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 $1400 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.
Real Estate in David, Panama
David has a wide range of choices when it comes to real estate. From older neighborhoods with lots of shade trees to brand-new developments on the edge of town, you’ll find good value properties from $80,000 to $120,000.
A number of gated communities are located just to the northwest of town, offering high-quality finishes and large lots. Condos and duplexes are also options here, with properties starting around $110,000.
Rentals present a similar range of choices and prices. Nicer homes in the upscale neighborhoods may rent for around $1,000 a month for a furnished two-bedroom, while more modest homes can be found for $500 a month.
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 $1,500|
|Electricity (depending on air conditioning use)||$30 to $200|
|Water (often bundled with trash pickup)||$5 to $20|
|Gas for cooking, hot water heaters, dryer, etc.||$2 to $10|
|Supermarket (local and imported food and household items)||$300 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 $35|
|Cable or satellite television||$35 to $50|
|Transportation (taxi or fuel/maintenance on a compact car)||$50 to $200|
|Monthly total:||$922 to $2,765|