Panama City Travel Guide

The most cosmopolitan and multicultural capital in Central America.

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All the info to prepare your trip to Panama City. How to get in, maps, activities...
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Panama City, the dynamic metropolis Central America’s capital is located at the crossroads of two oceans and two continents.Everywhere here seems stuck in huge traffic jams, construction sites all around with about 30 skyscrapers under construction offering the impression of a small “New-York” skyline.

Panama City is a very multicultural place and is the most cosmopolitan capital in Central America, with large populations from many different parts of the world. Spanish is spoken by most, and many speak some form of English.

Customer service is slowly improving, and surprisingly dismal in hotels. However, on the streets Panamanians are for the most part extremely friendly and helpful and would love to give you some advice.

There’s great shopping, from high-end stores in the malls around Paitilla and in the banking district around Via Espana, to veritable bargains around La Central (Central Avenue, now turned into a pedestrian walkway) and the Los Pueblos outdoor mall. You can find many ethnic stores (mostly Chinese and Indian), in certain parts of the City.

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By plane

Tocumen Internation Airport (PTY)

Tocumen International Airport (IATA: PTY) is just outside Panama City (it’s part of the San Miguelito district, which has been incorporated as a separate city but essentially exists as part of Panama City).

The airport is a hub for Copa Airlines which operates flights to/from various cities in the Caribbean, North, Central & South America. In the U.S. they only serve Boston, Chicago, Ft Lauderdale, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, Orlando, Tampa and Washington-Dulles. Additional flights to other U.S. cities are operated by United on a codeshare basis.

In addition to Copa Airlines other airlines that fly to Tocumen are:

within Panama Air Panama offers flights to/from both Tocumen and Albrook. Copa only operates international flights out of Panama to the Americas.

  • Central America Avianca (formerly Lacsa & Taca).
  • USA: American Airlines (Miami, Dallas-Ft Worth), Delta (Atlanta), United (Newark, Houston), Spirit (Ft Lauderdale).
  • South America: Copa Colombia (formerly AeroRepublica), Avianca, Avior (Barcelona, Venezuela); SBA (Caracas), TAME (Guayaquil), Venezolana (Maracaibo)
  • Canada: Air Canada, Air Transat, CanJet, Sunwing;Caribbean: Aruba, Cayman Airways
  • India: Air India – in late 2014
  • Europe: Air France (Paris), Condor (Frankfurt), Iberia (Madrid), KLM (Amsterdam),

Getting to the city center from Tocumen is unfortunately not easy. Taxis cost $30, which can be reduced to $10 if you can find two other people to share with. Depending on traffic, the route and the hour of the day the trip can take between 20 minutes to well over an hour.

If you don’t want to pay for a taxi, there are modern, air-conditioned buses which cost $1.25 to get to the city center from the highway by the airport, but as of July 2013, the buses only accept fare cards, not cash, and in July 2013, there was still no place to buy fare cards in the airport. However, the bus is usually full of people going to and from the airport, so you might be able to find someone willing to pay your fare with their card and you can pay them back in cash.

Take the bus going to Albrook, from the bus stop that is across the street, farther from the airport, by the billboards. You can find the stop by following cars, airport employees, or a worn dirt footpath out of the parking lot, but the general direction is to the right after you exit the terminal. It’s no more than a 5-minute walk.

Ride the bus all the way to Albrook, which seems to take about 2 hours regardless of the time of day, and you can buy a fare card at the Albrook transit center once you get there. There is a $2 fee for the card.

As well as the Metrobus buses mentioned above there are still independent buses serving the route between the airport and Albrook bus station. These buses cost the same $1.25, but take cash. Watch and listen for ‘Terminal’, meaning Albrook. These are not diablo rojo style buses, but older long distance type buses.

The diablo rojo red devil buses (or chiva buses) no longer serve the airport, although they are still common in the city.

Gelabert/Albrook Domestic Airport (PAC)

Domestic flights leave out of Gelabert/Albrook Airport (IATA: PAC) ICAO/MPMG, a former US military airfield (Albrook Air Force Base). Domestic airlines are safe, and many fly very modern small jet aircraft.

There are daily flights to every major town and city in the country. The major carrier here is AirPanama. (Aeroperlas regrets to announce the decision to cease operations in Panama as of this 29th of February of 2012).

