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Panama City is the capital of Panama and is the largest city in the country with about 1.1 million inhabitants. It is the economic heart of the country and located at the Pacific coast near the Panama Canal. People have been living here since almost 500 years ago.
Nowadays the skyline is comparable to some of the cities in the United States with high-rise office buildings and apartments. There is however an old quarter (Casco Viejo) which is the main focus point for travellers wanting to see the historical buildings in this part of town. Old Panama is on the UNESCO World Heritage List as well. The city has a wide range of places to stay and excellent nightlife if that is what you are looking for. From the capital, you can easily explore the rest of the country with good connections by plane and bus to most of Panama.
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Located on a peninsula, the Casco Viejo area is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is an area packed with nice colonial (in part recently restored) buildings dating back to the time when the Spanish had to set up Panama in a new place after Panama Viejo was destroyed by Pirates lead by bad guy Henry Morgan. There are beautiful views from here (Las Bovedas) over the Causeway, the bridge of the Americas, the boats which are waiting for their pasage through the Panama Canal and the skyline of the city. Be aware that it is located next to El Chorillo, probably the most dangerous neighbourhood in Panama City and therefore make sure that you do not walk in the wrong direction. Nevertheless during daytime there are usually no problems due to heavy police presence. Not recommended at nighttime.
This festival is held 40 days before Easter, the start of lent, and would coincide with other ‘Mardi Gras’ celebrations held around the world. The Panamanian carnival is special as every day has a theme: Friday is the grand opening, Saturday is international day, Sunday is ‘Pollera’ day, Monday is costume day, and Tuesday is the Queens day. Wednesday is the final day where the ceremonial act of entierro de la sardine (the sardine burial) takes place. The carnival is best enjoyed in Panama City or the town of Las Tablas.
Dance! It’s the name of the game. This is a funky urban music festival held in Panama City, in the old district of the city called Casco Antiguo. It is an outdoor festival and features contemporary performances and art installations around the district. It is held in December every year.
Held during Easter week, this festival is celebrated all over Panama. During this time you will see spectacular parades through the streets telling the biblical story. Depending on the town or city, the festival lasts up to five days, finishing on Good Friday.
Panama City has a tropical climate with the temperature varying between 27 °C and 33 °C. Typical to tropical climates, Panama City has two seasons, a dry one and a wet one. The dry season, considered summertime, lasts from January to March and the wet season is from April through December, with the wettest months being October and November where average rainfall is above 230 mm. Typically the other wet months see an average rainfall of between 80 and 150 mm with April and December falling on the low end. During the wet season there is not necessarily non-stop rain for days on end, but it usually rains at least once a day, usually a heavy shower or two.
|Avg Max||33.4 °C||34.2 °C||34.8 °C||35.4 °C||34.5 °C||33.8 °C||33.9 °C||33.9 °C||32.9 °C||32.6 °C||32.9 °C||33.3 °C|
|Avg Min||18.5 °C||18.4 °C||18.4 °C||19.5 °C||21.1 °C||21.3 °C||21 °C||20.9 °C||21 °C||20.8 °C||20.3 °C||19.2 °C|
|Rainfall||29.3 mm||10.1 mm||13.1 mm||64.7 mm||225.1 mm||235 mm||168.5 mm||219.9 mm||253.9 mm||330.7 mm||252.3 mm||104.6 mm|
Copa Airlines is the national carrier of Panama with its base at Tocumen International Airport (PTY) near the capital Panama City. Copa and others operate services to most major cities in North, Central and South America and direct flights from Amsterdam, Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt, and Istanbul.
About twenty airlines have flights to Panama City.
Air Panama offers flights to Panama at Albrook - Marcos Gelabert International Airport (PAC) from Medellin, Armenia (both Colombia) and San José, Costa Rica.
Panama Pacifico Airport (former Howard Air Base) receives Viva Colombia flights from Bogota and Medellin.
To/from the airport
Panamá Canal Railway Company has a scenic train route between Panama City and Colon.
Well maintained roads lead from Panama City mainly north towards Colon and west towards David and Costa Rica. The east, roads are not as good and note that you can not cross into Colombia.
There are several bus companies providing a daily bus service from San José, Costa Rica, to Panama City such as Tica Bus. There are also several companies serving either the route to Paso Canoas at the Costa Rican border (Panachif), or David - Panama (US$15.50). Other destinations include Colon, Santiago, Penonomé, El Valle and the western edge of the Darien Gap. Other routes are travelled less frequent and some buses are slow and unreliable.
