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The Cost of Living in Panama City, Panama

An important factor to keep in mind when deciding to live in Panama is the cost of living there, although this should, of course, only be one factor and not the only reason to decide for or against a life in Panama. Generally, prices in Panama tend to be slightly higher than in other Central American countries such as Nicaragua or Guatemala and are about the same as in neighbouring Costa Rica. Panama is not as cheap as it used to be, and there are some things that are not a lot cheaper than in Europe or North America. However,  there are also a few real bargains you can make, and people from North America or Europe will still find a reduction in their cost of living when coming to Panama.


Food and Dining

As explained in the blog about the costs for groceries in Panama, it depends on you and on what you buy how much money you will spend on food. If you buy local food, you pay a lot less than you would in the U.S. or Canada, and you will pay more for brand names you know from back home here in Panama. What strikes the eye is how cheap “bad things” are in Panama, e.g. a can of beer costs only $ 0.50 (in Costa Rica it is at least twice as much!), a bottle of liquor only $ 5.

Due to the comparatively low costs of local produce, meat and fish, dining in Panama City is very affordable. For only $ 3 or even less you can get the typical lunch with your choice of meat, rice, beans and salad in the so called Fondas. For $ 4 you can get a nice breakfast (either typical with tortillas, eggs, beans and cheese, or “gringo” (=U.S.-American) with pancakes, bacon etc.) and for $ 5 to 6 you get a good pizza. For a fine dinner for two (including wine and dessert) expect to pay about $ 40- 50. Fast Food chains have about the same prices as in North America or Europe.


You will find the cheapest food in the so called Fondas.



Even though fuel prices in Panama might not be as low as in other Latin American countries, it is affordable. Panama is in the middle range of countries in terms of fuel prices, and fuel is about the same as in the U.S. and cheaper than in Canada and many European countries (e.g. $ 8.50/gallon in Germany).


Fuel Prices in Panama City, September 2012



Transportation is very cheap in Panama City (especially when I think of the $ 3 I have to pay in Cologne, Germany for just one subway ride!). For only $ 2- 4 you can get around in the city by taxi, depending on the destination and time of the day. To get on the bus is even cheaper: You can either ride the “red devils” (the old, painted school buses) for $ 0.25 or the new Metrobuses for $ 0.45.


The cheapest way to get around in Panama City is taking one of the Diablos Rojos (red devils).



The fact that health care is a lot cheaper in Panama than in other countries (a doctor’s visit is about $ 25 to $ 50) has a positive effect on health insurance, and local Panama health insurance can cost $ 100 per person per month or less. This, of course, depends on your physical condition. People after age 60 pay more for insurance in Panama, but when compared to the rates in the U.S. or Europe it is still a bargain.


ASSA: One of the local insurance companies. Soure:


The costs for car insurance depend on the driver, but are about $ 50 per month. My tip is to definitely get car insurance, as traffic in Panama City can get pretty crazy (as well as the drivers!) and as you, as a foreigner, will be pretty much blaimed for any damage, whether you caused it or not!


Utilities and Communication

Electricity in Panama is not overly cheap, eventhough the government subsidises it. However, the amount on your electricity bill depends on your consumption, and if you do not have your air condition running 24/7 you will be more than ok with your expenses for electricity. Cable TV and Internet are about the same price as in the U.S. (about $ 40 to 50 each, depending on the speed etc., it is cheaper if you purchase a package of both, e.g. with Cable Onda).


Manual Labor and Professional Services

In this sector you are most likely to make the big savings. As wages are low in Panama (the minimum wage has recently been risen by 18% to $ 416), services like landscaping, housekeeping, construction and trade, auto repairs etc. are extremely cheap. For only $ 300 per month you can have, as many Panamanians do, a live-in nanny, who takes care of your kids as well as of the household and all tasks connected to it (cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry etc.). A landscaper will cost you about $ 2.50 per hour.

For only $ 5 you can get a mens hair cut. Women pay slightly more. A manicure in a beauty salon will only cost you $ 5, as well.


Price list at a beauty salon in Panama City, September 2012


Professional Services are also very cheap. Certified translations (with stamp and signature) from English to Spanish and Spanish to English e.g. only cost about $ 10 per page (for more information visit A one hour consultation with an immigration lawyer will cost you about $ 150 (for more information visit



Entertainment is also quite cheap in Panama. At the movie theater you pay $ 5, only $ 2 as a retiree. You can get a ticket for a local theater production for about $ 10 to $ 15 (see

In bars you usually do not have to pay a cover to enter. For a national beer you will pay $ 2-3, for an imported one $ 4.



All in all, life in Panama is a lot cheaper than in most countries in North America and Europe, even though it is not as cheap as it used to be some years ago. As a retiree you will receive discounts almost everywhere, which reduce the cost of living even more. The biggest savings can be made in the service sector, whereas you have to expect to pay the same as you do at home for electricity, TV and internet. For any questions concerning the cost of living in Panama, please leave a comment in the section below.

About The Author

Ines is the Pro-Blogger for Panama City, Panama. Her role is to connect people who are currently living in Panama City, and provide unbiased information for people who are considering Panama as a retirement destination.  Learn how YOU can become the Pro-Blogger for YOUR community!

Home Forums The Cost of Living in Panama City, Panama

This topic contains 5 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Don Hank 4 days, 14 hours ago.

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  • #10395
    Profile photo of Ines
    Points: 2,010 RW

    An important factor to keep in mind when deciding to live in Panama is the cost of living there, although this should, of course, only be one factor a
    [See the full post at:]

  • #10396

    Don Hank

    Yestereday I paid all of $8.50 for a doctor’s consultation in Brisas del Golf, here in the outskirts of Panama City. There really are bargains here.

  • #10397


    I think you should also list items that are much more expensive, like electronics and autos. Expect to pay much more!

  • #10398
    Profile photo of
    Points: 2,210 RW

    You are right, electronics and autos are more expensive here.

  • #10399
    Profile photo of Ines
    Points: 2,010 RW

    Dear Joseph and Joseph,
    thank you very much for your comments. You are absolutely right: There are some items that are more expensive in Panama than back at home (whether this is North America or Northern Europe), such as new cars (in my opinion you can buy used ones for a pretty good price here) or electronics. Gasoline and electricity are not overly cheap in Panama either. However, there are many things that are way cheaper than in other countries, and the cost of living in Panama City is quite low (of course always depending on what you consume). The Economist has rated Panama City the sixth cheapest city to live in (by comparing prices of more than 400 goods and services, such as food, drink, clothing, household supplies and personal care items, home rents, transport, utility bills, and domestic help). Click here to read more about the survey. Thanks again for your feedback!

  • #10400
    Profile photo of Ines
    Points: 2,010 RW

    Dear Don Hank, thank you very much for your comment. I have also found out that consultations are even cheaper outside of the city. Good tip! Thanks

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