Panama Pacifico International Airport (BLB)

There is a now third airport in Panama City, Panamá Pacifico (BLB), formally Howard Wilson US Air Base. It is located about a 20minute drive (US$15~ taxi) from the city center – you cross over the Panama Canal en route.

It has been newly opened to the public, and currently there are only two airlines operating from it – Veca Airlines fly to/from San Salvador twice weekly (Mondays and Fridays), and Viva Colombia fly to Bogotá (daily) and Medellin (4x weekly). These flights may not show up on the airfare search engines, it is best to check the companies’ individual websites.

Viva Colombia currently offer fares to/from Colombia for under US$100 (if you book a bit in advance), much cheaper than other options. Be aware that there is not much in the airport as of January 2015 since it has been newly converted to civilian use – there are no shops, no currency exchange, no wifi, nowhere to buy food or drinks, so consider this before travelling out.

By train

There’s a once daily train service between Panama City and Colón operated by the Panama Canal Railway Co along the Panama Canal. The train goes out to Colon in the morning and return to Panama City in the late afternoon. It’s mostly a freight train, but it has a very nice passenger car.

The train ride offers excellent views of the Panama Canal and the tropical rain forest. Since the train leaves early in the morning and returns in late afternoon, you may want to consider whether you want to spend the whole day in Colon, which has an unsavory reputation or take a bus back to Panama City which runs much frequently.

Make sure you have arranged for some transportation upon the return of the train to Panama City. Evidently, some taxi drivers take advantage of the tourists who have been dropped off at the train station without pre-arranged transportation.

By car

Most tourists will arrive via the international airport at Tocumen, where most of the major international rental car agencies have offices in the terminal.

The most important thing to know is that Tocumen does not have a dedicated “rental car return” area that is expressly signed and marked as such, as at most international airports. Instead, the first section of the curb on the right in front of the terminal is the rental car area even though it is not expressly signed as such.

This is where you will be taken to do the initial walkthrough on the vehicle you are renting, and this is where you are expected to return the vehicle at the end of your visit.
The main route from the airport to Panama City is via the Corridor Sur tollway. It is a well-designed, well-maintained controlled-access road that runs about 20 km (12 mi) from Tocumen to Panama City.

Corridor Sur (and its counterpart, Corridor Norte) both use a system of RFID electronic cards for payment on which you must deposit cash in advance, then tap the card against a panel with blue LED lights on the side of the toll booth to open the toll gate. Most rental car agencies can sell you a toll road card (although it may not be loaded with enough cash, which they will warn you about) or you can buy one at the first toll plaza about a mile from the airport at Ciudad Radial.

Any lane that is marked as a “RECARGA” lane is one that is supposed to be staffed with a human cashier who can credit more value to the card. Panama toll plazas block closed lanes only with cones or gates at the plaza itself and don’t properly cone off closed lanes well in advance. Expect wild last-minute lane switching, especially at night, as drivers swerve into lanes that are open. Also look out for cashiers trying to scam you if they think you are a tourist (see the “Stay safe” section below).

The western end of the tollway passes through a tunnel and then connects to a flyover which connects to the Cinta Costera/Avenida Balboa corridor which runs through the city.

Corridor Norte is incomplete and is currently difficult to reach from Tocumen. It also uses a different card than Corridor Sur, meaning that most Panama City drivers have to maintain deposits on two cards to get around the city. After years of delays, the eastern extension of Corridor Norte is finally under construction.

It will eventually connect to Panama Highway 1 about 2 km (1.2 mi) north of Tocumen. Corridor Norte is far less scenic than its southern counterpart; its primary advantage, when finished, is that it is a less congested route for bypassing Panama City in order to reach the Panama Canal or destinations beyond.

By bus

Panama City has one of the most modern Bus Terminals in all of Latin America. It is the main Hub and well organized. The terminal is next to the Albrook airport (the domestic terminal) and it is very easy to find a bus here.

All of the international buses (“Tica buses” too) start and end in this terminal. Arrivals are usually on the top floor and you can transfer to city buses on the lower level.

Bus schedules can be found online.

The bus to Gamboa is located in a section of the bus terminal separate from most of the other buses. Make sure you are in the correct section for your destination by asking before you go through the turnstiles. If you buy a ticket in the main terminal, they will tell you which gate the bus is leaving from. Whenever leaving the terminal by bus, you will be required to a pay a ten cent exit fee to go through the turnstiles. The fee is paid through a rechargeable card that can be purchased in the terminal for $2.00 plus one dollar to be loaded on the card.

