Prices in Panama

Panama phone rates

I’ll admit that I spent a limited amount of time on land in Panama on this recent trip, but I did keep my eyes open and jot down some key prices for important things, like rum and beer. Here’s a Panama price check as of early 2008.

12-ounce beer in a dive bar in Portobelo – 75 cents

1/2-liter beer in a beer store – 60 cents!

12-ounce beer in a convenience store – 55 to 75 cents

12 ounces bottled water in a convenience store – 75 to 95 cents

Haircut at a basic salon in Panama City – $2

Manicure at the same salon – $3

Admission to a basic museum or site – $1 to $2

375-ml bottle of El Abuelo rum – $2.75 (decent stuff, so a screaming bargain)

One hour of Internet access in Panama City – 75 cents

Phone call to the U.S. from an Internet cafe – 5 cents a minute (sweet!)

Meal of the day at a cheapo restaurant – $2.50

A big bowl of sancocho soup, the national dish – $1.50

5 pound bag of rice – $2.25

Bunch of bananas – 19 cents a pound

Taxi from the airport to the banking district – $28 incl. tolls

Panama pricesBefore you decide to pack up and move down there, however, note that real estate prices are spiraling out of control, but a typical bilingual call center employee only makes $375 to $500 per month. Better have a virtual work situation going where you can get paid from home (unless you’re in shipping or international banking).

The keen-eyed among you may have noticed that beer is cheaper than bottled water and rum is not much more than bottled water. Fortunately, the tap water is fine, so no need to create more landfill trash that will outlast your great-grandkids.

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  1. Jimbo

    Let me get this straight: my cell phone company says it will cost me $1.99 a minute to make a phone call from Panama, but if I duck into a storefront instead it’s 5 cents a minute? Let’s guess where the difference is going.

  2. Darrin

    Thanks for the update. Every time I’m in Panama, I stock up on the Ron Abuelo. Glad to hear it’s still cheap, even when PC condo rates are skyrocketing. Abuelo is great stuff, even when poured on top of vanilla ice cream. It’s actually cheaper if you buy the bottles at a grocery store than at the so-called “duty-free” airport store. Maybe you noticed that too. And last time I was there, the duty-free shops didn’t have the hiccup–I mean handy–hip flask size, but the grocery stores did.

  3. tim

    Darrin, yeah that price was at a grocery store. I drank a fair bit of Ron Abuelo and even straight it was pretty good, especially for that price. It’s no 15-year Ron Zacapa (which I did buy at duty free for the bargain price of $25), but great stuff for cocktails. No small bottles of anything at duty free though unless you get some gift pack of little airplane bottles. Man is that airport one big store or what? 20 duty free stores, one little coffee shop/bar/restaurant. Lame.

  4. Albin

    Interesting stuff regarding the rum, but how about some travel advise? Would be much appreciated.
    I plan to get into Panama from Colombia, and head on to Panama City.
    So, how do you suggest I spend a week or two in Panama? And if you have any additional recommendations regarding (good, reasonably cheap) places to stay and transport to take, please let me know.

    Best, Albin

  5. norm

    Let’s hear more basic info about prices in Panama other than booze, hotels and taxis. Like: rents, food, utilities, healthcare, entertainment, etc.

    • tim

      Buy the Panama Owner’s Manual put out by International Living. It’s written by someone who lives there. I don’t. Lots of detailed info on all this and interviews with local expats.

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