Depending where you are coming from, the cost of living in Panama might feel more expensive or cheaper. But always convenient!
For example, according to numbeo.com, Panama is at least 35% cheaper than Miami in a wide range of categories. It is also cheaper than New York, Toronto, London, Los Angeles and Texas, among others. Being a dollarized economy and the hub of the Americas has made it a popular choice for those looking to retire or invest in Latin America.
Coming from Panama and visiting Miami, I felt the punch. Only a few months ago I remember paying close to $80 for an Uber ride from Miami´s airport to South Beach. An airport ride in Panama, even in the best of times, tends to be no more than $35. I´m typing the route right now in my Uber app, and it is quoting $13.65 for an Uber X, up to $19.16 for an Uber XL. Uber VIP is quoting $13.65 for a ride from Casco Viejo to Tocumen airport. Today is May 24th, 2022.
If I used Uber every day, I would be hard pressed to spend more than $400 a month. Again, that might sound like a lot or like little, depending where you are. But for me it beats having a car, with the worldwide rising costs of gas, maintenance and insurance.
Housing is less standardized. It does depend on where specifically, the quality of the place you are getting, the lifestyle you are looking for and the neighborhood that can provide it.
Here, we´ll focus on Casco Viejo for many reasons. It is the only neighborhood in Panama City that gives you that small town feel, with all the beauty of a historic district. It is also the only one with a direct access to a beach within the city. As a walkable district with no high-rises, you enjoy the human scale and connection. Plenty of restaurants, cafes, cultural and community happenings small and large. Buying in Casco also has its own advantages, since product is limited edition. It is a place you can enjoy whether you live or invest.
As a full time Casco Viejo resident, I find there are cost saving aspects in my day to day. First one is time, as I use it far better. Second one is transportation, as most basic things are walking distance. Also, do note that most shops in Casco are run by their owners, which gives a meaning to each dollar spent.
Renting in Casco Viejo:
Since declared World Heritage Site, Casco has been undergoing a nonstop revitalization process. The historical monument is made of two neighborhoods: San Felipe and Santa Ana. The first one being the most established one, the second one just starting its revitalization now. In San Felipe, most studios will be around $1000 and most one bedroom between $1300 to $1600. A two bedroom could be between $1500 to $2800, three bedrooms typically would be more. Furnished or unfurnished would make a difference. In Santa Ana, you´ll see recently restored apartments in the $600 (one bedrooms) to $850 range, for a two-bedroom furnished.
Properties for rent in Casco Viejo: Link HERE
Find out what is the process to rent an apartment in Casco Viejo: Link HERE
If you are curious about how to purchase an apartment or a property in Casco Viejo: Link HERE
Food Cost in Panama:
Casco has a beautiful public fruit and vegetable market at the very entrance of the historic peninsula and the city´s main fish market right in front. Depending on what you like, you can spend more, but I find it hard to spend more than $30 a week in fresh produce there.
There is a local fish provider we use in Casco called Hope SeaFood who we absolutely love. His name is Juan and he is the best. We are all in his whatsapp group and whenever he has fresh anything, first come first served. Fresh tuna or mahi mahi, two or three pounds, my bill tends to be around $14 to $20. He brings it to your door, straight from the boat.
Now, let´s talk supermarkets. The most wide-ranging supermarket at this time in Panama is Riba Smith. There is one 15 minutes away from Casco in an Uber ride (a $3.58 ride if you were wondering). You can also go walking, but it will take you longer, more like half hour. I´ve done in in a bike and riding back with all the stuff is heavy! But doable. Depends on how much.
Now, if you are a family of 4, most likely you´ll be shopping in a couple of places. Panama has a PriceSmart, and those places are great for cleaning supplies and bulk purchases. I´m not going to include that in my calculation here.
The good thing is that now most supermarkets have online shopping platforms, so you can actually take a look by yourself:
They are both in Bella Vista, 15 minutes away from Casco.
From my calculations, a family of 4 will be spending about $400 a month in groceries. You can always decide for different brands, but I feel that´s a good rule of thumb.