A passport, or some sort of acceptable identification is required to purchase the card. There seemed to be no problem passing the card back so multiple travelers could pass through the turnstiles on one card. But, whether this is officially approved is unknown. Alternately, it may be possible to pay another traveler ten cents for the use of their card, thus avoiding the need to purchase the rechargeable card. The ten cent fee is not collected upon arrival at the station by bus.

An almost unbelievably big mall adjacent to the bus terminal offers practically all that a traveler may want: showers, cinemas and plenty of shopping and fast food restaurants, etc. [5] Restrooms in the mall and bus station charge .25 cents. In the mall, there are sometimes restroom attendants who will make change. However, in the bus station, a quarter is usually required.

Bus Lines
  • Tica Bus
  • Easy Ride Panama shuttle
  • Expreso Panama

By Ferry from Colombia

A ferry now runs twice a week from Cartagena, Colombia to Colón, a 45minute bus or taxi from Panama City. The crossing takes approximately 17hours, and a seat costs US$113, while a bunkbed is US$180 – check the ferry website for more info.

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One of the easiest ways to get around town is by taxi. Taxis do not have a meter. Fares are set by the authorities, and are determined based on what section of the city you are starting at and what section of the city you are going to, with a surcharge for every additional person.

The cab driver should have a table (which may include a map) that will show the costs for the fare, and they are required to show it to you if you ask. 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 $.40 surcharge if you call a cab (at least these were the prices a few years ago).

A taxi to or from the international airport typically costs $25 plus tolls if you take the Corredor Sur highway. Taxi fare from Tocumen international airport to Panama City is $30.00. 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 rule is that unless there’s little to no deviation from the first person’s route, the first person picked up is the first person dropped off, otherwise they will ask if it’s ok to pick up the other fare. Cabs can also be rented for the day, and the fares again are set (probably around $20-$25). In this case, they will expect a little extra (tip and/or lunch).


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. It is not advised to use buses during these hours.

The city has begun replacing the flamboyant “red devils” with modern, air-conditioned city buses (“MetroBus,” look for the orange sign to find stops), but the red devils are still around. 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.


As of April, 2014, there is a new Metro (subway) system in operation. It is a clean and economical way to travel. There is currently an extensive police presence (April 2014) at the Metro stations and on the trains.

Safety appears good, but it is unknown if the heavy police presence will last past the implementation phase of the Metro. As on all public transit, be aware of pickpockets, especially when leaving and boarding crowded conveyances.

A rechargeable Metro fare cards can be purchased from automated machines in the stations for $2.00. The card is “loaded” with additional money to pay the fare. Fare cards purchased in the Metro station can also be used on the Metro buses. However, fare cards purchased in the Metro stations cannot be used to pay the exit fee (ten cents which can only be paid by card) when leaving the international bus station by bus. However, rechargeable fare cards purchased in the international bus station can be used for all three purposes.

The Metro travels from the Albrook Mall/International Bus Station, through Panama City, to the town of Los Andes, a distance of about eight miles. Most of the route of the Metro is away from the beach and tourist areas. The Cinco de Mayo stop is closest to Casco Antiguo and the fish market. However, a walk through a somewhat questionable area and the crossing of a busy highway is required.

It is probably best to wait to cross the highway with a group of Panamanians who are making the same crossing. Avoid the densely packed neighborhood adjacent to Casco Antiguo by walking along the nicely landscaped open area next to the ocean. Walking in this area is best avoided at night.

