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Panama - Cost of Living
Estimates for expats suggest that you can live comfortably on between $1000 and $1200 dollars a month if you are not looking for an especially extravagant lifestyle but it should be remembered that many native Panamanians have much less than this to live on. It is also worth noting that the cost of living is gradually increasing in line with the large numbers of expats that are moving to the country and to reflect the increased investment in the country.
Eating out in Panama at a low price restaurant can be done for less than $5 per person, while a 3 course meal for 2 people at a more expensive restaurant can be bought for around $25. Meals in fast food restaurants are only slightly cheaper than they are in the UK or the US. Buying alcoholic or soft drinks is much cheaper than in other countries with imported beer for less than $1.90 a bottle and branded soft drinks for around $0.80 for a 330ml bottle. A bottle of wine of mid-range quality is around $5. Smoking can be a much cheaper habit in Panama, as a pack of cigarettes there often costs less than $2, which is around a third of the price of those in the UK.
When it comes to buying groceries you can shop around for the cheapest options and if you are prepared to buy domestic produce rather than imported then you can save a great deal of money. The average cost of milk for 1 litre is around $1, which puts it on a par with the UK. A loaf of bread is less than $1.20, which is slightly below costs in the UK.
Getting around in Panama is much cheaper than in the UK or the US. A 5km taxi ride costs around $2 and a monthly ticket for the local bus system will only set you back around $12, which is less than the cost of a weekly bus ticket in the UK. If you want to push the boat out and purchase a car then you will find that it will cost you around the same as it would in the UK and the US, mainly because the cars are imported.
Household costs are an important consideration and it is estimated that for less than $200 you can cover the cost of your electricity, water, bottled gas and refuse collections. The cost of mobile phones, landlines and internet connections are on a par with those in the UK. If you are renting a small apartment you can pay anything from $100 to $300 if you live outside the cities, but anything up to $900 in the city centre. Larger apartments (around 3 bedrooms) outside the city centre can cost anything up to $900 while those in more sought after areas might be up to $1500 per month. City rents are still cheaper than places such as New York and London, but on a par with suburban areas of the UK and the US.
Leisure costs are often on a par with the UK and the US, so a monthly gym membership might set you back around $40 per month, but a visit to the cinema is much cheaper than in other countries with a ticket costing on average $3.60. Clothes are often imported, particularly if you are looking at branded goods, so you need to be prepared to pay a higher cost than for domestic brands as there is import duty added to the price. Buying a pair of Levis will cost around $45 while shoes can cost anything from $30 and $50.
Panama does have duty free shopping areas and shoppers can save money by shopping there although it is mainly household appliances, clothes and gifts that are available there.
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