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Panama City

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Travel Guide Central America Panama Panama City



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.




  • 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!



Sights and Activities



© All Rights Reserved adosuarez

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



Events and Festivals


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.

Sobresaltos Dance Festival

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.

Semana Santa

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 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.



Getting There

By Plane

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 (BLB - former Howard Air Base) receives flights of Viva Colombia and Wingo from Bogota, Cali, Medellin and San José, Costa Rica.

Air Panama offers flights to about 20 domestic destinations, including Bocas del Toro and David. Copa Airlines only offers flights between Tocumen and David.

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 Car

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.

By Bus

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.

By Boat

There are connections between Panama City and the Pearl Islands, south of the city. Also Taboga island is connected by boats.



Getting Around

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.

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 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.

By Foot

Much of central Panama City and the Old Town can easily be explored on foot. Getting between the two requires a longer walk, but it's a pleasant one along the boulevard and water.

By Bike

There are several places to rent bikes, which makes for a faster and more convenient way to get between Old Town and the central new areas.




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 neighbourhood filled with bars and discos for wealthy Panamanians and foreigners.
Buy and try some Panamanian and Cuban coffee while you're here. It will be some of the best you've ever had.





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.


View our map of accommodation in Panama City or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)




Keep Connected


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.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 8.994269
  • Longitude: -79.518792

Accommodation in Panama City

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