If you’re looking for inexpensive cosmopolitan living—but with many of the conveniences you’d expect in New York, Miami, or any other major First-World city—you owe it to yourself to take a serious look at Panama City.

Panama City boasts a skyline of skyscrapers, modern office buildings, condo complexes and hotels of shining glass and steel, with world-class views of the Bay of Panama. The city is a major international commerce and banking hub, home to more than 80 of the world’s largest banks, scores of international non-profits, and giant multi-nationals such as Federal Express, Dell, 3M, and many more.

In the city and the surrounding communities, your international phone calls go through the first time, every time. High-speed Internet is the norm, rather than the exception. Power and water service are reliable and every amenity you could possibly want is within easy grasp.

Panama City is also fast becoming one of the world’s leading culinary destinations with eateries of every variety offering high-quality, fresh fare for much less than it would cost stateside.

Expats are attracted here thanks to its first-class health care and thriving property market that lends to a viable yet luxurious way of life in Panama City.

Cost Of Living In Panama City

Cost Of Living In Panama City

While it’s the most expensive part of Panama, no matter what your taste or budget, you’ll find that the cost of living in Panama City offers plenty of high-quality options, so in some cases the below costs come in ranges.

You may not want a car if you decide to live in Panama City (or even outside the city). Taxis are inexpensive, often no more than $5, even for an hour-long ride through rush-hour downtown traffic. In rural areas and small towns and cities, $2 fares are common. A tip: If you order a taxi from your hotel in Panama City, you’ll pay more than if you just hailed one yourself across the street. And getting a taxi in Panama City is no problem at all…they’re everywhere. Just walk out onto a main road and hail one. Tell them where you’re going and ask the price before getting in.

As Panama City is at sea-level, it is known to be very warm. Temperatures usually reach the high 70s F in the mornings and evenings, and high 80s F during peak sunlight hours. Because of this, most expats rely on air conditioning to keep down the heat—leading to higher electricity usage, resulting in higher bills.

Like many expats, you may find it difficult to resist having a maid. It’s easy to find help in Panama City, and a good employee can greatly improve your quality of life. A full-time, live-in maid can cost you as little as $250 a month. Many capitalinos (residents of the capital) have part-time maids who they’ll pay $15 per visit. This usually includes cleaning, laundry (no ironing), and can include cooking and babysitting, too.

Movie tickets in Panama City are $6 and pensionados pay 50% less. On Wednesdays, many theaters are half price for all moviegoers. A popcorn, nachos, and soda combo will cost you about $5. And in case you’re wondering, Panama gets a wide-array of first-run and blockbuster movies. Most films are played in the original language with Spanish subtitles.

Here is a sample budget detailing what you might expect to spend each month to live comfortably in Panama City (two-person household):

ExpensesU.S. $
Rent (two-bedroom apartment)$900 to $1,500
Transportation (taxi or fuel/maintenance on a compact car)$75 to $200
Electricity (depending on air conditioning use)$60 to $150
Water (bundled with trash pickup)$12 to $25
Gas for cooking, water heaters, dryer, etc.$0 to $10
Supermarket (food/household, mix of local and imported 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
Monthly total for a First-World lifestyle in the big city:Approx. $1,665 to $2,890

 

Panama City: A Luxury Lifestyle in the “Hub of the Americas”

Panama City—Central America’s true First-World capital—offers the perfect mix of old and new, modern and traditional. Here you can eat in a gourmet restaurant, attend a jazz festival, watch a movie (in English)…do just about anything you would be able to do in many of the First-World cities that we all love. But in Panama City, you can do it all for less. A luxury lifestyle in the “Hub of the Americas” is easy.

In Panama City you’ll find a rich textural tapestry due to a fascinating history. Culture abounds in Panama from the colonial buildings in Casco Viejo to the many festivals that take place in the city throughout the year.

High-speed internet… modern infrastructure… excellent roads… all feature in Panama City. And it is also one of the safest capitals in the Latin American region.

