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Panama City

Travel Guide Central America Panama Panama City

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Introduction

Panama City

Panama City

© All Rights Reserved Luis M

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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Neighbourhoods

  • El cangrejo/Area Bancaria (banking district) - Probably the best and safest neighbourhood in the whole of Central America. Packed with Bars and Restaurants (Via Argentina, Calle Uruguay, Via Veneto) and hotels like Continental and Marriott, this neighbourhood is forming the rich centre of Panama City. This is the area to stay if you want to be close to everything and if you enjoy walking around 24 hours without being scared of being mugged!
  • Calidonia and avenida central (shopping street) - This area could be considered as the poorer center of the city. It is a typical central american neighborhood packed with ridiculously cheap department stores. Also home of some low key and middle class hotels. Be aware of pickpockets during the day. It is not recommendable to walk around at night as it tends to get dangerous after 9:00pm.
  • Casco Viejo (old town) - UNESCO World Heritage Listed (see below).
  • El Chorillo, Curundu, San Miguelito - Stay out of these areas as violence is very common there and these neighbourhoods are the home of more than 50 different Pandillas (gangs) who are fighting their territory and are not afraid of mugging anyone!

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Sights and Activities

Casco Viejo

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.

  • Nearby Panama Canal
  • Plaza de la Cathedral

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Weather

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.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max33.4 °C34.2 °C34.8 °C35.4 °C34.5 °C33.8 °C33.9 °C33.9 °C32.9 °C32.6 °C32.9 °C33.3 °C
Avg Min18.5 °C18.4 °C18.4 °C19.5 °C21.1 °C21.3 °C21 °C20.9 °C21 °C20.8 °C20.3 °C19.2 °C
Rainfall29.3 mm10.1 mm13.1 mm64.7 mm225.1 mm235 mm168.5 mm219.9 mm253.9 mm330.7 mm252.3 mm104.6 mm
Rain Days2.91.31.44.9151614151720167.5

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Getting There

By Plane

International
Copa Airlines is the national carrier of Panama with its base at Tocumen International Airport (PTY), about 25 kilometres from the city. It operates flights to most major cities in Central and South America, including a few in the United States. Other destinations include Toronto, Montreal, Madrid.

KLM operates direct flights from Amsterdam while Air Caraibes flies to Guadeloupe and Martinique. Aero Perlas offers flights to about 15 domestic destinations, including Bocas del Toro and David. Air Panama offers about the same, but focuses on the San Blas Islands as well.

Domestic
Aero Perlas offers flights to about 15 domestic destinations, including Bocas del Toro and David. Air Panama offers about the same, but focuses on the San Blas Islands as well.

To/from the airport

  • Bus: several public bus routes link the airport and downtown Panama.
  • Taxi: taxis are available with pre-purchased fare.
  • Shuttle: some hotels offer shuttle service.
  • Car: rental cars are available at the airport.

By Train

Panamá Canal Railway Company has a scenic train route between Panama City and Colon.

By Bus

There are several bus companies providing a daily bus service from San José, Costa Rica, to Panama City such as Tica Bus or Panaline (US$25, 16 hours). There is also several companies serving either the route Paso Canoas (Costa Rican border) - Panama or David - Panama (US$13, 7 hours)! Other destinations include Colon, Boquette and the western edge of the Darien Gap. Other routes are travelled less frequent and some buses are slow and unrelibable.

By Boat

There is no official ferry service between Panama and Colombia. Nevertheless there are several private yachts offering that service frequently. But be careful there is some really bad, drunk and crazy guys out there. To make sure that you get a reliable skipper it is best to inquire in one of the backpacker hostels in Panama City, where you can find sailings to Cartagena via the San Blas Islands. There are connections between Panama City and the Pearl Islands, south of the city.

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Getting Around

By Car

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.

By Public Transport

The Panamá Metro is planned to start running March 5th, 2014. Line 1 has been planned with a mostly north-south route, from Los Andes to the Albrook bus station and airport, and is 13.7 kilometres long. The Metro includes 15 stations, of which 8 are underground, 6 elevated and 1 at surface level. The total line will take about 23 minutes to cover and will cut travelling times dramatically across much of central Panama City.

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. 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.

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Eat

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.

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Sleep

Budget

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 Cangrajo/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.

