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Panama City

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Bristol Panama
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Hotel Parador Panama City
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Hampton By Hilton Panama City
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El Panama Hotel
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Panama City is the capital of Panama.

Understand

Panama City is a very multicultural place, with large populations from many different parts of the world. Spanish is spoken by most, and many speak some form of English. Customer service is slowly improving, and surprisingly dismal in hotels. However, on the streets, Panamanians are for the most part extremely friendly and helpful and would love to give you some advice.

There's great shopping, from high-end stores in the malls around Paitilla and in the banking district around Via España, to veritable bargains around La Central (Central Avenue, now turned into a pedestrian walkway) and the Los Pueblos outdoor mall. You can also find many ethnic stores (mostly Chinese and Indian), in certain parts of the city.

Climate

Get in

By plane

  • Tocumen International Airport (PTY IATA) (in San Miguelito, 32 km northeast of Panama City). See the airport article for full information.
  • 2 Gelabert/Albrook Airport (PAC IATA) (unlike Tocumen, this airport does have a metro station in close proximity, however the airport terminal is at the western side of the runway (and the metro station is to the east near the Albrook bus terminal) and walking to the metro station is not feasible). Domestic flights leave from this former US military airfield (Albrook Air Force Base). Domestic airlines are safe, and many fly very modern small jet aircraft. There are daily flights to every major town and city in the country. The only carrier is AirPanama.
  • 3 Panamá Pacífico International Airport (BLB IATA) (taxis ask $30 for a ride to the city; you'll cross the Panamá Canal on the way). A small airport that used to be known as Howard Air Force Base. VivaColombia offers daily flights to Medellin and Bogota.

By train

The only train service is between Panama City and Colón on the Panama Canal Railroad. It's mostly a freight train, but it has a very nice passenger car. The train ride offers excellent views of the Panama Canal and the tropical rain forest. In a way it is the only "transcontinental commuter rail line" in the world as some people live in Colon and work in Panama City or vice versa and commute using this train. Trains arrive at 4 Corozal Passenger Station (Estación de Pasajeros de Corozal) (in western suburbs near Albrook Airport).

By bus

Panama City has one of the most modern bus terminals in Latin America, the 5 Gran Terminal Nacional de Transporte (commonly referred to as "Albrook"). It's the main hub and well organized. The bus terminal is next to the Albrook airport (the domestic airport), part of a shopping mall of the same name, and it is very easy to find a bus here.

The long(er)-distance buses leave from the eastern side of the terminal on the ground level and you have to go through turnstiles by paying $0.10. Arrivals are usually on the first floor above the terminal building. All of the international buses ("tica buses" too) start and end in this terminal which are:

  • Ticabus (Transportes Internacionales Centroamericanos), Gran Terminal de Transportes Albrook, boleterias 32 y 32A (ticket windows 32 & 32A), ☏ +507 314-6385. International bus company going across the Central American isthmus between Panama City and Managua via San Jose. From Managua one route goes to Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula in Honduras while another continues towards San Salvador, Guatemala City and Tapachula in Mexico. They also have another north-south route connecting El Salvador to Honduras.
  • Expreso Panama (Panaline), Gran Terminal de Transportes Albrook, boleteria 17 y 18 (ticket windows 17 & 18), ☏ +507 314-6837. Only between Panama City and San Jose. Passengers transfer in San Jose to continue towards Nicaragua and the rest of Central America.

The metrobuses serving the bus terminal arrive and leave from the western side of the bus terminal (between the bus terminal and the Albrook Mall).

Within the terminal, you can buy a "RapiPass 3en1" card which can be used in the metrobus, metro and terminal ($0.10 terminal fee at turnstiles and toilet use). The card costs $2 and needs to be topped up. Turnstiles can only be accessed with this card (no cash payment possible), however people are generally very helpful and you can ask someone to swipe you through and giving the $0.10 to that person instead.

There are two food courts in the terminal, one at the southern end and one at the northern end. There are many drinking water fountains throughout the terminal. Toilets cost $0.25, are clean and can be paid with a $0.25 coin or with the RapiPass. Access to the metro station is via a bridge in the center of the terminal.

By boat

Get around

By taxi

One of the easiest ways to get around town is by taxi. Taxis do not have a meter. Fares are set by the authorities, and are determined based on what section of the city you are starting at and what section of the city you are going to, with a surcharge for every additional person. The cab driver should have a table (which may include a map) that will show the costs for the fare, and they are required to show it to you if you ask or you can check Autoridad del Tránsito y Transporte Terrestre .

