Realistic Cost of Living in Panama

The cost of living in Panama depends on where you live, how you live, and your lifestyle. It’s really not possible to tell you a flat fee for the cost of living.

Many live very well on less than $1500 a month but some people need $3,000, $5,000, or even $10,000 a month to live the kind of lifestyle they want.

The good news is that you have many choices in Panama to control your cost of living.

Regardless of your budget, there is a place for you in Panama!

I suggest that you take out a piece of paper and create your budget for Panama based on the information below. Knowing what some expenses are will help you determine what you can afford to pay for rent. See the sample budget at the bottom of the page and adjust the numbers to fit your lifestyle.

The biggest line item I’m your budget will be rent. If you live in Panama City or Coronado, your cost of living will be more. A nice rental will start at about $1200-$1500 in these cities plus add in your electric bill. Some people are paying $2000 -$4000 just for rent in these areas.

Panama City Panama
Panama Rentals
$1800 a month rental in Coronado

If you live in a gated community in Boquete, your cost of living will be more than if you do not live in a gated community. Rents in gated communities in Boquete start at $1200 but can easily be $2000-$3000 depending on the property.

Don’t worry! There are many places where you can live in Panama for MUCH LESS! Even if you live on a limited budget there will be an ideal place to live in Panama.

Volcan, in far western Panama, offers an economical lifestyle without giving up the amenities you need like a hospital, nice restaurants, great grocery stores, and more. You won’t need an air conditioner if you live in the highlands so that significantly reduces your electric bill. Electricity may even be included in your rent. The furnished two-bedroom two-bath house below rents for $700 a month with all utilities included.

volcan panama rental 750
$700 a month furnished rental, two-bedroom, two baths.

If you’d love to live by the beach but Coronado prices don’t fit your budget, you could live in the eastern Azuero between Chitre and Las Tablas in a furnished two-bedroom, two-bath house for about $600 a month (plus your electric bill)

el rompio panama rental
$600 a month furnished two bedroom two baths in El Rompio

There are many affordable rentals in the Caribbean side of Panama in Bocas del Toro. This amazing ocean view furnished one-bedroom is only $495 per month in Bocas.

You Have So Many Choices in Panama!

To help you come up with a realistic budget, I did a Livestream to discuss the costs of various things so you can come up with a realistic budget. Below the video, see the line items with prices to help you come up with your budget.

RENT will be your biggest expense in Panama. It’s always been advised that your rent should not be more than 1/3 of your budget. In Panama, some rentals include all utilities and a gardener too so you could pay a little more for that rental. Some areas are more expensive than others. You will need to pick a place to live that fits your budget.

ELECTRICITY In Panama, some rentals include all utilities and a gardener too. In the highlands, your electric bill will be $25 – $50 a month. You could pay more for rent if all utilities are included. But if you live on the coast your electric bill could be quite high. Estimate $100 to $300 for electricity depending on the size of your home and how often you use air conditioning. If you live on the west side of a condo building, your home will be hot all the time so you’ll need air conditioning more often. But if you live in a place that has a nice ocean breeze, you can reduce air conditioning use to keep your electric bill low

GROCERIES will probably be your second biggest expense. It’s another thing that depends on your lifestyle. Some people eat a lot of meat, cheese, and imported items so their grocery bills will be more. Others buy more locally grown fruits, veggies, and fresh-caught fish which will keep your grocery bill low because they are so affordable in Panama. Even picking a Panama brand of chips versus an important brand can save $4 per bag. Only you can decide if you can adjust your lifestyle when you move to Panama to help keep your food bills low. During the Livestream, someone asked about the cost of meats in Panama. Here are the prices of meats:

meat prices in panama

If you buy fresh fish from the local fishmonger, like Miguel, you will reduce your grocery bill. Fresh tuna is about $4 a pound. Sea bass is about $2 a pound.

fish monger in panama

The best and most affordable place to buy fruits and veggies is the local market (not the grocery store)

farmers market el valle

ALCOHOL can certainly increase your budget substantially. Some people no alcohol, some buy a bottle of wine (Panama has great wine at great prices) or a 6-pack of beer every week, but others buy 10 bottles of wine and several cases of beer every week. What will really increase your budget is if you go to the daily “Happy Hours” where you’re spending $4 to $5 per drink. You get to decide how much you want to budget for alcohol. I know some people who spend about $100 a week/$400 a month on Happy Hours!

