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Cost of living in Panama - 2017

Hello,

Before moving to Panama, it is important to investigate the cost of living in the country.

As we did in 2015, we give you the opportunity to share your experience and tell us more about products and services average recorded prices in your town/city/area.

Don’t hesitate to let us know if the cost of living in Panama has decreased or increased in the past few years.

Thanks to your help, would-be expatriates will have the opportunity to refine and better prepare their expatriation project.

> How much does it cost to rent an apartment/house in Panama? 

> How much do you pay for your public transport tickets (bus, subway, train, tram)?

> Staple food: what do people eat and how much do they pay for basic food like bread, rice or pasta?

>What is your monthly grocery budget?

> How much does it cost to see a physician/doctor/specialist in Panama ? 

> What is your children's schooling monthly budget?

> How much does it cost to fill up your car’s fuel tank?

> How much do you pay for electricity/gas/water etc.?

> How much do you pay for your Internet/phone subscription?

> How much do you pay for your lunch pack on weekdays?

> How much do you pay for an espresso coffee?

> How much do you pay for a cinema ticket?

> How much does a gym membership cost in Panama? 

Thank you everyone!

Priscilla

https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/3-t … in-panama/

Living in Panama turned out to be way more expensive than I thought.  If you want to live in an expat area, not the jungle, count on paying for it.  I owned two apartments, the less expensive was $132,000, and although it was gringo-style, it was very small only 650 square feet (and did not have screens on the windows -- most don't).  Also the rents are NOT what you hear on those get-to-know, re-location Panama tours.  I offered to show my apartment for rent on that tour.  A beautiful brand new 3-bedroom, 2.5 bath apartment in a large resort with several amenities.  I was trying to rent it for $1300 a month, less than the going rate of $1500.  A woman who runs tours every month asked me why I was asking so much??  I WAS NOT.  She was showing 2 apartments in the same complex, which she claimed were renting for $800 and $1000.  I have looked at every listing of every empty apartment there and NEVER  seen a rental priced liked that.  So beware, what you see on those tours is not accurate.  (Tour operator told me to get ready for a group of 20 people at 8:30 a.m., she never showed and never even called me, she wanted to present a certain inaccurate picture of Panama)  International Lying is no better, that's for sure.

Also, the cost of food is extremely high.  Go and buy your fish at the dock, and your vegetables at the farmers market -- still not cheap!!   Groceries here are 40% to 50% higher than the U.S.   And even in large supermarket chains the quality of meats/chicken is not great.   Forget about using coupons, and their "specials" are either as little as 6 cents off, or buy one get one free (second one is always past the expiration date). Also, and I have seen this many times, when freezers or refrigerators stop working in stores, they do not THROW OUT THE FOOD.  They merely move it, and then put it back.  I have thrown away so much spoiled food, its ridiculous.  There are only so many times you want to stand in the 45-minute line at "customer service" in the supermarket.

Eating out is also very expensive.  Forget about getting a decent meal for two for under $40.  Not in the Coronado area ... many places were truly awful or at best completely blah.  We went to the chains most of the time -- Don Lee for chinese, Domino's for pizza.  There really is no national cuisine, restaurants open and close, open and close.   If you want  a really good meal, you are going to pay $80 - $100 and up for two.  Service is sometimes good, most times lacking, even though they normally work for not much more than tips.   Machetazo does have a cafeteria which is hugely popular with gringos and Panamanians alike, lunch costs between $4 and $7, less 20% Jubilado discount if you are a senior.  The food quality varies, but I can say despite the sloppy appearance of the cafeteria and the flies, I never got sick here.

Gasoline, well, when the world price of oil plummeted to below $45 a barrel, it had no effect on Panamanian gasoline prices.  I found them to be about the same as in the U.S.  The vast majority of it is taxes collected by the government.  Car insurance is much, much cheaper, but good luck using it.  A friend of mine had an accident (not a terrible one, no bodily injury just property damage).  He went to his insurer, who wanted to pay only part of the coverage he was supposed to have, since "you did not have this long enough, you did not pay enough in".   He had the insurance for about 4 or 5 months before the accident, and this was a major carrier.  So good luck with that.  If you have to litigate it will take years, and you will probably never collect on the judgment.  Panama is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and its criminal justice system is an absolute disgrace.