Fares are around $1.25 for travel within one zone, and the longest fares within the city at about $5. The former Canal Zone is in a different section, and it will be at least a $5 fare. The surcharge for additional passengers should be $0.50/additional passenger, and there's also a $0.40 surcharge if you call a cab (at least these were the prices a few years ago). A taxi to or from the international airport typically costs $30 including tolls if you take the Corredor Sur highway. A taxi to the Amador Causeway costs $5-10. Cab drivers do not expect tips, and they may pick up additional passengers along the way. The rule is that unless there's little to no deviation from the first person's route, the first person picked up is the first person dropped off, otherwise they will ask if it's ok to pick up the other fare. Cabs can also be rented for the day, and the fares again are set (probably around $20-25). In this case, they will expect a little extra (tip and/or lunch).

Beware, taxi drivers will frequently try to overcharge visitors, sometimes up to many times the actual price, and will not have or know about any table as mentioned. If you are clearly a visitor and asking for the price, chances are the driver will say whatever they think they can get away with and you can try haggling down. It can help to ask locals what the price should be then negotiate based on that.

Uber is also avaliable in Panama City.

By bus

Diablo rojo

Getting around by bus is also cheap and convenient. Fares are $0.25 and the destination of the bus is written across the front windshield in large letters. Buses are privately owned and drivers usually compete with each other for passengers. For this reason, buses have colorful decorations to attract customers. During rush hour some buses can get crowded, and it is not unusual to see 3 people seated on a 2-person bench and lots of people standing along the aisle. It is not advised to use buses during these hours.

In 2013, the "red devils" were phased out from the main city routes, but they still connect the city with outlying suburbs.

Metrobus

The city has begun replacing the flamboyant "red devils" with modern, air-conditioned city buses ("MetroBus," look for the orange sign to find stops), but the red devils are still around. The MetroBus buses do not accept cash, so make sure to buy a fare card at one of the city's many malls before using them.

Bus fare is $0.25 for regular route and $1.25 for corredor route (Corredor Norte and Corredor Sur) and the same prices for transfer. You can buy and recharge MetroBus card at many places around the city (Puntos de venta).

There are no maps or schedules at the stations so using the bus system can be frustrating without knowing the common name of the destination and/or adequate Spanish for inquiring.

By metro

A Metro opened in 2014, and is by far the preferred method to get to the places it serves. However there are still many places of interest not served by it. Line 1 is roughly equal parts elevated and underground with the part from Albrook to El Ingenio being the underground section. Line 2, serving the northern suburbs, opened in 2019.

A single ride is 35 cents regular price with discounts for the elderly and students. The last train leaves at 10 PM all week, with the first train leaving M-Sa at 5AM and Su at 7AM.

By car

Car travel in Panama City is notoriously difficult. During weekday work hours, traffic jams are continuous. Many street intersections lack traffic signals creating right-of-way confusion. Short distances may be quicker on foot or other means of transportation. During holidays like Carnival the traffic can be expected to be worse.

Car rentals are available from major corporations like Hertz at Panama's Tocumen International Airport.

All taxis in Panama are must be painted yellow by law. Hitch hiking is not uncommon.

Check points run by the national police occur at strategic locations to prevent the movement of illegal persons and goods.

