How Much Does it Cost to Live in Panama?

Panama isn’t popular just because it’s affordable. The country offers comfort and familiarity to potential expats. With modern amenities and infrastructure, Panama is much more developed than you might expect as a first-time visitor. Take one look at the gleaming skyscrapers that define Panama City’s skyline, and you’ll wonder whether your plane landed in Miami by mistake.

Despite all the progress it’s made, Panama continues to offer excellent bang for your buck. In fact, when it comes to overall value, it’s one of the best retirement destinations in the world. Move to Panama and you’ll see just how far your dollar goes. Take the metro across town for less than a dollar, buy a bottle of excellent South American wine for under $7, or get your hair washed, treated, and set for $20.

Like many expats, you may find it difficult to resist having a maid, and it’s easy to find help in Panama. A full-time, live-in maid can cost you as little as $250 a month, while costs for part-time help average around $15 per visit.

With so much of your housework taken care of, you’ll have more free time to enjoy Panama. So it’s a good thing that prices for dining out and other fun outings and activities remain so low. Visit hot springs and other local attractions for as little as $2 in entry fees. Pay $6 or less for a ticket to a first-run movie. Drive to a free local beach or splurge in a fast ferry to Taboga, the Island of Flowers—just $24 round trip.

Of course, not everything in Panama is cheap. If you use air conditioning a lot, your power bill could be over $100. (Many expats find they don’t need air conditioning, however—especially in cool mountain destinations like Boquete.) And imported groceries from the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere can be pricey—in some cases even more expensive than in the U.S.

Local produce, on the other hand, is abundant and amazingly cheap. With sweet mango, papaya, pineapple, and bananas more readily available than fast food, many expats find themselves eating more fruit than ever before. Local tomatoes, eggplant, squash, greens, and herbs are delicious and pair beautifully with local meat and seafood. Household items priced for the local market—from mopping liquid to laundry detergent—are often 50% cheaper than their U.S. counterparts.

The best part: no matter how much you spend at the supermarket and big-box stores, you’re likely to save so much on healthcare and taxes in Panama that your overall cost of living will still be much, much lower than it was back home. This will be true whether you choose to live in Panama City, the Coronado beach region, the Boquete highlands…or super-saver destinations like the growing city of David, the colonial town of Las Tablas, and the mountain hamlet of Volcán.

No matter what your taste or budget, there’s something for you in Panama.

Below is a sample budget for a two-person household in Panama. Note the wide range of costs when it comes to big-ticket items like home rentals. That’s because you’ll find an incredible variety of lifestyle options across the country, and the choice of how much to spend is all yours.

We’ve taken into account costs in the very best regions Panama has to offer. Places where you’ll have access to beautiful national parks or beaches (or both!) and where people just like you feel safe and welcomed.

Monthly Budget Breakdown for a Couple in Panama:

 Expenses U.S. $
Rental or mortgage on two-bedroom apartment $500 to $1,500
Electricity (depending on air conditioning use) $30 to $150
Water (bundled with trash pickup) $12 to $25
Gas for cooking, hot water heaters, dryer, etc. $0 to $10
Supermarket (mix of local and imported food/household items) $400 to $500
Entertainment for two (movies twice a month, including snacks/drinks, and dinner four times a month) $150 to $400
Cell phone service $20 to $60
High-speed internet $25 to $40
Netflix or cable/satellite television $12 to $50
Transportation (taxis or fuel/maintenance on a compact car) $75 to $200
Monthly total: Approx. $1,224 to $2,935