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Chris Frochaux of Chris Frochaux - SERVMOR REALTY – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Is Panama cheap? This is perhaps the most important of all questions... because if you're considering moving to Panama only because it's cheap, then you're likely to be disappointed! Cheap is a very relative word, like "hot" or "cold". As compared to what? I have received inquiries from Americans interested in purchasing a house in Panama City, with a budget of $50,000. I am not saying it's not possible... actually, that would be possible in the "interior", but not in Panama City, at least not in a very desirable neighborhood. And at that price level, you cannot expect an ocean view! The Internet is an invaluable research tool, provided the information is up-to-date. What was true fifteen years ago is no longer relevant, but the same considerations apply to your home state, wouldn't you agree? (How much did you pay for a cup of coffee or a gallon of gas, just a few years ago?) I pay a visit to Europe and the U.S. every year. Compared to Swiss prices, Panama is definitely cheap. Compared to Miami, not that much cheaper. Reliable websites like Tripadvisor provide immediate hotel and restaurant pricing comparison, between your hometown and Panama. (With the huge advantage that Panama's only currency is the U.S. Dollar, so you don't have to worry about the "Colones" or "Pesos" daily rate of exchange). 
Taking Miami FL as a reference, prices in Panama's metropolitan area are slightly lower. I enjoy my daily fix of cappuccino and a cardboard 8 oz. cup runs me between US$2.63 to $3.74 (including 7% tax), depending on location (as of this writing, April 2013). A lot of things are cheaper here, such as movie tickets, medical services, prescriptions, personal services, for example - especially if you live here under a "pensionado" visa, providing you with many discounts. You can get a cleaning lady charging $20.00 per afternoon, or a live-in maid for about $400/$500 per month. If you don't mind driving 3 hours (highway), prices in the Azuero Peninsula are much lower - and the lifestyle more relaxed. 
Bottom line: generally speaking, prices in Panama are affordable. Just don't take your decision based solely on the cost of living. The best advice would be to visit Panama and judge for yourself.
Melissa Darnay of Choose Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Melissa Darney on patio, Playa Bonita – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingPanama is cheaper than the US. All things considered, if you live in a less expensive city in the US, your expenses might be half as much in Panama. If you’re living currently in an expensive city like New York, San Francisco, or Chicago, living in Panama is going to be significantly less.
Let’s say that your lifestyle is equal in the US and Panama. You drive the same car. You eat the same type of food. You live in roughly the same priced home that you live in where you currently live. With everything else being equal, you’re still going to save about 50% by living in Panama because of two main reasons.
The first reason is property tax exemption. The property tax exemption in Panama will vary depending upon the building where you live. It can range anywhere from 5 to 20 years. That is such a huge savings for most people based on what they’re used to. I pay the same price for my house in Panama that I paid for in Dallas. One of the main differences is that the property tax in Dallas is very high, but here in Panama, I don’t pay any property tax because of the exemption.
The other main area of savings you can achieve by living in Panama is insurance. This is not just health insurance, but it’s property insurance as well. Because Panama does not get any natural disasters on a regular basis, the insurance isn’t inflated to cover those natural disasters like it would be if you lived in a hurricane-prone environment. In Panama, I live in the exact same price of home that I lived in Dallas, I drive the exact same car, and I eat at the same types of restaurants. Overall, my expenses in Panama are 50% of what they were in Dallas.
(Melissa Darnay on her patio in Playa Bonita, Panama, with all the comforts of home, including the US secret service, who are temporally housed there for the Summits of the Americas summit.)
Jonathan Stolarz of COSTA LINDA RESIDENCE CLUB – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Corredor Sur home Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIn general, Panama is very cheap if you compare it to the United States.
Housing is cheap in Panama.  You may have a beautiful, 2-bedroom apartment with an ocean view in a nice neighborhood for US $1,500.  A similar apartment in Miami would cost around $2,200.
Food is a lot less expensive in Panama, where you would spend $600 to $700 a month for a family of 2 or 3 people.  In Miami, the same food would cost you $1,000 to $1,200.
Dinner or lunch in a good restaurant in Panama City would be around $30 to $40.  In Miami, it would cost twice as much.
Panama City has everything---from malls, shopping centers, and restaurants.  That’s why I’m comparing it to a large metro area like Miami. In the provinces in Panama (the countryside, outside of Panama City), it’s much less expensive, but they don’t have the level of amenities of Panama City.
(Housing development near Corredor Sur, Panama, pictured.)
