The banking district in Panama City is made up of shiny stores, tall apartment buildings, and fancy shopping centers that are all lit up.
Recently, Panama City has been really busy with lots of construction projects. It’s also become a popular spot for international banking and all kinds of shipping. The taxes here are quite low and the laws are strong when it comes to protecting people’s privacy. During the time of General Noriega, some bad stuff happened like dirty money being used in Real Estate projects. Even though that was the case back then, there’s no need to worry if you’re visiting as a tourist – you won’t run into any kind of Cartel violence.
It’s usually safe to travel by yourself in Panama City. If you visit during the day, the police will likely be around and any crimes committed would be small and accidental. However, it is important to stay aware of your surroundings and follow some easy-to-remember city rules. Before traveling there you should plan all your trips ahead of time and respect local customs. That way, you’ll have a great trip with no problems!
Unlock the Secrets of Panama City’s Neighborhoods!
The historic part of the city, Casco Antiguo, looks really cool with cobblestone streets and Spanish style buildings. It’s definitely worth exploring since it has many fancy restaurants, luxurious lofts, and rooftop bars. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a lot of budget-friendly places to eat and there isn’t great public transportation either.
Calidonia district is located in the south part of the city, from Plaza 5 de Mayo to Calle 42 Este. You can find many street stalls along Avenida Central where you can get cheap food during the day. At night, however, it becomes an area full of shady people and only a few places that provide food. It’s easily accessible by Metro trains or buses.
East of Calidonia there’s an area called the banking district. This is made up of different sections, including new and older neighbourhoods filled with expensive hotels and Airbnbs. Sadly there are only a few hostels, so not all people can find a place to stay that they can afford. There are restaurants around the banking district but they’re not always close enough to walk to.
If you’re in Panama City to have fun, two neighborhoods called Marbella and Bella Vista offer the best access to all the bars and clubs. El Cangrejo is an area full of activities like a casino and lots of restaurants near Vía España and Vía Argentina. But don’t forget; Carnival is a time of amazing festivities but also expensive prices!
Get Ready for Savings and Rain
The best time to visit is usually from December to April. There’s also an increase in prices around Christmas, New Year, Carnival, and Easter (Semana Santa). If you’re looking for a great holiday getaway spot, the beaches will be more expensive than the cities.
If you’re looking for a deal, the best time to visit Panama City is from mid-April to early December. Just be prepared for some rain! Many times it only lasts an hour or two in the afternoon, but it gets heavier as the season progresses. In fact, sometimes it can be cloudy and rainy for days at a time. However, the clouds can also bring a blessing – protection from the scorching Panamanian sun.
Beat the City Traffic
It’s probably not wise to drive around the city – it’s tough to get around with its confusing one-way roads and frequent traffic jams. So, consider taking advantage of Panama City’s public transport system instead! It has air-conditioned buses, as well as Central America’s first-ever Metro train. When you arrive, don’t forget to purchase a “Rapi-pass”, which will let you use both buses and the Metro trains plus gain access to Albrook Bus Station.
Safeguard Your Money
When you pay for something with a higher value than twenty dollars, you must show your ID and sign in a register. In Panama, it is important to check all fifty or one hundred dollar bills because some of them can be fake.
In 2008, a law was brought that made it illegal to light up in public areas. Anyone who smokes where smoking is not supposed to be done can get fined between $25 and $100.
“Be Fabulously Dressed in Panama
In Panama, people like to dress nicely and look put-together. You’ll see lots of fancy clothes on the street especially in Obarrio- like tall high heels that somehow stay in one piece even when people walk on bumpy sidewalks. On a normal day, it’s okay to wear something more casual but if you’re going out for dinner or any kind of event, avoid wearing shorts and flip flops.
Tipping Etiquette 101
It’s polite to leave a tip when you stay in a hotel – that could mean about $2 – $3 for the person who tidies up your room. If you go to a fancy restaurant, usually 10% of the bill will already be added as a tip, but if not make sure to check your bill first before paying. For less formal restaurants or eateries, it would be nice to leave some spare change for the server. As for taxi drivers, they don’t expect any tips unless they help with carrying your things.
