The cost of living in Panama is generally considered to be lower than many other countries in the region, and especially lower than countries like U.S., Canada and western Europe. The cost of living will vary depending on where you live, your lifestyle, and your preferences. In general, the cost of housing, food, and transportation is lower than in many other countries, particularly in urban areas. However, the cost of healthcare, education, and some luxury goods can be priced similarly as to other countries. According to Numbeo, the cost of living index in Panama is 45.66, which is relatively low compared to other countries.
The cost of housing in Panama varies depending on the location, type of property, and amenities. In central Panama City where expats typically live, an average one-bedroom apartment’s rent starts from $600 to $1000 per month, while a two-bedroom apartment costs between $800 to $1500 per month. Outside of the city, rents drop significantly; a one-bedroom apartment may start at $300 per month.
If your consider living in Panama City, housing can vary by neighborhood. Here is some general information on the different neighborhoods’ costs in Panama City:
- Casco Viejo: This is a historic area of Panama City, known for its colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. It is a popular tourist destination and a sought-after neighborhood for residents. Homes and apartments in Casco Viejo can be expensive, with prices ranging from $300,000 to over $1 million, and rents for a 1-bedroom apartment average around $1,500/mo.
- El Cangrejo: This is a trendy neighborhood in Panama City, known for its nightlife and shopping. The neighborhood mostly consists of apartments with few single family homes. Rent for apartments in El Cangrejo can range from $800 to $1,500 per month, depending on the size and quality of the unit.
- Bella Vista: This is a more residential neighborhood, known for its parks and green spaces. Rent in Bella Vista can range from $700 to $1,500 per month for apartments
- San Francisco: This is a centrally-located neighborhood in Panama City, with easy access to shopping and dining. Rent in San Francisco can range from $800 to $2,000 per month for apartments.
- Costa del Este: This is a newer, upscale neighborhood located on the outskirts of Panama City. Homes and apartments in Costa del Este can be very expensive, with prices ranging from $300,000 to $1 million or more.
- Punta Pacifica and Punta Patilla: These are upscale neighborhoods with high-end apartments and condos. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in these areas ranges from $1,500 to $2,500 per month, with larger apartments costing up to $6,000 per month. These prices may vary depending on the location, building amenities, and condition of the apartment. Additionally, the prices may vary for different time periods according to various factors.
Please note that the above information is based on general trends and averages and may not be reflective of current market conditions. It is always advisable to consult with a real estate professional for up-to-date information on prices for rent and homes in Panama City.
Electricity, water, and gas bills are not very expensive in Panama. The monthly cost for electricity, water, and gas is around $50 to $100 USD combined. However, if you use air conditioning excessively, the cost may increase considerably.
Panama’s food prices vary depending on the quality, availability, and location. Cooking at home could help save some money since groceries are inexpensive compared to other countries. Generally, the monthly grocery budget for one person varies from $200 to $350. Dining out in Panama is quite affordable; you can expect to pay around $5-10 for local food from street vendors or small restaurants, $15-20 for a fast-casual meal, and $20-40 for an upscale restaurant meal.
Public transportation in Panama is relatively cheap; you can take a bus ride for around $0.25-0.35 in most cities. Taxis are also relatively affordable, starting from $2.50-$4.00 for the first kilometer and $0.50 to 0.70 per kilometer thereafter. If you plan to drive, gasoline prices range from $0.55 to $0.75 per liter. Also, Uber is widely available with rates lower than most countries.
Healthcare costs in Panama are relatively affordable, with both private and public healthcare options available. Private healthcare can be expensive but offers better quality services. Most expats prefer international health insurance as it provides comprehensive coverage globally. A local hospital visit can cost around $25-$40 while a regular doctor’s consultation fee ranges from $40 to $60.
- Movie tickets: The cost of a single movie ticket in Panama City is around $5 to $8.
- Bars and Nightclubs: Entry fees for nightclubs range from $10 to $20, cocktails range from $5-$12, and beers are usually between $3-5.
- Concert tickets: The cost of concert tickets in Panama ranges from $10 to $100, depending on the artist and venue.
