Panama City Travel Guide – Everything you need to know

Panama is an amazing country and its capital could not be any different.

Panama City brings together tradition and modernity and is an excellent destination for those who enjoy shopping, eating and cultural activities..

Although Panama City is considered by many just a transit point for other destinations in the country, such as San Blas, for example, we enjoyed the experience in the city and we suggest to you all to reserve some days to explore the city the proper way.

To organize your visit to Panama City, follow the unmissable travel tips on the post to make your trip the best possible. If you are planning to stay for 2 or 3 days, check the complete itinerary.

 

A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO PANAMA CITY

 

The country is officially named Republic of Panama an it is the southernmost country of Central America, located on the isthmus that connects North and South America, bordering Costa Rica to west; Colombia to the southeast; Caribbean, north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south.

The country’s population is made up of mestizos of Indians and Europeans and the most important economic sector is services, which covers financial activities and incomes obtained from the zone of free trade Colón, the l exploration and the registration of merchant vessels.

Explored and settled by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, Panama broke with the Spanish Empire in 1821 and joined the union of New Granada, Ecuador and Venezuela, under the name of the Republic of Gran Colombia.

When Gran Colombia was dissolved in 1831, the country and New Granada, which later became Colombia remained united. With US support, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, allowing the construction of Panama Canal by the United Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. After years of exploration, in 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of channel from the United States to Panama.

The revenue from the channel now represents a significant portion of the country ‘s GDP and Panama has the second largest economy in Central America, in addition to being the fastest growing economy and the largest consumer per capita of the region. And in 2013, the country ranked fifth among Latin American countries in the Human Development Index (HDI) and 59th position in the world. 

The country’s jungle is home to an abundance of plants, animals and tropical birds, many of them endemic to the area, so we know that the country is not abridged to Panama City and its modern buildings.

 

HELPFUL TRAVEL TIPS

 

The official language of Panama is Spanish, but it is possible to communicate in English in almost all locations.

The currency used in the country is the Balboa, which has the same cotation as the US dollar, so you don’t need to exchange your money if you have the green bills already.

Also, credit cards are well accepted in Panama City itself, scpecialu in tourist businesses and areas, while ATMs are pretty common all around the city.

No visa is required to enter the country, but you must present a valid passport. The outlets have the same format as the ones found in United States and the voltage is 127 Voltz.

 

HOW TO GET TO PANAMA CITY

 

Panama has become a practical and inexpensive destination for travelers from all around the world.

This is due to the fact that Copa Airlines and Avianca started operating numerous flights to the country, departing from many different countries and with great prices!

If you are also traveling to other countries in South or Central America, count on the flights of Avianca and also VivaColombia.

Oh, to get out of the airport choose the official táxi or private transfesr, because the distance is long and and it is extremely inadvisable to take the bus route. Click here to book your transfer to the center.

 

BEST TIME TO VISIT PANAMA CITY

 

The climate of Panama City is tropical and that means that temperatures are high all year long with average temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. Yes, it’s very, very hot!

In the city, the rainfall average is very, but there is a period considered dry, which is from December to April, but keep in mind you migh still find some rain there.

Thus, there is no bad time to take a trip to Panama!

 

HOW LONG SHOULD I STAY IN PANAMA CITY

 

Panama City offers many tourist attractions and is much, much more than “just the Panama Canal.”

But it is also a compact city and can be visited in 2 or 3 days. To check out the full script 2 to 3 days click here.

But, remember that Panama is an incredible destination and it certainly worth a compete itinerary. So, you should consider visiting Colón, San Blas , Boquete and more!

If you want to visit other destinations in Panama, separate at least 10 to 12 days to get to know the most amazing natural beauty of the country.

 

WHERE TO STAY IN PANAMA CITY

 

Panama City has amazing hotels at relatively cheap prices and you’ll have no trouble finding excellent choices there.

The best areas to stay in the city are: Balboa Boulevard and its surroundings, on the outskirts of the shopping Multiplaza Pacific , Casco Viejo or Via Spaña.  If your choice of hotel, hostel or apartment is not in these regions, please rethink.

+ Check here and check the post about the best hotels in Panama City, with options to suit all budgets!

Anyway, please avoid Hostel Mamallena, because the rooms are absolutely terrible and the service even worse🙁

 

GETTING AROUND IN PANAMA CITY

 

Getting around in Panama City is actually pretty easy, since the public transportation has been renewd in the last years with the new subway system and new buses.