David De Franco Levi of DEFRANCORP- Business Consultants – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Van Halen song Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingLiving in Panama can be as cheap or expensive as you would like to make it. It really just depends on the lifestyle you would like to have. Living in Panama City by yourself (on the cheap) could start at US $1,000 per month, renting a room, transportation, food, etc.... and can only go upwards from there. 
I wouldn't recommend moving to Panama on less than $1,500 - $2,000/person.  
(David Lee Roth of the rock group Van Halen sings, "Panama," pictured.)
kevin obrien of BarefootPanama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Pesé, Provincia de Herrera – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingWhether or not Panama is cheap depends on what you are buying. I would say “no” for the most part, but there are some things that are still less expensive here than in other places.
Things that are less expensive would include things like your personal cleaning lady, or similar personal services, which you still can pay them very basic minimum wage. As far as good food and clothes, it’s just the same as he US. If you go to a place with less quality food and clothes, you get it for less expense. If you go to restaurants, it’s right on par. At the mall, you’d find the shops that have the same prices.
Panama is cheap if you are “coming up” to Panama. If you’re “going down” to Panama, it’s not. So for example, if you’re coming from the United States or Canada, you’re going to see very similar prices. But if you’re coming up from Colombia, it’s half price… from Venezuela, it’s a fraction of the price. From Brazil, it’s a third of the price. So it depends on who you are or where you’re coming from and you’ll have an idea how cheap it is.
 The reason its cheaper here for people coming up is because the taxes are so high in these other places. People from South America get off the plane with empty suitcases because Panama is cheap. But from North America, though, it’s the same price.
It is very expensive to live, for example, in Panama City.  For example, butter is four times the price it is in the United States. If you go out into the interior, however, where there much less goods and services, the prices are very, very cheap.  It’s the same dynamic comparing Manhattan to Kansas.
I would say, basically, the cost of living in Panama is a little less just because cost of living includes everything like your cleaning lady and your health care and those type of things, bring the cost of living down just a bit. But otherwise, the cost of living is very, very similar. There’s not as much as a difference as it was five years ago.
(The City of Pesé in Herrera Province in the interior of Panama, pictured.)
Lucia Haines of Panama Realtor Inc. – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Is Panama Cheap lifestyle Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIf Panama is cheap is a very difficult question and cannot be answered in a general way, because the answer depends on the kind of lifestyle you want to live, compared to your former lifestyle. I met people from Miami, Florida who were in Panama recently who said that everything here in Panama is so inexpensive, but then we get people from other parts of Florida, who say it is a lot more expensive here.
Most people tend to agree that you can have a higher quality of life here in Panama than in the US on the same budget. Help here in Panama is very affordable; to have maids and nannies and gardeners is pretty common here. On average, people living in Panama tend to get by on a monthly budget of US $1,000 to $1,500 per person.
Housing and cars in Panama are pretty expensive compared to what they used to cost, but things like insurance and medical care are quite a bit less than what you find in most places in the US or Canada.
How cheap it is to live here in Panama also depends whether you rent or you have a mortgage for your home in Panama. If you have a mortgage, you have to have life insurance policies and flood and fire insurance on the home, and these are additional expenses that can add up to $300 to $500 more each month.
Terry Bradford of Origen Real Estate Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panamaa home, street view – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe cost of living in Panama is sometimes exaggerated by some retirement sites but overall it is less than in comparable places in the US, Canada, and Europe. If you want to compare apples with apples, city to city, etc., it costs a lot less here in Panama.
Here in Panama, groceries and gasoline prices are similar with the prices in the US, while medical services are much less. When expats retire in Panama, they may apply for the Descuento de Jubilado through the Pensionado Program. It is a discount privilege for people who have retired here and they do not necessarily have to be 55 years old and over. If they can show that they have at least a lifetime awards letter from either social security, 401K program dividends, or a disability that is lifetime, they can also apply for the Descuento de Jubilado. The descuento saves you a tremendous amount of money, which makes up for the things that you spend on a little bit more. The descuento allows you discounts on hospital services and in other places. For instance, if you want to stay in a hotel in Panama, you'll get a discount of 30% or more. For airlines, you will get 25% off which is a big amount. The discount is also 25% off when you buy over-the-counter medicines or prescriptions.