Here is the Price Smart website also for comparison
Health Cost in Panama:
The big difference in Panama in comparison with the United States seems to be the cost of health services. Every single one of our American clients have mentioned it. While I´m not an expert in this field, I have had my share of hospital visits. Here is some research to try and get you as close as possible to the sources and their pricings. One thing that covid has given us is more online services and domicile services for health care. That is appreciated.
Now, the first thing to know is that while not every doctor is English – bilingual, Panama has a high number of health professionals that have studied abroad, including Europe and the US. A specialist appointment usually is about $70 to $100, and most likely you´ll be able to find a good private practitioner that can attend you within the same week of the call, again, depending on your case. Do note that Casco Viejo is also 15 to 20 minutes away from Panama´s best hospitals or clinics.
General Health Costs:
Trying to find a website that could give you a sense of pricing, I found Minimed to be the most open and transparent of them all. Minimed is a private company that provides with a wide range of general medicine and some specialized services at a very straightforward and affordable price.
- Here is their website: Minimed
They do home visits, and have a bit of everything. For example:
- Dental cleaning: starting at $20
Now, here I happen to have a comparison: in Panama you´ll find dental cleanings up to $100. Usually by US graduated dentists with experience in multiple areas.
- Geriatrics appointment: $70
- Physiotherapy: $60, if at home will be an additional cost.
Want to take a look at a specific specialty? Here
Now, what about other dental procedures? It will highly depend on your case. But to give you a specific example, dental implants can start at $800 to $1100 plus honorary services. Then three months later you´ll need a protasis that most likely will be between $700 to $1000 per unit. Clinica Ford was one of the clinics that openly blogged about it: Link.
Dr. Richard Ford studied in Louisiana State University in New Orleans, U.S.A.
You´ll find that 5 out of 9 doctors working at the clinic studied abroad. Just to give you a sense of the quality you´ll find in Panama in the private health industry. Do always ask for references.
In fact, the US Embassy in Panama website has a list of hospitals and bilingual health providers: List Here.
Ranging from Allergies and Immunology to Speech Pathologist, we highly recommend taking a look and googling everyone.
Also found some embassies, like the Ambassade du France with a published list of doctors: List Here
Maternity: Having a baby in Panama costs
Researching how much it is to have a baby in the USA, I find that most references start at $4500 all the way to $14,500 to have a baby. Here are the links for the full articles:
Updated 2021 and https://www.birthinjuryhelpcenter.org/cost-pregnancy.html
quoting studies from 2020.
In Panama, you´ll find the best hospitals have convenient packages for the soon to be mom. Private rooms starting at $710.70 for natural births. Even adding everything on the menu possible, at one of Panama´s newest clinics, it seems like you would be hard pressed to spend $5K. Here you can download their programs and special plans:
John Hopkins Hospital is present in Panama. They offer packages for procedures such as knee replacement, bariatric surgeries and general surgeries. Here are the links:
Traveling the region:
One of Panama´s most important advantages is how easily it connects you to the rest of the world. It isn´t called the “Hub of the Americas” for nothing!
Now, what does that mean?
Basing in Panama with an eye to exploring the region is a winning plan. You get the best of all worlds: a safe, dollarized economy and the LATAM cultural experience. Depending on the airline and the season, here are a few examples:
Panama – Cartagena (Colombia): Airlines Wingo. Dates in June 2022. One Person: from $66.71 economy version to $134.12 full extras. Here is Wingo´s website: https://www.wingo.com/en
Ciudad de México through COPA could be around $650 per person.
You can be dancing salsa and guajira in Habana, Cuba starting at $220 per person, and merengue in Santo Domingo from $236. Check other destinations here with Copa: www.copaair.com
While costs and dynamics change constantly, we hope this gives you a good idea and some tools when considering moving to Panama or retiring in Panama. If you do choose to move to Casco Viejo, we´ll be glad to set you up! Just shoot us an email at [email protected]