It is very cheap to getting around since the buses fares costs around $ 0,35 and one of the most significant benefits of the trip to Panama City is that using taxis and ubers is incredibly affordable and the most effective way to get around the city.

 

Taxis in Panama City

Not only tourists but also local use taxis to get around the capital, as the heat is intense and the public transport is not very well connected. Besides the taxi, an excellent alternative is Uber, which has even lower rates and make the joy of budget visitors.

Taxis are everywhere and you do not need to reach out to ask for one because they will be always around askinf if you need to go somewhere.

But remember, before entering the car, tell the driver where you want to go and negotiate the price of the ride before starting the race to avoid problems and overpriced itineraried. Know that the rides costs around 2-10 dollars, except for the Panama Canal, which costs about 15 to 20 dollars each way.

 

Buses in Panama City

The bus is a very cheap way to get around in Panama City, although not very comfortable.

There are two types of buses, Metrobus, modern and the ones known as diablos rojos, one of the traditional symbols of Panamanian capital.

The Metrobus , although safe and modern, accepts no cash, and the tickets are paid only through a card called tarjetas, which can be bought by tourists in the tourist points around the city.

Although diablos rojos are old buses with super colorful paintings, they do accept cash.  If you want an authentic experience, take the ride in a diablo rojo and it can be an interesting adventure🙂

 

WHAT TO DO IN PANAMA CITY

 

There is a lot to do and see in Panama City. Check the list of the best attractions below.

 

Panama Viejo Ruins

This is an amazing tour for those who value historical knowledge of the places visited, because in Panama Viejo ruins you will get to know the country’s history and also the a lot of information about Panama City development.

The Panama Viejo represents the remains of the old Panama City, the former Panamanian capital. It is located on the outskirts of Panama City and along with Panama’s Historic District, represents a UNESCO World Heritage since 1997 and its covered area was increased in 2003.

Panama City was founded back in 1519 and in 1671 was attacked by pirates and for security reasons the evacuation of the city and the explosion of gunpowder deposits was ordered, which caused a huge fire, leaving the place in ruins, which currently can be visited.

The highlight of the ruins is the Cathedral with its imposing tower, which offers a beautiful view of the green area of the region. The attraction open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 to 16:30 and the best way to get there is by taxi and reference points are: Via Cincuentenario – Visitor Center, at side of her Estatua Morelos.

# If you do not care so much about the historical aspect of the city, skip this attraction and go straight to the Panama Canal!

 

Panama Canal

The iconic Panama Canal is ranked among the greateste works of humanity and indeed is a marvel of modern engineering.

Despite being an attraction somewhat different from most of the tourist attractions that you are used to see in your travels, it is worth visiting the canal and be surprised with the complex that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The Canal was built to allow ships to do the crossing between two oceans without having to make the long and expensive journey to the southern corner of the American continent.

Given this information, you can measure the importance of this channel for the world trade industry. The economy of fuel and travel time provided by the complex services are extremely attractive and for this reason the movement of ships there is very intense.

There are three different sets of locks in the comples, the Miraflores Lake Gatun and Pedro Miguel, but the most visited by tourists is the Miraflores, which is located in Panama City. On site, you can walk around the gazebo with privileged view to the crossing area and visit the museum.

In addition to the points for observation of vessels, there is also a restaurant where you can have snacks, a proper meal or even drinks while you admire the ships crossing.

The best way to get there is by taxi because the Miraflores Locks is a little out of the downtown area and the entrance costs $ 10 entitled to enter the museum, explanatory film and observation. Alternatively, you can hire a specialized tour to take you there by clicking here.

After visiting Panamal Canal, go to Causeway Amador, one of the most charming areas of the city.

 

Causeway Amador

 

The Causeway Amador is such an incredible pace and one of the areas we like the most in Panama City, as it invites for a nice walk and outdoor activities.

Causeway is actually an avenue built with the remaining stones of the construction of the Panama Canal, which connects the central part of the city to the 3 small islands with some great restaurants, a few shops and a marina.

The best idea is to take a taxi to the point of bike rentals, which is right next to the Bio Museum and pick up your bike to take a wonderful tour down the avenue.

Bio Museum

While cycling around Causeway Amador, be sure to visit the Bio Museum, which has a beautiful metal structure and is a must do in Panama City,.

A multicolored metallic structure impressively stands on a former American military area in the entrance of Panama Canal was designed by the Canadian architect Frank Gehry.

The museum aims to draw attention to the biodiversity conservation and its interior surprises for the architecture and the exhibitions.