See

  • 1 Panama Canal. Not only one of the world's most important shipping connections, but also the very reason for which the modern country of Panama was created, the canal is probably the single most iconic thing to visit in Panama. There are different ways to explore the canal: the easiest but pricey way from Panama City is to visit the Miraflores Visitor Center / Miraflores Locks. In addition, it is also possible to book a luxury train ride along the canal, or a boat ride on the canal.
  • 2 Miraflores Visitor Center / Miraflores Locks (From platform 'D - Via España' at Albrook, there is a direct Albrook-Miraflores metrobus line for $0.25, which stops right in front of the visitors center. A one way cab to Miraflores Visitor Center should cost around $6.). The most visited place along the canal is the Miraflores Visitor Center at the Miraflores Locks. It consists of an air-conditioned museum, a movie theater, an expensive restaurant, a gift shop, and a viewing platform from where you can watch the ships pass through the locks. Be aware that the Miraflores Locks are located along the old canal with its more than a hundred year old locks. It's still interesting to watch the ships, but if you want to see the new, expanded canal with the new locks and much bigger ships, you'd have to go to the Agua Clara Visitor Center in Colon (Panama), on the carribean side of the canal. Also, while it is nice to watch the ships from the viewing platform, don't expect too much from the visitor center itself, especially considering the high entrance fee. It's basically a Disneyland level of extremely superficial stuff: a few photos and models, short uninspiring texts without any depth, and a lot of unconnected things that make you wonder how they ended up there. The entire exhibition is actually like 4 small rooms, and the movie they play is merely a short propaganda film without any interesting technical or historical details. If you decide to come here, make sure you'll see some ships during your visit; check the visitor center's transit schedule to see at which times the ships pass through the locks. Foreigners: adults $20, children 6-12 years $12; Residents: adults $5, children/students/seniors $2.50.
  • 3 Casco Viejo. Casco Viejo is the historic part of town, where you will find many colonial style government buildings, cathedrals and museums including a Canal Museum or a small Panama History Museum. It is under massive renovation, with crumbling shacks next to beautifully restored colonial buildings. There are a number of accommodation options in Casco ranging from hostel pricing up to very expensive colonial suites. The area hosts a large number of eclectic events ranging from operas and musicals at the national theatre to block parties and fashion catwalks in the open plazas. Casco Viejo also offers some of the finest dining options in Panama City. Getting here from the airport by Metro bus, you can get off at 5 de Mayo stop (popular stop under a highway) then walk about 15-20 min heading south towards the water on Avenida Central, a pedestrian mall with many shops and markets, which leads directly to the old town. Together with the archaeological site of Panamá Viejo, the Casco Viejo is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
    • 4 Canal Museum, Plaza de la Independencia, San Felipe (between Calles 5a and 6a). $3 for adults.
    • 5 Panama History Museum, Avenida 6a Central, Plaza Catedral, San Felipe, ☏ +507 501-4128. $1 for adults.
  • 6 Panama Viejo. Tu-Su 8:30AM to 4:30PM, M closed. The archaeological site of the ruins of the original city of Panama that was sacked by the pirate Henry Morgan in the 1600s. The city was later moved to Casco Viejo. Today Panama Viejo is home to one of Panama's national parks with the buildings left in unrestored states. It is well worth the visit but read the safety warnings and ask park employees about where it is safe to visit as the park is surrounded outside by one of the city's dangerous areas. Together with the old town Casco Viejo, the site of Panamá Viejo is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Adults $12, children and students $5; prices include the museum, park and lookout.
  • 7 Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador) (it is possible to travel to the end of the causeway by metrobus (line: Albrook-Amador), which runs from the central bus terminal (Albrook) from 'E - Corredor Sur, Zona Este' platform (with frequency of about one bus per hour); taxi fare from central city is around $7). The Amador Causeway connects four little islands (Naos, Culebra, Perico and Flamenco) to the mainland. From the causeway, there is a lovely view of Panama City, the Puente de las Americas, and the numerous islands far in Panama Bay. Many Panamanians like to spend their weekends jogging, riding a bicycle or roller-blading down the causeway, or having a meal or drinks in one of the many restaurants and bars on the islands. Bikes are available to rent in many different varieties including recumbents and multi-person bicycles, starting at about $3.50 per hr. From the causeway you can also arrange day trips by ferry to one of the surrounding islands with boats leaving early in the morning.
  • 8 Punta Culebra Nature Center. This nature center run by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute is located on Culebra Island. It has a few fish tanks with Pacific, Caribbean, and freshwater sea life, a small pool with a sea turtle and a few little sharks, and a tank where children can touch starfish and other sea creatures. There is also a little forest where a family of sloths lives. Admission adults $5.
  • 9 Biomuseo (There is a metrobus stop (line: Albrook-Amador) right in front of the building.). Tu-F 10AM-4PM, Sa Su 10AM-5PM, M closed. Designed by the architect Frank Gehry.
  • Mi Pueblitos. The pretty deserted museum (entrance free) on the slopes of Cerro Ancon showcases the different ethnicities of Panama. There are several artisans producing curios. The outdoor museum is close in proximity to El Chorrillo so be very careful about straying outside of boundaries or into unsupervised areas. Upon last visit it was not recommended to climb Cerro Ancon.

Do

  • Help A Sailboat To Cross The Canal. All sailboats that want to cross the Panama Canal needs by law 5 crew members when crossing the locks due to the complexity of handling these boats in these narrow locks and tieing and untieing it to the walls, other boats etc. The job called "linehandler". The owners of the boats can either hire local help or look for volunteers in exchange for the experience, food and drinks. The process takes 2 days due to long waiting times and the slow movement. You sleep on the boat during these time. It is a unique way to experience the Canal, sailing and have a closer look on the locks. A website created to connect between the volunteers and the boat's owners and to give more information.
  • 1 Metropolitan Natural Park (MNP) (Parque Natural Metropolitano) (within walking distance from the Albrook bus terminal (about 20 min) and walking there during daytime seemed ok). This park is a nature reserve very close to the city and offers well maintained hiking paths and a small visitors center. One of the trails leads up a hill and from there you have great views over the skyline of Panama City. Register and pay first at the visitors center, where there are also toilets and drinking water fountains to refill your bottles. $5.
  • Soberanía National Park. A national park in close proximity to Panama City, offers good hiking trails. See park article.

