I come from Kauai, in Hawaii, where the prices are astronomical, so for me, it was very cheap here in El Valle two and a half years ago. However, the cost of living in El Valle has gone up. I’ve seen the food prices steadily increase in the markets.
From the people I’ve talked to who come from decent-sized towns in the US, they complain that the cost of living in El Valle is about the same. Here are some examples:
In order for a single person in El Valle to live very comfortably, he or she should be taking in about US $2,000 per month. The theory that you could live on $600 or even $800 a month, which was mentioned some years ago, is really inappropriate now. People who are living on $1,000 to $1,200 struggle a bit.
If, for example, you had $2,000 a month to live on, you would be living in an apartment or what’s called a “casita”. A casita is a small house, usually, a one bedroom, on a property that’s usually gorgeous and has on it the main home. The casita will either be a rental, or the homeowners may have their gardeners live in it. The casitas are available for anywhere from $500 - $700 a month. This price would usually be all-inclusive, which means that it includes electricity, Wi-Fi, furniture, etc. By the way, one of the good things about renting or even buying in most of Panama is that furniture is included, and in the case of renting, most of the utilities are included as well.
So, your rent is part of your expenses, and then, you have food, etc. You would then have some money left over for traveling, etc. If you live on $2,000 a month in El Valle, you can live very, very comfortably. As you can see, the cost to rent in El Valle is considerably less than it would be in Kauai. But the prices of food and gas are similar to American prices.
If you were a couple, you would probably not be comfortable living in a Casita (although some people do), because they’re too small. A couple could live on $2,500 - $2,600 per month in El Valle in the same style as the single person living on $2,000 / month.