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  • Panama Canal. An absolute must if you’re in Panama City. The easiest and cheapest way is to go to the Miraflores locks, watch the huge boats go by and visit its very modern and informative visitor’s center with a museum, a movie theater and a fancy restaurant (USD25 for the lunch buffet). A one way cab to Miraflores locks should cost around 6 USD. By metrobus from Albrock, every hour, for $0.25, from 6:00am to 5:00pm. Last bus leaves Miraflores at 5:00pm.You can also take a luxury train along the canal to Colón, or obviously take a boat! Prices Miraflores locks and museum: adults $15, students $10.
  • Casco Viejo. Casco Viejo is the historic part of town, where you will find many colonial style government buildings, cathedrals and museums including a Canal Museum. It is currently under massive renovation, with crumbling shacks next to beautifully restored colonial buildings. There are a number of accommodation options in Casco ranging from hostel pricing up to very expensive colonial suites. The area hosts a large number of eclectic events ranging from operas and musicals at the national theatre to block parties and fashion catwalks in the open plazas. Casco Viejo also offers some of the finest dining options in Panama City.
  • Panama Viejo. The site of the ruins of the original city of Panama that was sacked by the pirate Henry Morgan in the 1600s. The city was later moved to Casco Viejo. Today Panama Viejo is home to one of Panama’s national parks with the buildings left in unrestored states. It is well worth the visit but read the safety warnings and ask park employees about where it is safe to visit as the park is surrounded outside by one of the city’s dangerous areas.
  • Amador Causeway. The Amador Causeway connects the three islands to the mainland. From the causeway, there is a lovely view of Panama City, and the Puente de las Americas. Many Panamanians like to spend their weekends jogging, riding a bicycle or roller-blading down the causeway, or having a meal or drinks in one of the many restaurants and bars on the islands. Bikes are available to rent in many different varieties including recumbents and multi-person bicycles, starting at about $3.50 per hour. From the causeway you can also arrange day trips by ferry to one of the surrounding islands with boats leaving early in the morning.
  • Mi Pueblitos. The pretty deserted museum (entrance free) on the slopes of Cerro Ancon showcases the different ethnicities of Panama. There are several artisans producing curios. The outdoor museum is close in proximity to El Chorrillo so be very careful about straying outside of boundaries or into unsupervised areas. Upon last visit it was not recommended to climb Cerro Ancon.
  • Biomuseo (Biodiversity Museum: Panama Bridge of Life), Building 136, Amador Causeway Apartado 0843-02931, Panama, ☎ 830 – 6700. The Biodiversity Museum: Panama Bridge of Life (also known as Biomuseo) is located on the Amador Causeway in Panama City, Panama. It was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. This is Gehry’s first design for Latin America.
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  • Aerial View of the Canal, Skydive, etc. The Canal itself is best seen via an aerial view through the local operator and is the central marvel and spectacle of Panama city. Even stunt and trick flights with veteran air force pilots and skydives are available over the marvel of engineering, to appreciate the entire scale of and ambition behind it.
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  • Spanish Panama Spanish language school, Via Argentina, Ed. Americana #1A, El Cangrejo, Panama City (Ed Americana, #1A), ☎ 507 213-3121. 8:30am-8:30pm.. Learn Spanish in Panama City’s central and expat friendly neighborhood at Spanish Panama. Spanish language immersion programs include airport pickup, tours and ecotourism, cultural activities, Spanish classes, and salsa dance classes. Business Spanish for Panama is also offered. Spanish Panama Spanish school, Via Argentina, Ed. Americana #1A, ☎ (#507) 213-3121, . min $300/week. min $300/week..
  • Casco Antiguo Spanish School, Avenida A and Calle 4, ☎ 507 838 5592. 8A.M to 8 P.m.. Casco Antiguo Spanish School’s 1 on 1 and small group Spanish classes provide real world language skills, allowing you to put down the textbook and experience Panama first-hand. The teachers have a passion for education and make learning Spanish fun. Let Casco Antiguo Spanish School be your guide to Panama, and live the experience of a lifetime! or “Survival Spanish” Course for Expats, Crash Course for Travels, private lessons, Intensive Courses, and business Spanish. Whether you’re visiting, working, or retiring in Panama, Casco Antiguo Spanish School can help you learn Spanish. $195/week.
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  • Caledonia area has plenty of street markets.
  • Shopping Mall has good value and high quality clothes and more as well as a cinema, arcade, and bowling alley. Right next to the Albrook bus terminal
  • MultiPlaza Mall upscale mall, high prices, better quality products. It has an adjacent Marriott Courtyard hotel.
  • MultiCentro Mall upscale mall, not as popular as MultiPlaza and Albrook
  • Metro Mall a large indoor mall and the newest in Panama City. It has an adjacent Marriott Courtyard hotel.
  • Avenida Central very local, very cheap shopping street. Full of budget department stores and shops. Lots of locals.
  • Los Pueblos Mall the first mall built in the city. very local, very cheap, and outdoor. It’s across the main street from Metro Mall but is inaccessible on foot.