Real estate prices are a bit less in Panama compared to other countries. For instance, the place that we are living in right now in Panama is twice the size but it is exactly half the price of our condominium unit in Newport Beach, California, which was US $3,500 per month. Right now, we pay $1,800 per month for our 2,000 square foot apartment here in Panama. It is in a prime location in the most upscale part of Avenida Balboa in Panama City. We are on the 34th floor of this 52-story building and we have superb views of the ocean, the Panama Canal, 100% view of Panama City, the marina, Casco Viejo, the mountains, and the rainforest. We have the perfect view from our apartment. We also have great amenities in the apartment building such as two different pools, a private movie theater, a huge gymnasium, ping-pong, and squash. There are also two social areas where you can have parties.
The beach areas in Coronado, Panama are another very good example. Coronado was the first upscale development at the Pacific beaches here in Panama. As a realtor for 29 years in Newport Beach, California and 4 years here in Panama, I would say those condominiums and single-family homes that we have listed in Coronado, which are quite upscale developments, would be double that amount in the US. When you look at the amenities they have such as golf, gymnasiums, beach views, and so on, they are about half the cost of what you will find in comparable places such as Newport Beach, California, Ventura (which is the most expensive county in the state of California), Beverly Hills, Malibu, Miami, and South Beach, Florida. The prices for all these places in the US would at least be double what you pay in Panama.
Linda Jensen – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Boquete hotel with expat – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingWhen you ask, “Is Panama cheap?” you’re asking, “Is it affordable to live here?” Well, it definitely is.
Generally, here in Boquete, people don’t have air-conditioning or heating because you don’t need either of them. That is really a big advantage. However, in most places in Panama, especially when you get to lower elevations, you definitely need to have air-conditioning.
In Boquete, we spend probably US $15 a month on butane gas for cooking, $36 on our electricity, $100 for renting a car which we do once or twice a month, $158 for our hospital insurance, $3.25 for the magic jack and $750 for the rent of the apartment. We also pay a certain amount of money for food, miscellaneous household expenses and housekeeping. For us, literally, we can live comfortably on $1,600 a month in Boquete. It’s really affordable and I believe that there are places in Panama that are much more affordable.
In Mineral Wells, Texas where we used to live, $2,500 a month is totally not enough. Almost everything is so expensive, such as the cost of our supplemental insurance, grocery items, gasoline, and the fact that you had to drive everywhere you went because there was no public transportation. Our electricity bills could go from $300 - $400 a month. Those bills compared to our other neighbors in Texas are nothing. Some of our neighbors even had $800 - $900 a month summer air-conditioning bills.
My family and I have a much better standard of living here in Boquete. We go out whenever we feel like it. There’s just so much difference here in Boquete and in all of the places here in Panama compared to the States. The health care is much less expensive in Panama and we feel much healthier.
All in all, we feel much more comfortable with our lifestyle here. It’s been really wonderful.
The reality is that there are things that we couldn’t afford to do in Texas because it was cost-prohibitive but we do them here. In Boquete, there are things here that are expensive but you don’t have to buy them that often.
Frank Kehanu – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Mercy on us. 
I've lived abroad since being born in Japan. 
Panama  "cost of living per average income", is very high.
The affordable local produce markets are for the lowest social and economical stratus and you get what you pay for. Make sure to wash with a good bleach & liquid detergent solution once at home. (Even my Rainbow Tribe Member youngest son prefers El Rey.)
Housing is expensive for CBS housing specially in the city.
Some utilities such water is affordable, but  Kilowatt / Hour is high, fuel is high and just about anything of US consumer protection standards quality has to be imported, so it get a S&H, Tariff and Import taxes above what is paid in main land.
Take it with a grain of salt!
Jose Broce of Broce-Pinilla & Asociados – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panama City, Panama, as viewed from the ocean – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingYes, Panama is cheap, if you know where to look.  Panama has “dual offers”, meaning that if you buy as a tourist, you will get tourist prices.  However, if you learn where the locals buy things and buy as a local, when compared to prices in North America, Panama is extremely cheap.
Internet, electricity, and cable are from 15% - 20% less expensive in Panama than in the US.
Housing prices are 15% - 20% less in Panama than in the US, and sometimes they are the same.
However, given how much less you spend on other items (including taxes), you will find the overall difference in cost of living is less in Panama.  I lived in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, so I can make some useful comparisons.  Compared to Windsor, the prices in Panama City are 30% less overall, if you know how to negotiate as a local and know the places to go.
Sieg Pedde of Helix Courier Limited – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
I can take the question of how cheap is Panama in any number of ways but by that, do you mean inexpensive?  Well, I would not say that Panama is cheap or inexpensive. Obviously, Panama is a lot more inexpensive than North American cities or towns. In my opinion, Panama is about 30-40% less expensive than North America and much less than that if you live in more remote areas.
