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Boquete, Panama

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A True Central American Expat Haven: Boquete

Boquete is not a town but a district, the functional equivalent of a county. As you cross into Boquete you will find yourself on a sustained gentle grade up into the green mountains of western Panama and the eastern flanks of Volcán Barú, the highest point in Panama at 3,475 meters (11,400 feet).

Boquete District is divided into six sub-districts or townships (corregimientos): Bajo Boquete (the district capital), Caldera, Palmira, Alto Boquete, Jaramillo, and Los Naranjos. It is in the western most region of Panama bordering Costa Rica.

Boquete is one of the few places in Panamawhere you can live without knowing Spanish. Many locals speak at least some English, while others, especially those who work in the service industry, are nearly bilingual. Though many people speak English here, it’s always beneficial to learn at least basic Spanish, if for no reason other than to show respect to the locals.

The Cost Of Living In Boquete

In Boquete, you’d be living abroad and enjoying many of the benefits (great weather, affordable cost of living, and tax savings), but the surroundings and the neighbors would feel familiar in many ways.

Every day consumables are slightly cheaper here than in the United States, and, surprisingly, that includes the cost of American imports. The quality of local, fresh produce is significantly better than that available in most of the United States.

Retirees usually come for the low cost of living and change of lifestyle. For what you get in terms of quality of life, amenities, and comforts, Boquete offers good value.

Living in Boquete costs much the same as it does elsewhere in Panama. If you own your own home, you can live in Boquete for around US$1,300 a month. Boquete real estate is still the second most expensive in Panama, second in cost only to Panama City.

That said, it is possible to find real estate bargains if you know where to look and who to ask. As in any unregulated market, you’ll find better real estate purchase and rental deals if you have your feet on the ground in Boquete. Scouting real estate from afar is much more difficult than if you’re physically present in the area.

*Panama uses the U.S. dollar.

Apartment Or House Ownership Budget (For A Couple)

ExpenseMonthly CostsNotes
MortgageNot included here as too variable.
HOA FeesOnly applies if living in a gated community. Estimate US$150 to US$250 per month. Fees are based on size of house and lot.
Property TaxesUS$75Tax value is assessed by the registered value in ANATI (Department of Land and Property Registry in Panama). It’s the last recorded sale and is not adjusted annually.
TransportationUS$150Depending on what area you live in. For local buses and taxis, plus car expenses.
GasUS$14US$7 per tank.
ElectricityUS$40 to US$50Highly variable.
WaterUS$40Approximately.
Cell PhoneUS$35Tigo monthly plan.
InternetUS$27Basic.
Cable TVUS$25Basic.
Household HelpUS$200US$25 per day, twice a week.
EntertainmentUS$460Eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant: US$80.
Local drinks twice a week at a nearby watering hole: US$25.
Community theater or other local event twice a month: US$20 per outing.
GroceriesUS$200Basic items for a couple shopping at Romero or Súper Barú supermarkets and buying produce at local farmer’s markets.
Gym MembershipUS$60US$30 per person at The Perfect Body or similar gym.
Medical AppointmentUS$10 public
US$25 private
Approximately.
TOTALUS$1,336 to US$1,361Mortgage and HOA fees not included.

Apartment Or House Rental Budget (For A Couple)

ExpenseMonthly CostsNotes
RentUS$400Two-bedroom, one-bathroom house.
TransportationUS$150For local buses and taxis, plus car expenses.
GasUS$14US$7 per gas tank.
ElectricityIncluded in the rent.
WaterIncluded in the rent.
Cell PhoneUS$35Tigo monthly plan
InternetUS$27Basic.
Cable TVUS$25Basic.
Household HelpUS$200US$25 per day, twice a week.
EntertainmentUS$460Eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant: US$80.
Local drinks twice a week at a nearby watering hole: US$25.
Community theater or other local event twice a month: US$20 per outing.
GroceriesUS$200Basic items for a couple shopping at Romero or Súper Barú supermarkets and buying produce at local farmer’s markets.
Gym MembershipUS$60US$30 per person at The Perfect Body or similar gym.
Medical AppointmentUS$10 public
US$25 private
Approximately.
TOTALUS$1,581 to US$1,596

Penny-Pincher’s Budget (Bare Minimum Costs, For A Couple)

ExpenseMonthly CostsNotes
RentUS$250One bedroom, one bathroom casita or apartment.
TransportationUS$50For local buses and taxis, plus car expenses.
GasUS$14US$7 per gas tank.
ElectricityIncluded in the rent.
WaterIncluded in the rent.
Cell PhoneUS$20Tigo monthly plan
InternetUS$27Basic.
Cable TVUS$25Basic.
EntertainmentUS$45One meal out at a mid-range, local restaurant with two drinks each.
GroceriesUS$140Shopping mostly at local farmer’s markets and an occasional trip to Romero or Súper Barú supermarkets for staples.
TOTALUS$571

Infrastructure In Boquete

The government of Panama invested over US$110 million dollars widening and improving the highway from David to Boquete in anticipation of the impending growth in this region. They, and many private sector companies, are betting this region will grow further in the near future. There are many reasons for this optimism.