I had a good primary care doctor -- very good.  One of the very few good things I can say about the cost of living or anything in Panama.  An office visit was $12.  Any specialist who came into his office cost $50 to $60, plus any special exam.  Problem was they did not come often enough to meet my needs, and they would rotate, so no consistent care.  The optometrist wound up costing almost $100 or more.  Prescription medications were a nightmare to obtain.  Every month I would have to go to 4 or 5 different pharmacies to see if they had received them.  I take about 6 prescription medications.  Only two required actual prescriptions.  The four generic medications cost 2x or 3x or 3.5x as much in the U.S.  For example, one common med that was actually free in the U.S. cost about $18 for a one month supply here.  For the two non-generics, one cost $42 here, and I got it for about $49 - $60 in the U.S.  The other non-generic costs $55 here, and I am searching for a low-cost pharmacy plan in the U.S., otherwise its about $150.  Will you save money on meds?  Depends what you take.  Over the counter medicines are all more expensive for the most part.  Those who qualify for the jubilado discount do get a 20% discount.   Medical insurance works sort of the same as in the U.S. -- those who truly need it will not get it, and if you are accepted, your pre-existing conditions won't be covered for 2 years.

Electricity is much more costly.  My electric bill (as A/C is necessary all day long, every day), was higher than my bill for my townhome in the U.S. which was 3x the size.

Banking fees -- expect to pay much much more for your bank accounts.  "Free checking" means they automatically place a life insurance on you, and also assess another monthly charge, so I wound up paying about $7 a month for free checking.  Also, sending or receiving wire transfers is hugely expensive.  I paid probably close to $100, if not more, to send a wire transfer.  Level of service is pretty awful, one of the gringo banks, Banistmo only has two teller windows and one is closed half the time.  I spent sometimes as much as 3 hours in the bank.  And because of FATCA, certain banks are now charging Americans $250 to open an account.  You also might have to pay a lawyer $25 to $50 to write you a "letter of introduction" so that the bank is kind enough to give you the privilege of opening an account there.  The interest rates are better than the U.S., but they often change them, so you have to keep changing the type of account you have.  You might get 5%, but that's only up to $3,000.  Pay attention, pay attention and double check.   If you need a copy of an old check, it costs $8.56 plus tax.  In general banking fees are much higher.  Credit cards are about $150 a year, and its sounds ridiculous, they were two that were less expensive which I was not able to get because they "ran out of plastic to make them".

The above has been pretty much the opposite of our experience. We live in a very nice 3/2 house in a middle class neighborhood in David, $385/mo. I know of other people paying a lot less a bit outside of town, or for something smaller.
We have found food way cheaper than the US, maybe half (compared to my experience in Florida, Seattle, northern CA). We shop and eat like Panamanians though, minimal imported food, produce from the local markets, pork and chicken from a local farmer, fish from local fishermen. We rarely eat out, but I know some good places for less than $10/person.
Our car doesn't use much gas and we only drive around town, so gas is no big deal. We have had a car towed for repairs a couple times and insurance was right on it, couldn't have asked for better service.
We don't take any meds, but I hear prescriptions are as expensive as the US or more. Our experiences with doctors and dentists have been very good.
We rarely use AC and our electric bill is less than 1/3 of what it was in FL. Our highest bill ever here (a hot month, lot of AC) is lower than our lowest ever in FL.
I have a bank account (Scotia Bank), checking and savings, never been charged anything. We had to jump through some hoops and gather some documents to open an account, but service since has been excellent and usually no waiting at all.

IMO, don't believe tours, IL, or anyone trying to sell you something, and don't live in an expat area. Life is not only cheaper but much more peaceful in a Panamanian neighborhood. I wish your experience was more like ours!

I have lived all my life to Panama and I know the country very well.   I am interested in leaving this country in the future.   I will let others tell you the prices and the costs  and details about your questions but all I can say is that the cost of living in Panama is very very high.   Is a good country though but, we are trying to live at US standards there's no cheap thing over here.   
The only good thing that you will find here is good and cheap healthcare and a lot of transportation!! you can live in Panama city and the towns around it without a car

Hi you are having an easier life living in David so if our friend wants to live that far from Panama city that will be less expensive but living around the city is expensive.  The prices for food or still a bit on the high end a good loaf of bread goes for more than two dollars,  and it's very difficult to find organic food around here the only way to get it is close to the city but not in the countryside.   So it will depend on what kind of life you want to live here.   If you have resources you're very welcome but if you don't, there are better places in the other side of the world where you can live 50% cheaper than here.

Yes, there are many places to live more than 50% cheaper but you don't have to go halfway around the world for them -- Colombia, for example.  Much, much cheaper, more organized, cleaner, better weather, nicer beaches.  I spent some time there and lived like a king, so to speak.  Dental care is especially cheap, and of the highest quality.   I am sure life is somewhat cheaper in David, but the climate is not what most North Americans or Europeans would probably want, and it is no where near the beach.  Not many ex-pats there.

