Cost of Living in Panama—How Much You Need Per Month In 2024

Cost Of Living In Panama—How Much You Really Need Per Month In 2024

Panama may be one of the more expensive countries in Latin America, but on a global scale, life in this Central American nation is affordable. Living expenses in Panama are lower than in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe.

The factors that contribute to Panama’s higher cost of living are also what make it one of the best destinations in the region for expats. Panama is one of the most developed countries in Latin America, its official currency is the U.S. dollar, and salaries are some of the highest in the region.

While Panama City ranks as the third most expensive city in Latin America, the living options don’t end there. In the rest of the country (referred to as the “interior”), there are dozens of smaller cities and towns where you could comfortably live on half the budget needed to get by in the capital.

As you will discover in this article, living costs in Panama are highly variable and controllable. The amount of money you should budget depends on where in the country you want to live and what kind of lifestyle you want to have.

In this guide, I will first break down living costs in Panama by category. Then, we will explore a handful of destinations throughout Panama to see how much you would need monthly to live a fulfilling life in each one. 

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Your monthly budget could look very different depending where in Panama you choose to call home.

From cosmopolitan Panama City to the mountain paradise of Boquete, let’s explore how much money you’d need to live happily in five popular expat havens…  

Panama City 

You’d need at least US$1,600 a month to live well in Panama City.

However, you’d have more freedom and flexibility with a monthly budget of US$2,000 to US$2,500. 

On average, a furnished one-bedroom apartment in the city center rents for US$800 a month while a furnished apartment with two bedrooms in the city center averages US$1,200 a month. 

View of paitilla from park
You need at least US$1,600 to live in Panama City comfortably.

All living expenses are more expensive in the capital than in the rest of the country. Utilities (including electricity, internet, water, and garbage collection) add up to about US$150 to US$200 a month, but they can also be much higher if you use air conditioning frequently. 

Food prices are higher, and you’re likely to spend around US$300 a month on groceries. 

Your entertainment and recreation budget could be anywhere from US$275 to US$400 (or more) depending on your hobbies and how often you go out. 

Living in Panama City actually presents an opportunity to save on transportation. You could spend as low as US$50 a month if you mostly get around on the Metro and buses. 

David 

David is the capital of Chiriquí Province and the third-largest city in Panama. It is the transportation, commercial, agricultural, and financial hub of western Panama. The city boasts a major bus terminal, airport, and shopping mall, plus international schools, private hospitals, restaurants, and quiet middle-class neighborhoods.

You could live a well-rounded lifestyle on about US$1,100 a month in David. 

Rentals are a bargain in David, and there’s a huge assortment of properties to choose from. You could rent an unfurnished two-bedroom apartment in the city center starting from US$350 a month.

Furnished apartments, while slightly more expensive, are still incredibly affordable at US$500 to US$650 a month. 

Entire homes rent from US$500 to US$2,000 a month. The rental market in David is diverse, with everything from simple, unfurnished homes to fully furnished modern homes with swimming pools. 

David offers high-quality real estate for cheap. You can easily find a comfortable home here for less than US$150,000. Though you can find cheaper housing in smaller communities, the quality in David is far superior to what you’d get for the same price elsewhere.

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The province of Chiriquí produces most of the country’s fresh produce and dairy products. 

This means that, living in David, you’ll have access to cheap, high-quality produce year-round. You could buy a week’s worth of fruits and veggies from a street vendor for US$10 to US$15. 

The regional bus terminal provides cheap transportation to the rest of the country. A trip to the mountain town of Boquete – about an hour away – costs US$2, for example. A short taxi ride in the downtown area typically costs US$3 or less. You can catch a one-way flight from Enrique Malek International Airport to Panama City for US$120.

Boquete

Boquete is the biggest expat destination in Panama, and around 25% of the town’s population is international. Due to high demand, the cost of living is rapidly increasing.

That said, Boquete is still more affordable than the United States and Canada. 

You would need to budget at least US$1,300 a month to live well in Boquete. 

A furnished two-bedroom apartment rents for US$500 to US$800 a month. Home rentals start at US$650 a month. However, if you want to live in a gated community, your rent will be a lot higher – likely US$1,200 to US$3,000 a month. 