- Sports events: Sports events, such as soccer or baseball games, have varying prices depending on the popularity of the sport and the teams playing.
- Museums and attractions: Admission to museums and attractions can cost between $5 to $15, depending on the attraction.
- Theme parks: Theme parks like Summit and Parque Nacional Soberania are popular in Panama, with prices ranging from $10 to $30 per person.
- Casinos: Casinos have varying minimum bets, though tables can be found starting at $5, and they offer free drinks and entertainment for visitors.
- Restaurants: The cost of eating out and drinking depends on the type of establishment, with prices ranging from a few dollars to $50 or more per person for high-end restaurants. But it is relatively easy to find a casual meal in Panama City for around $10 per person, and cheaper in rural areas.
Costs of private education in Panama City can vary depending on the school, grade level, and location. However, based on research from various sources, private school fees in Panama City can range from $1,500 to $20,000 per year. But generally, the private schools that serve a lot of the expat population cost between $10,000 – $20,000 per year. Additional costs may include textbooks, uniforms, transportation, and extracurricular activities. It is recommended to research and compare various private schools in Panama City to determine the costs associated with the education you desire for your child.
Location: Panama City vs. Beach vs. Mountain
It’s important to budget correctly before you choose a place to settle down. When looking at a city level within Panama, the index lists as follows, from most expensive to least expensive:
- Panama City
- Bocas del Toro
- La Chorrera
- Las Tablas
Here’s a quick run-down on what the cost of living is in Panama City vs the beach vs mountains, and what your options are, depending on your budget.
Living in Panama City
Like anywhere else in the world, Panama has its expensive areas, cheap areas, and everything in between. For starters, living in the city is probably the most expensive choice, when looking at home rental or purchase, as well as daily expenses, and medical care. That being said, in most instances you get what you pay for. Panama city condos tend to have all of the modern amenities you can ask for (pool, gym, sauna, indoor parking, BBQ area, security). There’s also great access to top of the line medical care, shopping, and restaurants. And most likely, you won’t need a car, as taxis and private driving services are abundant and cheap. The drawbacks are that parts can be loud, noisy, and crowded, which can be a deterrent for many retirees.
Living at the Beach
Panama beach communities are very popular, and Panama is known for its gorgeous coastlines, islands, and seaside communities. While the cost of living varies, depending on the town, there are a few areas, which specifically cater to expats. The most popular area is called Coronado. In Coronado, you can expect to pay city prices, and even higher in some instances, for housing, food, and transportation. However, in Coronado, the quality of life is as high as it gets in Panama. English is spoken in many businesses, the beach is clean and not crowded, and homes tend to be very well maintained and spacious. Coronado is luxury living, and a cheaper price than the US, but at a higher price standard for Panama.
If you’re looking for something more low-key, and less expensive, there are many options as well (Gorgona, San Carlos, Pedasi). However, these places tend to be less developed, and more remote. No matter which beach town you decide to retire in, a car is almost a must, as public transportation is sparse, and taxis aren’t that abundant.
Panama’s most popular retirement location is nestled in the heart of the western sierras, about a 6-hour drive from the capital. Towns like Boquete are well known retirement spots for foreigners, and a lot of that has to do with the cost of living. In Boquete, and other western mountain towns, renting or buying a house is very cheap; often, as much as 70% less than their equivalent in the city or beaches. Food is similarly priced in the markets, however standard restaurants cost about half of what they do in the capital.
The cost of living here is one of the lowest in Panama, and the climate much cooler, which attracts many retirees. There are also a number of luxuries, such as gourmet restaurants, art galleries, and deluxe homes that cater to the large number of foreigners. This makes it easier to adjust to, and is a big convenience. The drawback is that it’s remote. Quality hospitals are not very near, and you often have to travel some distance for services and to run errands. A car is a must, even in town, as it is very spread out, and public transportation is not frequent, or inconvenient.
Overall, the cost of living in Panama is relatively cheaper than many countries. Living comfortably in Panama usually requires a monthly budget ranging between $1,500 to $3.000, depending on location, lifestyle choices, housing preferences, medical needs, as well as if you are living with children and or a spouse/partner.