Learn

  • Casco Antiguo Spanish School, Avenida A and Calle 4, ☏ +507 838 5592, ✉ info@cascospanish.com. 8AM to 8PM. Casco Antiguo Spanish School's 1-on-1 and small group Spanish classes provide real world language skills. Offers a "Survival Spanish" Course for Expats, Crash Course for Travels, private lessons, Intensive Courses, and business Spanish. $195/week.
  • Spanish Panama Spanish language school, Via Argentina, Ed. Americana #1A, El Cangrejo (Ed Americana, #1A), ☏ +507 213-3121, ✉ info@spanishpanama.com. 8:30AM-8:30PM. In Panama City’s central and expat friendly neighborhood at Spanish Panama. Spanish language immersion programs include airport pickup, tours and ecotourism, cultural activities, Spanish classes, and salsa dance classes. Business Spanish for Panama is also offered. min $300/week.

Buy

  • Calidonia area has plenty of street markets.
  • 1 Avenida Central. A pedestrianized street leading to the Casco Viejo from Estacion 5 de Mayo. Very local, very cheap shopping street. Full of budget department stores and shops. Lots of locals.
  • 2 Albrook Shopping Mall. Has good value and high quality clothes and more as well as a cinema, arcade, and bowling alley. Right next to the Albrook bus terminal.
  • 3 MultiPlaza Mall. Upmarket mall, higher prices, better quality products. It has an adjacent Marriott Courtyard hotel.
  • 4 MultiCentro Mall. Upmarket mall, not as popular as MultiPlaza and Albrook. Metrobuses to Tocumen airport (via Corredor Sur) stop at the bus stop south-east of the mall.
  • 5 Metro Mall. A large indoor mall that has an adjacent Marriott Courtyard hotel.
  • Los Pueblos Mall. The first mall built in the city. very local, very cheap, and outdoor. It's across the main street from Metro Mall but is inaccessible on foot.

Crafts

Panamanian crafts High end crafts can also be purchased from shops in the Centro de Artesanias in Balboa neighborhood or in the shops of Mi Pueblitos. Indian stores on every major shopping district (El Dorado mall and surroundings, Los Pueblos, and along Via España) also sell many Panamanian souvenirs. Gran Morrison is also a place to find many handicrafts.

  • REPROSA Treasures of Panama. Since 1975 REPROSA has been dedicated to the promotion of Panama's history, cultural traditions, ecological beauty and ethnic diversity. All their handicrafts are hand-made in Panama by Panamanian artisans, and there is something for every budget. REPROSA has three locations: Costa del Este Industrial Park (271-0033), Ave. A in Casco Viejo (228-4913), and Ave. Samuel Lewis in Obarrio (269-0457). REPROSA also offers a tour of their award-winning workshop where visitors can see first-hand how the Treasures of Panama are made. Their factory is in the Costa del Este Industrial Park just minutes from Panama Viejo. Tour $10 per person, M-F at 9:30AM and 2PM.

Eat

Check out Panama Restaurant Week, which doesn't happen every year, but when it does it is a fantastic option to try great restaurants at good prices. Despite its name, it lasts 15 days, with dozens of participating restaurants offering special participating menus at fixed, lower than normal prices.

Budget

There's several cafes along Via Argentina. The Spanish sandwich shops offer excellent sandwiches, coffee, and churros. Try Manolo's Churreria (don't miss the churros rellenos, pastries filled with dulce de leche and rolled in sugar) or Del Prado. Sandwiches should cost from $3-5. Also on Via Argentina is El Trapiche, serving traditional Panamanian food for under $12/person. They serve excellent breakfast food.

There's an abundance of Chinese restaurants, and some can be very affordable. Try some around El Dorado, they should be pretty authentic.

  • Niko's Cafe has several locations around the city. Owned by Greeks, they are all open 24 hr and they have a good selection of sandwiches and hot food served all day long.
  • Don Lee is a Panamanian chain serving Chinese fast food, and definitely worth a try.
  • Doraditos Asados in Chanis. An extremely popular Panamanian restaurant that's always full and can take an infuriating amount of time to order. That said it's likely always filled by locals because the prices are cheap and the food is extremely good. In particular the rotisserie chicken (a full one costs about $5) is a local favorite with two types of chimichurri to choose from.
  • Fish market outside of Casco Viejo. Entering Casco Viejo there's the main fish market for the city exists and has recently undergone some refurbishing. There are some restaurants upstairs where the fish is obviously very fresh and the prices are cheap.
  • Restaurante Poly (Corner of 26th and Avenida Sur) A very crowded, noisy and not very hygienic restaurant, it's however a truly gastronomic experience. Do not miss the delicious fish soups and the bistec picado, both for under $2 each.