I hate to be a Negative Norman, but I just spent 2 weeks in Colombia and I have to admit it is far less costly and the choice of appropriate locations climate-wise is far greater. The vaunted Panama discounts do not come close to leveling the field. And the pueblos are bright and fun, visually - very few signs of poverty or basic living conditions. I have refocused.

I agree with Colombia...but also, our friend has a lifestyle...so, that's a factor to take in count.  I was born in NY...but I have evolved into an extremely simple life and a place like Buthan fits my lifestyle and I would love to move there until I die.

And Colombia is a nice country and it may fit our fellow well depending on which city or town she decides to live.  I was in Bogota and it's great weather but people were talking about crime... there's no perfect place as we all know but...I agree with you to some extent...

Not many expats in David? Is this a negative? For me, definitely not.

I agree with you Steve!  But we have a phenomenon going on here in Panama...thousands of Colombians have been immigrating to Panama and getting jobs as illegals...there is a lot to say about this but, looks like your experience in Colombia was quite pleasant....

Hermit - I also enjoyed my visits to Panama. For a prospective retiree not dependent on employment in PA or COL the factors are quite different than for natives residents. I did appreciate the availability of fellow expats in PA and did not have such opportunities in COL. But in every other respect, Colombia offered more choices, whether one prefers a city life or a pueblo life. A temperate climate in Panama is simply not on offer outside of Eil Valle (and Altos), Boquete, Volcan, Santa Fe or Cerro Azul. Period. Pretty limited. Not so in Colombia. Second - cost.  Colombia has it all over Panama in that respect. And COL has an infrastructure as good or better than Panama - Oil based rather than Canal based, but still. Pros and cons to each, depending on your priorities. Both have gorgeous mountain vistas and fantastic coffee. Colombia has better rum. Fact.

what bothers me about panama
high property taxes for land and construction
outrageous maintenance fees for condos
lots traffic and pollution
garbage everywhere
most jobs are limited to locals
panama has become a mall

Living in Panama is what you make it. If you want to live in Panama City the cost of living is on par with the USA.  If you want to live in an expat mecca like El Valle or Boquete, the prices are less than Panama City, but still pricey by my standards.  If you are willing to live in the interior, the experience is far cheaper.  My  husband and I have lived in Panama for 4 years now.  We live in a rural area where the cost of living is quite low. The crime rate is low with the exception of Carnaval when every pickpocket in the country descends on Las Tablas.  We have lived in 2 different beach houses on the water. One was a 2 bedroom 1 bath apartment for 325 a month with no air conditioning. Our electric bill was about $20 and the water was $6 monthly.  Another beachfront house with 1 br & 1 ba was $300 monthly, no air conditioning. The electric and water bills remained the same.  We needed to be closer to a hospital so we gave up our beloved ocean view and moved into a barriado 1 mile from the hospital and 2 miles from town. Here we rent a 3 br, 2 ba home with a huge patio a large fenced yard for $400 a month. Oh yes, the is a recreational area, with both a kiddie and an adult pool.  This American style home with dropped ceilings has air conditioning in 2 of the bedrooms. There are 4 of us and the AC runs about 14 hours a day. This has brought our electric bill up to a whopping $95.  I have a friend whose family lives in town about 10 miles from Las Tablas in a 3 br, 2 ba brand new home for $200 monthly. Another friend rents a cute, small 1 br, 1 ba cottage in the same area initially for $80 a month. Her rent went up, now she pays $100 monthly. 
Bus fares are low. A trip into Las Tablas costs 35 cents or a taxi is $2. A bus trip to Chitre is $1.50 and a trip into Panama City costs $8.80.  Transportation services are regularly scheduled and reliable. 

Food prices are quite good. I bought a kilo of rice for 80 cents yesterday at a small neighborhood store where the prices are higher than the main supermarkets.  Fresh fruit and produce is available very inexpensively from farmers who sell on the street. The same for seafood if bought at the port or from sidewalk vendors. I pay about $3 a pound for large shrimp, pargo, and other local fish.  I don't really pay attention to other prices because I don't  have to budget shop here.  We eat very well. 

Prices for eating out vary depending on what you want. My favorite resturant provides a large meal served cafeteria style for about $3. That includes rice, beans, a meat choice, and a small green salad. 
That same restaurant makes pizza after 3 pm. A large family size pizza runs around $12. They deliver. Street open air fondas are very reasonable. There are other eateries with varying prices depending on ethnicity, North American, Italian, etc.

