Can You Afford the Cost of Living in Panama? 7

So…doing the math and wondering if you can afford to live in Pedasi or Panama in general? A few other bloggers touch base on the cost of living. Kris Cunningham gives her breakdown of life in David, and Christopher Powers details his costs of living in Panama City. Those are both great baselines for comparison because they’re opposite ends of the country, and while Kris provides a retiree’s viewpoint, and OC (other Chris) provides costs based on grocery store visits for a family of six.

Which brings us to…umm…us. Smack dab in the middle of the country, in almost the dead-center of the continent, in what could also be known as near-middle-earth for LOTR fans, is the town of Pedasi – a place becoming increasingly popular with expats, beach-goers, adventure seekers and all around cool people.

So what does it cost to live among the awesome? Well, it could be more than you think, or not as much as you thought, it depends on what you’re thinking. But first, a word from this weeks sponsor…

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And now back to your regularly scheduled blog post…

After one year in Pedasi, here’s a break down our cost of living but with a small disclaimer. A lot of the time we lived rent free thanks to our new found careers as House Sitters. But when we did rent, a 2BR / 1 bath Panamanian style home (with one AC) in town set us back $450 per month. Add to that an electricity bill that averaged just under $20 and water bills of $5, all in we were at $475 for rent.

And now this is where the waters will become murky. Some people eat out more often than others. Some people drink more often than others. Some people eat expensive food more often than others. And some people do more…stuff than others. Okay, no more rambling, here’s our Collective Soul-esque Disciplined Breakdown…

Spanish Lessons40183.78155.95109606030402020718.73
Personal Health1.9621.414.510.46558.5213.886.077033.99235.78
Grand Total1440.341093.151357.06841.76958.53573.26852.1555.19654.31533.42700.96682.8610242.94

Wow, booze takes up a big chunk of our expenses! Not that I need to justify it for people, but I’ll break down our most expensive month for booze: October 2014 was $233. Divided by 31 days and that’s 7.5 drinks per day. Now divide by 2 people and we’re at 3.75 (although I probably had 4.5 and Shelly had 3). Now take into consideration I’m Canadian, and the beer here is like water compared to Canada. Anyway, it doesn’t bother us, we know we’re not drunks – but this is just an illustration as to what one can expect living in Pedasi.

Things I didn’t include:

  • Tips (sometimes it’s included in the bill and we forgot to separate it)
  • Car expenses (read all about the cluster-f@#K adventure with our car)
  • Los baños (a few quarters to use the crapper wasn’t worth mentioning)
  • Rent/Electric/Water (this will be dependent on your needs) Ours was $475/month
  • Electronics
  • Border runs to Costa Rica and Medellin, Colombia

So what’s it cost to live in Pedasi? Well, if we paid rent every month, it would have cost us just under $1330/month.

Don’t drink? Well, you’re looking at just under $1200.

Don’t drink or eat out? Then you could spend as little as $1075.

Don’t drink or eat out or pay rent? Now you’re under $600 month – nice work Thrift Shop!

BAr bill

Our booze bill wasn’t even close to this one!

If you feel like doing the math and averaging the costs of restaurants per visit, we went out the following number of times each month over the course of a year:

aug-16 times
sep-15 times
oct-12 times
nov-10 times
dec-7 times
jan-5 times
feb-6 times
mar-6 times
apr-6 times
may-8 times
jun-10 times
jul-7 times
108 time divided into $1485 and our average restaurant bill was $14. 

I wish we had separated our booze at restaurants from our grocery store booze. That would give us a better idea of where that booze money was being…absorbed.  You’ll also want to factor in that we arrived in mid August 2014, and when you need to network, you need to spend some time at the restaurants and bars.

Anyway, that’s the cost of living in Pedasi for two dudes in their late 30’s and all prices are in US dollars.

I’d like to thank my super-organized, book-keeping wife, Shelly, for tracking expenses to the best of her ability whilst being married to me and my inability to remember which pocket(s) I kept the previous night’s receipt in – if I kept it at all!

Later dudes!




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7 thoughts on “Can You Afford the Cost of Living in Panama?

  • Rick B

    NICE…. But higher than I expected… Last time I was there was in the &70’s so… That Esplaines it.. Anyway I loved it there… A few questions if I may..
    1) How is their economy these days? When I was there there was allot of poverty.
    2) How do they view North Americans now? Any languishing resentments about the Panama invasion, or the US pulling out? Any hostility?
    3) They never used to charge for the Banos..
    4) what’s the best way to visit these days? Is there a particularly good travel group, to resort there that is reasonably priced?

    Thanks Much. Enjoy your article..

    • Al McCullough Post author

      Hi Rick, I bet Panama has changed quite a bit since the 70’s. It’s changed so much in the 3 years since we first visited. And yes, the costs surprised me a little too. I’ll try and answer your questions as best I can…

      1) Panama’s economy was growing at a break-neck pace a few years back, but much like the global economy, it has slowed, but still enjoys growth. There’s plenty of opportunity here though.
      2) I don’t believe there are resentments, I think many feel it was good for the country having had the Americans present, but being that I’m Canadian, it’s pretty hard to tell. I don’t feel there are any resentments towards me. I do feel as a “gringos” we sometimes get taken advantage of when it comes to things like cab-fare and negotiating for a gardener.
      3) Yeah, depends on where you go. Larger bus stations usually charge, as do some of the malls near the city. Sometimes ya gotta pay to poop I guess.
      4) Best way to visit is however you would feel comfortable. Some want to rent a car and drive everywhere – which you can do here. Some would rather backpack and bus and stay in hostels – which you can do here. Some would like stay at an all-inclusive and lay on the beach and have someone bring drinks to them – which you can do here. It comes down to what you’re looking for in a vacation. There are some good affordable charters for some of the all-inclusive resorts in Rio Hato.

      Hope that helps, and thanks for reading!

    • Al McCullough Post author

      Hi John & Susan. Thanks. I did not include any type of Health Insurance because of our situation, plus it differs greatly for people of our age (late 30’s) than people of retiree status. As for car insurance, I briefly compared in a follow-up artice: It’s really no comparison though, Panama is way cheaper. Airline costs were left out because they aren’t something purchased every day. We did do transportation costs, but that relates to buses, bicycles and taxis. Cars are going to be similar cost as in North America. you can buy one for cheaper in USA or Canada, gas will be relatively the same, mechanic costs will be less – but you need one you can trust!

      Thanks for reading!