Mid-range

  • Lung Fung, on Transistmica Avenue. Serves some of the best Chinese food in the city. It will be a different experience. Try dim sum any day of the week (expect long lines on weekends), although it has lost some of its charm now that the wait staff speaks such good Spanish instead of only Cantonese or Haka.
  • Marbella. A very old school Panamanian restaurant on Balboa Avenue. It's a Spanish place specializing in seafood. Excellent paella and overall good seafood. Prices are stuck in 1984, so a hearty plate of paella will set you back $13, and there's only one item with a higher price on the menu.
  • Van Gogh. This nice little Italian restaurant is right near the Via Venteo Casino. It has great food, great service, and a great atmosphere. It is one of the best Italian restaurants in Panama City.
  • 1 Capital Bistró Panamá, Calle principal de San Felipe, Local 1. Kitchen opens 6:30PM. Amazing views of the city's skyline. Chillout music and large sofas on the upper terrace. $18-28.

Splurge

  • Manolo Caracol. An excellent restaurant in the Casco Viejo that serves tapas. Each day the chef invents a new fixed menu with seasonal ingredients. Meals are $30 without drinks.
  • Puerta De Tierra. Another excellent restaurant in the Casco Viejo. The restaurant is primarily a steak house but has some very appealing appetizers also.
  • Ten Bistro. Calle 50 and in Multiplaza Mall is another excellent choice serving contemporary cuisine.
  • Casa Del Marisco. Seafood restaurant in the banking area walking distance away from the Marriott. The food here is quite good but also pricey.
  • Sake. On the ground floor of Torres de las Americas office tower by Punta Pacifica hospital, is Panama City's hottest sushi restaurant. Probably the best sushi in the city but the city is not known for its sushi. If you're only here for a short while and not desperate for a sushi fix, there are better options for the price.
  • Miraflores Restaurant (Atat the top of Miraflores Visitor Center.). The terrace section overlooks the Panama Canal and tables are most likely reserved in advance. Buffet is around $30 without drinks. It is open from 10AM to 10:30PM (much after the visitor center is closed), so if you need to see the canal late night (and can afford to spend extra for dinner), Miraflores restaurant is the place to be. (The Miraflores Lock opens both way in the night, so you are definitely going to see a couple of ships pass by).

Drink

Buy and try some Panamanian and Cuban coffee while you're here. It will be some of the best you've ever had.

Calle Uruguay is a neighborhood filled with bars and discos for wealthy Panamanians and foreigners.

  • La Casona de las Brujas, Casco Viejo. An interesting bar on an inner courtyard of a building, attached to an art gallery in Casco Viejo. Lives bands play a variety of music styles.
  • Taberna 21 is a local hangout serving great cheap beer and Spanish tapas.

Sleep

Budget

  • Jungla House Hostel and B & B (El Cangrejo (Modern City Center)), Calle 49 a Oeste y Via Argentina, RINA building #11 (Via Argentina last left, building on left next to Dermocenter, 3 building before Hotel Las Huacas), ☏ +507 214-8069, +507 6668-5076. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. "Tree Top" level rooms overlook the hotel/casino district of the city. Dorm rooms and private rooms come with and without AC; communal area with TV, movies, free internet with decent wireless signal throughout facility. Walking distance from bars/clubs, restaurants, shopping, casinos, and supermarkets. VIP entrance for the guests in several of the city's clubs. There is a huge communal kitchen. Equipment rental for excursions, airport transfers and reputable boats to Colombia through San Blas can all be arranged. Mirador Adventures (www.miradoradventures.com) tour office on site. $12-14 per person (dorm beds), single $35, double $49.
  • Luna's Castle Hostel, Calle 9na Este, ☏ +507 262-1540. Set in a Spanish colonial mansion built upon the water´s edge in Casco Viejo, Luna´s Castle Hostel attracts those who seek the ideal Panama City backpacking experience. Amenities include a modern communal kitchen, free breakfast, free coffee, the legendary movie theatre, a spacious outdoor courtyard, free internet, and sweeping views of the Bay of Panama and the modern city skyline and a great social atmosphere. Information is also available for sailing boat departures between Panamá and Cartagena in Colombia. These rooms above the bar are loud! They don't take reservations for privates and it's a popular place, so be prepared to find an alternative. Dorm bed: $13.
  • Voyager Hostel. The air conditioning doesn't work well because of missing window panes. The employees hog the TV and watch Mexican soap operas during the day and soccer games at night. Dorm $9.90.
  • Hospedaje Casco Viejo, 8a con Avenida A. Casa 8-31, San Felipe, ☏ +507 211-2027. This hostel is in the heart of the old quarter in a beautifully restored historic building. Most of the rooms have their own bathroom and balcony and very comfortable beds. Friendly and knowledgable staff, kitchen, free wifi and coffee! Definitely the best deal in Panama. They also take reservations online. $10/18/single/double.
  • La Casa de Carmen, Calle 1a de Carmen 32. This hostel is in a cute house located on a busy street. Try to get a room further in the back to get away from the traffic noise. Breakfast is included, which involves toast, cereal, coffee and orange juice. Two computers with internet access are also free for guests. Accommodations are clean and spacious. $30-45/double.
  • Hostel Mamallena, Casa 7-62 Calle Primera, Perejil, ☏ +507 6676 6163, ✉ mamallenapa@yahoo.com. Information is also available for sailing boat departures between Panamá and Cartagena in Colombia. Dorm $12, double $29.50.
  • Hostal Miami, Avenida Central 18-18. Shared kitchen, internet and Wi-Fi. Friendly employees. Dorm $13, private rooms $30-50.
  • Casa Rica (formerly Zuly's Backpackers).
  • Hostal Urraca, Calle 44, No. 2-112, Bella Vista, ☏ +507 391-3971, ✉ book@hostalurraca.com. A Peace Corps hangout. Dorm $16, private rooms $22.

