Does Panama REALLY Have a Cheaper Cost of Living? 2

So…last week I shared our one year of expenses while living in Panama – specifically Pedasi. I thought it would be neat to compare the so called “cheaper cost of living in Panama” to that of our cost of living back in the cold confines of suburban Canada…and no, we didn’t live in an igloo, but we did learn how to make pie charts, as illustrated below.

While living in Pedasi we went out quite often to meet people, make new friends, and network – be it lunch, dinner, or Sunday fun-day at the beach. But back in Canada we were total hosers and didn’t go out at all. Kidding, we were only hosers, not total hosers, eh!

Our social life was much different though. We ended up going out with friends for dinner/drinks far less and instead opted for “weekend adventures” to nearby places like Toronto, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls for things like baseball games, cheap cross-border shopping, and re-igniting the spark in our marriage with trips to the romance capital of Canada…Niagara Falls. Hey, nothing says “let’s get busy baby” like Ripley’s Wax Museum or the Haunted House on Clifton Hill. Oh yeah. Brow chica-row-row.

And some of those social outing expenditures with friends in Pedasi could also equate to activities like Yoga, playing hockey, or golf back in Canada.

Anyway, the costs below have been adjusted to US Dollars using the AVERAGE monthly exchange at the time. It typically ranged from .90 cents to .93 cents over the course of the year from Aug 2013 to July 2014…ahhh…those were the days! At time of writing, the Canadian dollar is at .76 cents USD. WTF! But for our friends in the United States of America, no math is required, and the costs probably compare to that of someone living near Orlando, FLA. Mas o menos…according to this site.

Without further adieu, here are our Canadian expenses from Aug 2013-July 2014.

cell phones/internet112.87135.43124.51127.09127.13118.20116.39116.13117.30127.40119.88167.821977.02
Personal Health135.03134.90254.81215.3914.2299.8596.4027.7613.8839.57220.721252.59
Spanish School630.87630.87
Grand Total2273.692692.222422.761805.271829.361541.291968.642168.931663.991634.322040.901938.3623979.78

Things I omitted:

  • Charitable Donations
  • Tips (we just included those as part of restaurant)
  • Gifts
  • Auto (gas, maintenance, CAA (AAA) membership, plate renewal). These costs were very similar in each country.
  • Home renovation/maintenance. Being we needed to “spruce up” our home back in Canada, numbers would be skewed.

But let’s dive in a little deeper and compare other costs, shall we?


Canada’s alcohol is taxed like crazy and generally costs a lot more for some dumb reason. And in the province I’m from (Ontario), sales are controlled by the government. They make a $#!T-load off of us. Alcohol is probably triple the cost in Canada than it is in Panama. Sure, Canadian beer is way more awesomer (yeah, I wrote awesomer) than Panama’s is – but 3x? Take off eh! We drank far less in Canada and it appears it cost us much more. Typically we’d have the “unwind from the workweek” Friday four. Saturday would probably be six drinks, maybe another four to six on Sunday. That’s only 14-16 drinks each over three days. $#!T, I’ve done that on Sunday fun-day at the beach in Pedasi. Okay, probably half that. Anyway, let the pie-charts begin!

Cost of alcohol in Panama


In Pedasi, we paid about $20/month for electricity. Water was another $8/month. And a tank of propane for cooking was a little over $5 but would last you a few months. For $#!Ts and giggles, I’ll bump that $20 electric to $30 per month where we weren’t paying for it. Heck, I’ll even leave Mar/Apr/May as is even though they were so expensive because we paid someone else’s utilities while house sitting. Keep in mind it gets kinda cold in Canada, so ya gotta giver on the heat, eh!

cost of electricity in Panama


We ate super-healthy in Canada. I’d like to in Panama, but it’s much more expensive here than back in Canada, so some meals aren’t as healthy as we’d like them to be in Pedasi. We used to buy a lot of gluten-free products and a wide variety of veggies. Those products are a lot more expensive in Panama, and also hard to find.
cost of food Panama

Cell Phone/Internet in Panama:

Sure, the internet is faster and more reliable in Canada, but look at the price difference. It fricken better be more reliable and faster at 4X the price!!! Okay, disclaimer. We didn’t have a hard-wired connection and had to buy those Claro sticks or tether through our phones. But add another $45/month for high-speed in Panama, and well, Panama still comes out way ahead.

cost of cell data in Panama


Canada doesn’t have fondas where you can get a huge meal for $3. So Canada loses right there. Kidding. Both countries have options – be it fast food or dine-in. But based on 108 times dining out in Panama to dining out only 74 times in Canada, well, at $10 more per visit, it’s cheaper to pack up the car and head out to TGI Fridays Fondas in Panama.

cost of restaurants Panama

Insurance in Panama:

Our auto and home insurance was lumped together back home, but the price of monthly auto insurance for our two cars in Canada would be equal to the annual auto insurance in Panama for one car…#TrueStory. Sorry, no graph necessary.

Rent in Panama:

Can’t compare. I lived in a city where a 2 BR, 1 bath would be at least $900/month. Twice what we paid in Pedasi for the same. Panama City however, that would be a pretty fricken sweet deal. But to rent a place like that in a major tourist destination in Canada? Probably not gonna happen.  Real estate? That’s another blog post altogether which would surely set off more fireworks than a Panamanian wedding!

So you tell me – does Panama have a cheaper cost of  living?

In conclusion, I feel I deserve an A+ on this project because I presented facts and figures in a logical sequence, offered an unbiased  view of both sides of the argument, and I worked very hard on this report.

Later dudes!


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2 thoughts on “Does Panama REALLY Have a Cheaper Cost of Living?

  • Patricia

    Interesting info but I’m coming from Idaho. USA and our cost of living is far less I’m also single so that seems to make a huge difference here and there. My bills in Boquete for housing are $600/month max 2 bdr/2bath includes utilities less internet. Groceries and dining out maybe $300. No vehicle but public transport is minima $$l. I can save much more here most likely due to my former need for a vehicle. I’m also healthy and a nurse so I have few healthcare needs since most are solved at home ? but as a Veteran I get care annually at home. Overall I love Panama and have a comfortable life here

    • Al McCullough Post author

      Yup. Rent is definitely cheaper in Panama as long as your not in the city. I think that’s where a lot of expats save big!