EATING OUT can really increase your budget unless you eat at the amazing tipico/fonda type restaurants where it’s $4-$5 a meal. There are plenty of restaurants that cost $8, $15, or $30 a meal + drinks per person too. At least in Panama, you have healthy and affordable choices when you eat out. Will you budget eating out 1, 2 or 3 times a week or daily?

WATER is usually included in your rent but if you have to pay the bill, it will be about $100 a year for unlimited water use.

TRASH COLLECTION is usually included in your rent but if you have to pay the bill, it’s about $36 a year.

GARDENER is usually included in your rent. But if you need to pay a gardener, expect to pay $30 – $40 a day. If you have a really big yard, like I do, you may need a gardener twice a week. When you hire a gardener, you are usually only hiring labor. You will need to supply the tools

HOUSEKEEPER is affordable in Panama and a luxury you can treat yourself to because the cost is only $30 – $40 for the day. When you hire a housekeeper, you are only hiring labor, you will need to supply the broom, mop, cleaning supplies, etc . You may hire a housekeeper once a week, once a month, or just occasionally.

INTERNET/CABLE TV is often included in your rent but if you have to pay the bill it is about $50 – $70 a month. If you live in an area with fiber optics, you will have faster internet speeds. But some coastal areas have very low internet speeds. If faster internet speeds and reliability are important to you, you will need to research the current availability of fiber optics in the area you want to move to. Do not believe people who say fiber optics is coming soon… soon in Panama could be 5 years away or never.

CELL PHONE service is affordable and excellent in Panama. You can budget about $25-$35 a month depending on which company and plan you pick. I prefer TIGO!

AMAZON/ONLINE ORDERS can significantly increase your budget. Ideally, you buy locally so you do not need to shop on Amazon to get things shipped to you. Amazon Prime may be free to get the items shipped to Miami but you’ll need to use a mail forwarding company to get the items shipped from Miami to Panama and that costs about $4 a pound. It can add up fast, especially for heavy items. Will you buy 1-2 times a month from Amazon for an estimate or $20 a month shipping fees? Or will you buy 1-2 times a week from Amazon, estimate $80 a month shipping fees?

PERSONAL CARE includes haircuts, massage, gym membership, mani-pedi. A haircut can cost $5 to $20 depending on where you go. A deep tissue massage is about $50 for a one hour massage. You can pay $2-$5 pay as you go to a gym or get a monthly membership for about $40-$50. A mani-pedi will cost about $25.

MEDICAL EXPENSES are super affordable in Panama. It’s about $15-$20 to see a doctor or $40 -$50 for specialists. If you go to the public hospital it’s only $2 to see a doctor or $5 for specialists. These prices are not co-pays. Because the price is so low many people self-insure instead of getting health insurance. You may only need to budget 1-2 doctor visits a year or if you have chronic health problems, you may need to budget a monthly doctor visit.

HEALTH INSURANCE is very affordable in Panama but you may have a hard time getting health insurance if you have pre-existing conditions or if you are not vaccinated. If you are 60-69 a Family Medical Plan is $102 per month. Click on the link for prices of other age groups. They will cover some per-existing conditions but only after the first two years. You can use the public hospital for $0 monthly fee, you just pay as you go. Or, you can get an international health insurance which will cost about $4000-$5000 a year and cover you anywhere in the world. You are not required to be vaccinated to get international health insurance.

