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.