Is Panama City Cheap Or Expensive?

So you’re planning a trip to Panama City and you’re probably wondering whether it’s a budget-friendly destination or one that will burn a hole in your pocket. Well, let’s cut to the chase. Panama City can be both cheap and expensive, depending on your preferences and choices. With a plethora of luxury hotels, upscale restaurants, and high-end shopping malls, you can easily splurge on the finer things in life. However, if you’re willing to explore a bit, you’ll discover that the city also offers a range of affordable accommodations, delicious street food, and local markets where you can find great bargains. Whether you’re a frugal traveler or prefer to live large, Panama City has something to offer for every budget.

Cost of Living


When it comes to housing expenses in Panama City, the cost can vary depending on the location and the type of accommodation you are looking for. In popular areas such as the city center or upscale neighborhoods like Punta Pacifica, housing prices tend to be higher. On the other hand, if you are willing to live a bit farther from the city center, you can find more affordable options.

The rental market in Panama City offers a range of choices, from apartments to houses. The rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center can cost you around $800 to $1,200 per month, while outside the city center, the prices can drop to around $600 to $900. If you prefer a larger place, a three-bedroom apartment in the city center can range from $1,500 to $2,500, and outside the city center, it can be around $1,200 to $1,800.


Transportation expenses in Panama City are relatively affordable, especially if you use public transportation options like buses or the metro. The metro system is efficient and costs only $0.35 per trip regardless of the distance traveled. The bus system is also widespread and fares can range from $0.25 to $1.25 depending on the distance.

For those who prefer more convenience, taxis and ride-sharing services are available. Taxis have fixed fares within the city, with an average cost of $3 to $5 for short trips. Ride-sharing services like Uber are also popular and offer competitive prices compared to regular taxis.

Food and Dining

When it comes to food and dining, Panama City offers a wide range of options to suit every budget. Supermarkets are the most convenient and cost-effective way to buy groceries. Prices can vary depending on the brand and location, but you can expect to spend around $150 to $200 per month on groceries for an individual.

If you enjoy dining out, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from. Inexpensive eateries serve local dishes at affordable prices, with meals costing around $5 to $10. Mid-range restaurants offer a variety of cuisines, and a meal for two can cost around $30 to $50. Fine dining options can be more expensive, with prices ranging from $50 to $100 or more for a meal for two.


Utilities in Panama City are generally affordable. Basic services like electricity, water, and gas for a typical apartment can add up to around $60 to $100 per month. Internet and cable TV packages vary depending on the provider and the plan you choose, but expect to pay around $50 to $100 per month. It’s worth noting that some rental properties might include these costs in the monthly rent, so make sure to clarify this when searching for accommodation.



Supermarkets in Panama City offer a wide variety of products, ranging from local to international brands. Major supermarket chains like Super 99, Riba Smith, and El Rey are well-known and can be found throughout the city. Prices for groceries at supermarkets are generally affordable, especially for locally produced items. You can expect to find fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and household products at reasonable prices.

Local Markets

For a more traditional shopping experience, local markets in Panama City are vibrant and offer an array of fresh produce, seafood, spices, and crafts. The fish market in Mercado de Mariscos is a popular choice for seafood lovers, where you can find a variety of fresh fish and ceviche stalls. Mercado de Abastos is another market worth exploring, offering a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and other local products at reasonable prices.

Malls and Shopping Centers

Panama City is also known for its modern malls and shopping centers. Multiplaza Pacific, Metro Mall, and Albrook Mall are some of the largest and most popular malls in the city. These malls have a wide variety of shops ranging from fashion brands to electronics and home goods. While prices in malls can be higher compared to supermarkets and local markets, they offer a convenient one-stop shopping experience with a variety of options.

Entertainment and Leisure

Restaurants and Cafes

Panama City boasts a diverse culinary scene with restaurants and cafes catering to various tastes and budgets. From local street food stalls to international fine dining establishments, there is something for everyone. You can enjoy a delicious plate of ceviche or a traditional Panamanian dish like Sancocho at a local eatery for as little as $5. Alternatively, you can indulge in international cuisine at mid-range restaurants, where a meal for two will cost around $30 to $50.


Panama City offers a thriving nightlife scene with numerous bars, clubs, and casinos. Casco Viejo, the historic district, is known for its lively atmosphere and trendy bars. The Amador Causeway is another popular destination, offering a variety of bars and clubs with stunning waterfront views. On average, a night out in Panama City can cost around $20 to $50, including drinks and cover charges.

Cultural Events

Panama City frequently hosts cultural events and festivals throughout the year. The Panama Jazz Festival, International Film Festival, and Carnival are some of the highlights. Depending on the event, ticket prices can vary, but you can generally find affordable or even free events to attend. These cultural events offer a great opportunity to experience the local arts scene and immerse yourself in Panama’s vibrant culture.

Outdoor Activities

Panama City’s location near the ocean and the rainforest provides ample opportunities for outdoor activities. You can enjoy activities such as snorkeling, hiking, and zip-lining. Additionally, the nearby islands of San Blas and Bocas del Toro offer beautiful beaches and stunning natural beauty. The prices for outdoor activities vary depending on the specific activity and the tour operator, but you can expect to spend around $30 to $100 per person, depending on the experience.


Public Healthcare

Panama provides a public healthcare system known as the Social Security Fund (CSS). The quality of public healthcare can vary, with some facilities offering excellent services, while others may have long waiting times. To access public healthcare, you need to be enrolled in the CSS system, which requires contributions based on your income. It’s important to note that the CSS system primarily serves Panamanian citizens, and expatriates might prefer private healthcare options.

