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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 Panama where 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. The cost of real estate is slowly decreasing in this region after years of seeing some of the most rapid appreciation in the country. 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
Mortgage-Not included here as too variable.
HOA Fees-Only 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.

Primary residence tax rates:

US$0 to US$120,000 = exempt from taxes
US$120,001 to US$700,000 = 0.5%
US$700,000+ = 0.7%

e.g. A US$350,000 home is taxed at $1,150 per year.
TransportationUS$150For local buses and taxis, plus car expenses.
GasUS$25Cooking and heating.
ElectricityUS$20No air conditioning needed here.
WaterUS$10Depends on the property zone.
Cell PhoneUS$30Calls, texts, and low data.
InternetUS$27Basic.
Cable TVUS$25Basic.
Household HelpUS$200Cleaning and some meal preparation. Four hours a day, five days a week.
EntertainmentUS$460Couples’ costs for eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant (US$80 per meal), local drinks twice a week (US$15 per outing), community theatre or karaoke outing (US$20 per outing).
GroceriesUS$500Basic items for a couple.
Gym Membership-
Medical AppointmentUS$25Doctor or clinic visit.
TOTAL US$1,547

Apartment Or House Rental Budget (For A Couple)

ExpenseMonthly CostNotes
RentUS$1,000Unfurnished, two-bedroom apartment.
Transportation US$150For local buses and taxis, plus car expenses.
GasUS$25Cooking and heating.
Electricity US$20No air conditioning needed here.
Water US$10
Cell Phone US$30Calls, texts, and low data.
InternetUS$27Basic.
Cable TV US$25Basic.
Household HelpUS$200Cleaning and some meal preparation. Four hours a day, five days a week.
Entertainment US$460Couples’ costs for eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant (US$80 per meal), local drinks twice a week (US$15 per outing), community theatre or karaoke outing (US$20 per outing).
GroceriesUS$500Basic items for a couple.
Gym Membership-
Medical AppointmentUS$25
TOTALUS$2,472

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

ExpenseMonthly CostsNotes
RentUS$500Cheapest part of town, most basic kind of rental… a small house built to local standards.
TransportationUS$100Buses and taxis to go out of town.
GasUS$25Propane for cooking.
Electricity US$20No air conditioning needed here.
WaterUS$10
Cell Phone US$30No plan. Just buying pre-paid cards when needed.
InternetUS$0Using limited cell data only.
Cable TV US$25
Entertainment US$50Eating out twice a month only at local restaurants.
Groceries US$400
TOTALUS$1,160

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.

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