High quality Panamanian crafts can also be purchased from shops in the Centro de Artesanias in Balboa neighborhood or in the shops of Mi Pueblitos. Indian stores on every major shopping district (El Dorado mall and surroundings, Los Pueblos, and along Via Espana) also sell many Panamanian souvenirs. Gran Morrison is also a place to find many handicrafts.

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There’s several cafes along Via Argentina. The Spanish sandwich shops offer excellent sandwiches, coffee, and churros.

  • Try Manolo’s Churreria (don’t miss the churros rellenos, pastries filled with dulce de leche and rolled in sugar) or Del Prado. Sandwiches should cost from $3-$5.
  • Also on Via Argentina is El Trapiche, serving traditional Panamanian food for under $12/person. They serve excellent breakfast food. Niko’s Cafe has several locations around the City. Owned by Greeks, they are all open 24 hours and the have a good selection of sandwiches and hot food served all day long.
  • Don Lee is a panamanian chain serve Chinese fast food, and definitely worth a try. There’s an abundance of Chinese restaurants, and some can be very affordable. Try some around El Dorado, they should be pretty authentic.
  • Doraditos Asados in Chanis. An extremely popular panamanian restaurant that’s always full and can take an infuriating amount of time to order. That said it’s likely always filled by locals because the prices are cheap and the food is extremely good. In particular the rotisserie chicken (a full one costs about $5) is a local favorite with two types of chimichurri to choose from.
  • Fish market outside of Casco Viejo. Entering Casco Viejo there’s the main fish market for the city exists and has recently undergone some refurbishing. There are some restaurants upstairs where the fish is obviously very fresh and the prices are cheap.
  • Restaurante Poli (Corner of 26th and Avenida Sur) A very crowded, noisy restaurant, mainly for single males who eat solid Panamanian food and drink cheap bottles of Bilbao beer with ice while sitting in a pair of darkened rooms filled with revelers. Do not miss the delicious fish soups and the bistec picado, both for under 2 USD each. In addition, the Garlic Chicken is perfectly baked and in a light garlic sauce… The Bistec Entomallado is also a Panamanian speciality and perfectly cooked and sauteed. Prices seem average at first but the portions are quite large- an order of fried rice ($7.50) easily feeds 2 to 3 people, and is quite tasty. Would recommend paired with wonton fries, and lots of whatever savory sauce looks like soy sauce but isn’t (only mildy salty). The place can be difficult to find – It’s Avenida Sur Nr. 2 (Cuba) and a short talk from the 5 de Mayo subway station.


  • Forever Yogurt Cafes in Casco Antiguo and Coste del este (100% certified kosher products only) has gained quick popularity among Panamanians that never knew FROYO could be so good and ex-pats that were longing for real FROYO finally in Panama.
  • This Chicago based franchise has taken the concept of frozen yogurt and made it an art because of the highest quality of their frozen yogurt (imported frozen, not a powder) and the endless number of toppings that are also all imported from the USA including many from premiere chocolatiers and specialty bakeries. They raise the benchmark on quality, variety and customer service even by USA standards.
  • The self-serve/pay by weight concept makes it affordable for all as a snack or a meal.
  • The coffee is equally as great with trained baristas serving some of Panama’s best coffee. Certified kosher parve/dairy free sorbet, No-sugar added yogurt and toppings, and careful attention to dietary labeling make it the perfect haven for all to beat the heat or get out of the rain and enjoy as a snack or a healthy meal. Open 10AM-11PM daily.
  • Lung Fung on Transistmica Avenue serves some of the best Chinese food in the City. It will be a different experience. Try dim sum any day of the week (expect long lines on weekends), although it has lost some of its charm now that the wait staff speaks such good Spanish instead of only Cantonese or Haka.
  • Marbella is a very old school Panamanian restaurant on Balboa Avenue. It’s a Spanish place specializing in seafood. Excellent paella and overall good seafood. Prices are stuck in 1984, so a hearty plate of paella will set you back $13, and there’s only one item with a higher price on the menu.
  • Van Gogh – This nice little Italian restaurant is right near the Via Venteo Casino. It has great food, great service, and a great atmosphere. It is one of the best Italian restaurants in Panama City.


