What does it cost to live in Panama? That’s the question I get asked most often. The answer is… it depends on where you live and how you live.
Some areas of Panama are much more affordable than others. If you live near Coronado or Panama City, your cost of living could be more than where you live now. But if you live in other areas in Panama your cost of living could be substantially less than where you live now.
I live in the highlands of Panama in Boquete. It’s not the most affordable place to live in Panama, but it is much more affordable than living in Texas where I moved from. Other places in Panama are even more affordable than Boquete.
I’ve been tracking my living expenses ever since I moved to Boquete so I thought I’d share them to give you a realistic picture of what it costs to live in Boquete in 2019. Keep in mind that I live a modest lifestyle. My house is about 1000sf on a large property with a lot of flowers and a vegetable garden. I don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.
In Boquete, like all other places, your cost of living will depend on your lifestyle choices. If you want to live in Valle Escondido or any of the other gated community, your costs will be much higher than other areas.
You can rent a house for $200 a month or spend $4000 a month.
Boquete has a huge variety of rental prices, like most areas in Panama. Only you can determine if the price you are willing to pay is in an area you like. You probably will not need to spend as much as you think for a house you really like.
During the tour, we sometimes visit with a couple who lives in a fantastic furnished 2 bedroom on one acre with the Pacific Ocean right out their front yard – all for only $400 a month. See it in the photo to the right. We also see fancy high rise Ocean front condos which rent for $1200 to $1800 a month. There’s something for everyone, in every budget, in Panama.
Affordable living is available in Panama if you know where to look! (we show you where during a Panama Relocation Tour)
I recommend that you rent for at least 6-12 months before you buy anything. That’s the only way you can really get to know an area.
Many people make the decision to only rent when they move offshore. Renting gives you a lot more flexibility. Rent is so affordable, it really does not make a lot of sense to buy. In Panama, it is easy to buy but it could take many years to sell. The other big advantage of renting is that you can easily move to a different location in Panama if you don’t like the weather or the neighbors where you are.
When I moved to Panama, I paid $600 per month rent for a fully furnished 2-bedroom, 1.5 bath house on an acre with 100 banana plants, coffee plants, exotic flowers and a spectacular view. I could pay more.. but why? I had everything I need at an affordable price.
After living in Panama a few years, I purchased the house for $120,000 so I don’t have a rent payment anymore. And I don’t have any property taxes – every! My house insurance is less than $200 a year.
Now ten years later, that same furnished house would rent for $695 to $795 today including includes all utilities.
You can eat at a Panamanian style restaurant for $4 – $5 per person. It’s hardly worth it to cook at home with those prices. Most high-end or expat-owned restaurants have prices similar to North America though. In some areas in Panama, you’re only choice is a Panamanian style restaurant.
I buy most produce at the Mercado (farmers market) or grow my own in my greenhouse. Produce prices are much cheaper than the United States and the quality is better too. For example, I recently bought 2 large sweet pineapples for $1.50. You can buy 4 Hass avocado for $2. I can buy 50 pounds of carrots for $6 or 100 oranges for $4.
In 2019, I spent an average of $400 per month on food including eating out. Some of this expense is for cat food.
I only use a cell phone in Panama. My data/talk plan is $32 a month. This is a huge savings over what I paid in Texas. With my Panama cell phone, I can make international calls at no additional costs!
I use Skype to make calls to friends and family all over the world at $0 expense. I have a dedicated Skype number so anyone call dial that number and it rings at my house in Panama. I pay $50 a year for my dedicated Skype phone number.
SHIPPING AND POSTAGE
Panama does not have mail delivery service to your house. I use a mail forwarding company in Boquete to get mail delivered from the United States to Panama. It’s expensive at about $3 a pound to get Amazon orders delivered so I try to buy everything I need in Panama to save money. There are in-country courier services available too.
I previously paid $2500 a year for international health insurance with United Healthcare which covers me any where in the world.
