Cost of Living in Panama

Panama offers a very comfortable retirement solution, in part because the nation is much more developed than most visitors expect. Many are shocked by the modernity of Panama and the clusters of skyscrapers that define Panama City’s skyline. All of the amenities one could wish for are readily available.

By moving to Panama, you will enjoy the benefits of a developing economy where you can still take a taxi across town for a buck or two, get your haircut for a couple of dollars, or enjoy dinner for two with a bottle of wine at one of the finest restaurants in Panama City for a mere $30.

Your power bill will depend on where you live. In mountain towns like Cerro Azul, you may use less electricity—many expats find they don’t need air conditioning in the cooler climes. Sea-level destinations like Panama City are very warm, and most expats in the city use air conditioning. David on the other hand is not on the water, so it’s known as Panama’s warmest city.

Food prices for imported items from the U.S., Canada, and Europe vary, with some being less expensive than in the U.S., and others more. Native fruits like mango, papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, and bananas are abundant and amazingly cheap. Some supermarkets sell imported apples, cherries, and blueberries, which are very expensive. You’ll find the best fresh produce at upscale supermarket chains like Riba Smith and El Rey, as well as produce stalls and specialty stores. Panama’s Super 99 supermarket chain tends to cater to a low-income clientele and is better for canned goods than fresh.

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 a part-time maid will cost you $15 per visit.

No matter what your taste or budget, you’ll find that Panama offers plenty of quality options.

Here’s a sample monthly budget for two people:

 ExpencesU.S. $
Rental or mortgage on two-bedroom apartment in central Panama City)$900 to $1,500
Electricity (depending on air conditioning use)$60 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
Phone (land line, mostly local use)$13 to $20
High speed internet$20 to $35
Cable or satellite television$35 to $50
Transportation (taxis or fuel/maintenance on a compact car)$75 to $200
Monthly total for a First-World lifestyle in the big city:Approx. $1,765 to $2,890

Below is a complete monthly budget for a single person living in Pedasi:

Item$
Rent (two-bedroom apartment)$650 to $1,200
Electricity (depending on air-conditioning use)$40 to $100
Water (often bundles with trash pickup)$12
Gas for cooking, hot-water heater, dryer, etc.$2
Supermarket (local and imported food, wine, household items)$400
Entertainment for one (dinner with drinks four times a month)$180
Phone (cellphone, mostly local use)$30
High-speed Internet$20 to $35
Netflix, cable, or satellite television$7 to $50
Transportation (taxi or fuel/maintenance on a compact car)$50 to $200
Total $1,391 to $2,209

*Note that a single could halve her rent by finding a roommate, but there’s no guarantee that you will be able to do consistently in Pedasí, as you’ve got a much smaller potential pool than in other places, like Panama City or Coronado. If you are renting as opposed to buying, your budget as a single isn’t likely to be much less than that of a couple, rental prices being what they are in Pedasí.

**Also note that the below is specifically for Pedasí. You can rent a basic Panamanian-style home for as little as $350 in Las Tablas, a half hour’s drive from Pedasí (and there are some expats living in Las Tablas because costs are lower…but Pedasí is way more popular/appealing to your average expat. Las Tablas is very local.)