For many people, Panama remains economical.
It depends on your expectations.
Just like everywhere else in the world, costs have been rising in Panama.
Our wonderfully generous guest contributor lives in the charming beach town of Puerto Armuelles, Panama.
Fruit & Vegetables
Over the last 5 years, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables has remained fairly stable.
Although some prices have increased. Shallots (green onions) have soared in price. Ironically, bananas, which grow here, have also gone up in price. But are still reasonable.
The price of carrots, potatoes, onions, beets, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, chayote and regional root vegetables (i.e. yucca) have remained the same.
I spent $7 for
Enough fruits and vegetables for the week. If I had added a papaya and a pineapple it would have boost the price to $10.
Basic Food Costs
The Panama government keeps price controls over what it calls a “basic food basket”. So those prices have remained steady.
[Editors note: Panama’s Basic Food Basket contains 22 foods, which includes, chicken, beef sausage, rice, onions, yams, potatoes, bread, beans, lentils, canned tuna, eggs, cassava, and more.]
During recent shopping trips, I have seen the following prices:
- Chicken – $ .95/lb to $1.35/lb (for leg/thigh quarters)
I recently paid $4.33 for 6 leg/thighs, which is enough for a week. I use the chicken in soup and other dishes. (Not all stores pass on the Government food basket “savings”. These stores charge higher prices regardless of the price controls, which is why you will see a range of prices.)
- Hamburger – $2.15/lb
Ground beef has increased. $2.15/lb is what it typically costs now.
- Smoked Pork Chops – $4.75 lb (on average)
Pork prices have gone up.
- Fresh Shrimp – $3.50 to $4/lb (and sometimes a little higher)
- Fresh Fish – $2.50/lb to $1.00/lb (the $1/lb only happens sometimes)
- Bread – $2.15 a loaf (Bimbo brand whole wheat bread, medium-sized loaf )
[Editor’s note: it is even cheaper – and more fun – to buy fish right off the boat. Check out this video of our buying fresh fish adventure.]
My water bill has remained stable. It is the same flat rate, whether you use one drop or fill an Olympic pool with tap water.
- $3 to 4/mo – with Pensionada visa
- $7.10/mo – without Pensionada visa
- $3 to 5/mo. for garbage pick-up. The actual cost depends on your area.
You get a 10% discount if you pay for a full year in advance. That is the price, with or without a pensionada visa.
Electricity remains basically the same, and is based on usage.
[Editor’s note: Our family’s electricity is typically in the $30 – $40/mo range. If you use an air conditioner, your electric bill can be in the $100 to $300 range. For more on the cost of utilities.]
Internet – Cost, More Towers & Fiber Optic
Internet service cost remains high. If you are lucky enough to be in an area Cable Onda is able to provide service, then you will see very favorable pricing ($30 -$37/mo).
Cable Onda is adding more towers to service the more remote areas of where I live, but that is a slow process.
Also fiber optic cables are currently being strung/laid. That should also improve service and pricing. Again, a work in progress.
- $6 per doctor visit in Puerto Armuelles.
Prescriptions vary in price depending on what you require. Generally they are cheaper here than in the States.
Rents are all over the map, just like always. Location is a huge factor in pricing.
- $325/mo to whatever you are willing to pay. (For a 3-bdrm, 1 bath house in a safe residential neighborhood.)
Routine preventive maintenance of air conditioners, water pumps, cars, etc. will prevent costly & inopportune repairs due to a breakdown.
Prices for land purchases range, depending on the area, from reasonable to outrageous.
The key here is to find someone who is fair and honest in the approach to real estate transactions.
Salaries For Maids & Gardeners
In January 2018, President Varela announced a 4.5% – 6.5% increase in salaries, depending on the area of the country.
Domestic help – maids, gardeners, etc. – are charging more per day than in the past. Expect to pay about,
- $20 per day for house cleaning, lawn service, etc. (8 hour day)
Setting Your Budget
Generally speaking set a realistic budget for yourself.
If you must buy organic food, then significantly increase the costs noted in this post. You will also need to travel to buy organic food. It takes 3 to 4 hours – round trip – to drive to Boquete or Volcan from Puerto Armuelles to purchase organic foods.
[Editor’s note: If you don’t want to drive, you can request weekly deliveries from the organic farm, Finca Santa Marta. I believe they deliver to Puerto Armuelles on Thursdays, David on Tuesdays, etc. And, yes, it will cost more than buying non-organic]
I am still able to manage comfortably with the budget I created for myself 5 years ago – not using organic foods.
Happy New Year!!!