Medical care is excellent and priced cheaply.  A trip to the ER costs $2 to see the doctor. Prices vary. A private physician we use costs $12 for an office visit.  A trip to the ophthalmologist or other specialist costs $40. That is still less than my copay in the states.  My husband was in a public hospital for emergency care and was diagnosed with pancreaticus and gall stones for 1 week . It cost a total of $47.54.  Surgery would have been delayed there because of OR scheduling so he went to the private hospital across the street where we both stayed in a private room for 3 days. His gall bladder was and nursing care was far better than anything I have ever seen in the states.  3 days in a private hospital with all surgeon, anesthetist,  pain medIcations, etc cost a total of $3,000. Once again equivalent to our Medicare copay.

Prescription medication is expensive.

If your expectations of living a lifestyle with all the amenities, for example the high rise oceanfront condos  such as Coronado, then expect to pay the price.  Living in Panama is what you make it.

Leilani.....

Great information!!!...thanks for taking the time to post it! :-)

Hi. I want to add some information. I have a friend here on the Azuero Peninsula who has a great blog called panama daze. com. It is a fount of useful and sometimes entertaining information on living in Panama. With the Internet there is also misinformation, but as a whole I heartily recommend this blog.

Yep......two different worlds, Panama City and the rest of Panama........Pty does have some cosmopolitan charms, fine dining, a few museums and art galleries mixed in with world class traffic and overwhelming noise and prices that make you think you would probably be better off in Honolulu.......Cleaner and safer...........and more service oriented........But out in the provinces, people may be provincial, but they can be sweet and very helpful...Especially to the extent you speak Spanish and are able to relate to them...........its all mixed up, but the good is there if you want to find it........for years I have lived very economically here in Chiriqui, and have feasted most every night on fresh tuna or dorado which once cost $2.50-$300 a lb,(try that in Hawaii) but those daze seem to be over......Looks like the big brokers have arrived here in David/Pedregal and are buying up all the good stuff at double the price for the north american and Japanese markets which makes a thinking person go WAO!!!!! Whats goin on up there that they would have to come down here looking for fish.........Anyway, Im reverting back to my old vegetarian daze........not such a bad thing.........I built my own house with a 2% subsidized loan on a beautiful 8 acre property with an ocean view and bordered by two rivers which I got practically free.........my mortgage payment which I paid today is $137.....Try that up north........Try that anywhere.........The public transportation system is far superior to the U.S. even tho that many of the chofers are lunatics..........My car is down now for awhile so Im once again resorting to the pub transport.....And Im glad its there.....IN Maui, its not....or is so woefully inadecuate that it doestn really count.........The land is beautiful, from one end to the other, the beaches the rivers the waterfalls the mountains the islands.........It would be even more so if the locals would learn to respect the land and cultivate a culture of cleanliness.......The garbage problem is huge here and really needs to be addressed......Varela promised to do that but , well, you know how politicians are...........Im still waiting to see it happen......Meantime I do what I can, and the Alcalde of Boqueron knows that when I pull in and drop off huge bags of garbage that they are not mine but off the roads and out of the rivers.............Im also looking forward to the evolution of musical tastes above and beyond the horrible reggaeton which is so popular here...........Gracias a dios for Omega Stereo, hahaha...........

Coronado has to be my least favorite area of panama. way to expensive.

Hey
Can you give any information about Boca de tora and playa Bonita?
Thanks
Carneal

Bocas del Toro is a very interesting place. What kind of info are you looking for? As a tourist, there are lots of restaurants, hotels, activities, etc. The town itself is a bit on the funky side but the area is gorgeous, the nearby islands, the snorkeling, etc, wonderful.  For living though, shopping is limited, as is health care so you might find yourself traveling over the mountains to David for certain things, or hiring someone to do that for you.
I don't know anything about Playa Bonita.

Thanks Kris,  l knew you would know.
I apologize for not being able to get to David to meet you. However, I will return

No worries, I have no plans to go anywhere!
I didn't realize you had already been here. How was it? How did you like Panama? Any particular areas that you liked best?

Panama City..hot and humid, but I enjoyed it, Of course I toured the Panama Canal I found it  fascinating. Went to Colon and Portobella, Taboga Island. I like being in the mix. Panama is somewhat large, noisy and traffic is horrible. It was a good experience I could possible live there or not. I rode the bus and the metro. I need to see more of the outlining areas to compare and decide. I met some friendly people who spoke english they were very helpful. One thing I know for certain is that you really need to learn some Spanish to live or visit. I went to a local outdoor restaurant and I thought I was ordering a chicken/Pollo dinner, they served me a whole chicken nothing else lol.
However, I will return to visit David and Bocas del Toro.