  • Manolo Caracol is an excellent restaurant in the Casco Viejo that serves tapas. Each day the chef invents a new fixed menu with seasonal ingredients. Meals are $30 without drinks.
  • De Tierra is another excellent restaurant in the Casco Viejo. The restaurant is primarily a steak house but has some very appealing appetizers also.
  • Ten Bistro Calle 50 and in Multiplaza Mall is another excellent choice serving contemporary cuisine.
  • Casa Del Marisco Seafood restaurant located in the banking area walking distance away from the Marriott. The food here is quite good but also pricey.
  • Sake located on the ground floor of Torres de las Americas office tower by Punta Pacifica hospital, is Panama City’s hottest sushi restaurant. Probably the best sushi in the city but the city is not known for its sushi. If you’re only here for a short while and not desperate for a sushi fix, there are better options for the price.
  • Miraflores Restaurant is situated at the top of Miraflores Visitor Center. The terrace section overlooks the Panama Canal and tables are most likely reserved in advance. Buffet is around $30 without drinks. It is open from 10 AM to 10:30 PM (much after the visitor center is closed), so if you need to see the canal late night (and can afford to spend extra for dinner), Miraflores restaurant is the place to be. (The Miraflores Lock opens both way in the night, so you are definitely going to see a couple of ships pass by)
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Calle Uruguay is a neighborhood filled with bars and discos for wealthy Panamanians and foreigners.

  • La Casona de las Brujas, Casco Viejo. An interesting bar on an inner courtyard of a building, attached to an art gallery in Casco Viejo. Lives bands play a variety of music styles.
  • Taberna 21 is a local hangout serving great cheap beer and Spanish tapas.

Buy and try some Panamanian and Cuban coffee while you’re here. It will be some of the best you’ve ever had.

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  • Luna’s Castle Hostel, Calle 9na Este, ☎ (507)262-1540. Set in a Spanish colonial mansion built upon the water´s edge in Casco Viejo, Luna´s Castle Hostel attracts those who seek the ideal Panama City backpacking experience. Amenities include a modern communal kitchen, free breakfast, free coffee, the legendary movie theatre, a spacious outdoor courtyard, free internet, and sweeping views of the Bay of Panama and the modern city skyline and a great social atmosphere. Information is also available for sailing boat departures between Panamá and Cartagena in Colombia. Keep in mind, these rooms above the bar are LOUD! They don’t take reservations for privates and it’s a popular place, so be prepared to find an alternative. Dorm bed: $15.
  • Hospedaje Casco Viejo url=”” Dorm $13, Private $28/38 without/with bathroom, This hostel is in the heart of the old quarter in a beautifully restored historic building. Most of the rooms have their own bathroom and balcony and very comfortable beds. Friendly and knowledgable staff, clean, kitchen, free wifi. Includes breakfast of coffee, sliced bread, toaster, butter, peanut butter, jelly, and bananas (perfect for making toasted peanut butter and banana sandwiches!). Definitely the best deal in Panama. They also take reservations online. 8a con Avenida A. Casa 8-31, San Felipe phone(507) 211-2027 .
  • La Casa de Carmen. $30-45/double, This hostel is in a cute house located on a busy street. Try to get a room further in the back to get away from the traffic noise. Breakfast is included, which involves toast, cereal, coffee and orange juice. Two computers with internet access are also free for guests. Accommodations are clean and spacious. Calle 1a de Carmen 32
  • Hostel Mamallena, Casa 7-62 Calle Primera, Perejil, ☎ (507) 6676 6163 ( Information is also available for sailing boat departures between Panamá and Cartagena in Colombia. Shared kitchen and free pancake breakfast. Several computers available for free and good WiFi throughout. Dorm: $13, double: $33.
  • Hostal Miami, Avenida Central 18-18. New hostel opened in 2010. Some floors are still under refurbishment. Shared kitchen, internet and wi-fi. Friendly employees. Dorm: US$13, private rooms: US$30-$50.
  • Zuly’s Backpackers. Closed since some months!


