Reader Cathy_V commented yesterday about a cost of living report that was very old. To celebrate our fourth year in Panama, I thought that perhaps I should post an updated report. She also had a question about crime in Panama which I answer further down this post.
Once one is settled in a new home, it doesn’t seem too important to focus on the mundane everyday things. As time progresses the newness wears off but, but I forget that some people land on the blog looking for information that will help with their decision-making on whether to move to Panama. Lately, there has been an abnormal amount of traffic from people looking for information. I think that this may be due to US political climate.
All our living expenses are in USD. That has been somewhat difficult for us as SU’s pension is in CAD, but, we are still managing well. It is still true that it seems to cost less to live here than it does in Canada. It also still holds true that there are many choices on how one could live; as a local, a North American or a hybrid. We still do not live extravagantly; we still own the same truck we bought second-hand four years ago and we still are living in our modest house by North American standards. We live within our means the best we can, but we have seen people leave because of health or monetary concerns or just because it was time for a change.
Here’s the update:
Propane – $10.00 max per month. We have a gas tank for the hot water, stove and dryer and a separate tank for the barbecue. Many months we usually only have to change one tank for $5.00, the barbecue gets the most use.
Electricity –We still don’t use air conditioning much, and our last bill was $50.00. Electricity, relatively speaking is pretty expensive and out of our bill, $22.36 was for distribution. There are incentives to keep your consumption low with discounts for using less than 600 KWh and an extra discount for under 400 KWh.
Water – $7.00/month is the norm.
Garbage pick-up – $15.00/year this is the first year the price has increased it’s been $10.00 up until 2016.
Gas for vehicle – As usual it fluctuates, but it’s about .68¢ a litre now, what we use depends on how far we go. We’ve not been travelling too far lately.
Car insurance etc. – $85.00 per year. It kept going down until the truck got old enough that there was a big reduction. Registration and the inspection are both coming up this month, which will be $60.00 for both. Even though our registration was due in May last year, our plates didn’t arrive until August.
Food – I buy fresh fruit and vegetables at least once or twice a week. I spent $14.00 on greens, lovely little tomatoes, and some fresh-baked bread, etc. at my friend’s new store this week. We always buy bananas locally, and I’ve found that even the lettuce is better in our little stores than it is in the bigger grocery stores in the larger towns. We also eat a lot of national fruits such as pineapple, papaya, mango and passion fruit. We buy some meat locally, usually chicken or pork. We have managed not to take too many trips to Chitre for our food lately. With additional meat, dairy, bread, cleaning supplies, gato food, more fresh food and dry goods – $600.00 per month, about.
Sundries – $150.00 (including Spousal Unit’s smokes and wine/beer, plus grooming items both of us).
Satellite – $57.00, different companies offer different services, some for lower cost. Pricing has become quite competitive.
Internet – $25.00/month. We’re now wired in with Cable and Wireless instead of using a mobile internet stick.
Entertainment – We don’t go out very often. A good meal when we do varies between $30.00 to $50.00 including at least one drink for each of us and sometimes dessert. Most of our entertainment still involves hanging out with friends. That looks like it’s going to change because there is a new movie theatre being built in Las Tablas. Whoot, Whoot!!! We saw a matinée in Panama when we were there for my birthday; it cost us $1.65 each with our discount.
Health Insurance – No change, we have federal government insurance from Canada, our supplementary plan was modified to a comprehensive plan, and we pay $135.00/month for health and $35.00/month for dental for both of us. Our health expenses have been so small they haven’t been worth the paperwork, and we haven’t used our insurance. (We would never give it up though because of the added benefits, should we need them.) Bloodwork at the public hospital is $2.00; a urine test is $1.50. Prescription prices are comparable to North America, but there are still several types of medications that don’t require a prescription you can buy at the pharmacy.
A last note about expenses. I would always recommend taking Spanish lessons if you don’t already speak the language. Even learning a few key phrases will make a huge difference in your life. SU and I took lessons for a long time at our local school, and even though we still stumble and bumble through a conversation, learning some Spanish proved invaluable to our successful living in Panama.
Here is the other part of Cathy’s request:
Are there a lot of guns, armed civilians, and mass shootings there?
There is not anything of the kind where we are but, we’re in the campo (countryside). Here, you find mostly farmers, fishermen, laborers and small business owners. We don’t usually have crimes against persons in our area; that’s not to say there isn’t, but most of the offences are thefts. We also have incidents that involve alcohol, fights and traffic accidents.
There are areas in and around Panama City where you will find more gang and criminal activity. In our locale, there is a problem with drugs coming in on the beaches as we’re a half hour boat ride across from Colombia. Unless one is involved in drug trafficking, it won’t impact your life. Crime seems to come in waves and subsides in waves just as quickly.
I have had no personal experience with a crime, but there was a rash of home robberies over a year ago in our area that affected a lot of people. We took precautions and installed security bars on our windows, and we have an abundance of outdoor lighting. I have read that some of the areas around Boquete have a few problems and around Coronado. Again, I’m not speaking from personal experience. My best advice would be to talk to people who live in both those areas to get their take on crime and how they feel about it.
I can honestly say that I have never seen an armed civilian in Panama. There are very strict gun laws here. I’ve never felt unsafe enough to think about wanting a gun myself, but Canada, in general, is not a gun culture. We do see people walking around with machetes here, but these are work tools.
My best advice when it comes to crime is not to leave your common sense at home when you’re out and about. By that I mean you don’t have to be paranoid just be aware, as you would in your country. I know that statistically that is not always possible, sometimes good, smart people get caught in bad situations.
I hope that my response has answered some of the questions that you have. Readers, if you’d like to add anything about your experience with the cost of living, crime, guns, etc. in Panama, please feel free to add to the discussion by leaving a comment.