There are connections between Panama City and the Pearl Islands, south of the city. Also Taboga island is connected by boats.
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.
One of the easiest ways to get around town is by taxi. Taxis do not have a meter. Fares are around $1.25 for travel within one zone, and the longest fares within the City at about $5. Keep in mind that 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 $.50/additional passenger, and there's also a small surcharge if you call a cab first. A taxi to or from the international airport typically costs $25 plus tolls if you take the Corredor Sur highway. A taxi to the Amador Causeway costs between $5 - $10. Cab drivers do not expect tips, and they may pick up additional passengers along the way.
The Panama Metro (El Metro de Panamá) started on March 5th, 2014. Line 1 has been planned with a mostly north-south route, from San Isidro to Albrook Bus Station and airport, and is 13.7 kilometres long. The Metro includes 14 stations, of which 8 are underground and 6 elevated. Line 1 takes about 23 minutes and cut travelling times dramatically across much of central Panama City.
Line 2 of The Panama Metro is under construction in the east direction and wiil connect with Tocumen International Airport. This line will open in December 2018.
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. Still, there are some private buses and drivers usually compete with each other for passengers. For this reason, those 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. Those buses are operated by some unions with some routes.
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 Routes (Corredor Norte and Corredor Sur) and the same prices for transfer. You can buy and recharge MetroBus card at many places around the city.
Being a relatively cosmopolitan city, Panama is home to a wide variety of cuisine - both native and imported. There are many blogs and websites that review eateries, some catering to upscale and others to more bargain-priced fare. Dine Out Panama has some well written reviews and a wide range of restaurants covered.
Visit "Calle 50" to encounter a multitude of great local restaurants, as well as some American favorites such as Hooters. On Calle 50, be sure to stop at Athen's Pizzeria. The pizza is made in a unique way compared to American pizzerias, and the food is fantastic. It's also very affordable, and the service staff is friendly.
Calle Uruguay is a neighborhood filled with bars and discos for wealthy Panamanians and foreigners.
By far the best value for your money in Panama City you get at Zulys Backpackers. They offer dorm rooms from US$10 and private rooms from US$13 per person (double occupancy). They are located in the El Cangrejo/banking district, the safest neighborhood in Panama City and close to bars (calle Uruguay area), restaurants, a 24 hour supermarket, a student travel agency (STA travel), shops, banks and cinemas. The hostel itself has become famous for its friendly and helpful staff which is always happy to give you heaps of information about Panama City, Panama, Central America and even Colombia. Another plus is their connection to reliable captains who offer the boat trip from Panama to Cartagena, Colombia. Zulys is also a good place to book a tour to the San Blas Islands.
More options including travelling ratings in Panama City.
|Baru Lodge||2st. El Carmen Qta. Baru H-7||Guesthouse||82|
|Hospedaje Casco Viejo||C/ 8a con Avenida A. Casa 8-31, San Felipe.||Hostel||79|
|Hostal Balboa Bay Panama||Ave. Balboa Calle 39 Bella Vista House 21||Hostel||-|
|Hostal de Clayton||Clayton Calle Guanabana||Hostel||-|
|Hostal Panama||Via Porras, Calle 62 Este||Guesthouse||-|
|Hotel Costa Inn||Av Perú y Calle 39 PO BOX 0816-01510||Hotel||76|
|Hotel Marparaiso- Panama||calle34 este y avenida justo arosemena Calle 34 Este||Hotel||80|
|Hotel Residencial Texas||Calle 31 Este entre Avenida Cuba y Avenida Peru||Hotel||75|
|Mamallena Backpackers||'Casa 7-62, Calle Primera, Perejil'||Hostel||78|
|Panama by Luis||Coco del Mar, Calle Benito Reyes Testa San Francisco||Hostel||-|
|Hostal Villa Michelle||Altos del golf||Guesthouse||75|
|La Jungla House Hostel||Calle 49 a Oeste El Cangrejo||Hostel||-|
|Luna's Castle Hostel||3-28 Calle 9na Casco Viejo||Hostel||86|