DRUGS are sometimes more affordable in Panama but sometimes they cost more in Panama. You can see a FREE REPORT with a list of the 50 Most Commonly Prescribed Drugs in the USA and what they Cost in Panama. If your medication is not on that list, you can call pharmacies in Panama to see if they have your medications and what they cost OR you can hire Julie at Simplify Panama to do the research for you. Julie charges $20 an hour and can research 3-4 medications for that price. If you’d prefer to do your own research, the two biggest pharmacies in Panama are Arrocha and Revilla. Prices can vary greatly between pharmacies. Hospital pharmacies have the most affordable prices. Panama insurance usually does not cover medications. If you still have insurance in another country (extra expense to add to your budget), you may be able to get medications from Amazon Pharmacy and then get them shipped to Panama. Some people spend $10 a month on medications and others spend $200 a month on medications. How much do you need to budget for medications?

MISC – CLOTHES AND TRAVEL should be added to your budget. Some people buy a lot of clothes and some people don’t. Some people travel several times a year (in Panama or outside of Panama) but some people don’t. What do you estimate that you should budget for clothes and travel? If you love to buy flowers to plant in your yard, you’ll need to budget for plants too.

CAR – If you buy a car when you move to Panama, you’ll need to budget for gas and maintenance. Car insurance is $200- $700 a year depending on the coverage. If you don’t buy a car, you’ll need to budget transportation expenses like a bus or taxi. You can estimate $3 to $5 per taxi/bus ride. Will you use the bus once a week or once a day? If you live closer to town, you can walk to restaurants, grocery stores, and social events to avoid extra transportation expenses.

EMERGENCIES hopefully never happen but you need to plan for the “just in case” situations and set money aside to cover the costs. What if your doctor wants you to get a CTScan and you don’t have insurance – that’s a $400 bill! Or what if a family member has an emergency and you need to buy airfare to get to them plus expenses while you are away from Panama? Budget for emergencies too.

See this SAMPLE budget for living in the highlands where an air conditioner is not needed. If you live in a coastal area, add $80-$150 a month for electricity. Most stoves and dryers in Panama use propane gas which is $5.37 for a 25-pound tank. I have to replace my tank every 3 months. But if you cook a lot, you may need to replay your tank once a month. Depending on your lifestyle you may need to increase your food & eating out budget. If you take medications, you will need to add that to the budget. And remember to budget for emergencies.

Rent$695 (gardener included in rent)
Food & Eating Out$400
CableTV & Internet$0 (included in rent)
Cell Phone$32
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 or more)
TOTAL$1362 ($16,344 per year)

Of course, you’ll need to adjust rent and other items to fit your lifestyle. Add or delete line items you need or do not need.

The bottom line is that you LIVE BETTER for LESS in Panama. You can almost always have less living expenses and you can certainly have LESS STRESS when you move to Panama!

Live a stress-free life in Panama

Jackie Lange

Jackie Lange is the founder of Panama Relocation Tours and lives in the highlands of Boquete Panama. She has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Eleanor Woodward says

    Very good info. Thank you so much!!👍👍👍

    • Jackie Lange says

      You’re welcome

      • tony mccallum says

        hi im hoping to retire there soon,and will need your services but first im looking into finding a doctor & hospital for a complete hip replacement for cash,do you have an idea of that cost & a doctor recomendation,thanx

  2. Allan and Grace says

    A very good, clear presentation. Will be in Panama early August. I am hoping that we can sort out when we will be there permanently. We have been listening to most of the presentation. I love your pragmatic approach, will put this all together when we come in August. I think my only concern is having a two Bedroom two bathroom that will meet our needs and be under 700 in either Boquete or Volcan. I know it is there.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Glad you like the information. You will be able to find a two-bedroom at that price!

  3. Cadet Gordon says

    This is fantastic information!! It will make it very easy to plan ahead with my budget.
    I can’t wait to visit Panama in your Relocation Tour

    Thank you for making it so easy to plan!

