Practical Life in Panama City

Shopping in Panama City

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Cost of Living in Panama

The cost of living in Panama is contingent upon the individual and what is important for them to spend money on every month. But compared to living in a Western country, living in Panama is quite affordable whether you are minimalist or someone who likes to spend a bit more freely. Here is a list of how much you can expect to spend per month on certain goods and services:

  • Groceries: Most vegetables are less than a $1.00 USD per 0.20-0.30 kilos. Eggs, rice, bread and milk are all as well under $1.00. Chicken breasts and beef will be anywhere between $1-$4 USD. For one person per month, you might spend somewhere between $60-$80.
  • Eating out: A meal with a drink for one at a humble restaurant could cost between $7-10 USD. In nicer restaurants, meals can cost between $10-20.
  • Utilities: For a one-bedroom apartment can average around $45-$70 a month depending on what all is included in one's services.
  • Gas & Transportation: One liter of gas is less than $1 USD in Panama. If you do not have a car and will rely on public transportation, a one-way bus ticket is $0.35.
  • Clothing: There are a lot of small shops and markets where you can find clothes for around $10 or less. Then there are independent stores where dresses, jeans and and blouses can run between $15-$40 depending on the material and design. If you want to shop at more mainstream stores like H & M or Guess, their prices won't be cheaper in Panama.

Panamanian Specialties

Souvenirs can be found in specialty shops located in many malls, but they will be pricier than souvenirs found in the smaller stores located in Panama City's center.

Common souvenirs in Panama

  • Panama Hat
  • Woven Embera bowls
  • Native masks
  • Mola – Intricate fabrics made by Guna Indians with geometric designs
  • Ron Abuelo – national rum

Shopping Areas in Panama City

There are various areas of Panama City that are known for shopping, whether for electronics, clothes, appliances, etc.

The Colón Free Trade Zone is the second-largest duty-free area in the world after Dubai. Over 2,500 companies have set up stores there selling everything from perfume, jewelry, name-brand clothes, leather, home decor and more for discount prices.

The Panama Canal Zone is also home to one of the largest malls in the world called Allbrook Mall, which is known for cheap and bargain prices. It too is very big and and has hundreds of stores as it's the 14th largest mall in the world.

Balboa, Casco Viejo and Panamá Viejo are the parts of town best known for Panama's rich history, and thus they are the best areas to find formal, as well as makeshift, craft fairs and displays from local artisans.

Balboa's YMCA also features many indigenous-made crafts.

Markets in Panama City

Visiting the markets is a great way to take in the authentic life and culture of Panama.

Panama City's fish market, or mercado de mariscos, is great for watching fisherman as you enjoy some ceviche. It is open everyday from 6 am -5 pm.

The National Handicraft Market, or Mercado Nacional de Artesanías is right beside Panama Viejo--the burned down old city. It is full of indigenous artifacts like jewelry, bowls, hats, and masks.

The Avenida 5 de Mayo market is the prime spot for purchasing golas, which are colorful hand-crafted fabrics from the indigenous Guna Yala people of the San Blas islands.

Supermarkets in Panama City

Just like a Western country, Panama has a number of one-stop-shop supermarkets for purchasing food, appliances, supplies and more.

Here is a list of the biggest supermarkets in Panama:

  • Riba Smith (favored by expats as it has a large healthy food selection and American brands)
  • El Rey
  • Super 99
  • Grand Deli Gourmet (specialty market)
  • Super Gourmet (speciality market)
  • Organica (still growing, but has organic and recyclable products)

Update 23/06/2018


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