|Hostal Casa Margarita||Calle los Claveles con Calle 74 Casa 97 San Francisco||Guesthouse||-|
|Coco Red Inn||Camino Real De Betania||Apartment||-|
|Coco Green Inn||Calle Tumba Muerto Via Ricardo J Alfaro El Dorado||Guesthouse||-|
|Posada Agua Miel||Av. 4B Norte Casa 58 diagonal a la Casa de la Carn Urb. El Cangrejo||Guesthouse||-|
|Jamraka Homestay||Calabasa 1532B Balboa, Ancon||GUESTHOUSE||80|
|Hotel Santana Panama||Calle C Santa Ana entre calle 15 y 16||HOTEL||65|
|Monkey Lodge Panama||Carretera Madden Puente Roque||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hostal Casa Areka||Calle T. Duque y 55, frente al super 99 Paitilla||Guesthouse||84|
|2 Oceans Hostel Panama||El Dorado, Urbanizacion 2 Mares Calle Circunvala||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hostal Casa Rica||Calle Ricardo Arias Banking area||HOSTEL||-|
|Hostel Villa Vento Surf||Marbella, Calle 47, Casa 7||HOSTEL||88|
|Hotel Residencial Cibeles||Avenida Ecuador||HOTEL||-|
|Los Faroles Guesthouse||El Cangrejo Calle 49 Oeste Edificio Rina Apartamento 1||GUESTHOUSE||77|
|Hostal Aleman||Calle Anzio 56||HOSTEL||73|
|Bluegong Panama Comfort Hostel||#29 Calle Quinta Parque Lefevre||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Spanish in the City - Hostel||Calle Chagres, 533A Cerro Ancon||GUESTHOUSE||79|
|Lemon Inn Panama||Calle las Abejitas #39San Francisco Panama||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|La Corona Panama||Calle 49, Oeste El Cangrejo. Edificio RINA||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hostal entre 2 Aguas||North Avenue 4AB (Road F) hous||Hostel||-|
|Hostal Gemar||El Ingenio, Av. La paz, Calle 74||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|B&B Los Angeles Guesthouse||Los Angeles, E Street, Duplex No. 2 Panama City||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hotel y Pension Corona||Calle 36 este # 4, la exposicion Perejil||HOTEL||78|
|Magnola Inn Luxury||Calle 8va and Calle Boquete, Casco Viejo||HOTEL||-|
|Casa Albrook||Calle Morse 414B Urbanización Clayton||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Casa Anita B&B||Calle Sergio Gonzalez, 2117||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|PTY House||Boulevard El Dorado, calle 4ta, House L-26 (behind Do it Center)||HOSTEL||-|
|Panamericana Hostel||Calle 10 y Avenida A # 8-15||Hostel||-|
|Autograph@Lodge||C/Alberto Navarro 21 El Cangrejo||Hostel||-|
|La Terraza Verde||Pueblo Nuevo, Calle 9ª, Casa 44||HOSTEL||-|
|Los Mostros Hostel||Calle 54 Este, Casa 7, Marbella||HOSTEL||-|
|Waki House||Calle Angel rubio casa h29 waki house, nuevo repar||GUESTHOUSE||-|
Internet cafes can be found in cities and most major towns. Wifi is on the rise though with many hotels, restaurants and bars offering this services, especially in the major tourist areas like Panama City, Bocas del Toro and Boquete. Some mountainous or off the beaten track areas might not have any internet services at all.
See also International Telephone Calls
Panama's country code is 507. All cellular numbers start with the number 6 and have 8 digits. Land line phone numbers have 7 digits. 911 is the general emergency phone number.
Calls to the USA and Europe are between 4 and 10 cents a minute. The best way to make international calls from Panama is to buy prepaid telephone cards that are sold at every corner. The most popular is the TeleChip card. If you bring your cellphone, you can choose to buy a local simcard, instead of paying high charges for internet use through your home provider.
Correos y Telegrafos is the national postal company of Panama. It provides a wide range of services though you usually have to use the post offices for both sending and receiving mail and packages, including buying stamps. Post offices can be found in many cities and towns and are open from 6:30am to 5:45pm Monday to Friday and 7:00am to 5:00pm on Saturday. Domestic mail takes several days but to the USA and Europe for example it can take anywhere from 5 to over 10 days depending on the country. For sending larger packages, you might also consider using companies like FedEx, TNT, UPS or DHL, as they offer fast, reliable and competitively priced services as well.
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