Another infrastructure project expected to benefit Boquete is a four-phase program to upgrade the international airport in David. The project is complete, and the newly expanded, US$27 million runway and sleek, new terminal look great.

Climate In Boquete

It’s rainier and windier in this part of the country than down on the coasts, and temperatures are often cool enough to warrant the fireplaces that have been built into many Boquete homes. It’s fresh and invigorating.

For many years, Boquete has been a cool-weather retreat for the elite of Panama, families with a home in Panama City, a home on the beach, and still another here in Boquete.

6 Reasons Retirees Keep Choosing Boquete
By Adriana Valdez Esquivel

Panama, Boquete, villa with lush tropical garden in the jungle among the volcanic hills
Adobe Stock/Marco

Boquete has been a favorite among expats for decades. Interest in this charming mountain town only grows with time, which has caused an increase in the area’s cost of living.

Boquete is no longer the budget-friendly retirement destination it was 20 years ago, but it’s probably still more affordable than your home country. It all comes down to the lifestyle you choose, which is true for all retirement destinations.

Let’s take a look at the six reasons retirees (and expats in general) keep choosing Boquete as their new home…

#1: Cost Of Living

Boquete isn’t as affordable as it used to be, but it’s still cheaper than the States, Canada, and much of Europe.

As a couple you can live comfortably on about US$2,000 or less per month, depending on the lifestyle you choose.

You can save money by buying locally grown veggies and fruits and by replacing imported goods with local brands. Decide which products from home you can live without and replace them with local equivalents. Reducing your monthly costs this way will allow you to indulge more on the imported goods you don’t want to live without.

For groceries, head to PriceSmart in David. It’s like Panama’s version of Costco and you’ll save a lot by buying things like toilet paper, paper towels, olive oil, rice, beans, lentils, and anything else that won’t go bad in a month or two in bulk.

#2: Weather

The weather in Boquete is ideal.

Because the town is about 1,131 meters (3,710 feet) above sea level, temperatures are cooler. During the day, the temperature is about 20°C (68°F) and at night, temperatures drop to about 16°C (60°F).

In my opinion, it’s the perfect climate. You can wander around during the day with a T-shirt and jeans and put on a light jacket in the evenings.

You should always carry a raincoat or umbrella with you during the rainy season from May to October. Mornings are usually sunny but it’s almost guaranteed that it’ll start raining at about noon or 1 p.m.

#3: Language

Boquete is one of the few places in Panama where you can get by with little to no Spanish.

Thanks to its popularity among expats over the years, many locals have learned to speak English. Speaking English has even become a requirement for most jobs. Restaurants, banks, retail stores, cafés, hostels, hotels, plantations, haciendas, etc., all require their workers to speak at least intermediate-level English.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t learn at least basic Spanish. You should learn at least enough of the language to get your point across. If you decide to hire a maid or gardener there’s a chance they won’t speak English and you’ll need to be able to tell them what work you need done.

#4: Community Activities

The BCP Tuesday Market, which takes place every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon, is a great chance to get to know your fellow retirees. You’ll find both locals and expats selling their goods. Some have taken up agriculture, some paint, some bake, and some have become craftsmen and craftswomen.

The Boquete Community Group on Facebook is the best way to stay up to date on activities going on during the week. Popular get-togethers include bingo nights every Wednesday and trivia nights every Monday at the new Selina hotel, veggies and wine every Sunday at Ngädri restaurant, and more.

#5: Large Expat Community

Boquete has an enormous expat community… It makes up 25% of the area’s population. Walking down the street, you’ll notice there are about the same number of foreigners as there are locals. You’ll hear more English on your stroll than Spanish.

Getting involved in the expat community couldn’t be easier. Before your move, you should join the Boquete Community Group on Facebook and introduce yourself. You’ll find your fellow retirees (and expats) are very welcoming. If you ever need help finding someone to do a certain job, have a question about something, or simply want to share an experience, this is the place to do so.

#6: Proximity To A Large City

Boquete doesn’t have any major hospitals. There are clinics, dentist’s offices, pharmacies, and a Centro de Salud (a type of mini hospital for basic needs).

Boquete is about 40 minutes from David, the capital of Chiriquí Province. This is where you’ll go for more specialized care and surgeries.

The main hospitals in David are Hospital Chiriquí and Hospital Centro Mae Lewis. Both facilities have English-speaking doctors and offer high-quality care at a reasonable price.

There are many other reasons to choose Boquete, but to discover them all you’d need to visit and see the town for yourself. Plan a trip, experience all that Boquete has to offer, and get a feel for what retirement here could be like for you.

As is true for anywhere, Boquete isn’t perfect, but it’s well-deserving of its position as Panama’s #1 retirement destination.

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