Origen Panama Real Estate Consultants

The cost of living in Panama is relatively cheap compared to the US, Canada and Western Europe. In Panama, just like the rest of the world, by far your biggest expense is housing, whether it be a mortgage or rent. The main differences are wages earned which reflect upon your perception of the cost of living in Panama.

For example, if you earn a Panamanian wage, meaning you are employed by a Panamanian company and receive a competitive salary in Panama, than the cost of living could be seen as high. But if you earn a competitive salary for a North American or Western European country and live in Panama, than the cost of living is low.

The minimum wage in Panama is currently set at US$416 per month. And since in Panama the normal work week is 45 hours, it averages out to be about $2.31 per hour. However, as a college educated individual, entry level jobs in Panama start around $700+ per month, and a competitive salary for about five years of experience in your field is $1,500 to $2,500 depending on the industry.

As a single person with no dependents, you can live pretty well off $1,500 per month in Panama City and much less in the country side. But if you are interested in transferring the same lifestyle you had in your home country to Panama expect the cost of living to be 1/3 to ½ the price of what it is in the US or Canada.
Here is a breakdown of typical expenses:

In Panama, just like anyone else, it is all about location. You could have the exact same house as someone else, but yours will be in a nice part of the city and cost 2 or 3 times as much as the other person’s house 20 minutes outside of the city. There are some expensive areas in the city, mostly all with ocean views in new high rise condos, but also the city offers some great apartments in nice neighborhoods, minus the ocean front view.

• Low – Two bedroom unfurnished apartment outside of city center, or in older building in a small apartment in the city with no real amenities = $400 / month
• Middle – Two bedroom furnished apartment in a middle to upper-middle class neighborhood near the city center (could have pool) = $800 / month
• High – Two bedroom unfurnished apartment in high rise condo building with ocean view, pool and gym, private parking, and 24hr. security = $1,400 / month
• Low – 2 bedroom apartment with no A/C and minimal appliances and equipment requiring electrical use = $50 / month
• Middle – 2 bedroom apartment with A/C only in the bedrooms used at night, and normal electric use (fans, TV, lamps, overhead lights, kitchen appliances, computers, etc.) = $100 – 150 / month
• High – 2 bedroom apartment with A/C in all rooms used throughout the day and night, plus normal electric use (fans, TV, lamps, overhead lights, kitchen appliances, computers, etc.) = $250 – 300 / month


Usually water is included in the price of rent for an apartment. If not, expect to pay less than $10 per person per month


Hot water (usually), stoves and ovens in Panama run off of gas. Most of the newer buildings have gas lines installed in the building and include gas in the price of rent. However, if you purchase your own gas tank they are pretty cheap. A small one is about $5 and last about 6-8 weeks with use maybe 5-7 times per week. You can also purchase large tanks for about $50 that are delivered by the gas company.

Garbage Pick-up

Most apartments include garbage pickup in the price of rent, but if not, it costs about $10/month.


Food is relatively cheap in Panama if you shop at the right stores. There are large supermarkets which offer a wide selection and good prices. But if you want to save money buying cheap items, it is not difficult. However, if you want familiar brand name products from the US expect to pay the similar prices. When I buy groceries from one of the nicer supermarkets in Panama with a mix of brand name and local products, I typical spend about $400/month which feeds two people well. So, you could easily spend less, but also spend more.


When eating out in Panama you can find a restaurant to meet any budget. There are high-end, gourmet places with an international flare which will make you feel at home as if you were in any big city in the world, and there are little fondas (countryside restaurants) and dinners that offer good size portions for cheap. If you want to eat out in the city for dinner, it can be done for less than $10 per person, but it is not easy. However, you can eat at a very nice restaurant and order a main course dish for under $20. If you want to stay cheap in Panama City, look for the following items and prices: sandwich at a deli will run you about $4-6, a hamburger $7-12, fried fish $6-8, ceviche $4-9. At a nice, not super fancy, restaurant, appetizers will be between $5-10, Entrees $9-25, and deserts $4-8.


• Gas – As of July, 2011, the price for a gallon of gasoline was US$4.00.
• Taxi – You can get most places in the city for under $3. Expect to pay between $2-4 depending upon the time of day and destination.
• Bus – City buses run on flat rate fares. The old “red devil” buses are $0.25, and the newer metro buses cost $0.45.
• Movie Theater – Panama has numerous movie theaters around the city. Most offer both VIP theaters and regular. The VIP offers waiter service and leather reclining lazy-boy like chairs. A VIP ticket costs about $10, and a normal theater ticket is $4. On Wednesdays the normal theater tickets are half price.
• Nightclubs – Girls usually do not have to pay to get in, but if they do it is usually less than $5. Guys will normally have to pay between $5-10 to enter, depending on the club.
• Bars – Bars do not usually have a cover charge. Here are some common drink prices: national beer ($2-3), imported beer ($3-4), rum and coke ($4-5), glass of wine ($4-8).
• Casinos – free to enter, bar priced drinks, low minimum bet tables.
• Car Insurance – varies depending on the driver, but estimate $50/month if you intend on driving
• Health Insurance – most Panamanian companies provide private insurance, or you are given access to public hospitals which are free. A PPO plan from the US that will cover up to 70% of expenses in a foreign country, like Panama, with a high deductible will cost about $100/month, but obviously it will vary depending on the person’s liability and medical history.


Panama has public hospitals and clinics which are free, even to foreigners. However, the quality of care may not be what you want, and therefore a private hospital will surely meet your needs. At a private hospital an ER visit without insurance will cost about $100, plus the cost of any special tests, like blood work, medications, etc. A consultation with a specialist without insurance will be around $40 to $50. And a visit to a private clinic will be about $10 for a doctor consultation.


The cost of maids will depend on whether you provide them with room and board or not. Having a live-in maid in Panama is common. And if you opt for one, it will cost between $250 to $350 per month, plus the expenses related to housing and feeding them. Otherwise, hiring a maid for the day works out to be about $3 to $5 per hour.