Have you ever lived in a cosmopolitan capital where you could rent an upscale apartment for under $1,000 a month? An apartment walking distance from a sparkling blue bay, a large “parks and recreation” area, a metro rail, trendy restaurants, shops, and a nice supermarket? Perhaps even a mall housing a movie theater, Starbucks, and an outdoor pub?
I’ve been living in Panama City, Panama for 16 years, and I have the cosmopolitan lifestyle I always dreamed of. The kind of lifestyle I once thought was attainable only in places like San Francisco and New York.
Here I have access to more options for fun than I could possibly want or need. Cool little jazz clubs…real-deal international cuisine…quirky art exhibits…yes, we have all that and so much more.
And you can rent for very little here. Compared to any other good-weather, oceanside metropolis, Panama City is unbeatable.
Nab a 900- to 1,000-square-foot apartment with a view of the Pacific Ocean…in a nice, central area…for as little as $950 a month.
Today I saw a smaller apartment—nearly 800 square feet—listed for $875. It’s on the edge of the coveted Bella Vista area, but its dining room has a stunning, unobstructed view of the Panama Bay. The building has a pool, playground, social area, and 24-hour doorman service.
My priority was space rather than views. So I chose a quiet street about a 10-minute drive from the water. There’s a metro station just a few blocks away, so traffic isn’t an issue. I can zip downtown in 10 minutes and the fare is just 35 cents. I have a small study, three bedrooms, and two-and-a-half bathrooms. Plus typical Panamanian service quarters—that’s another small bedroom and full bathroom just off the spacious laundry room. My rent is $750 a month.
Early in the morning, before rush hour, I drive over to the bayside promenade to walk or ride my bike.
Evenings I often leave my car at home. I like taking the metro to El Cangrejo—there are more than a dozen dining and entertainment options just a five-minute walk from the Via Argentina station. My favorites include tapas and flamenco bar Malagueña, casual Indian eatery Taj Mahal, and a legendary Middle Eastern café by the name of Ozone. I can meet with friends who live nearby, enjoy my wine, and Uber home for $3 to $4.
I’m living on about $2,700 a month, including rent. It’s not what I’d call an extravagant lifestyle, but, looking back over the years, I’ve had a lot of fun here. At one time I realized that I was going out at least 10 times a month. And there was always something different to do.
Dinner and drinks at a dive bar or a candlelit gourmet restaurant. English-language plays at the Ancon Theater Guild or first-run movies in a VIP cinema hall with reclining chairs and waitstaff. I’ve seen Sting and Andrea Bocelli perform here. And the list goes on…visits to historic Casco Viejo and Panama La Vieja, brunch and shopping at one of the city’s many malls, and countless fairs, festivals, and sporting events.
So no more watching Sex and the City and sighing with longing…not for me. I can get my cosmos right here, in my sunny, warm city by the sea.