Living In David, Panama, As An Expat: The Pros & Cons

Are you looking for a place to retire with beautiful weather and a low cost of living? If so, David in Panama may be the perfect place for you!

This article will discuss the pros and cons of living in David, Panama. We will also look at some of the things you should consider before making your decision. So, whether you are thinking about moving here or want to learn more about what David offers, read on!

Welcome to David!

David is Panama's second-largest city and has a population of about 140,000. It is located just a few kilometers from the Pacific Ocean and 50 kilometers from the Costa Rica border. The city is located in the western province of Chiriquí, on the Pan-American Highway.

David is the hub of the Western Panama agriculture and livestock business. The city is home to several universities and colleges and many government offices.

Tourism is an essential industry in David, and the city is a popular gateway to exploring the surrounding region. Several hotels and restaurants cater to travelers, and many tour operators offer excursions into the nearby mountains and rainforests. David is also a major commercial center, with many shops, businesses, and shopping malls.

David is the center for health care in Western Panama, with large public hospitals and several private hospitals.

What are the pros and cons of living in David, Panama

David is a very interesting city in Panama. It is either a love or hate relationship for many people in Panama, especially the expats. First, we will look at the pros and cons of living in David, and then we will dive into each of these more deeply.

The pros of living in David

  • Hot weather all year long
  • Low cost of living relative to Panama and the world.
  • Good affordable health care
  • Strong list of amenities, especially for expats
  • Safe neighborhoods
  • Private schooling options for expat kids
  • Short drive to the beach

The cons of living in David

  • Hot weather all year long (I know, it's also a Pro for some)
  • Poorer infrastructure compared to North America
  • Traffic is crazy
  • The close beaches are not the best for swimming
  • Not the “Big City” feel some may expect
  • Rising crime in certain parts of the city

Weather in David, Panama

The weather in David is tropical and humid, with average temperatures ranging from 21 degrees Celsius at night to 32 degrees Celsius during the day. These temperatures are relatively consistent throughout the year. The humidity is also high at 70 – 90%

Living in David, Panama - shopping
David Terrazas shopping center on the pan-American highway.

The rainy season typically runs from May to November, and the city experiences an average of 140 days with some rain per year. However, David also experiences a dry season from December to April. During this time, the city receives less than 50 millimeters of rain per month.

Let's talk about the heat. Like I said above, some love it, and some hate it.

I have a friend from Canada that comes to David for six months every year, has done so for the last six years, and loves the heat; he does not even use air conditioning. I lived in David for my first three months in Panama, and all I could think about was getting out of that heat, so it was not for me.

So, if you are looking for a warm, humid climate, living in David could be for you.

The cost of living in David, Panama

David is affordable.

The city has a wide variety of housing options, and you can find apartments and houses for rent starting at $300 per month.

Real estate is also a good value, with condos starting at $100k and homes at $150k.

The food in David is also very affordable, with local meals costing around $5 per person.

Utilities are relatively cheap in David; in your home, water, trash, gas, internet, and cell phone service will cost you under $100 a month. Electricity will cost you more depending on your air conditioning use.

Public transportation is very cheap, with buses starting at 25 cents and taxis anywhere in the city from $1 – $4.

Overall, the cost of living in David, Panama, is very affordable, making it an excellent option for those on a budget.

Amenities

Being a full-size city, David has all the amenities one could ask for if you decide to live there.

Starting with government offices, David is home to Western Panama's immigration office, so there will be no need to travel to Panama City to do your immigration.

Also, there is the driver's license office and the office to pay for your speeding tickets which are also very affordable in Panama.

As far as shopping goes, there is everything you need, from small shops and services to large North American style shopping malls.

You will find a Do-It-Center (Ace Hardware) for those around-the-house projects and major North American-style grocery stores. Even a PriceMart (Costco) is here and is a favorite of expats.

But remember, in Panama, if you want to save money, frequent the open markets for your fruit, vegetables, and fish products.

Healthcare in David, Panama

Healthcare in David, Panama, is good. Most private healthcare facilities in David are modern and well-equipped. They offer excellent care for all types of medical needs.

Living in David, Panama - downtown banks
David, downtown.

David also has extensive public hospitals, which you can use. The public system is very affordable, with Doctor's visits starting at 50 cents and specialists at $5. A minor accident with a broken arm will set you back less than $100, and surgery, like a hernia, will cost under $200.

I know the above prices sound crazy, but they come with some drawbacks. The public system is underfunded, lack of staff, equipment, and medicine makes it not the best system.

Whereas the private healthcare system is excellent, there are many insurance options in Panama to cover you in the private healthcare system.

Some expats prefer to have international insurance covers. To make sure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal. 

Education in David, Panama

For younger expat families moving to Panama, one of their main objectives is to find suitable private international schools for the kids. David can offer that.

Private schools in David are some of the best in the country. Many of these schools offer a rigorous academic curriculum, extracurricular activities, and sports programs. The average class size at a private school in David is small, which allows for more individualized attention from teachers.

Private schools also typically have lower student-to-teacher ratios than public schools. This means that students have more opportunities to receive help and guidance from their instructors. In addition, private schools often have more resources than public schools, giving students an advantage in their education.

There is an Oxford School in David, the American School and several others. Private schools in David charge tuition, but many families feel that the investment is worth it for their children's quality of education. It is also the only option besides homeschooling, as the public school system is all in Spanish.

Infrastructure in David, Panama

Infrastructure in Panama has seen a lot of development in recent years, particularly in the city of David.

The city has a new airport, and many roads have been improved. There have been recent additions to hospitals and universities, a new large North American style shopping mall is opening, and a new baseball stadium is now complete.

The public transportation system is inefficient, and the police force could be better trained and equipped.

Crime in David, Panama

David, in a good neighborhood, is a safe place to live. It is, however, a city, and in all cities, you will have higher crime rates and poor districts.

Living in David, Panama
A commercial area with retail department stores in the north of David.

There are some areas of David that you should avoid, but for the most part, as long as you use common sense, don't flaunt your wealth, and take precautions like not walking alone at night in bad areas, you will be fine.

The Panama government has been working hard to improve security in the city, and they have made progress. The police force has been increased and better equipped, and there are more cameras and security guards in public places.

Despite these efforts, crime can still be a problem in David. There have been reports of robberies, muggings, and even murders. Much of it is gang-related.

If you decide to live in David, work with a trusted real estate agent or relocation expert to help find a safe neighborhood.

The beaches of David

Since you are moving to the tropics, we need to talk about the beach.

David is located just a few kilometers from the Pacific Ocean; with a 15-minute drive, you can be at Playa La Barqueta.

This beach is nearly 20 kilometers long and has black volcanic sand. The waters are not suitable for swimming unless you really know what you are doing because of the currents.

If you want to go jump in the ocean, this is not the beach for you. If you are looking for the sounds and smells of the ocean with private walks along a beach, then you are in the right place.

There are also some great real estate values here. With beachfront three bedroom, large condos going for $200K, and 1/4 acre beachfront lots for 50K.

Final thoughts on living in David

Living in David, Panama, may just be for you. With its temperate climate, low cost of living, and abundance of amenities, it's no wonder this small city is growing in popularity. Healthcare is top-notch, and the infrastructure is getting better.

If you are thinking of making a move to David, please continue to do your research and plan a trip here to see what David has to offer expats like you! Do you still have questions about retiring or moving to David? Please leave them in the comments below.

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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 a host of expat services to assist anyone looking to relocate to Panama. If you need Rod's assistance, click on the link below