Mid-range

  • Las Vegas Hotel. Suites are clean, safe, centrally located and relatively affordable. There's also a nice little Italian restaurant and a wine bar attached to the hotel.
  • Casa Las Americas. There are six rooms in this very nice Bed & Breakfast in Betania. You cannot beat the location for peace and quiet in a lush setting. There is a large pool and lovely terrace with a city view. Centrally located and easy access by inexpensive taxi to shopping, restaurants, and proximity to the sights of the city. Also a big plus -- the pool is large and lovely, very quiet and private and surrounded by lush greenery. $60-105.
  • Magnolia Inn - Casco Viejo, 818 Calle Boquete (Calle Boquete and Calle 8va in Casco Viejo, behind Plaza Catedral), ☏ +507 202-0872. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. Magnolia Inn offers comfortable and spacious deluxe private rooms as well as luxury hostel rooms. The restored French colonial mansion is full of historic character, as well as modern conveniences such as A/C, orthopedic beds, free Wi-Fi Internet and safe deposit boxes. The Inn has a stylish social areas to relax and meet fellow guests. A fully equipped kitchen and sunbathed dinning room is available for guest use. $80-135.
  • Tribe Panama. In historic Casco Antiquo (Viejo) on Plaza Simon Bolivar; there are 4 suites with each having two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, and wonderful views of the sea and Plaza Simon Bolivar. There are over 20 restaurants and Bars within walking distance. Free internet and satellite TV. The building sits across the street from the Presidential Palace grounds which provides for the best security and neighbor that Panama has to offer. $120-160.

Splurge

  • The Bristol Hotel, ☏ +507 264-0000. Luxurious modern hotel in the heart of Panama City. Outstanding bar and restaurant on site. First-class service. $200/double.
  • 1 The Canal House, Calle 5 and Avenida A in Casco Viejo, ☏ +507 228 1907. An intimate hotel in a Colonial mansion in the heart of Panama City's historic district. The Canal House was selected by the New York Times as its Editor's Pick for Panama City hotels and is the country's first Green Globe Certified Hotel. The Canal House has three rooms and a staff of six, including two English speaking managers. It is located just to the side of the Canal Museum, walking distance from some of the city's best bars, restaurants and cafes. From $180.
  • Las Clementinas Chambers, Café & Bar, Calle 11 and Avenida B in Casco Viejo, ☏ +507 228-7613 (Panama), toll-free: +1-888-593-5023 (US and Canada). A small boutique hotel in Panama's exciting historic district, Casco Viejo. Las Clementinas has just six rooms, each of which is a full apartment with kitchen, 12-foot ceilings and wrap around balconies, some with plaza views, some with ocean views. Above the rooms is a rooftop terrace with stunning views of Panama City, the Pacific Ocean, the entrance to the Canal and the rooftops of the historic district. Below the rooms is the Cafe & Bar. Las Clementinas is managed by the Canal House and leisure and business travelers.
  • InterContinental Miramar, Av. Balboa, ☏ +507-206-8888. Luxury high-rise hotel overlooking Panama Bay. Facilities include upscale dining, large swimming pool, tennis courts, full-service marina, helicopter landing pad.
  • Panama Marriott Hotel, Calle 52 y Ricardo Arias, Area Bancaria Panama City, Panama, ☏ +507 2 109100, fax: +507 2 109110. Luxury 20-story hotel in the financial district.
  • Courtyard by Marriott Panama Real Hotel, Vía Israel, Punta Pacífica Mall, ☏ +507 301 0101, fax: +507 301 0102. 120 rooms with high speed internet, restaurant, bar, gym, pool, four banquet halls and a meeting room, as well as laundry service, laundry and shop. Prices range between $100-250.

