David, Panama: Everything You Need to Know
David, the capital of Chiriquí Province in western Panama, is becoming more and more popular as expats discover its convenience and affordability. David is Panama’s third-largest city, with a developed infrastructure, but a much lower cost of living than bustling Panama City. It serves as the commercial, business, transportation, education, and healthcare hub for all of western Panama. Yet, with no skyscrapers and easy access via the Pan-American Highway it’s a very manageable city in the midst of the country’s “bread basket” agricultural region.There aren’t many downsides to life here, according to the locals and expats, though if you don’t like the heat, David may not be for you. With daytime temperatures in the high 80s F and low 90s F, it’s known as Panama’s warmest city during the dry summertime season.
In David you can visit the old town with its stone cathedral, and stroll to the central park with its volcano-shaped fountain in the middle of the downtown business district. You’ll find spacious shopping centers, college campuses, and middle-class neighborhoods. Relax at a sidewalk café where you can sip on a cold beer or a cup of highland grown coffee for about a buck.
Retire in David, Panama
David has a lot to offer as a retirement destination. As the main city of Chiriquí Province it has a solid infrastructure with all the amenities you might want, such as high-speed internet, cable TV, and excellent cell phone coverage. You’ll find plenty of shopping options for food, clothing and home furnishings, as well as services including banking, insurance, and auto care.
Healthcare is accessible and affordable here, with two full-service private hospitals, and two public facilities. The international airport has daily flights to and from both airports in Panama City.
Compared to other popular retirement communities in Panama David has an attractive cost of living, and with the discounts afforded by the Pensionado Visa, couples report living here comfortably on $1,400 a month.
Expats have been settling in and around David for a number of years and sometimes gather informally. Rather than a highly-organized group, expats around David tend to socialize with close friends on a more personal level.
Lifestyle in David, Panama
A fulfilling lifestyle awaits you in Chiriquí Province, and David is at the center of it all. Here you can go out to eat at a family-owned eatery and spend $3 for a home-cooked meal, or as much as $25 for a chef-prepared dinner. There are two multi-cinemas and several casinos in town for a fun evening out.
Outdoor activities abound in and around David, from bicycling and hiking, to bird-watching and deep-sea fishing. You’re only 40 minutes from the cool highland rainforest, where you can zip through the canopy or trek to the top of a volcano. Or go 30 minutes in the opposite direction to the sunny, unspoiled Pacific shoreline for kayaking or beach-combing. Take your pick!
A major advantage of David is its proximity to Boquete, the cultural mecca and expat haven of western Panama. With a weekly market, art and photography exhibits at the public library, and a busy community theater, there’s always something to do in Boquete, and it’s just 30 minutes from David.
Cost of Living in David, Panama
It’s a simple fact—your money goes further in Panama, and especially in David. With no heating expense and optional A/C, your utility bill may be as low as $35 a month. Internet, cable TV and phone service may total about $100 a month.
Living in this agricultural region assures access to fresh produce, year-round. A week’s supply of assorted locally-grown fruits and veggies from the produce stand runs about $8. Meats, eggs, and local dairy products generally cost less than in North America. Canned goods, staples and bakery goods all cost less if they’re not imported. A couple might spend $300 to $450 a month on groceries and household items.
Most expats have their own vehicle and the cost of insurance and tags is very low. However, note that gassing up your car in Panama tends to cost about as much as in the U.S. You can expect to be handing over up $2.57 per gallon of gas. Others choose to rely on public transportation, which is easy to do with frequent, reliable buses and taxis. The bus from David to Boquete costs all of $2, and taxis in town are about the same.
Lawn care and maid service are so affordable many people hire both, giving them more free time to enjoy life! A full-time, live-in maid can cost you as little as $250 a month, while a part-time maid will charge about $15 per visit. Their services usually include cleaning, laundry (no ironing), and can include cooking and babysitting, too.
