Everything Costs Less in Small-Town Panama

Morning is my favorite part of the day…it’s cool and the day is new. My wife, Luz, and I sit on our patio, coffee in hand, and watch birds splashing about in the birdbath I made from stained glass shards.

When I first moved to Panama five years ago, I lived in the city of David. But after exploring the country I decided to make Las Tablas, on the Azuero peninsula, home. It’s a charming town with a tranquil public park and the locals are a friendly bunch.

The weather was a huge draw, this area gets less rain than the rest of the country, which is great for enjoying the beaches just 15 minutes from my doorstep. The town’s relative proximity to Panama City (which is five hours away by car) also appealed to me.

The decision to move to Panama was an easy one. When I retired from my job as a social worker in Tennessee, I realized I could no longer afford to live in America. After some research I discovered that living overseas was much cheaper.

During the five days preceding Catholic Lent, people from all over Panama flock to Las Tablas for spectacular parties, dancing, and parades.

In America, I owned a house, paid property taxes, and homeowners insurance, and my day-to-day living costs were high. But in Panama, the cost of all those things, along with insurance and medical care are much lower.

I can get a fresh, juicy pineapple for $1 and avocado for just 75 cents. A dinner of fresh shrimp, fried plantains, and rice costs $4.50 and I can wash it all down with a local beer for just 75 cents.

My utility bills are also much lower…I pay $39 a month for electricity, $5 for water, my annual full-coverage car insurance is $360. And my property taxes are zero…compared to the $700 I was paying in Tennessee.

For medical care my wife and I just pay out of pocket. And I’ve been very satisfied with the care I’ve received. Recently a physical therapy session cost me just $2. When I lived in David, I had private insurance through Hospital Chiriquí, which gave me complete coverage for $60 a month.

As I have a Pensionado visa, in addition to having permanent residence, I’m also entitled to all the discounts provided by the country’s Jubilado program. I use it to get a 20% discount on such things as medical care, medicine, restaurant food, transport, and entertainment. For example, using my discount, a taxi ride of a couple of miles sets me back $1.50. If I wanted to go to Panama city by bus, it’s $9, and a doctor’s visits costs $10.

Life in Las Tablas is easy going. I’ve started growing orchids and make bonsai and occasionally sell cuttings of some of the many plants I have in my yard to the nurseries in the area. I also now have the time to draw, read, write and play darts.

I was looking for a lower cost of living for my retirement and I found it in Panama…with the added bonus of the friendly people, a great climate, and a beautiful country.

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