If you’re considering moving to Panama City, you’re probably wondering how much life will cost you in your new home.
One of the appealing characteristics of Panama for many expats, is that the cost of living can be significantly lower than what you’re used to in the United States or Canada. But is this true in Panama City? Let’s find out!
With a population of almost 2,000,000, Panama City is the largest city in Panama. It is known for the Panama Canal, its wonderful tropical climate (average temperatures hover around 88°F all year), and its blend of modern and colonial-era neighborhoods.
Panama is a major international city. Thanks to the presence of the Panama Canal, it’s an important city for trade, and there are many international companies with offices in the city. It has a stunning, modern skyline and overlooks the Bay of Panama.
You’ll find excellent amenities within Panama City, including a great healthcare system with a Johns Hopkins-affiliated hospital. There’s an amazing culinary scene and endless recreation opportunities.
Panama City has options to suit every lifestyle– if you’re looking for a busy city center with lively nightlife, you can find it. Or, if you prefer the peaceful life of the suburbs with access to amenities like shopping malls, gyms, and restaurants, you can find that too!
There are many parks in Panama City. The Parque Natural Metropolitano, a tropical rainforest within city limits, is one of the most exhilarating experiences Panama City has to offer. This 573-acre park is home to more than 200 bird species, including keel-billed toucans, which are the ultimate symbol of paradise.
Keep reading as we break down the cost of living in Panama City.
Cost of Rent in Panama
Rent will inevitably be your most considerable expense in Panama City. While rentals are available to accommodate a wide range of budgets, prices are typically higher in Panama City than in smaller towns. Rents have been coming down in Panama City which makes it a great place to live especially when you consider the convenience of other amenities.
Here’s an overview of what you can expect to pay for rentals in Panama City:
(Sources: Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and Encuentra24)
● Unfurnished 1 bedroom, 1 bath apartment near the city center – $550/month
● Unfurnished 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment near the city center – $1,100/month
● Unfurnished 3 bedroom, 3 bath house outside the city center – $1,700/month
Add about $200 per month for a completely furnished apartment.
Of course, there are more expensive rentals in Panama City too.
Here’s an example from Craigslist of a furnished $580-a-month studio apartment on Via Argentina in Panama City:
Casco Viejo, Paitilla, and Panama Pacifico are popular Panama City neighborhoods among expats.
● Casco Viejo is the historic district of Panama City, settled in 1673. It’s popular among younger expats and digital nomads drawn to the area because it’s beautiful and compact. You can easily live in this area without a car– in fact, it’s preferable because the streets are narrow and parking is tough to find.
● Panama Pacifico is a 10-minute drive from downtown Panama City. Many expats are attracted to this area for its single-family homes, apartments, and industrial park. Southern hills lead down to bayside beaches, bars, and cafes, as well as resort hotels known for their spa facilities and upscale international restaurants. See this brochure about Panama Pacifica. See the photos below of a furnished two-bedroom for $1100
● Paitilla is in the heart of Panama City. It’s close to shopping centers (MultiPlaza Mall), Medical Centers (Punta Pacifica Hospital and Panama Clinic); The location of the building makes it easy to quickly reach banks, pharmacies, restaurants, supermarkets, and more. I found this two-bedroom, two-bath furnished pet-friendly rental for $1450 on Craigslist.
In Panama, it’s best never to agree to a long-term apartment rental without viewing it first. Photos can be deceiving, and neighborhoods may be louder than you envision. It’s vital that you see the property in person to ensure you feel comfortable and content in the space and the neighborhood before you commit.
This article has many helpful tips for finding a great rental, managing the rental process, and avoiding pitfalls.
Groceries & Restaurants
Groceries are generally very affordable in Panama, but your average expense will depend on where you shop and whether you buy many imported products, which are often more expensive.
You’ll find a range of grocery stores and supermarkets in Panama City. Riba Smith is a high-end supermarket, while El Rey and Super 99 are everyday supermarkets. Pricemart is a Costco-style market where you can stock up on essentials in bulk.
Local mercados (farmer’s markets) and independent shops are really affordable and great places to stock up on fresh, locally-sourced produce, baked goods, and more.
If this is an area of your budget where you’d like to save money, learn to cook and shop as the locals do! Purchasing locally sourced products and national brands will lower your grocery bill tremendously, as will frequenting your local vegetable markets and neighborhood shops.
Panama City also has incredible restaurants in a variety of price ranges. On the low end, you can get a delicious meal for $4-$5 per person at a fonda (Panamanian restaurant), whereas, at a mid-range restaurant, you’ll pay closer to $15-$25 per person.
On average, expect to spend approximately $500 – $600 per month on groceries for two people if you purchase a mix of locally sourced products and imported items.
Utility Costs in Panama City
In some cases, your utility costs will be included in your rent, but not always. Here’s an overview of what you can expect to pay in utilities, but keep in mind that these costs may vary depending on the size of your home, the number of people in your household, and your usage habits.
In Panama City, electricity is usually not included in your rent because some people use an air conditioner all the time. Your landlord may include the first $25 per month in electricity then you’re responsible for all charges over $25.
Before you agree to rent in Panama City, get confirmation that the electricity bill is current. If there are outstanding charges, they must be paid before the electric company will turn on the power to your house/condo.
Because of the warm, humid climate in Panama City, you may rely on air conditioning and/or a dehumidifier to keep your home comfortable. If this is the case, expect to pay higher rates for electricity. Plan to pay between $100 and $200 per month for electricity, depending on the size of your home.
In Panama City, central air conditioning is rare. Most houses or apartments have split air conditioning systems in each room. To save money, only turn on the air conditioner in the room you are in and keep the doors closed to the other rooms.