You can buy a three-bedroom home in town for just US$225,000. If you want more impressive views, there are homes that overlook the town for sale starting at US$400,000. You could also own a luxurious home in a gated community complete with a golf course for as little as US$540,000. 

If you make Boquete your new home, you could pay as low as US$40 a month for electricity. Air conditioning isn’t necessary thanks to the cooler climate. 

The Boquete Tuesday Market is the perfect place to stock up on fresh produce each week. Doing so will help keep your grocery budget low – probably around US$100 to US$150 a month. 

Coronado 

Rental costs in Coronado are similar to Panama City. A two-bedroom apartment or house costs US$1,100 to US$1,800 a month. This beach town is hot and humid, so you’ll want to budget US$120 to US$200 a month for electricity, depending on how often you use air conditioning. 

The Coronado Golf Country Club sells memberships for US$200 a month, which includes unlimited access to the golf course, beach club, tennis courts, gym, spa, and more. 

Real estate options include homes and condos. You can buy a furnished 82-square-meter luxury condo in an oceanfront building for around US$175,000. 

This kind of property usually comes with a swimming pool, social areas, a workout room, and a sauna. Monthly maintenance fees for condos often cost US$135 to US$175. 

Homes sell for US$225,000 and up. Property prices are higher the closer you get to the beach.

Most expats budget US$2,500 a month in Coronado. 

Bocas del Toro 

The Bocas del Toro archipelago is the number-one expat destination on Panama’s Caribbean side. Isla Colón, Isla Carenero, and Isla Bastimentos are the three main islands. Most expats live in Isla Colón, which is home to the lively Bocas Town. 

Bocas del Toro has a lower cost of living than many other Caribbean destinations. You could rent a furnished two-bedroom apartment or home for US$550 to US$1,000 a month.

You’ll spend US$30 to US$150 a month on electricity depending on air conditioning use. 

Most properties for sale in Bocas del Toro are untitled or Right of Possession land. For that reason, it’s better to rent than buy here. 

A water taxi between nearby islands costs US$3, while a trip to the mainland costs US$6. 

Isla Colón is the only island with roads for cars. Owning a car here is optional as you could get around just as easily on bike or ATV, which would cut your transportation budget down to almost zero. 

Public clinics charge US$2 for consultations and US$22 for X-rays. 

You’d need at least US$1,050 a month to live comfortably in Bocas del Toro. 

Cost of Living In Panama Breakdown 

Let’s take a look at the most common living expenses you’ll encounter in Panama… 

Housing 

Where in Panama do you want to live? Your answer determines how much you should budget to buy or rent a property. 

Real estate is most expensive in Panama City and in certain parts of the interior that have become expat hotspots, such as Coronado and Boquete.

However, there are many other destinations where renting or buying would take a much smaller bite out of your wallet. 

Let’s look at how much you’d spend on housing in different parts of the country…  

Renting

The average monthly rent for a furnished, two-bedroom apartment in Panama City ranges from US$800 to US$1,500. The exact price depends on the neighborhood, the size of the apartment, the year it was built, and amenities included in the building. 

Most modern apartment buildings (called PHs in Panama, meaning propiedad horizontal) offer luxury amenities like pools, barbecue areas, workout rooms, playgrounds for children, and concierge services. These extra perks are included in the rent. 

Streets San Francisco, Panama
An apartment in Panama City costs around US$1,000 to US$2,500 per month.

Budget a bit higher if you’re looking to rent a home in the capital. A three-bedroom furnished home in the city center typically rents for US$1,000 to US$2,500 a month. 

In the neighborhoods of San Francisco, Clayton, Albrook, Condado del Rey, Coco del Mar, and Costa del Este, there are residential areas with only houses—no high-rise buildings.

Homes are the most common rental option outside Panama City. A three-bedroom furnished home in the interior rents for US$450 to US$800 a month. 

Whether you’re renting an apartment or a home, expect to pay first month’s rent and a security deposit – equal to another month’s rent – when you sign the rental agreement. 

Buying 

Panama is more of a buyer’s market than a renter’s market. Buying property is cheaper than renting in the long run, and banks are eager to give loans to home buyers (including foreigners).

A two-bedroom apartment in a desirable neighborhood in Panama City costs US$120,000 to US$350,000. That said, there are luxury apartments in high-demand areas that cost much more – US$350,000 to US$500,000 for example. 