Even if you have no intention to get in, it is worth passing in front of the museum to admire its beautiful structure. Admission costs $22 for adults and 11 for students.rom there, take a taxi to dinner at an amazing restaurant in town. Check here the check list of the best restaurants in town.

 

Casco Viejo – Old Town

The Casco Viejo or Casco Antiguo is considered the “second city”, which was built after the first village was completely looted and destroyed by pirates in 1671 in Panama Viejo region and whose ruins can be visited by tourists.

The Casco Viejo is strategically located in an overlooking the sea area and with specific geography that allowed the construction of walls to protect against the invasions of pirates throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.

Over decades, the city expanded to other areas because the attacks cessed. Thus, the Casco Viejo has become a big slum in 97, when the site was declared World Heritage by UNESCO, the process of revitalization and began.

On Casco Viejo, you will find nice restaurants, shops, museums and many tourist attractions such as churches, squares and museums, so reserve at least a few hours to explore the region calmly and enjoy the natural beauty of stoned streets and historic houses.

You can not miss to visit the Old Convent of Santo Domingo, the church of San José, the Cathedral which is closed for renovation, El Arco Chato and the Interoceanic Canal Museum, which shows the history of the Panama Canal. Alternatively, you can hire a full guided tour in Casco Viejo.

 

Cinta Costera

The Cinta Costera is actually a complex park that encompasses a promenade, parks and an extensive boardwalk, perfect for outdoor activities.

This is a recent city revitalization project and renewed the outskirts of Balboa Avenue, providing new features and attractions to this area of ​​maritime waterfront in the capital.

Our suggestion is to rent a bike or even skates to enjoy the place and admire the amazing skyline of Panama City, which is considered the “Dubai of the Americas” due to the incredible buildings.

Ah, between Casco Viejo and the Cinta Costera, you will pass by the Seafood Market , one of the traditional and popular markets in the city, which is worth a visit!

After enjoying Cinta Costera, take a taxi or walk to Via Spaña an interesting area of ​​the city. If you prefer, you can go to the mall for some shopping!

 

Via Spaña or Shopping

Via España is a very traditional commercial area of ​​the city and has many amazing stores.

However, you can find the same stores in several malls in the city, so you can consider whether it’s worth exploring the region on the heat or go for the convenience of a mall.

If you go to Via Spaña, it is worth visiting on Calle Uruguay for good shopping, because there will find products at attractive prices. There, you will find outlet of Nike , the sportswear outlet situated in the square of the store Collins, opposite the supermarket Rey, Outlet RebajaModas with multi options, Plaza Concordia, with several mobile and electronics accessories and the store E- vision situated on the opposite side of Plaza Concordia, offering electronics and photography at a good price.

If you prefer shopping, you can head to Albrook Mall, Multicentro or the sophisticated SOHO and Multiplaza.

 

Ancon Hill

If, like us, you are not interested in shopping in Panama City, head to an incredible natual attraction, The Ancon Hill.

The Ancon is an urban hill at about 200m high, which presents its visitors with one of the best views of the Panama City 🙂

Currently, the place is occupied by the Panamanian military, but was formerly occupied by military US. Do not worry, because it is a safe area with an amazing fauna and flora.

To get there, the best option is to pick a taxi because the walk to the top of the hill is strenuous, especially under heat and sun. Alternatively, you can hire a tour to visit the hill with a guide.

 

San Blas

In our opinion, traveling to Panama and not visiting San Blas is a true heresy because the archipelago is simply a paradise on earth!

Located less than 3 hours from Panama City, San Blas is a the kind of destination that can not be put out of your trip itinerary. To check out all the posts published on the destination click here.

You can choose to spend just one day in day trip adventure or take a few days to explore these sensational Caribbean islands.

We were super bold and scheduled a 4 nights and 5 days trip to San Blas and we definately don’t regret ir. However, the average stay for tourists is just 1 or 2 nights at the maximum, since the structure of the islands is quite precarious.

Oh, if you prefer, you can extend your trip and make super cool tours such as the Tourist Cruise on Lake Gatun or Rainforest Gamboa.

 

SHOP OUR FAVORITE PANAMA INSPIRED LOOKS!

 

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Lara Nogueira

More about Lara Nogueira

Lara founded "Finding New Paths" as a platform to share inspiration from her travels and to inspire others to experience our world in an unique way. She now divides her time between studying a Masters ( International Tax Law ) in Sweden and her adventures abroad!

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