The cost of water is typically included in the price of your rental. On the off-chance that it isn’t, plan to spend about $100 per year for unlimited water use.
Many homes have gas appliances, including stoves, dryers, and water heaters. Panama uses propane gas which is delivered in a 25lb or 100 lb canister to your home. Plan to spend about $5 per month on a 25lb gas canister. Though, this expense may be higher if you do a lot of cooking or use your dryer frequently. If you live in a highrise condo, it usually has central gas that is included in your rent or HOA fees.
Expect to pay between $35 and $60 per month, depending on the speed of internet service you require and the provider you choose. The best internet provider in Panama City varies depending on where you live and how your building is set up. It’s wise to ask your neighbors which company they recommend before you commit to a provider. See this report about Internet Speeds in Panama.
Cell phone plans in Panama are significantly less expensive than in the US. Expect to pay between $25-35 per month, depending on your carrier. Tigo is a popular cell phone service provider. If your current cell phone is unlocked, you can change the SIM card to convert it to your Panama phone. When you have Tigo, you can make international calls at no additional charge. And when you are traveling to other countries, you can use your Tigo phone with no additional charge.
Most people in Panama use Whatsapp to communicate. Be sure to download Whatsapp to your phone before coming to Panama.
Transportation is very affordable in Panama City and there are several ways to get around. Owning a car in Panama City makes it easy to take trips outside of the city and gives you the freedom to explore the city at will. However, Panama City has a great public transportation network, including buses, taxis, a subway, a metro bus system, and Ubers, so a vehicle isn’t necessary.
Whether you own a vehicle or not, budget around $60 to $100 per month for transportation. If you have a vehicle, you’ll probably spend closer to $100 per month on fuel, insurance, and maintenance. If you own a car, verify that your rental has a parking space included.
You can catch a bus in Panama City to go to any destination in Panama. It’s affordable too! It cost about $20 to take a bus from Panama City to David on the far western side of Panama, a 7-hour ride.
See this article about Taking the Bus in Panama.
See this article about Traveling Around Panama using public transportation.
Medical care in Panama is extremely affordable compared to what you may be used to in the US, but health insurance is still a good idea.
An insurance plan from Family Medical Plan will cover you anywhere in Panama for approximately $102 per month if you are 60-69 years old.
Medical expenses are very affordable in Panama. A visit to the doctor typically costs about $15-$20, or $40-$50 if you need to see a specialist. These prices are without using insurance.
Some medications are more affordable in Panama, but some are more expensive. It’s a good idea to check the price and availability of your medications in Panama before you make plans to retire in Panama.
If you need prescription medication, you may be able to get it over the counter in Panama. Even if you still require a prescription, the cost is much less than what you pay in the United States. This report has a cost comparison of some of the most common prescription medications and their prices in Panama versus the US.
If you have the right Medicare Advantage plan, it can be used for urgent care and emergencies in Panama.
If you’re a Veteran, check out this article about medical benefits available for Veterans. Hospital Brisas in Panama City is where most Veterans go. It’s not a VA hospital, but they do direct billing with the VA and Tricare.
Shipping and Postage
Panama doesn’t offer mail delivery to your home, so you must get a post office box or use a private company to receive your mail.
Fletes Chavales is a good option for in-country deliveries. I can take a package or letter to them for delivery to another Feletes Chaveles office anywhere in Panama. The cost varies depending on what you are shipping. For a large legal envelope to go to my attorney in Panama City, it is $1.50.
Uno Express or Mail Boxes Etc are services you can use to receive mail from the other countries to Panama. They give you an address in Florida where you can have packages (like Amazon orders) or mail shipped to and then forwarded to Panama. They send an email and call when a package arrives. Plans cost between $2.50 and $4 per pound, so shop wisely. Remember that most things you need are readily available in Panama City!
See this article about getting Amazon orders in Panama. There is no next-day delivery. Expect 7-10 days for your Amazon orders to arrive in Panama.
Budget between $20 and $50 per month for shipping and postage fees, depending on how often you shop online.
The Botton Line
Panama City is a diverse city that caters to all kinds of different lifestyles. Your cost of living will vary depending on your neighborhood, the size of your home, and how you prefer to shop. Generally speaking, the base cost of living for two people in Panama City would fall between $1,395 and $2,920.
Here’s how your monthly expenses could break down:
Rent $550 – $1,700
Groceries & Eating Out $500 – $600
Electricity $100 – $200
Water is Included in rent (or $100 per year)
Internet $35 – $60
Phone $25 – $35
Transportation $60 – $100
Health Insurance $102
Shipping & Postage $50
Total Cost of Living $1,395 – $2,920
If you think Panama City might be right for you, take a look at this interview where along-time ex-pat in Panama City share what drew them to the city and what their daily life looks like.
For a closer look at what life in Panama City could be like, consider booking an all-inclusive 6-day, 7-night Panama Relocation Tour or a Private Tour to learn more about the area!
The video below is an interview with a man who moved to Tucan Country Club inside Panama Pacifico
Steve Cosby says
I would love to live in Boquete
I’m think about retirement , in about a year . And think Central American is the place for me . Panama is on the list but want a base place to explore all kind of countries . My question is , is it safe to live in a small town there mixed with locals ? Because I’m not fond of big cities or resort type of setting ! What is guess I’m asking is it safe to rent small apartment or house in a small beach town there and live with the locals ? Also thank you for any advice you may have !
Jackie Lange says
Hi Kelly. It depends on where you want to rent in Panama. Some areas are more safe than others.