Connect

You can buy SIM cards for Panama's 4 carriers at the Terminal (Albrook) and probably many other places.

Stay safe

Areas

Be careful in Casco Viejo and the Panama la Vieja ruins area. There are tourist police aplenty in these neighborhoods but do not wander too far in these areas alone (even in the day) and certainly not in the evening (as of 2010 these areas are very safe, lots of activity and tourist traffic)

Stay out of El Chorrillo, Santa Ana, Curundu and San Miguel. It is very dangerous right now due to infighting between drug gangs. Tourists have been kidnapped right off the street. El Chorrillo borders San Felipe so it is very easy to accidentally walk into it. When driving, car doors should be locked.

The central neighborhoods of Marbella, El Cangrejo, Obarrio, San Francisco, and the Banking Area are generally the most safe. In any case, be careful of your belongings, even if sitting in a restaurant, as people have had things snatched without noticing it, especially when enjoying a glass too many of Panama's great wine selection. It is never a good idea to drink heavily and walk back to your hotel.

Taxis

It's always a good idea (in any country really) to spend a few minutes to find out exact taxi fares before taking a taxi and always have exact change for the correct fare. This avoids over-charging and problems with some drivers. Having to ask a taxi driver how much the fare is the equivalent to wearing a "kick-me" sticker on your shorts, as you're telling him you don't know. Some have paid $20 to get from El Dorado to Via Argentina, but the real fare for one person is $1.75.

Outside of Multiplaza, Albrook and Multicentro are some very good looking Taxis. The drivers wear nice shirts and the Taxis have proper signs on the roof. The drivers will most likely ask you if you are interested. never take these taxis. All they do is wait for foreigners and then charge 4x the price.

Some taxis at the main bus station prey on visitors. Never put your belongings in the trunk. Sit in the back seat along with your belongings and have your luggage firmly grasped while entering and exiting the vehicle; otherwise, they can drive away with your things while you are still trying to get in. Lock the doors once inside. Avoid and ignore anyone who approaches you to "get a taxi for you"; go to the curb to get one yourself. At best they will want money for this "service" amounting to half the taxi fare; at worst, they are setting you up to be robbed with certain drivers with whom they work. Lastly, the cabs are marked on the door with a unique registration number -- memorize it or write it down and secretly tuck it safely away on your person before entering any cab.

Never lose your temper with taxi drivers or police (or anyone else really) no matter how bad you may find a situation or service in some places. Exert your rights politely but firmly.

Other

Look both ways before crossing the street! Panamanian drivers are notoriously aggressive when the traffic allows and will not slow down for you even if you're lucky enough to find a crosswalk. There's only one way to cross the road here. Wait for a break in the traffic and walk. Once you start, keep going. Drivers will stop (99% of the time...). Otherwise you'll be stuck for hours waiting.