However, Panama has a lot to offer that would offset the fact that the country might not be as inexpensive compared to Ecuador or Nicaragua. Panama’s economy is booming as of the moment and because of that, there are a lot of opportunities there. I’m speaking of opportunities that are not only for retirees but also for people who want to start their own businesses.
I like the fact that from virtually anywhere in Panama, you are a very short distance away from either the Caribbean on one side or the Pacific on the other. Amazingly, it’s entirely possible for anyone to visit both sides in a day. That means that you can travel around without spending so much money on transportation.
In addition, if you want to run an online business or any other type of business, I don’t think there’s a better place than Panama to do that from since the total cost of starting a business in Panama is comparatively low compared to other more developed countries in the world.
David Whittington of Tucan Golf Club and Resort – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Certain areas of Panama are cheap.  Panama City itself is getting a little higher priced, in large part as a result of the influx of people coming in from places like North America who are used to paying higher prices.  Some of the better restaurants, for example, have increased their prices accordingly.  However, if you go to other places, for example, to Boquete, where I used to live, or other areas outside of the city itself, the prices are still very reasonable.
Where we are now, in Tucan in the area called Arraijan (just over the Interamerica Bridge from Panama City), the prices are less than in Panama City.  Basically, when you cross over the bridge (which goes over the Panama Canal), you’re in the country.
The prices for food in Panama City are about the same as in Toronto, Canada, which is where I’m originally from.  Once you get out of Panama City to the rural areas, you can buy from smaller stores and vendors, where the prices drop down quite a bit.
Relative to housing, my experience is with new construction.  If you’re looking for a home, for example, in an existing, Panamanian area, the prices are a lot less than in Canada or the US.  The price for a home in a gated community such as Tucan or the other areas that are being built around here is about comparable to the prices for a gated community in Canada, but less than for a gated community in the US.
The homeowners insurance is quite cheap here in Panama because many of the homes are 100% concrete, so there’s not much of a fire hazard.  And tax-wise, for the new homes, the government is still offering the tax exemption for 20 years.
Electricity is reasonable.  For the unit we’re living in here, with the air conditioning running basically 24 hours a day, our hydro bill is running about $120 - $130 a month.  (For those who are not acquainted with the term, a “hydro bill” in Canada is an “electric bill” in the US.)  If you live up in the mountains, for example, in Boquete, there’s no need for air conditioning, because it’s cooler.  A friend of mine in Boquete pays $50 per month for electricity.
Paul McBride – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
“Cheap” is a comparative word.  Cheap versus what?  Is Panama cheap compared to California?  Absolutely.  Is it cheaper than New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, or any other US coastal city?  Without question.  Is it cheaper than the metropolitan cities of Canada and Europe?  No doubt.
Is it a place that “your can live like a king” on $1,200 a month?  Not so much.
Whether you consider Panama “cheap” is largely based on where you come from and what your expect to find in Panama.  The costs of living in Panama City is now on par with most major cities in the world.  A dinner at a nice restaurant is not going to be noticeably less expensive than any other city of comparable size.  House prices and apartment rentals are not expensive compared to San Francisco, New York or London but they are not cheaper than most other cities around the world.  Fuel and energy prices are on the high side.  So living in Panama City is not cheap by any means.
However, as you move into the interior of the country things get much less expensive.  With the exception of places like Coronado, El Valle and Boquete, the cost of living in most rural areas is very low.  On the other hand, the quality of the services and the everyday amenities are very limited.
Boquete is a popular destination for expats and the cost of living here is a little higher than some of Panama’s more rural areas.  In my experience, the cost of living has two components: 
  1. The cost of housing and;
  2. The cost of maintaining your day-to-day lifestyle.
 The cost of housing in Boquete is comparable (and in some cases higher) to many places in the US and Canada.  The cost of a home or a rental can vary widely depending on where you choose to live, the size and quality of the home and the services offered at the property.   As a rule of thumb, the closer you are to the town of Boquete itself, the higher the cost of housing.  Being in the property development business I can tell you that my construction costs are about the same as most places in the US and Canada.
However, once you get over the housing costs, the day-to-day living costs are actually quite low.  There are little or no property taxes, energy costs are generally low because of the mild climate (little need for air conditioning), health care costs are reasonable, food costs are low, service costs like car repair, housecleaning and gardening are very competitive and other living expense (like entertainment) are affordable for most people.  Food is particularly inexpensive if you eat locally produced goods.  Things like fresh seafood, local chicken, beef and pork, fresh fruits and vegetables are much less expensive than the US, Canada or Europe.  Anything in a box, bottle, or can that is imported is generally going to be the same or more expensive than in the US or Canada.