    • Jackie Lange says

      I’m glad it was helpful

      • Heiko van Delden says

        Congrats! A Very good and complete information. Cleared explained. Is It true that rains too much in Panama? I am looking for a small apart ir house máximo 2 bed & 1-2 bath in front Beach in a calm zone but near major facilities but with a low budget. Do you know 1 or 2 nice places for this? I am planning to visit by the end of Sept and stay for a week. I will contact you!

        • Jackie Lange says

          Thanks Glad you liked the article about the cost of living in Panama. Some areas get less rain than others. The Azuero gets less rain than anywhere else in Panama. See this furnished two bedroom across the street from the ocean for $650 in El Rompio https://panamarelocationtours.com/rentals

          • Heiko van Delden says

            I am very grateful for your reply. I will contact you before going to Panama. Just to explain: A week in Panama is not for a short term rental. It is the first trip to know Panama. The idea is to move later to Panama. We, my wife and I are already retired. Best regards, Heiko.

  4. Diana Brevard says

    I am considering retiring in Panama. I am an US Army Veteran. My current income is 100% VA Disability and SSDI. I have a few questions:

    Which area provides the most hot sunny days?

    What type of area is Bocos? Is it safe for a single female?

    Is there a VA hospital in Panama? If so, what is that area like?

    What type of paperwork is required to become a citizen of Panama?

    What city/towns are located closest to Fort Clayton?

    Is there a place I can search places that are “for rent”?

    Thank you in advance.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello Diana, If you live at the coast, you will have plenty of hot sunny days. There is less rain in the Azxuero so you should check out that area. Bocas is safe but you will have days where it is overcast and rainy. There is no VA hospital in Panama but there is a hospital that specializes in helping Veterans and does the filing for you. See Veteran Benefits link below. You cannot become a citizen of Panama until you have had a permanent residency for 5 years. If you make at least $1000 a month in income, you can get the Pensionado visa. Panama City is closest to Fort Clayto and the hospital that serves Veterans too. https://panamarelocationtours.com/veterans-medical-benefits-in-panama

  5. John Nylen says

    What activities are there in Panama? Baseball, soccer, basketball teams ?
    High School, college, semi-pro level?
    Car and motorcycle clubs?
    Fitness centers?
    Boating?

    • Jackie Lange says

      no one has ever asked for information on any of these things so we do not have any articles about them. There are all great things to investigate when you come visit Panama during a Private Panama Relocation Tour

  6. Syd Carter says

    Thanks for putting this info together in an easily accessible format. My wife and I are retired and considering relocating to a warmer year-round climate. We were thinking of an extended first time experience, maybe 2 months. Would you be able to help us organize this extended expat tour

    • Dustin Lange says

      Hi Syd, Unfortunately, we do not offer a service like that. You may find our Complete Panama Relocation Guide helpful though. It has recommendations for where to stay in all of the cities we recommend. You can learn more on our self-guided tour page.

  7. Jonathan says

    How is the local music scene?

    • Jackie Lange says

      not really about cost of living — but the local music scene depends on where you live. In some areas, it is very active. In other areas it is non-existent.

  8. PeterShea says

    Are there restrictions due to COVID in Panama ?

  9. Garth Hunt says

    More timely and informative info! Love it!

  10. Pam David says

    This is very helpful and is making me feel more assured that there’s a place for me in the Highlands. I will be arriving in early December. What are my chances of finding a reasonably-priced short-term rental right before the holidays that will accept one cat? If my understanding is correct, it appears it may take up to six months before I am able to get a driver’s license and purchase a car, so my preference is to live within walking distance of restaurants, shopping, local produce stands, etc.

    • Jackie Lange says

      if your rental is less than 3 months, airbnb is your best source. The holidays are high season and there are less rentals available starting December 1. But if you come down in November, you’ll have plenty of rentals to select from.

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