You could own a penthouse with a sea view for around US$530,000. 

If you want to buy a home in the capital, plan to spend US$375,000 to US$700,000. 

There are also stunning homes and villas that cost upwards of US$1 million. How much you spend is truly up to you because the property market in Panama is so large and diversified. 

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The cost of real estate in Panama City ranges from US$1,000 to US$3,200 per square meter. On average, you’ll pay US$1,000 to US$1,500 per square meter for a middle- or upper-middle class project. Luxury real estate runs upwards of US$3,000 per square meter. 

If you’re looking for a home in the interior, you should plan to spend anywhere from US$75,000 to US$500,000. At the lower end of this price range are simple, Panamanian-style homes. Modern, stylish homes – the kind that appeal to most expats – can be found starting from around US$150,000 in many areas. 

In specific areas like Chitré, Pedasí, and Puerto Armuelles, you could own a large beachfront home for less than US$400,000. 

Utilities 

The biggest chunk of your utilities budget will be spent on electricity. Air conditioning is expensive in Panama. Your electricity bill will be higher if you use air conditioning throughout the day. To keep costs down, try to limit A/C usage to nighttime and occasionally during the day. 

Your monthly electricity bill will range from US$50 to US$200 depending on how often you use air conditioning. If you live in the mountains, you probably won’t need cooling at all, thanks to the springlike temperatures. 

Internet typically ranges from US$35 to US$50 monthly, based on the number of Megabits per second (Mbps). Household packages – which include internet, Cable TV, and a landline – cost US$48 to US$60 per month, depending on the number of Mbps and TV channels. 

Monthly water and garbage collection are typically bundled together and cost US$12 to US$25. Your landlord will probably cover this service if you’re renting. 

A tank of cooking gas costs US$5 and usually lasts longer than a month. Your home or apartment doesn’t need heating, no matter where you live in Panama. It simply doesn’t get cold enough here to warrant heating. 

Budget US$20 to US$30 a month for an unlimited LTE cell phone plan. You can either sign up for a plan with the provider or buy data as needed through the app. The second option is nearly always cheaper. 

For example, I sometimes only spend US$15 a month on data because I work from home and don’t need it every day. The apps let you recharge for a day, a week, two weeks, or a month – giving you more control over how much you spend. 

Transportation 

Panama City has a clean and efficient Metro system, so it is possible to live in the capital without ever owning a vehicle. You could get around using a combination of Metro, bus, and occasional rideshare services like Uber and inDrive. 

If you go that route, you should budget US$50 to US$100 a month for transportation. 

A ride on the Metro costs 35 cents for Line 1 and 50 cents for Line 2. Bus rides cost 25 cents each way. 

You can get anywhere in the city center for less than US$5 using the rideshare app inDrive. A trip from the city center to the airport costs US$10 to US$15. 

inDrive is the most popular rideshare service in Panama because it’s the least expensive and lets you select your own fare (which the drivers then accept or offer a higher price). Uber is also popular but tends to charge higher fares. 

Buses connect most cities and towns in Panama, and they’re very affordable. For example, you can travel from Panama City to David (on the other side of the country) for about US$20. A bus ride to Coronado costs about US$4. 

metro bus in Panama
Getting about by bus is very cheap. For example, it only costs US$20 to travel from Panama City to David.

However, the most comfortable and convenient way to get around Panama is with your own car. 

If you want to live in the interior, owning your own vehicle is a necessity. Your transportation options would otherwise be limited to yellow taxis and small buses – which have unpredictable schedules. 

A gallon of unleaded gasoline costs US$3.72 and a gallon of diesel costs US$3.44. 

Plan to spend US$100 to US$200 a month on transportation if you have a car. This will cover the cost of gas, maintenance, and the occasional public transportation or cab ride. 

Groceries 

Expats in Panama buy their groceries from supermarkets, fruit and vegetable stands, and the wholesale department store PriceSmart

How much you spend on groceries depends on whether you buy mostly local or imported products (which are more expensive). 

You can also bring costs down by purchasing fresh produce from stands, which are found all over Panama. 

You will be surprised by how inexpensive fruits and vegetables are when you buy them from street vendors; for example, a one-pound bag of potatoes, onions, or tomatoes costs US$1 and you can buy a pineapple for 50 cents. 