As I talk to the people who have moved to Boquete over the years the message I get is clear and consistent.  The quality of life that people enjoy here is much more affordable than what these people paid at their former homes.  In almost all cases, people tell me that they could never afford the lifestyle they enjoy here if they stayed back home and the choices and options they have are much greater because of their decision to move to Boquete.
Vannessa Solano of Activentas, S.A. – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panama is cheap compared to other First World countries like the US and the more developed countries in Europe.  Our salaries are not as high as in these other places.  You can still live here in Panama very cheaply, compared to these other countries.
The cost of things depends on what you’re buying.  When compared to the US, the cost of electronics in Panama is about the same, if you buy similar quality.  For example, If you go to JC Penny’s or similar stores, which we do have here in Panama, and buy electronics, the price will be about the same as going to JC Penny’s in the US and buying the same products.
Relative to food, if you buy 5 pounds of rice in Panama, the cost will be about $3 or slightly more.
The cost to buy a house is much less in Panama than in the US, but the price of housing in Panama is increasing a lot, because of the high demand here.  Yet, even so, prices are still a lot lower than in the United States.
The cost to hire a person is a lot less in Panama than in the US.  For example, here in Panama you can pay $400 per month for a maid for an average sized  house up to $500 per month for a huge house.
Ken E. Harper of Bella Vista Del Mundo – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
You can live in Panama for approximately 40% less than what it costs in the United States, at whatever level of the spectrum, from low end to high end, that you choose to live.
Lourdes Townshend of Multimodal  & Logistic Transports Magazine – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
I certainly agree with all the above answers, with the only difference that Panama´s weather is enviable.  And the weather contributes to cost of living, as well.  No worries about heavy winter clothes that are very costly.  Besides, no worries of tornados, hurricanes, snow storms; only beautiful weather, with occasionally rain.  That brings down costs of insurance policies.  Taxes are also beneficial, as retirees gets lots of benefits in this area. In addition, being a tropical country, you find seasonal fruits and all kinds of veggies fresh from your backyard  at a minimum cost, which is also another way of lowering your cost of living.
But no lowered cost is comparable to the relaxing life that you can find, which brings you peace of mind...another way of lower your cost of living..because your medical costs are lower.  Frustrations?  Yes, you can also find that here and there...but you can easily overcome all of that...with a very positive attitude.  And I totally agree that you should make several exploratory visits to Panama before you make your decision.  It´s your golden future you are talking about.
James David Audlin of Editores Volcán Barú – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Where I live in the Tierras Altas (Highlands) of Chiriquí Province, the simple answer is that it is far less expensive to live here than the United States or France, where I previously lived. Imported goods (anything from food products to automobiles) generally cost about the same as in the States, but Panamanian goods are generally considerably less costly. Groceries for two adults cost me less than $100 a month. You can rent a nice casita with one or two bedrooms for $300 to $400 a month, plus maybe $30 for gas and electric. Once you get to know the area, you will find great savings opportunities, such as buying fruits and vegetables directly from the farmer. Medical costs are often much lower, too; a typical doctor or dentist visit runs about $10-$30. An excellent herbalist costs $5/visit.
Pedro Fabrega Jr of Hotel Los Mandarinos – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
It really depends on where you want to live. Panama City is not as cheap as you would imagine. But there are towns outside of Panama city that are. In Penonome for example you can rent a pleasant home for $300 a month.  Finding one is a little complicated due to lack of realtors, not pricing. Buying at a local restaurant (fonda) runs for about $1.75.
There are quality Supermarkets in the area and an occasional fast food chain (Dominos and McDonalds) but not much in terms of entertainment.  There are some nice beaches 30 minutes away.
Penonome is just an example of places in Panama where you can still live modestly on a $600 budget.
JuliAnne Murphy of Panama Pacifico – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The answer to this really depends on what your definition of 'cheap' is. I've lived in Panama City for more than five years now as an expat, and I would not define Panama City or its suburbs as cheap. Can you live in Panama for less than what you live in the US or Canada? Probably so, but it really depends on what your expectations for your lifestyle are, and if they are realistic.  Panama may have been defined as cheap 10 years ago, but it is no longer cheap in 2013.  I would instead say that Panama can be affordable, depending on where you choose to live and in what fashion you choose to live.  But affordability is not a guarantee for all kinds of housing, nor for all kinds of lifestyles.

If you're interested in Cost of Living in other places, look here...

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