“Don’t Take the Risk
Panama City may be known for money from activities like drug dealing, but Panamanians won’t look kindly on anyone caught taking drugs. If you get found with even a small amount of marijuana, you could face spending several years in jail.
Unlocking the Wonders of Panama City’s Unique Spanish!
In Panama City, Spanish people speaks a unique type of Spanish. It’s very fast and full of expressions that people usually use (known as ‘slang’). If you don’t already speak Spanish it can be hard to understand.
Most of the people in Panama don’t speak English, so it’ll help if you know some basic Spanish when you’re talking to them. However, if you want to do business or something similar in Panama City, then most of the companies and shops will have someone who speaks English.
Enjoy Tap Water Without Worry & Cut Down on Trash
It is ok to drink the tap water from Panama City without worrying. You can cut down on trash by refilling your own water bottles from the faucet. If you want bottled drinking water, many hotels have them in large containers (20 litres each) that can be refilled by you. Don’t forget that this city is next to a jungle and it takes some time for people to get used to the climate there.
Adapting to Hot Weather and Avoiding Unpleasant Conditions in Panama City
Panama City is a city built in the middle of a humid jungle. Even if you come from countries with cold climates, you should take some time to get used to the hot weather.
Never forget to wear sunscreen before going out and bring plenty of water with you. Wear light-colored clothes and put on a hat to protect your face from the sun. If it’s raining season make sure you carry an umbrella just in case!
In Panama City, it sometimes very hard to walk around and the traffic can be bad. When it rains heavily, quickly rising puddles can fill the streets. If you have asthma, then these fumes may make your symptoms worse. Unfortunately, the Bay of Panama is often polluted with industrial waste and raw sewage that makes the oceanfront smell terrible.
Unfortunate Scams in Panama City
Be careful when you’re in a big city, especially as a tourist. Watch out for people who tell sad stories and then ask you to give them money – if it feels suspicious, it probably is! Also, be aware of “fake tour guides” that take your money in advance and don’t show up like they promised.
In Panama City, taxi drivers are known to overcharge their customers. There are no meters in the cabs and fares rarely follow zones, so if you look like a tourist, the price usually goes up. To avoid getting scammed, it’s important to negotiate your fare before getting into a cab. Additionally, Panama City is generally safe for women travelling alone.
Exploring Panama City as a Female Traveler
It is usually okay to explore Panama City by yourself as a female traveler, but it’s best to avoid walking around alone at night in certain places like Casco Antiguo, Santa Ana or Calidonia. Some men on the metro trains and buses might start chatting with you. If a man won’t leave you alone, asking for help from an older woman close by could be useful.
Exploring Casco Antiguo and Its Surrounding Areas
Casco Antiguo used to be a very dangerous area 30 years ago, although it has improved since then. However, there are still some places in Casco Antiguo that you should avoid at night. The nearest train station, 5 de Mayo, is about 20 minutes away by foot so try taking a taxi or an Uber instead. Also, the El Chorrillo town next to Casco Antiguo is very unsafe and unpleasant – so it is safer if you stay out of this district completely.
Santa Ana is a district located north of Casco Antiguo. It has a very busy shopping street called “peatonal” which is safe to walk on during the day, but you must be aware of your surroundings. Stay away from the side roads near peatonal as they are not safe. The peatonal connects to Plaza 5 de Mayo, National Assembly, a Metro station, and a bus terminal that all have lots of people around in the evening, but it is better to use some form of transport after 11 pm.
Just north of 5 de Mayo you’ll find Avenida Central, with lots of street vendors and activity. It’s safe to explore during the day but don’t show off any expensive jewelry or equipment you may have. In the evening Calidonia can be quite creepy and unsafe – so stay away from dimly lit streets and those that are falling apart.
In Panama, it is a law that everyone must always have an identification card with them in public. Tourists should carry their passport or a copy of it with the page containing the photo and immigration entry stamp.
LGBTIQ+ Acceptance in Panama
In Panama, people living in rural areas are generally more traditional but attitudes towards LGBTIQ+ individuals are much more open in Panama City. The law also states that it is illegal to discriminate against people based on their identity or sexual orientation. There’s even some popular spots for gay people to hang out and have fun like Casco Antiguo and El Cangrejo.