In 2019, I switched to a Panama only health insurance plan which will cost me $1200 a year with a $0 deductible. I’m so busy with tours that I don’t have time to travel much so there’s really not a need to pay for international health insurance. If I do travel, I can purchase travelers insurance. I also signed up for Medicare in the United States just in case I want to go to the US for treatments and if you don’t sign up for Medicare when you turn 65, there is a big penalty to get it later.
Health care costs and health insurance costs are a HUGE savings over what it would cost me in the United States.
I do have a miscellaneous category in my budget for travel, buying furniture, clothes, plants for my yard, Amazon Prime or other expenses that come up. Many of these are optional expenses which could be avoided.
I rarely watch TV, I much prefer to watch movies, so I plan to drop cable TV and use an Amazon Firestick to get access to movies, news and television shows.
Below I will post two scenarios. The first will be my actual monthly expenses for 2019 (note, I pay two gardeners to come twice a week to take care of a large property)
and the second will be what your estimated expenses would be if you were renting a fully furnished two bedroom house with utilities and gardening included.
|Rent($0) & House Insurance & gardener||$20 + $240|
|Food & Eating Out & Pet Food||$400|
|Internet & Cell Phone||$60 + $32|
|Electricity & Gas||$30|
|Water and Trash Collection||$10|
|Transportation (gas, insurance, maintenance)||$60|
|Medical||$100 Panama + $60 US|
|Postage and Shipping||$50|
|Clothes, Travel, Flowers/Plants and Haircare, weekly massage, Mani-Pedi, Misc||$200|
|TOTAL||$1,272 ($15,264 per year)|
This second scenario is what your estimated expenses would be if you were renting a house for $695. Of course, if your rent is less or more you’d need to adjust the figures. If you rent in an area close to the coast where you will need air conditioning, your electricity is usually NOT included in your rent. So you’ll need to add $80-$150 a month for electricity if you live in a coastal area.
|Rent||$695 (gardener included in rent)|
|Food & Eating Out||$400|
|CableTV & Internet||$0 (included in rent)|
|Electricity & Gas||$5 for gas (electric included in rent)|
|Water and Trash Collection||$0 (included in rent)|
|Transportation (gas, insurance, maintenance)||$60|
|Medical||$20 without insurance|
|Postage and Shipping||$50|
|Clothes, Travel, Flowers/Plants and Haircare, weekly massage, Mani-Pedi, Misc||$100 (could be a lot less)|
|TOTAL||$1362 ($16,344 per year)|
Yes, You Really Can Live for Less in Panama
If you were renting a house for $700 a month, your monthly costs would be less than $2,000 a month (keep in mind that your internet, electricity, gardener, water and cable TV are usually included in your rent!). Many Panama Relocation Tours Alumni live comfortably on $1500 a month Social Security which includes rent. And I know people who pay $2400 a month just in rent for a large 3-bedroom house in a gated community. There are a lot of choices in all different price points.
Some places in Panama are more affordable than Boquete. And some places in Panama are much more expensive.
During a Panama Relocation Tour, I’ll show you a variety of different areas in a variety of different price points. Plus, you’ll get to meet people who live in each of these areas. Panama has a perfect place for you regardless of what your monthly budget is. In our new ONLINE Complete Panama Relocation Guide we also include detailed information about many different places to live in Panama and discuss the pros and cons of each.
IS IT MORE AFFORDABLE AND EASIER TO JUST RENT?
Only you can decide if renting is better for you! We strongly recommend that you rent for at least 6-12 months before you make a buying decision. This gives you plenty of time to experience both seasons in Panama, make sure you like living in Panama and that you like the area you have selected. The nice thing about renting is that you’re not responsible for repairs, insurance or arranging for gardeners and utilities. It’s nice to not have any surprise expenses especially when you are living on a fixed income! Plus, when you rent, you can quickly and easily move to a different location in Panama anytime you want. If you buy real estate in Panama, it could take years, many years, to sell a property in Panama so that will hold you down.