Cope

Embassies

  • Argentina, Torre Global Bank, Calle 50 -Piso 24 (Calles 50 y 58), ☏ +507 302-00-03, fax: +507 302-00-04, ✉ consulado_epnma@mrecic.gov.ar. Consular services M-F 8AM-1PM.
  • Bolivia, Calle G Casa N° 3, Zona El Cangrejo, Ciudad de Panamá, ☏ +507 269-0274, fax: +507 264-3868, ✉ emb_bol_pan@cwpanama.net. M-F 8AM-4PM.
  • Brazil (Brasil), Calle Elvira Mendez, 24, Edificio El Dorado, 1° piso, Campo Alegre - Panamá, ☏ +507 263-5322, ✉ consular.panama@itamaraty.gov.br. M-F 8AM-1PM.
  • Canada, Torres de las Americas, Torre A - Piso 11, Punta Pacifica, ☏ +507 294-2500, fax: +507 294-2514, ✉ panam@international.gc.ca. M-F 8:30AM-1PM, visas M-Th 1PM-3PM.
  • China, Edificio Torre Global Plaza, Piso 22, Calle 50, ☏ +507 265-4058, ✉ chinaoffice_pa@mfa.gov.cn. M W F 9AM-11AM.
  • Colombia, Edificio Oceanía, Torre 2000 Piso 17, Oficina 17C, Punta Pacifica, ☏ +507 264-9513, fax: +507 223-1134.
  • Costa Rica, Bella Vista, Av. Balboa con C/ Aquelino de la Guardia, Torre BICSA, piso 30, Cd Panama (Entrando al Área Bancaria frente a BAC Panamá), ☏ +507 830-77-56, fax: +507 264-40-57. M-F 9AM-noon and 1PM-5PM.
  • Cuba, Calle Cuba, corner of Calle Ecuador, ☏ +507 227-5277, fax: +1 507 225-6681. M-F 9AM-12:30PM; Telephone hours M-F 9AM-1PM and 2PM-4:30PM.
  • Egypt (Egipto), Calle 55, Casa 15, El Congrejo, Cd Panama Zona 15, ☏ +507 263-50-20, fax: +507 264-84-06, ✉ egempa@hotmail.com. M-F 9AM-5PM.
  • Ecuador, Piso 16 del PH SFC, calle 55 Este, Obarrio, Bellavista; Apartado Postal 8030, Zona 7 Panamá (Calle 55 y Samuel Lewis, Obarrio, Torre SFC, Piso 16), ☏ +507 264-2654.
  • El Salvador, Calle Anastasio Ruíz, Dúplex 6, Urbanización Marbella (Front of the Japanese School.), ☏ +507 223-6385. M-F 9AM-1PM.
  • France (Francia), Plaza de Francia, Las Bovedas, San Felipe, ☏ +507 211-62-00, fax: +507 211-62-01. M-F 8AM-11:30AM & by appointment.
  • Germany (Alemania), Calle 53, Marbella, Edificio World Trade Center Piso 20 (PH), ☏ +507 263-7733, +507 6517 3200 (emergency phone number), fax: +507 223-6664.
  • Greece, Antiguo Edificio NCR, 3er piso, Calle Manuel Espinosa Batista y Entrada de la Via Argentina, El Dorado 6, 1918 Panama, ☏ +507 263-0411, fax: +507 263-5511, ✉ greecepa@sinfo.net.
  • Guatemala, World Trade Center, 2do. Piso, Oficina No.203, Calle 5, ☏ +507 269-3475. M-F 9AM-1PM.
  • Honduras, Avenida Balboa, Edificio Bay Mall, Piso 1, Oficina 112, ☏ +507 264-5513.
  • Japan (Japon), Calle 50 y 60E, Obarrio, Apartado 0816-06807, Panamá 1, ☏ +507 263-6155, fax: +507 263-6019.
  • Mexico, Av. Samuel Lewis y Calle 58, Edif. ADR, Piso 10, Obarrio, Panamá, ☏ +507 263-4900, ✉ mexconsular@cwpanama.net.. M-F 8AM-12:30PM & 1:30PM-3PM. Telephono for emergencies +507 6704-6215.
  • Nicaragua, La Alameda, Tumba Muerto, Detrás de Felipe Rodríguez, 5to Duplex a la derecha, No. 61-A, ☏ +507 264-3080, fax: +507 264-5425.
  • Paraguay, Calle Las Acacias, Casa N° 60 Barrio Marbella,, ☏ +507 269-4247. M-F 8AM-4PM.
  • Peru (Consulate), Edificio Torre de Las Américas, Torre "C", Piso 15, Oficina 1507, Punta Pacífica, Ciudad de Panamá, ☏ +507 215-3016. M-F 9AM-noon and 1PM-3PM
  • South Korea (Corea de Sur), Piso 14, RBS Tower, P.H.Complejo Plaza Paitilla, ☏ +507 264-8203. M-F 9AM-5PM.
  • Spain (España), Plaza de Belisario Porras, entre Av. Perú y Calle 33 A., Distrito de Calidonia, ☏ +507 207-1500, fax: +507 227-6284. M-F 8:30AM-1:30PM.
  • Trinidad & Tobago, Edificio Torre Global Piso 32, Oficina 3201, Calle 50 and Calle 58 Este, ☏ +507 388-5800.
  • United Kingdom (Reino Unido), British Embassy, Humboldt Tower, 4th Floor, Calle 53, Marbella, ☏ +507 297 6550, fax: +507 297 6588.
  • United States (Estados Unidos), Bldg 783, Demetrio Basilio Lakas Ave, ☏ +507 207-7000, fax: +507 317-5568, ✉ Panama-ACS@state.gov, Panama-visas@state.govMULTIPLE-EMAIL.
  • Uruguay, Edificio Torre Oceanía, Torre 2000, Piso 17, Oficina D, ☏ +507 264-2838. M-F 8:30AM-4:30PM.
  • Venezuela, Avenida Samuel Lewis, Torre Banistmo, Piso 5, ☏ +507 269-1014, fax: +507 269-1916. M-F 8:30AM-noon.

Go next

  • Isla Taboga - Take a boat trip out to the islands off the coast of Panama City.
  • Gamboa - Check out the birds and Chagres River.
  • San Blas Islands - Take a tour of the islands
  • Portobelo - Visit the forts, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Continue onwards to Isla Grande for some nice R&R - buses goes from the main street in Portobelo to La Guira and from there it is a 5 minutes boatride ($2)
  • Bocas del Toro - fly Panama air to beaches and nature. 4 flights every day


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