pain I forgot to give them my insurance card. After two IVs, pain medications, blood tests and other lab work, and a great doctor who spoke perfect English, my emergency room visit was less than $50 without insurance.
Try getting that price at an emergency room in the USA!
Soup and Sue Campbell came on my tour a few years ago then moved to Volcan. Soup had a stroke a few months ago. With no insurance, he paid $75 a day for a hospital stay. His total costs for the stroke with 3 doctors, CAT Scams, MRIs, medications, and several days in the hospital were less than $3500 without insurance.
A friend in Florida recently had a stent put in his heart for $125,000 out of pocket.
In Texas, I paid $225 a month for my ATT cell phone use including data. In Panama, I pay $25.37 a month. That’s a $2400 a year savings!
In Texas, I paid $80 a month for internet only. In Panama, I pay $60 a month for 100mbps fiber optics plus cable tv.
A little savings here and a little savings there really add up!
In Texas, I paid $35 to get someone to mow my lawn. They were finished in less than an hour. In Panama, I pay $30 for a gardener who is here from 9-4. The gardener comes to my property two times a week.
A 7-hour bus ride to Panama City $10.60 with a Pensionado discount. It’s a double-decker Mercedes bus with reclining seats. I don’t know what it would cost for an 8-hour bus ride to anywhere in North America but I bet it would be more than $10.60
If you have any residency visa and you are a woman 55+ or a man 60+ OR you have a Pensionado Visa, you will get these discounts:
50% off entertainment (movies, theaters, concerts, sporting events)
30% off bus, boat, and train fares
25% off airline tickets
25% off monthly energy bills
30% to 50% off hotel stays
15% off hospital bills
10% off prescription medicines
20% off medical consultations
15% off dental and eye exams
20% off professional and technical services
50% off closing costs for home loans, and more…
Last year I flew to Texas. I looked up the non-stop flight I wanted on Copa Airlines web site. It was $710. Then I sent the flight information to my travel agent in Boquete. She got the pensionado discount for me so I only paid $521. More savings!
If you buy a lot of imported items at the grocery store in Panama, you will pay more for your groceries. But if you buy local produce and local brands, you will save money. There is a huge variety of fruits and vegetables readily available at farmer’s markets and at the grocery store.
Even produce which is not grown in Panama, like apples and pears are readily available.
An example, imported Del Monte can tomatoes are $1.69 a can at Romero. But a Panama brand of can tomatoes is only 69 cents. Or, buy fresh tomatoes at the farmer’s market to get much better quality for even less.
If you avoid anything that comes in a can, bag, or box you will save money.. and be much healthier too. You may be able to get off all those expensive medications!
In Texas, I paid $150 – $200 per week for groceries. In Panama, I pay right around $50 per week. I’m saving another $100 a week at least on groceries
The sweetest pineapple you have ever tasted is about $1 each depending on the size. Pineapple is available year-round in Panama. I paid $5 for pineapple in Texas and they did not even have any flavor.
If you buy locally grown produce from the farmer’s market (not the grocery store), you will get better quality food at cheaper prices. How about papaya, pineapple, a few mangos, lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, and coyote for only $6… photo to the right.
When you eat at Panamanian restaurants for $4-$5 you get a full plate of 1 meat, rice with beans, and a salad.
Or, you can eat at an upscale restaurant for $20 a person. There are plenty of restaurants with prices everything in the middle too.
In Coronado, the tour group sometimes eats at Coronado Cafe. We have delicious chicken kabobs and grilled vegetables for $9.95 (see photo on the left)
When I was recently in Vegas, I paid $20 for 2 eggs, 1 piece of bacon, and a piece of cold toast, orange juice, and nasty tasting coffee. In Boquete, I can get that same breakfast, with great coffee, for less than $5.
I love Taco Tuesday at the Boquete Sandwich Shop – $1.50 for a HUGE taco .. fish, chicken, beef, or vegetarian.
Some restaurant prices have gone up in the last couple of years. But there is always a more affordable option just down the road.
I get high lights, low lights, and a haircut for $60 in Panama. This cost me $200 plus a tip in Texas.
A manicure and pedicure are $25 in Boquete. It was $65 in Texas
In Panama, I get a massage every week because it is only $33 for a really good 1-hour deep tissue massage. In Texas, I paid $65-75 per hour for a massage.
With this kind of price, you can splurge on life’s little luxuries more often.
In Boquete and many other areas in Panama, you can leave your windows wide open to get fresh air every day. I’m surrounded by spectacular views of lush green mountains and flowers everywhere. It’s good for your soul.
Nature is all around you in Panama. It’s up close and personal.
Panama is like having 3 countries in one… and you can drive to all of them in a day. There’s the Pacific Ocean to the south, the Caribbean Sea to the north, and a huge mountain range in the middle. There are 1500 islands surrounding Panama. Plus I have ready access to Panama City with a 40-minute flight.
Just about every day I have a flock of green parrots fly by my bedroom window on the way to the jungle area next to my house where my organic coffee grows. My yard is filled with hummingbirds and butterflies. And my windows are usually open to take in the FRESH AIR which is much more healthy than living in a place where you need an air conditioner.
When you don’t have to work so hard to keep up with all the expenses in North America or Europe, it removes the stress. Less stress = better health. You really can live better for less!
The list goes on and on about ways that I live a better life for less in Panama. You could too!
The United States taxes citizens and residents on their worldwide income. Citizens and residents living and working outside the U.S. may be entitled to a foreign earned income exclusion that reduces taxable income. The exclusion is available only for active, earned income, not pensions. If you are a US citizen living overseas at least 330 days a year, you could qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exemption. The income must be active income. Passive income does not qualify. In 2020, you can deduct a little more than $107,500 in income from your taxes. If you and your spouse both live and work that is $214,000 on tax-free income. That’s a HUGE saving!
With all the violence and constant threats going on around the world, it is refreshing to live in Panama where I feel safe! Safety and security are PRICELESS!
With all these savings, you can see why so many people are moving to Panama!
A little savings here and a little savings there … all add up to BIG savings when you live in Panama.
In Panama, just like everywhere else in the world, prices have gone up in the last 10 years. But for the most part, prices have gone up much less in Panama than they have in North America.
Sure you might pay more for a few things but overall you will save money in Panama
You really can live for less in Panama! And is much safer too!
Join us in an all-inclusive 6-day 7-night Panama Relocation Tour OR get our Complete Panama Relocation Guide to learn how you can LIVE BETTER FOR LESS in Panama too!