Here is a sample budget detailing what a couple might expect to spend each month to live comfortably in David:
|Rent (two bedroom apartment)||$350 to $1,000|
|Electricity (depending on air conditioning use)||$30 to $150|
|Water (often bundled with trash pickup)||$0 to $20|
|Gas for cooking, hot water heaters, dryer, etc.||$2 to $10|
|Supermarket (local and imported food and household items)||$400 to $450|
|Entertainment for two (dinner four times a month)||$120 to $250|
|Phone (cell phone, mostly local use)||$10 to $50|
|Internet (high-speed)||$20 to $55|
|Cable or satellite television||$7 to $50|
|Transportation (taxi or fuel/maintenance on a compact car)||$50 to $200|
|Monthly total:||$989 to $2,235|
Things To Do In David, Panama
By Nanette Witmer
The province of Chiriquí offers so many things to see and do. David, its capital city, has a population of over 165,000 people and is the biggest city in western Panama. Located on the Pan American highway, it is also the commercial hub for the area. Centrally located within the province, the beach and Boquete are only a half an hour away from David.
At first glance, David may look like any other city in Panama, but it has some great sites and experiences worth checking out.
The Parque Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra is in the center of the city amid stores, restaurants, and hotels. The park is a busy place where shoppers rest and relax under the stately old trees sitting on concrete park benches. Vendors selling drinks and sno-cones called raspados are always on hand. If you hang out long enough you might spot one of the huge iguanas that live in the trees. Located on one end of the park and across the street is the Sagrada Familia Catholic church dating back to 1810. If you are looking for a great spot to people watch and enjoy a cold one, check out Hotel Iris across from the park. The second floor has a balcony bar overlooking the park, here you can grab a beer for $1 and enjoy a delicious meal. This is a particular favorite amongst local expats.
Historic Neighborhood of El Peligro
This neighborhood is also referred to as Barrio Bolivar. Not many travelers take notice or even know about this historic neighborhood, but just a few short blocks east of the park is where David had its beginnings. There was a restoration project in 2011 emphasizing historic homes. Placards, street signs, and statues identify the small neighborhood. The Cathedral San Jose Catholic Church, whose tower dates to 1891, is at the heart of the area. This church is a registered National Historic Landmark. Unfortunately, the museum located in this area has closed, but it’s worth a short walk around to see the founding place where David started.
The new Kenny Serracin baseball stadium was inaugurated in 2018. The people in this part of Panama love and support their major league Chiriquí team. Every year 12 Chiriquí teams take part in the Panama Championship. The new stadium holds 8,500 fans who proudly wear the green and red colors of their team when attending the game. It is a great way to spend an evening being caught up in the excitement. The season lasts from March until the end of April. Entrance fees vary depending on who is playing but it’s never more than $5 to get in the door. Vendors sell everything from hot dogs to pizza, beer to water, and will deliver it right to your seat so you won’t miss a minute of the game. If you want to see the schedule, keep an eye on https://fedebeis.com.pa.
Playa La Barqueta
The beach at La Barqueta is the closest beach to David. In under 35 minutes you can escape to sun and surf. Most times of the year you will find this black-sand beach without many visitors. Swimming is not recommended, though, because of riptides but if you want to stroll for miles along the shoreline, this is the place. Public access is available. The road to the beach ends at the Las Olas Resort. Las Olas provides day passes for under $15 where you can use the pools, sauna, changing rooms, and lounge chairs. I love going for the day and having my lunch served poolside with a beverage. It’s like a mini vacation. If you want to stay overnight, they have ocean-view rooms too. Occasionally the resort puts out 50% off room coupons on Oferta Simple making an overnight stay a must. If you don’t have a car, local buses do service the resort.
Vendors in shaded stalls set up early at 7 a.m. to sell fresh produce, plants, flowers, baked goods, and more. It’s a tradition among the locals and expats who find it a nice place to socialize, meet up with friends, shop, and then head to one of the local restaurants or fondas (small local restaurants) for coffee or breakfast.
Locals get up early to get to market and the block is barricaded off in the area of David where the government offices are. Here is a Google map to help you find it: David’s Saturday Market.
Also, worth checking out is the new Mercado Publico in David. It is a large indoor farmers market featuring local vendors in addition to fish markets and beef products such as locally made sausages. In the middle of the vendors’ stalls is a nice food court with several restaurant options from seafood creations to ice cream treats.
The Federal Mall
New to David is the Federal Mall. Currently, only two anchor stores are open, Stevens and Felix as well as a new cinema Cinepolis David. You can see first run movies the same time they are playing in the U.S. and Canada for half the price. For under $5 you will have a great seat in an air-conditioned theater. Most movies are shown in both English and dubbed in Spanish.