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Baru Lodge2st. El Carmen Qta. Baru H-7Guesthouse75
Hospedaje Casco ViejoC/ 8a con Avenida A. Casa 8-31, San Felipe.Hostel73
Hostal Balboa Bay PanamaAve. Balboa Calle 39 Bella Vista House 21Hostel73
Hostal de ClaytonClayton Calle GuanabanaHostel83
Hostal PanamaVia Porras, Calle 62 EsteGuesthouse-
Hotel Costa InnAv Perú y Calle 39 PO BOX 0816-01510Hotel75
Hotel Marparaiso- Panamacalle34 este y avenida justo arosemena Calle 34 EsteHotel73
Hotel Residencial TexasCalle 31 Este entre Avenida Cuba y Avenida PeruHotel74
Mamallena Backpackers'Casa 7-62, Calle Primera, Perejil'Hostel79
Panama by LuisCoco del Mar, Calle Benito Reyes Testa San FranciscoHostel77
Hostal Villa MichelleAltos del golfGuesthouse78
La Jungla House HostelCalle 49 a Oeste El CangrejoHostel-
Luna's Castle Hostel3-28 Calle 9na Casco ViejoHostel86
Hostal Casa MargaritaCalle los Claveles con Calle 74 Casa 97 San FranciscoGuesthouse84
Coco Red InnCamino Real De BetaniaApartment-
Coco Green InnCalle Tumba Muerto Via Ricardo J Alfaro El DoradoGuesthouse-
Posada Agua MielAv. 4B Norte Casa 58 diagonal a la Casa de la Carn Urb. El CangrejoGuesthouse-
Jamraka HomestayCalabasa 1532B Balboa, AnconGUESTHOUSE77
Hotel Santana PanamaCalle C Santa Ana entre calle 15 y 16HOTEL70
Monkey Lodge PanamaCarretera Madden Puente RoqueGUESTHOUSE-
Hostal Casa ArekaCalle T. Duque y 55, frente al super 99 PaitillaGuesthouse79
2 Oceans Hostel PanamaEl Dorado, Urbanizacion 2 Mares Calle CircunvalaGUESTHOUSE-
Hostal Casa RicaCalle Ricardo Arias Banking areaHOSTEL-
Hostel Villa Vento SurfMarbella, Calle 47, Casa 7HOSTEL86
Hotel Residencial CibelesAvenida EcuadorHOTEL73
Los Faroles GuesthouseEl Cangrejo Calle 49 Oeste Edificio Rina Apartamento 1GUESTHOUSE68
Hostal AlemanCalle Anzio 56HOSTEL82
Bluegong Panama Comfort Hostel#29 Calle Quinta Parque LefevreGUESTHOUSE-
Spanish in the City - HostelCalle Chagres, 533A Cerro AnconGUESTHOUSE63
Lemon Inn PanamaCalle las Abejitas #39San Francisco PanamaGUESTHOUSE-
La Corona PanamaCalle 49, Oeste El Cangrejo. Edificio RINAGUESTHOUSE-
Hostal entre 2 AguasNorth Avenue 4AB (Road F) housHostel-
Hostal GemarEl Ingenio, Av. La paz, Calle 74GUESTHOUSE-
B&B Los Angeles GuesthouseLos Angeles, E Street, Duplex No. 2 Panama CityGUESTHOUSE-
Hotel y Pension CoronaCalle 36 este # 4, la exposicion PerejilHOTEL72
Magnola Inn LuxuryCalle 8va and Calle Boquete, Casco ViejoHOTEL-
Casa AlbrookCalle Morse 414B Urbanización ClaytonGUESTHOUSE-
Casa Anita B&BCalle Sergio Gonzalez, 2117GUESTHOUSE-
PTY HouseBoulevard El Dorado, calle 4ta, House L-26 (behind Do it Center)HOSTEL-
Panamericana HostelCalle 10 y Avenida A # 8-15Hostel79
Autograph@LodgeC/Alberto Navarro 21 El CangrejoHostel-
La Terraza VerdePueblo Nuevo, Calle 9ª, Casa 44HOSTEL-
Los Mostros HostelCalle 54 Este, Casa 7, MarbellaHOSTEL-
Waki HouseCalle Angel rubio casa h29 waki house, nuevo reparGUESTHOUSE-

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Keep Connected

Internet

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.

Phone

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.

Post

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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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 8.994269
  • Longitude: -79.518792

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This is version 25. Last edited at 12:48 on May 12, 14 by Utrecht. 66 articles link to this page.

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