  • Country Inn & Suites by Carlson Panama City, Panama. Conveniently located at the heart of Panama City, near the Panama Canal, the Metropolitan Park, US Embassy, City of Knowledge,and business district. Walking distance from Shopping Mall, 3 casinos and restaurants. It is close to domestic airport and highway to Colon. The hotel has a TGIF restaurant on-site with room service available. Other amenities include swimming pool, fitness center and 24-hour business center access. Free shuttle to nearby Albrook Mall on schedule. This value oriented hotel offers free breakfast buffet and free Wi-Fi access. Guestrooms feature warm décor with amenities like 32” LCD TVs with cable programming, refrigerator, microwave and in room safe. Meeting rooms available for events and groups
  • Las Vegas Hotel. Suites are clean, safe, centrally located and relatively affordable. There’s also a nice little Italian restaurant and a wine bar attached to the hotel.
  • Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, Panama Canal, Panama. In Panama city with great view of the Panama Canal, this hotel offers easy access to the domestic airport, pier, railway and the highway to the country side. The hotel overlooks the Panama Canal entrance and is close to Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute, Bridge of the Americas, and Panama Old Quarters. Near Frank Gehry Biodiversity Museum, Miraflores Locks and Albrook Mall. It is also ideal for business travelers due to its closeness to the City of Knowledge, Panama Pacifico Business Park, shipping companies and the banking center. The hotel features 2 restaurants, a coffee shop and 24-hour business center. Meeting rooms available. Guests will enjoy modern amenities like the free breakfast buffet, free Wi-Fi, large 42” TVs, and minibar. The property features outdoor swimming pools, a whirlpool and a fitness center. Near many restaurants.
  • Casa Las Americas. $60-$105. There are six rooms in this very nice Bed & Breakfast in Betania. You cannot beat the location for peace and quiet in a lush setting. There is a large pool and lovely terrace with a city view. Centrally located and easy access by inexpensive taxi to shopping, restaurants, and proximity to the sights of the city. Also a big plus — the pool is large and lovely, very quiet and private and surrounded by lush greenery.
  • Magnolia Inn – Casco Vieo, 818 Calle Boquete (Calle Boquete and Calle 8va in Casco Viejo, behind Plaza Catedral), ☎ +507 202-0872. checkin: 1PM; checkout: 11AM. Magnolia Inn offers comfortable and spacious deluxe private rooms as well as luxury hostel rooms. The restored French colonial mansion is full of historic character, as well as modern conveniences such as A/C, orthopedic beds, free Wi-Fi Internet and safe deposit boxes. The Inn has a stylish social areas to relax and meet fellow guests. A fully equipped kitchen and sunbathed dinning room is available for guest use. $80.00 – $135.00.
  • Tribe Panama. $120-$160. Located in historic Casco Antiquo(Viejo) on Plaza Simon Bolivar; there are 4 suites with each having two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, and wonderful views of the sea and
  • Plaza Simon Bolivar. There are over 20 restaurants and Bars within walking distance. Free internet and satellite TV. The building sits across the street from the Presidential Palace grounds which provides for the best security and neighbor that Panama has to offer.


