This topic is easily the most popular when it comes to generating discussions about retiring, and moving to Panama in general. In reality, it merits far greater examination and survey than a simple blog post. That being said, without getting in the nitty gritty about Panama’s economics, we can give you a straight forward, accurate, and honest description about what things cost here, and what to expect to spend while you live here. Remember, prices can vary greatly depending on the goods, service, or business, so understand that this is an average estimation, not an exact science. Here are the basics:
Homes for Rent:
Again, way to big for a simple article, but here is what it will cost you, in general to rent or buy a home in Panama. Rentals in the centrally located parts of Panama City tend to be the highest in the country. A 1,000 sq. foot (90 sq. meter), 1-bedroom apartment will run you from $1,000-$2,000 depending on the area and building, with the average hovering closer to $1,300 in most neighborhoods. These neighborhoods include El Cangrejo, Bella Vista, Marbella, Punta Paitilla, Punta Pacifica, and Ave. Balboa. Most of these apartments are furnished, and leases typically run for one year. Rentals in most city suburbs cost about 20-30% less.
Rentals in popular beach expat areas like Coronado and Gorgona cost about the same, but with typically 20-30% more space. In mountain expat towns like Boquete, Volcan, and El Valle, expect to pay about $800-$1,500 for 2-3-bedroom houses in town, with 1-bedrooms running about 20% less. Outside of these tows, rents can drop to as low as $400, but expect to be remote, and live more rustically. Lastly, if you are on a very, very tight budget, you can find small apartments and homes for rent for as low as $200-$300 per month in out-of-the way areas near the city and in the countryside. This is not recommendable, however, as they are almost always in bad shape, provide no security, and will not totally shield you from outside elements.
Buying food in Panama can provide you with a massive array of prices, and choices. Panama imports a great deal of food due to the Canal, and because of this, tends to have a relatively high price threshold on typical expat shopping lists. If you buy name-brand international products, expect to spend about $100 per week, per person in a grocery store. If you buy Panamanian brands and products, and limit your diet to mostly fruits, veggies, starches, fish, and chicken, you can cut that price by more than half. The same goes for eating out.
When eating out, local eateries (known as “fondas) are the most affordable for breakfast/lunch/dinner with a typical meal costing around $3-4 with a drink. Fast food chains are about $6-$10 per meal, with expat restaurants and casual dining running about double that, per person per meal. Panama City center restaurants average about $20-$30 per person with a drink or two, and beach area (Coronado/Gorgona) restaurants are about the same. Most bars or tourist-friendly restaurants offer happy hour, which can offset the price of going out, and many offer food deals as well. In general, you’ll find restaurants to be slightly pricier than the average ones in the US, unless you eat at places far from business and tourism, or in smaller rural towns.