Feria de David
Held in March each year, the International Fair in David is not to be missed. It draws thousands from around Latin America. You can see vendors from Latin countries selling their crafts, take in a rodeo, stroll through the agricultural building to view flowers arrangements, stop by the dog show, or just people watch. Admission is under $2. There is lots of nightly entertainment, too, from local bands to folkloric dancing. Coinciding with the 10-day fair is the Cabalgata Horse Parade held each year on March 19th which celebrates the patron saint of David, Saint Joseph. The parade is made up of over 5,000 horses and is attended by thousands who line the streets for the celebration.
Up for watching a lively soccer game? Then get to Estadio San Cristóbal stadium to see the Chiriquí team, Atlético Chiriquí play. You can find the schedule at Futbol Chiriqui.
Is it Safe to Live in David?
By Nanette Witmer
David has its share of crime, like many North American cities of the same size, but violent crime is rare.
David continues to attract new residents who easily fit in right away. As a single woman that has lived in David for nearly eight years, I never have any problems going anywhere in the city by car or on foot during the day. I personally don’t drive or walk around the city at night alone but then I never did that when I lived in Denver either. I feel safe no matter where I walk around the city and I find that the Panamanians who live in David are friendly, considerate, helpful, and kind.
As a precautionary measure, most homes are gated but thieves tend not to target homes and cars that have alarms or theft protection.
Is Drug Use Allowed in David?
No. Drugs are not legal or tolerated anywhere in Panama. There are stiff penalties if you are found with drugs. There is also no legal medical marijuana in Panama.
Is Prostitution Legal in David?
Yes, prostitution is legal throughout Panama. Prostitutes are registered with the government and can be found at many establishments in David, usually local bars.
What Areas of the City Should You Avoid?
As in all cities, there are problem areas in David . Some examples include the eastern side of the city, the aiport road, etc…”
Are There Street Gangs in David?
Yes, David has gangs but you are unlikely to encounter them. The cities implementation of a curfew of 9 p.m. for anyone under the age of 18 seems to be doing its job cutting down on problems after dark.
Rent in David, Panama from $400 a Month
By Nanette Witmer
David is a city of over 164,000 people, providing a large diversity of housing options for renters. Living in David affords you all the amenities needed as an expat—great restaurants, shopping, healthcare, and entertainment are all within a 15-minute drive. The city is also centrally located within the province of Chiriquí, allowing for an easy 30-minute drive to the beach and the Boquete region.
The downtown area has several apartment complexes and smaller homes for rent. You also have the choice of renting in one of the many urbanizacións (neighborhoods) just outside of the city, which have a more relaxed, country feel. All areas of the city, including surrounding subdivisions, have access to city bus routes and taxi services.
You can find homes and apartments to rent in David for as little as $400 a month. These are typically unfurnished Panamanian-style homes within walking distance of shopping, medical, and transportation, which can make them ideal. They usually have two bedrooms and one or two bathrooms. The kitchens in these homes are designed to accommodate smaller sized refrigerators and stoves. The living rooms open to small dining areas. Washer and dryer hookups may be inside or on the back-porch area. The lots themselves are generally large with shade trees and most have carports. These types of rentals generally will not have air-conditioning. Most homes in this price range will give you around 1,000 square feet of living space.
In Panama, unfurnished means there are also no appliances with the rental. However, many expats find unfurnished rentals more appealing if they have shipped down their own belongings or prefer to furnish a home themselves.
Furnished rentals of condos, apartments, and homes start at $650 a month, depending on where they are within the city. David now has two gated communities of condos, one of which specializes in furnished rentals for expats. These condo rentals have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, covered parking, and swimming pools.
You can also find upscale neighborhoods that have larger homes for rent for upwards of $750 a month. These homes tend to have air conditioning in addition to larger kitchens, back porches, and private landscaped yards.
It is common in David for your lease to also cover garbage and water. The electric bill will be in the name of the owner and the rental agent or owner will send you the electric bill every month to pay. You will need to set up your own account for cable, phone, and internet.
Generally, rentals will not have alquiler (rental) signs posted. The easiest way to find rentals in David is by talking to other expats or locals. You can also contact local real estate offices, get on expat forums where rentals are listed, or find rental agents who work with expats and know what they are looking for.
The rental market in David does not have a low season or high season of occupancy so it is always easy to find a good selection of rentals in your price range.