Living In Chitre vs Las Tablas, Panama: Which Is Best?

Choosing an affordable location in Panama? Chitre and Las Tablas should be on top of your list; here is how they compare.

Chitre and Las Tablas are two very popular places to live for expats in Panama.

Chitre is the capital of the Herrera province and Las Tablas is the capital of the Los Santos province. These two cities are about a 45-minute drive apart and offer an excellent quality of life for those who choose to live there. The question is, which one is better for you.

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There are many reasons why living in Chitre and Las Tablas is becoming so popular for expats. First, the cost of living in these cities is very affordable compared to the rest of the country. You can easily find a comfortable place to live without spending a fortune.

This area is one of the best in Panama to get a bang for your buck.

For many retirees, the problem many have in their home country is that the money they receive from pensions and investments is just not going as far as it used to be. So people are selling their homes, moving here, and buying something here for 1/2 or 1/3 of their sale proceeds, putting the rest in the bank and using it to enjoy their retirement years.

This same situation is happening to families also, maybe even at a greater level. Suppose you can move to a country with everything you need and live for 1/3 of the cost. In that case, you can better plan for your family’s future, save for your children’s education, and do more in your life.

Chitre and Las Tablas also offer a great climate, with temperatures averaging in the mid-80s throughout the year. They are also located in Panama’s “dry arch” area, thus receiving some of the lowest amounts of rainfall in the country.

This area is full of amenities for expats, which is why it is becoming so popular. Most expats do not need to travel to the bigger cities, as you have almost everything you need there.

There are full-service public hospitals, North American-style grocery and hardware stores, movie theaters, and more.

Real estate is currently of great value in this area. You can pick up some good deals in the housing market and land market, as there are few expats here pushing up prices, like in the more prominent expat communities.

You’ll find that life moves at a more relaxed pace here, and you can take the time to enjoy your surroundings. Let’s look closer at both of these cities.

What is it like living in Chitre, Panama

Living in Chitre as an expat can be a great experience. The city is located in the central part of the country, just 30 minutes from the Pacific beaches. Chitre is a relatively safe and affordable city, with many housing options available.

The city and area have a population of about 80,000. There is a strong expat community, which can make meeting new people and finding support easy.

Additionally, the city is home to several international schools, making it a great place to live if you have children.

What type of expat lives in Chitre?

There are several different types of expats who live in Chitre.

Some retirees are looking for a cheaper and warmer place to live their golden years.

Others are digital nomads who appreciate the city’s fast Internet and low cost of living.

Expat families are also becoming popular in Chitre because of its low cost of living and access to international schools.

Regardless of their reasons for moving, all of these expats have found a welcoming home in Chitre. The city has something to offer everyone with its colonial architecture, vibrant culture, and many amenities. So if this sounds like you, you’ll likely find a place to fit in Chitre.

The cost of living in Chitre

Chitre is pretty affordable. A typical single person could live comfortably on a budget of just $1500 per month. This includes rent, food, utilities, and transportation. Rent for a Panamanian-style two-bedroom home will start at about $350 per month.

High-speed fiber internet starts at $25 a month, and a good cell phone plan for $20 a month.

Food is also relatively inexpensive, with a Panama typical meal costing around $4.

Groceries are cheap, especially if you shop at local markets.

Utilities such as electricity, gas, and water are also quite reasonable. Your electricity costs will depend on how much air conditioning you use.

The weather in Chitre

The weather in Chitre is tropical and can be humid in the rainy season. The temperatures daily rise to 30 Celsius and cool off to 20 at night.

Chitre has the typical Panama dry season of January to April and a rainy season the rest of the year. Located in Panama’s driest region, Chitre only sees about 1500mm of rain annually, which is much less than the country’s average annual rainfall.

Amenities in Chitre

There are several large supermarkets where you can buy groceries, full-size hardware stores, smaller convenience stores, and many local markets. There is also a good selection of restaurants, cafes, and bars.

If you need any services, there are several banks, a post office, a hospital, doctor offices, labs, and many other businesses. Chitre is considered the hub of this area, and there is not too much you cannot find in Chitre.

Real estate in Chitre

Real Estate in Chitre, Panama, is a robust and growing market. The city has seen a surge in investment in infrastructure in recent years. As a result, the real estate market has been booming.

A wide variety of properties are available in Chitre, from luxury homes and condos in planned communities to affordable homes in the city center. With international schools, more expat families are looking for real estate in Chitre.

Housing prices in Chitre can start with two-bedroom new builds from $150,000 to luxury homes in the $300,000 – $500,000 range. There is even a good selection of Panamanian-style homes in the $100,000 range.

Many lots are available in and near Chitre, and even some homes and lots are available at the nearby popular beach of Playa El Rompo, less than 20 km away.

What is it like living in Las Tablas as an expat?

Las Tablas is a small town located in the province of Los Santos, Panama. It’s a popular destination for expats and retirees due to its affordable cost of living and laid-back atmosphere. Las Tablas is known for its festivals and carnivals, which are held throughout the year.

The beach in Las Tablas.
The beach in Las Tablas.