A ripe avocado or papaya bought from a street vendor costs US$1.50, three plantains sell for US$1, and a cantaloupe melon goes for US$2. 

At PriceSmart you can buy products in bulk that can last for several months. There are stores in Panama City, David, Santiago, and La Chorrera. A basic membership costs US$40 a year. Since products are sold at wholesale price, they are less expensive than in supermarkets.

I buy my Greek yogurt at PriceSmart because they sell a container that lasts me a week for just under US$5. That same yogurt would cost more than US$10 anywhere else. 

If you shop at these sources and buy mostly local products with a few imported items thrown in, you should expect to spend US$100 to US$300 on groceries each month. 

This is what you can expect to pay for specific products in Panama: 

  • Eggs: US$2.85 a dozen 
  • Milk: US$1.70 (liter)
  • Rice: US$3 (kg) 
  • White bread: US$2.50 a loaf 
  • Chicken breast fillets: US$7 (kg) 
  • Cheese: US$10 (kg)

Keep in mind that these are average prices. Like anything else, food products are less expensive in the interior than in the capital.

Dining Out 

Panama has a huge variety of restaurants that range from casual to extravagant. There are dining options for every budget. 

At one end of the spectrum are fondas. These are cafeteria-style restaurants that serve traditional Panamanian dishes. You could eat a hearty meal for US$5 to US$8 at one of these establishments. 

A meal at a mid-range restaurant costs US$15 to US$30 per person, plus a tip (which is usually 10% in Panama). You’ll pay US$2 for a domestic beer and US$3 for an imported beer. A glass of wine costs US$5 and cocktails start at US$6. 

There are also fancy, three-course restaurants where you could spend over US$100 on a world-class meal. 

The amount of money you spend dining out is entirely your choice. 

Entertainment And Recreation

How much you should budget for entertainment and recreation depends on your hobbies. There are tons of free and low-cost outdoor activities in Panama. 

Access to all public beaches is free. If you want shade, you can rent a rancho hut all day for about US$20. 

There is a wide network of hiking trails throughout the country. While some charge an entry fee, it’s usually US$5 or less. 

The Cinta Costera in Panama City is a 7 km bayfront pathway with walking and biking lanes. If you live near Panama City, you can walk, run, bike, or skate along the Cinta Costera while taking in beautiful ocean views.

This area also includes basketball and tennis courts, playgrounds for kids, and outdoor gym equipment. The best part? It’s all free. 

Playground parque omar
There are parks throughout Panama City where you can hang out for free.

It costs US$5 an hour to rent a bike in most touristic areas of Panama. 

An all-inclusive membership at a gym like Smart Fit costs about US$31 a month. 

A movie theater ticket costs US$6.50, and a popcorn and drink combo sells for around US$10. 

All in all, your entertainment and recreation budget (including dining out), could range from US$200 to US$400 (or more), depending on your specific activities. 

Clothing 

There are shopping malls in all major Panamanian cities. The capital is home to Multiplaza, Alta Plaza, MetroMall, Megapolis Outlets, SoHo Mall, and Albrook Mall. 

You’ll find Westland Mall in Arraijan, Santiago Mall in Santiago, Mall Paseo Central in Chitré, and Federal Mall in David. No matter where you live in Panama, there’s sure to be a mall within a couple hours’ drive. 

Panama malls feature a mix of stores from the United States, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Panamanian stores include Steven’s, Sax, El Costo, Madison, and Titán, which sell clothing at a lower price than their foreign counterparts. 

Clothing costs about the same in Panama as it does in the United States.

For example, a pair of Levi’s jeans costs US$50, a summer dress from a chain store like Zara costs roughly US$40, a pair of Nike running shoes averages US$77, and a pair of men’s leather business shoes costs about US$84. 

There are dozens of outlet stores where you can buy name-brand clothing and shoes for discount prices. You’ll also find specialty boutiques and luxury shops where a single clothing item costs hundreds of dollars. 

On the other hand, you can buy convincing knock-offs from street sellers for dirt cheap. Stores that sell rejected Amazon products are popping up around Panama City and sell a huge variety of products for a few dollars each. 

No matter your budget, you’ll have no difficulty finding clothing and shoes that fit your price range.

Childcare 

Children six years of age and older are required to be in school, but Panamanian parents usually send their kids to preschool when they turn three. 