It would be criminal to judge Panama on the basis of that city.

Oh I would never judge the country based on the city, that is why I will return

Two different worlds......city and the interior..........But that city has huge power over the rest of the country.........You could call it a citystate.........All dictums issued from Pty..........by fat cats out of touch with the rest of the country.........

Oh good, I'm glad you enjoyed your time here :) It will be interesting to hear how you feel about the rest of the country. I couldn't deal with Panama City myself, too crazy and too much traffic but I knew right away that I really liked the country. See you on the next trip!
Yes, Spanish is hugely helpful. http://www.yairatutoria.com/  She helped me so much and I thank her for it every day.

Thank you for all the valuable information. xxx for correspondence.

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Thanks for that very informative and helpful post.

First off lets set some parameters to answer this question. So many of the answers are all over the map.
1.  It depends on where you live in Panama.  The City, like most major cities of the world is expensive.
The farther away you live from Panama City, the less expensive housing is.  However gated high end communities are expensive. 
2.  Communities outside of Santiago, Chitre, and David are even less expensive. You can rent nice places for $300 to $600 per month. And fabulous places for $1000 to $1500 per month.
3.  Food. If you eat like the locals, you can eat real real cheap.  If you want to eat like you are accustom to in the U.S. or Canada, you can still eat for reasonable prices as long as you do not buy like imported beef or exotics. You can find just about anything you want here.  If you cook at home, of course that is the most reasonable. But going out, if you stay away from the high end restaurants, you can eat very reasonably.  We have some good grocery stores and we even have Costco which is call Pricemart, it is a smaller version.
4.  Yes electricity is expense in all the countries of central and south America. So try to locate yourself in a little higher altitude so you do not need A/C and you can keep your electrical bills very reasonable.
5.  To buy a car or truck.  New prices and very close to U.S. prices on equally equipped vehicles. (About $500 more)  Tax of 7% is pretty equal or even less than many of the States.  Used cars here, depending on where you go can be expensive, but have you looked at used car prices in the U.S. lately?
6. Gas is higher here but diesel is less.
7. If you are a drinker. Well lets see, Panama brewed beer is 65 cents in the grocery store, Wine depending on what region of the world you want, is generally much less here. Stay away from American wines. Buy from Spain, Argentina or Chili.  And Rum, well you have lots of choices at great prices.
8. Health care.  Good medical insurance plans, Extremely good and relatively low cost medical care. We have some very good hospital here. And when is the last time your doctor gave you his cell phone number?
9.  Fresh fish. Go to the beach to your local fishing village and get Red or White snapper, Grouper, etc, for $2.00 a pound or buy the whole fish.
10.  Crime.  Yes there is crime here. No worse than major cities in the U.S. And again, it depends on where you are.  The City has the most crime.  Remember you have the haves and have nots here, just like anywhere.   Be smart, keep you eyes open and pay attention.  Like in the States, know where not to go, and don't stand out.
11.  Cell phones are easy to get and not expensive. Find out what cell service is the best for the area you are going to be in.
12.  Great internet and TV with Cable Onda if you are in an area they cover. In other areas there is Sky TV, Cable and Wireless Internet via phone line, even Dish Network is available in many area.

NOTE:  When you talk or read a review from someone, look at their background.  If they have lived hear all there life, how can they compare it to living somewhere else.  If they have only lived here a short time, where do they live? Have they been intelligent with decisions they have made? What are they comparing life here too and is it apples for apples.  Stay away from reviews from Tourist Companies and they are looking for you business not looking out for you.
And do you really think if it was more expensive to live here, there would be so many of us here, and so many more coming ????

All very good advice and information, maybe with the exception of the crime factor.....crime in general especially in Pan C. or Colon is rampant....Violent crime is much higher than the U.S. And that is taking into consideration their draconian gun control laws....God help ya if they find ya with an illegal gun....So only the cops and the bad guys are armed as a rule.......In the provinces violent crime is not bad really....but theft is rampant and home invasions.....happens all the time here in Chiriqui.....You really need to pick your neighborhood carefully, and defend yourself one way or another....Dogs and cameras are the first line of defense.......and bars on your doors and windows......If you live far enuff out in the country, (like I do) then the risks are much much less. Bad guys dont like to travel that far. They want everything close and eazy.........Living in the country has so many advantages, but convenience is not one of them.......

Can you please share names of towns you live in beach houses near the water ?

name of beach house towns you lived in please ?

https://www.google.com.pa/search?q=beac … ent=safari

Our cost of living here in Boquete, Panama for 2017:

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