Las Tablas is an ideal place to live if you’re looking for a slower-paced lifestyle. The town is close to several beaches so you can enjoy the sand and sun year-round. There are also plenty of opportunities to hike, bike, and explore the surrounding area.

You’ll find a warm and welcoming expat community, and you’ll be able to experience all that this beautiful area has to offer.

What type of expat lives in Las Tablas?

The most popular expat type here would be the expat on a budget. Who would think that you could live in a tropical paradise near the ocean for less than $1500 a month? Aa an expat in Las Tablas you can.

The second most popular expat type here would be the one looking for value. With the low cost of living, especially housing, you could move to Las Tablas with a good income and live like royalty.

The cost of living in Las Tablas

The cost of living in Las Tablas is actually even lower than in Chitre. This is mainly because it is a much less populated area.

The main difference in the cost of living will come in cheaper housing. In areas with fewer expats, you will have lower costs of rentals and lower costs of real estate.

The costs of food and utilities are very similar to Chitre, and one additional cost may be trips to Chitre for things like shopping or doctors’ appointments.

The weather in Las Tablas

Las Tablas has very similar weather to Chitre, as they are only 45 minutes apart.

One significant difference would be that since las Tablas is much closer to the ocean, you get the Pacific western breezes that you do not get in Chitre. Therefore, it is a bit cooler in Las Tablas, by just a couple of degrees.

Amenities in Las Tablas

The amenities in las Tablas are basic, as it is a smaller town.

There are midsize grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, doctors’ offices, and a small public hospital. Most expats here will find themselves traveling to Chitre once or twice a month to pick up something they cannot find in Las Tables.

Real estate in Las Tablas

The real estate market in Los Tablas is very good. Since it is not over-saturated with expats, there are great deals. You can find a fixer-upper Panama-style home for less than $50,000, and a brand new home or condo can be had in the $100,000 – 200,000 range. There are also many lots available in Las Tablas, at very reasonable prices.

Las Tablas is also one of the few areas of Panama where you can live on or very close to the beach on a budget.

There are expats renting homes in Los Tablas, less than a block from the beach, for $400 a month. Currently, there is a lovely home listed for sale, built in 2019, in town, 120 sq/m, three-bedroom, two-bath, with a 600 sq/m yard for $90,000.

Chitre vs Las Tablas: final thoughts

So if you want to move to Panama and affordability is one of your top considerations, Chitre and Las Tablas should be on your list of places to consider.

They are both great places to live in Panama, with a lot to offer expats. Chitre is a bit more expensive, but it has more amenities. Las Tablas is cheaper and a bit more laid-back but still has everything you need to live a comfortable life. Whichever you choose, you will be sure to enjoy your time living in Panama.

You might find useful:

Rod Larrivee
Rod Larrivee

Rod, an expat from Vancouver, Canada, living in Panama since 2011, is co-owner of Retire in Panama Tours with his business partner Oscar Peña.
They offer relocation tours of Panama, with groups of 8 - 12 people. Over seven days, their guests will see all the great places in Panama an expat may want to live in and receive all the information and contacts someone needs to move to Panama. In addition, they offer expat services to assist anyone looking to relocate to Panama. If you need Rod's assistance, click on the link below

Retire In Panama Tours

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  1. My wife and I would like to rent a furnished 2-3 Bed, 2 Bath apartment or home next Winter season, for 5 months. We have been going to Mexico in the Manzanillo area for last 5 years.
    We’re in our low 80s, non smokers, no pets and quiet. We enjoy the ocean and pool to swim, and view, so a location on or close to the ocean would be great. If in a building we prefer no pets.
    Could you help us find such a place, clean and not too old with a well equipped kitchen.
    Please send all details and costs plus pictures if you can.

    Thanks & Kind Regards
    Claude & Michelle

  2. Rod, I am going to be moving to Panama in a matter of weeks with my wife. I am 68 and we live on my social security check alone. Just over $1,800 per month. Tell me Rod, could we live in Las Tablas for that money? You are there, please e-mail me with any tips and advice. I respect what you have to say, and I will be looking for your reponse. Thank you very much.

    • Hi Michael, thank you for the comment. Yes, Las Tablas is one of the places in Panama where a couple could live on an $1800 a month budget. You would, of course, be living in Panama-style housing, which you can get for $400 – $700 a month, and if you keep the A/C use low, you can keep your utilities to $100 a month.

      The big thing for you to decide is what you will use for health care. Panama’s public system is available to you but certainly is not like what most North Americans are used to. It is relatively inexpensive, but you should have some savings set aside for emergencies. Private international insurance will be out of your budget.

      If you have any further questions, feel free to reach out to me here:



  3. Rod, info on Chitre vs Las Tablas very helpful. I will be relocating to Panama in 1st Qrtr of 2023 and am considering the Chitre or Las Tablas area. Rent for a bit then hopefully buy. Will cont. to visit expatra for additional info. Thanks again.

    • @Elaine Wakelin, hi there, thank you for the comment. Expatra has become a great source of info on Panama, please visit often. Feel free to reach out to me directly if you have more questions about this area.

      Thanks, Rod