Most daycare centers accept children older than one year and eight months. These are usually private facilities and offer childcare for up to four hours a day. 

Daycare centers often charge US$200 to US$500 a month. 

You can also hire a nanny through an agency like Great AuPair. Nannies will usually care for children up to the age of 10 and charge US$300 to US$500 a week for full-time childcare, depending on the hours and number of children. 

If you need a babysitter, the best way to find one is by asking a friend to recommend a person they trust. There are no official babysitting services in Panama.

Babysitters usually charge US$30 to US$50 per session, or US$5 to US$10 an hour.  

Education 

You have several options for schooling your children in Panama: public school, private school, religious school, online learning, and homeschooling.

Public schools, governed by the Ministry of Education, offer free attendance. Parents only need to cover the cost of uniforms, books, and school supplies.

Private schools can be affiliated with a religion or secular.

Many expat parents prefer private schools due to their additional resources, more qualified teachers, more rigorous curriculums, and better post-graduation opportunities.

Several excellent international private schools in Panama offer bilingual and English-based curriculums, such as the International School of Panama, The Oxford School, and Boston School International.

Tuition in private schools can be annual or monthly, with fees ranging from US$1,000 to US$16,000 annually or US$100 to US$1,500 monthly.

Additionally, there may be a one-time registration fee, typically between US$400 and US$2,000.

Panama has public and private universities open to foreign students, with tuition fees significantly lower than in the United States.

Public universities, like the University of Panama, charge around US$200 per semester for Bachelor’s programs.

Undergraduate tuition at private universities varies from US$1,000 to US$10,000 per year. For example, Florida State University-Panama charges US$8,400 annually.

Healthcare 

Panama has both public and private healthcare systems.

Most expats use the private system because the quality of care is significantly better and wait times are much shorter.

The public healthcare system is funded by the government and operates hospitals and clinics across the country. Due to the extremely low cost of public healthcare – consultations often cost US$5 or less – some expats choose to use the public system and pay out of pocket.

A visit to a public clinic for a minor health concern, including consultation, testing, and treatment, usually costs US$15 or less.

Saba Pharmacy
There are clinics throughout Panama where you can buy OTC medications at good prices.

A consultation with a general medicine doctor at a private clinic ranges from US$15 to US$25. You’ll pay US$50 to US$70 to see a specialist. Because of the higher cost of private healthcare, purchasing a private health insurance plan is the logical choice.

Local health insurance plans in Panama are affordable, with premiums typically ranging from US$50 to US$100 a month. These plans provide access to the top private medical facilities in the country, along with special benefits like ambulance services, telemedicine, and discounts on prescription medications.

Several international health insurance providers offer plans with coverage in Panama.

Due to their more extensive coverage, the premiums are higher – often US$100 to US$200 a month. However, for most expats, a local plan is sufficient.

Visas 

Panama offers a long list of residency options. If you want to stay in the country for more than three months at a time, you’ll need to apply for a visa.

Panamanian law requires you to hire a lawyer to prepare and submit your immigration paperwork. The entire process is done through an attorney, and they often charge hefty fees for their services.

Expats generally spend between US$1,500 and US$2,000 on lawyer fees, however there are no rules dictating how much an attorney may charge.

How Much Do You Really Need To Live In Panama? 

The truth is there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. I’ve listed for each of the above destinations how much you would need to budget per month to cover your basic living expenses. 

Many expats can live well anywhere in Panama on US$1,500 a month. Others need US$2,000… US$3,000… US$4,000… US$5,000 a month, or even more, to thrive here. 

It all depends on your lifestyle. If your goal is simplicity, minimalism, and relaxation, then you might be able to live on less. If you want a luxury apartment, imported products, and expensive activities, you’ll need much more. 

Most expats make US$2,000 or more a month in Panama. This is enough income to afford a middle-class lifestyle anywhere in the country. If you work remotely for a foreign company, you have the opportunity to earn more. 

Overall, Panama offers you the chance to live better for less money.

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Gabrielle moved to Panama in 2021 after graduating from university in the United States. Shortly after settling in Panama City, she began a career in writing and has since written dozens of articles to help expats fulfill their dream of living abroad. Passionate about travel, Gabrielle enjoys sharing the places she’s visited with others through her writing.

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