Favorite thing: "The Tailor of Panama" was filmed in Panama including Panama City, Lake Gatun and Gamboa. It's an adapatation of a John Le Carre novel and stars Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush and Jamie Lee Curtis. I'm sure the Panama tourism bureau isn't promoting this film, while it does show some of Panama's beauty it also shows a bit of Panama's seediness. Watch for a very young Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) as Rush's son.
Favorite thing: We visited at the end of March, it was extremely hot and humid during the day but being near the water on a couple of the days made it feel slightly less hot. One of our guides said the rainy season would be starting soon and that would be a time when you wouldn't want to visit, he said that the roads sometimes flood and become unpassable.
Panama seems to still be a largely cash society, some of the restaurants did take credit cards as did some of the tours but mostly we paid cash for things including the Embera tour and most of our meals. The US dollar is the legal currency, sometimes you will get back Panamanian coins but they have equal value with the same US coins.
Credit cards, as noted in my warning tip, may be frozen for suspected fraud so be sure to contact your card issuer before leaving home to notify them that you are in Panama. We were able to use it for our hotel and meals at a couple of the mid range restaurants. Taxis are not set up for credit cards.
I used an ATM once, both ATMs that I checked were in hotel lobbies had a $3 fee, I felt a little safer using a hotel lobby ATM. At least there was no foreign transaction fee since I was taking out US dollars.
I live in Panama for 8 months for work and done some traveling around, and am tourist for the last 20 years. My experiences about this country...
GOOD, is relatively safe for most areas, nice ocean like San Blas-Kuna Yala for snorkel, I heard it is one of the best places in the world for diving. I liked the indigenous sites, like the emberas, where you visit the natives in their huts, eat their food and experience their culture. I am glad they want to preserve their traditional ways of living, although very poor conditions.
BAD, public transport requires a lot of patience, city is putting new modern buses, but the diablo rojos-what is called for old school buses that comes from the US and are transformed into public buses in Panama, it sucks!
Constant rip-off just because you are a tourist, they think you should pay more for taxis, entrances to sites, it is just expensive to travel here.
UGLY, the worst part of being an Asian in Panama is that they are constantly calling you china, even though you are not. They shout from streets, call you stupid, mock you... it is very racist people and never seen anything like it.
Resuming... Panama is not cheap, trashy in most areas, tourist rip-off, bad customer service, rude people and come here only if you have to.
Depending on How long you will be staying, you can find excelent options, you can browse in www.encuentra24.com but you will need to read spanish, If you write me direct I can contact you with a real state agent friend of mine. firstname.lastname@example.org
In Night Life there are lots of option, but you must visit ZONA VIVA in the causeway of Amador, when you are there, drop in Karaoke SHOT, thats my Bar, Im always there from thursday to saturday after 10pm.
Favorite thing: It is imperative that you learn Spanish if you plan to go out and about in the city. A few people know english and you might get by without spanish but if you at least learn some general terms, that would help you big time.
Favorite thing: The official unit of currency in Panama is the Balboa. It is equal to one US dollar. However it is only minted in coins less than one balboa. Above that value, US dollars are used as the means of exchange.
In case other people are having this same problem:
I tried to pull money out of 4 ATM's and I wasn't able to. It didn't deny me outright, but the machine went into this strange loop of me entering my information over and over until I gave up and hit cancel. I figured something was up with the local banks because I called my bank and there was no problem on their end. So I was on my way to a Scotiabank, to see if I could draw money out there when I came across a Western Union location with an international ATM that worked perfectly for me. (And it didn't charge me a fee!!) So if you have problems with the ATM's, find an American/Canadian bank or a Western Union!
Modern Panama is quite a sight from the distance... not beautiful but surely interesting. It's a long skyline of towering skyscrapers... which clearly serve you as a reminder that big money DOES transit through this city. If you were to be transported there without knowing where you were, you would think you are in a large US metropolis.
Fondest memory: Modern Panama is a center of finance, conventions, trade, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and casinos. Basically it's a place to have fun, but in particular it's a place to spend money.. loud, brash, fast. it's one of those places that I am happy to go and visit, and even happier to leave, heading towards quieter destinations. A must-see but a must-not-return, either.
The Casco Antiguo (also called Casco Viejo) is the most interesting sight in Panama city and should not be confused with Panama viejo. This is in another part of town and it's the place where the first city was founded. In Panama viejo you see only ruins, in casco viejo you see real people, living in real houses that were part of old colonial panama...
Fondest memory: The Casco Viejo is now part of the UNESCO Heritage Trust. It's located on Panama Bay and for quite some time it was regarded as a rough part of town... but it is no longer so and it is slowly being restored to its former glory. All the most important city's attractions are located in this historical areas, as well as most governmental buildings. Even the president has his house, there.
the best way to to to san blas is by plane you could try www.aeroperlas.com or www.flyairpanama.com.
to go to san blas take a plane to el porvenir or corazon de jesus were youll find severel hotels and cabans from there you can transporte yourself to all the islands in boat the cost for a round trip to el porvenir is 96.77 corazon de jesus 100.97 it takes 25 min to get there. you can ge to see indians and how they live. carribean side
i could also suggest isla contadora really nice place, you could go there on a boat or plane the boat ride will take 2 hours but its worth it you can see the dolfines very comen to see if you are luck you can get to see the whales(i can not explane the experience that it was for me to see whales in there natual habitat). in contadora oull find several hotels. from there you coul also pay for a boat trip to the other islands one of them is known as the survival island. theres also a nude beach if your interested.pacific side
in close proximity is also isla grande in colon carribean side. beautiful beaches you could take a boat ride around the island are just take a walk around and eat at the restuarants were youll eat there daily fished food. it is an 2 hour drive were you can contract a taxi driver to get you there.
isla coiba is also a graet option. you can get to veraguas by plane and catch a bus to take you to the port were youll have to cross over in a boat. or contract a taxi driver to take ou all the way to the port.
if you need more information contact me i could give you more detalles on were to go and how to move around
Known best for its canal, Panama has an overwhelming number and variety of birds.
Keel-billed Toucans, Chestnut-mandibled Toucans,Green and shining Honeycreepers, Blue Dacnis, Greenlets, Tanagers, Trogans, Masked Tityras, the list goes on and on.
Welcome to Panama, one of the friendliest places to observe birds in the Neotropics.
Favorite thing: The most busses in Panama look like this one on the picture. With many colors, exagerated lights for in the nights and mostly also loud dance music inside. The driver (or better the boss of the driver) just wants you to take his bus and not another, so it should just be the most atractive.
Isla Taboga is a small island just 20km offshore. A ferry will take you from Bolboa to the island in about 1-1,5 hour.
The island is an oase of peace if you compare it to the very buzzy life in Panama city! It's the island to rest out a bit, to swim and relax!
Favorite thing: The Panama canal is mostly the only thing people now about this central American country. There is of course much more to see, but I think it is a must to see those impressive ocean-going vessels go trough the huge canal locks. The Locks of Miraflores are a good place, just a little bit west of Panama city.