Looking for an escape from the city? Beaches and mountains are both at your beck and call in Panama City. The beach town of Coronado is just an hour’s drive away and Cerro Azul, with its stunning mountain views, is slightly east of the capital.

Overall, Panama City offers the best of urban living in the country and the region. Great healthcare, a close proximity to the U.S., and an attractive lifestyle all make Panama City the expat haven it is today.

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Panama City is full of many different nationalities and religions so you’ll never feel like an outsider. Its diversity means that you may see a cathedral, like the Catedral Metropolitana pictured here in the same area as a synagogue or a mosque.

From the Archives of Panama City

“A Lifestyle We Could Never Afford in the U.S.”

“A Lifestyle We Could Never Afford in the U.S.”

Daily Postcard
By |
March 18, 2015

"Florida was nice but boring," Maryann Risley says of her retirement to Orlando with husband, Steve. After all, "you can only visit Disney World so many times." The couple craved some excitement and some new adventure, so they began to research retirement abroad. "I found IL magazine and started to read about the benefits of retiring in Panama," Maryann says.

Whales, Villages, and Big City Living

Whales, Villages, and Big City Living

Anne Gordon de Barrigón didn't want to come to Panama the first time she was invited. "But it was a period of transition in my life and I was restless," she recalls. "So my friend convinced me and I just fell in love with the country and the people. I knew it was the right place for me and I've been here ever since." That was in 2004. Today Anne, age 57, lives in the leafy and tranquil Ancon neighborhood of Panama City with her husband and together they own and operate whale-watching and indigenous village tours.

From New York to Panama: Glamorous Living For Less

From New York to Panama: Glamorous Living For Less

Daily Postcard
By |
February 25, 2015

Film editor and producer Sarah Tyler was living in New York when she decided she was ready to say goodbye to grueling winters. "I also wanted the experience of traveling abroad and practicing Spanish," she says. Sarah now lives in Panama City's Casco Viejo sector, where she feels at home among the cobbled streets and colonial plazas that she loves. "It's a neighborhood known for its beauty and historical value," says Sarah. "There's a great bohemian vibe thanks to the people that live and visit here—artists, wayfaring travelers, investors, and entrepreneurs from all over the world."

The Glitter and Pageantry of Retirement in Panama

The Glitter and Pageantry of Retirement in Panama

Daily Postcard
By |
February 23, 2015

If you love boisterous, colorful celebrations, folklore, and pageantry you will love retirement in Panama. Panamanians work hard and play hard; they have music in their souls. They’re happy, gregarious folks who love to set aside their cares and woes and “party hearty.” You’ll find arguably more formal opportunities to celebrate in Latin America than anywhere else on earth.

Why Isn’t Everyone Flocking to the Beach Town of Coronado?

Why Isn’t Everyone Flocking to the Beach Town of Coronado?

Beach Living
By |
January 29, 2015

I'm walking barefoot on volcanic sand that sparkles like diamonds in the sun...and the only sound I can hear is the soothing crash of waves on the shore. There's no music or shouting from vacationers or revelers to break the silence...and I don't have to step around chairs or towels or anything else. In fact, I have the beach almost to myself. There's a girl jogging up ahead, and that's it for today. You see, on Panama's Coronado Beach, huge resorts don't line the shoreline. There's a small one a few minutes' drive from the water, which also serves as a country club for the golfing enthusiasts who live here. But besides that, there are surprisingly few inns and hotels to be found.

There’s a Reason Panama Keeps Topping the Lists

There’s a Reason Panama Keeps Topping the Lists

Daily Postcard
By |
January 28, 2015

I've worked with International Living for 14 years, and I've seen a lot of lists of the best places on earth to retire. I don't remember a single one that didn't have Panama either at the top or in the top five. Of course, for my wife, Suzan, and me, Panama has some special appeal. We lived in Panama City for a while and toured most of the country. Also, our granddaughter's mother is Panamanian, so an entire side of our family is there.

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