Private Healthcare

Private healthcare in Panama City is known for its high quality and modern facilities. Many private hospitals and clinics provide excellent medical services, often with shorter waiting times compared to public healthcare. The costs for private healthcare services can vary depending on the medical procedure or consultation needed. Having private health insurance can help cover the costs, but it’s important to research and compare different insurance plans to find the one that suits your needs and budget.


Pharmacies in Panama City can be found conveniently throughout the city. These pharmacies offer a range of medications, both over-the-counter and prescription drugs. The prices of medications can vary depending on the pharmacy and the specific medication, but in general, they tend to be more affordable compared to other countries. It’s worth noting that some common medications might not require a prescription in Panama, making it more convenient to access certain medications.


Public Schools

Panama City has a public education system that provides free education to Panamanian citizens. This system includes primary and secondary schools. While public schools are an affordable option, the quality of education can vary. Some public schools might face challenges such as overcrowded classrooms and limited resources. Expatriates often choose to enroll their children in private or international schools for a higher quality education.

Private Schools

Private schools in Panama City provide an alternative to the public education system. These schools often offer bilingual or international curricula, providing a more diverse and comprehensive education. Tuition fees for private schools can vary depending on the institution and the grade level. On average, annual tuition fees can range from $5,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on the school’s reputation and facilities.


Panama City is home to several universities offering a wide range of academic programs. The two main public universities are the University of Panama and the Technological University of Panama. Tuition fees for public universities are generally affordable, with an average range of $500 to $2,000 per year, depending on the program. Private universities, on the other hand, can have higher tuition fees, ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 per year.

Work Opportunities

Job Market

Panama City provides a range of job opportunities across various industries. The city’s economy is diverse, with sectors such as finance, tourism, logistics, and technology contributing to the job market. The Canal expansion project has also created employment opportunities in construction and related industries. Job seekers can find opportunities in multinational companies, government institutions, and small businesses. Fluency in Spanish is often an advantage, as it is the primary language for business and communication in Panama.

Average Salaries

Salaries in Panama City can vary depending on the industry, position, and level of experience. The average monthly salary in Panama is around $800 to $1,200. However, salaries in specialized fields or managerial positions can be higher, ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 or more per month. It’s important to note that the cost of living in Panama City should be taken into consideration when evaluating job opportunities and negotiating salaries.


Crime Rates

While Panama City generally maintains a safe environment for residents and tourists, it’s important to stay vigilant and take necessary precautions. As with any city, there are areas that may be more prone to crime, such as certain neighborhoods or crowded tourist areas. It is advisable to avoid displaying expensive belongings and be cautious when using public transportation at night. By being attentive to your surroundings and following common sense safety measures, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience in Panama City.

Safety Measures

To enhance safety, Panama City has a visible police presence in popular areas and tourist zones. The authorities actively work to maintain law and order. It is recommended to follow their instructions if any situation arises. Additionally, it’s advisable to secure your living spaces, such as apartments or houses, with adequate locks and security systems. Utilizing reliable transportation options, like registered taxis or ride-sharing services, can also add an extra layer of safety during your stay in the city.



Transportation infrastructure in Panama City is well-developed. The city has a reliable and affordable metro system, which is expanding to reach more areas. Buses offer extensive coverage throughout the city, with affordable fares. Taxis and ride-sharing services are widely available, providing convenient options for getting around. It’s worth noting that traffic congestion can be an issue during peak hours, so planning your travel accordingly is recommended.


The utilities infrastructure in Panama City is generally reliable and efficient. Electricity, water, and gas services are well-maintained, with occasional interruptions that are swiftly resolved. However, it’s important to note that during heavy rainfall seasons, power outages and water supply disruptions can occur. It is advisable to keep necessary supplies, such as flashlights and bottled water, in case of any unexpected disruptions.

Internet and Mobile Coverage

Panama City has a well-developed telecommunications infrastructure, providing reliable internet and mobile coverage. Major telecommunications companies offer a variety of plans and packages to suit different needs. High-speed internet is readily available, and mobile coverage is generally reliable throughout the city. Additionally, you can find public Wi-Fi hotspots in many cafes, restaurants, and public spaces, making it convenient to stay connected while exploring the city.



Panama City offers a wide range of accommodation options for tourists, catering to different budgets and preferences. From luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels, there is something for every traveler. Luxury hotels in popular areas such as Punta Pacifica or Casco Viejo can cost around $150 to $300 per night. Mid-range hotels and bed and breakfast establishments are available for approximately $70 to $150 per night. Budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses can be found for around $15 to $50 per night, offering affordable options for backpackers and budget travelers.

Tourist Attractions

Panama City is known for its rich history and diverse attractions. The Panama Canal is a must-visit, where you can witness the engineering marvel and learn about its significance. Casco Viejo, the historic district, offers colonial architecture, vibrant plazas, and charming streets to explore. Other popular attractions include the Panama Viejo ruins, Metropolitan Natural Park, and the Biomuseo. These attractions offer a glimpse into Panama’s culture, history, and natural beauty.

Guided Tours

To make the most of your visit to Panama City, guided tours can provide valuable insights and a convenient way to explore the city. There are various tour operators offering a wide range of options, from city tours to hiking trips in nearby national parks. The prices for guided tours can vary depending on the tour duration, inclusions, and the specific operator. On average, you can expect to spend around $30 to $100 per person for a guided tour, depending on the complexity and the experience offered.


Panama City offers a diverse and affordable lifestyle for residents and tourists alike. With reasonable costs of living, a range of entertainment options, and good infrastructure, the city provides a comfortable environment for both work and leisure. Whether you choose to enjoy its vibrant culinary scene, explore its cultural events and attractions, or take advantage of its outdoor activities, Panama City offers a rich and rewarding experience. With its growing economy and welcoming atmosphere, it’s no wonder that Panama City continues to attract people from around the world.