So many people ask what is the cost of living in Boquete Panama that I decided to provide a working budget. This budget is going to be based upon two different scenarios, first someone who buys a home and second someone who rents. Each will have some variables because clearly not everyone lives the same lifestyle.
I want to make a few points going in to this discussion. First and most important that this entire post is nonsense because each person will have variations on either theme. The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate a low and high end budget, but neither is real, because once again we all choose to live differently.
For the Home owner I am going to use myself as an example. I do not live in a subdivision so I have no Homeowners fees. I pay for water and electricity directly without markup. The expenses are for one person but in reality would not change much for one or three. except for health insurance.
Home Paid in Cash, no mortgage
Property Taxes $200 (there might be property taxes in Panama, I have them)
Electricity $ 40
Gas $ 5
Water $ 3
Cell phone $ 25
Internet $ 60 ( I do not have cable or Satellite TV) Add $40 minimum
Home Insurance $ 20
Diesel (car) $200
Car insurance $ 65 ( I have Maximum coverage)
Car $400 I paid cash but if I needed to take a loan this would be a guess
Health Insurance $1000 (This is a US 100% Medical and Dental Policy good anyplace in the world. Local options like MS Chiriqui would cost less and cover less.)
Note: My biggest monthly expense is health insurance.
A rental solution using most of the same numbers but eliminating a car and those things normally included in rent.
Rent : Range from $500 to $2000 You can spend $2000 or more if you wish. I will use $1000 for the total below.
Electricity $ 40
Gas $ 5
Water $ 3
Internet $ 60
cell phone $ 25
Health Insurance Self Insured
Transportation $100 Assuming local taxi and bus expenses
Total: $1933 Assuming no car and that rental has satellite or cable TV
Health insurance is the loaded gun for retirees in Panama. You have options, you can self insure for almost anything. Self insurance will work out to be less expensive unless you have a catastrophic emergency and want to use a private hospital. Public hospitals are very inexpensive but unless you have a local person to be your advocate you might die before you see a doctor.
If you are a US Medicare recipient, Medicare will not help here, but you can return to US for non urgent care situations. There is a rumor floating about that Medicare will cover emergencies, according the website Medicare.gov, there are only three conditions that would be covered, none of which will apply for a resident in Panama. A tourist might be able to make a case for #3.
1. You’re in the U.S. when you have a medical emergency, and the foreign hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your illness or injury.
2. You’re traveling through Canada without unreasonable delay by the most direct route between Alaska and another state when a medical emergency occurs, and the Canadian hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your illness or injury. Medicare determines what qualifies as “without unreasonable delay” on a case-by-case basis.
3. You live in the U.S. and the foreign hospital is closer to your home than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your medical condition, regardless of whether it’s an emergency. Remember, in these situations, Medicare will pay only for the Medicare-covered services you get in a foreign hospital.
If you have no pre-exisitng conditions you can buy far less expensive Panama only or even International health insurance policies. If you have pre-exisitng conditions you will find qualification for those policies difficult or impossible.
In my personal opinion life in Panama is not that much less expensive than life in the US. I will submit my utility bills are much lower here than they were in Arizona, but that is more a function of not needing heat nor air-conditioning, less a function of lower costs for electricity. Water and gas are an exception because water is far less expensive and propane can be government subsidized.
I do not live here because it is less expensive, I too bought into the myth, but I think you can buy a house for less in many places in the US now. I left before the bubble burst.
I live here because I like living here far more than I enjoyed life before I moved here. This is a personal decision based on my life experience and although my opinion is shared by many, it is not shared by all.