Video: The Cost of Living in Panama City

In this video, International Living Panama editor Jessica Ramesch talks about her cost of living in Panama City, Panama. Though it’s possible to live (and spend) like a millionaire here, Jessica says it’s easy to live the good life, even if you’re on a budget, like her.

In this video, you’ll hear about:

  • The cost of going out to dinner
  • Safety and cost of taxicabs
  • A chain of stores like Macy’s (but much cheaper)
  • And other monthly expenses like gas

Your cost of living can be low in Panama but you can still buy the same groceries as back home. For example, grocery stores in Panama carry all kinds of scrumptious items. Panamanians like their U.S. imports and you’ll recognize your favorite brands in every aisle, from Alpo for Fido to Ziplock’s latest “eco-friendly” sandwich bags.

But instead of buying imported fresh cherries (at $9 for a little tray, it hardly seems worth it), treat yourself to the best local, organic produce. Even so-called “high-end” produce is inexpensive—little more than the “regular” stuff.

Cost of living in Panama City: Sample prices of a recent shopping trip

Sweet Potatoes: $2.50/lb

Green Garlic Shoots: $1.50/bunch

Broccoli: $2/lb

Cabbage: $2/lb

Fennel: $3/lb

Duck (half): $10

Honey:  $4.50/4oz.

Roasted & peeled Cocoa beans: $4/4 oz.

Ground and hardened chocolate for cooking: $4/4 oz.

Aloe Vera & Lemon Soap: $4

Panama’s Abuelo brand rum is surprisingly good. A new “Centuria” blend—to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary—is generating a big buzz worldwide. But it costs $130 a bottle. Go for the seven-year blend at less than $10…it won a gold medal in the 2009 Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition and is great solo or in a classic Cuba Libre (rum, cola, and lime).

Panama brand beer has also won awards—so put down that imported lager and spend about $0.50 per local beer at the supermarket. And Panama’s best coffee farms export top varieties for as much as $170 per pound, but about $5 will get you nearly half a pound of superior coffee for your morning cup of Joe.

Don’t spend over $15 on a bunch of imported star-gazing lilies for your next dinner party. Go one better with fresh orchids from $5 at a Riba Smith grocery store. They’re thee definition of beauty and they’re local.

You get the picture. Expats wouldn’t be flocking here only to spend as much as they do back home. In Panama you can live well for less, or make the same budget stretch very far. Just get a little local help.

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