  • Trump Ocean Club® International Hotel & Tower Panama. Tel: (011) 507 215 8800. A luxury Panama City, Panama hotel rising 70 stories above Panama Bay. This waterfront hotel features lavish guestrooms and suites, restaurants, vacation packages, spa and meeting and wedding venues.
  • The Bristol Hotel. Tel: 507-264-0000. $200/double. Luxurious modern hotel in the heart of Panama City. Outstanding bar and restaurant on site. First-class service.
  • The Canal House, Calle 5 and Avenida A in Casco Viejo, ☎ +507 228 1907. An intimate hotel located in a Colonial mansion in the heart of Panama City’s historic district. The Canal House was selected by the New York Times as its Editor’s Pick for Panama City hotels and is the country’s first Green Globe Certified Hotel. The Canal House has three rooms and a staff of six, including two English speaking managers. It is located just to the side of the Canal Museum, walking distance from some of the city’s best bars, restaurants and cafes. From $180.
  • Las Clementinas Chambers, Café & Bar, Calle 11 and Avenida B in Casco Viejo, Tel: +507-228-7613/17 (Panama) or 1-888-593-5023 (US & Canada). A small boutique hotel located in Panama’s exciting historic district, Casco Viejo. Las Clementinas has just six rooms, each of which is a full apartment with kitchen, 12-foot ceilings and wrap around balconies, some with plaza views, some with ocean views. Above the rooms is a rooftop terrace with stunning views of Panama City, the Pacific Ocean, the entrance to the Canal and the rooftops of the historic district. Below the rooms is the Cafe & Bar. Las Clementinas is managed by The Canal House and leisure and business travelers can expect the same excellent and personalized service that defines The Canal House.
  • InterContinental Miramar, Av. Balboa, Tel: 507-206-8888. Luxury high-rise hotel overlooking Panama Bay. Facilities include upscale dining, large swimming pool, tennis courts, full-service marina, helicopter landing pad.
  • Panama Marriott Hotel, Calle 52 y Ricardo Arias, Area Bancaria Panama City, Panama. Phone: 507 2 109100 Fax: 507 2 109110 As cosmopolitan as the city surrounding it, the Marriott Panama City Hotel offers the elegance, outstanding service and amenities that you’d expect from a luxury Panama City hotel. Soaring 20 stories above the financial district, and considered among the best Panama City hotels, it offers an ideal location for business or leisure travelers near shopping, entertainment and vibrant night life.
  • Marriott Executive Apartments Panama City, Finisterre Calle Colombia & Calle Republica del Paraguay, Panama City, Panama. Phone: 507-214-9200 Fax: 507-297-6320 Luxury apartments settled in the heart of the Panama City financial district, the Marriott Executive Apartments Panama City, Finisterre are the perfect place for your business stay in Panama. Amenities include an outdoor pool with an ocean view, The Adegas international fusion restaurant, a fitness Center and Free wireless Internet.
  • Courtyard by Marriott Panama Real Hotel, Vía Israel, Punta Pacífica Mall, ☎ +507 301 0101 (fax: +507 301 0102). The Courtyard by Marriott Panama Real Hotel offers guests 120 rooms with high speed internet, restaurant, bar, gym, pool, four banquet halls and a meeting room, as well as laundry service, laundry and shop. Prices range between $ 100 – $ 250.
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  • Be careful in both Casco Viejo and the Panama la Vieja ruins area. There are tourist police aplenty in both neighborhoods but do not wander too far in these areas alone (even in the day) and certainly not in the evening.
  • Stay out of El Chorillo, Santa Ana, Curundu and San Miguel. It is very dangerous right now due to infighting between drug gangs. Tourists have been kidnapped right off the street. El Chorillo borders San Filipe so it is very easy to unknowingly walk into it. When driving, car doors should be locked.
  • Look both ways before crossing the street! Panamanian drivers are notoriously aggressive when the traffic allows and will not slow down for you even if you’re lucky enough to find a crosswalk. There’s only one way to cross the road here. Wait for a break in the traffic and walk. Once you start, keep going. Drivers will stop (most of the time).
  • Otherwise, you’ll be stuck for hours waiting. If you have visited Europe, you will recognize that this is the same way that people cross the street in central Rome (and certain other southern European cities).
    The central neighborhoods of Marbella, El Cangrejo, Obarrio, San Francisco, and the Banking Area are generally the most safe.
  • In any case, be careful of your belongings, even if sitting in a restaurant, as people have had things snatched without noticing it. It is never a good idea to drink heavily and walk back to your hotel.
  • Information for people of color Shopping experiences in some places, especially around the causeway, via espana and at the airport shops, could be marred if you are non-Caucasian. Staff typically assumes that you won’t be able to afford the merchandise and won’t be keen on showing any products to you. While that’s their right (service quality in Panama city is far lower than the US), please do not tolerate anything more such as denial of entry or any other type of insults. Seek to see the manager at the location, or make a formal complaint to the brand/ company that owns the establishment.
  • A dumb tourist mistake is bragging aloud about how cheap things are when local wages are also much lower compared to the United States, Canada, and western Europe.
  • It’s always a good idea (in any country really) to spend a few minutes to find out exact taxi fares before taking a taxi and always have exact change for the correct fare. This avoids over-charging and problems with some drivers. Having to ask a taxi driver how much the fare is is the equivalent to saying “charge me anything you want” as you’re telling him you don’t know what to pay. From El Dorado to Via Argentina, some have been told the fare is $5, or $10, or $20. The real fare for one person is much closer to $1.75.
  • Outside of Multiplaza, Albrook and Multicentro are some very good looking taxis. The drivers wear nice shirts and the taxis have proper signs on the roof. The drivers will most likely ask you if you are interested. NEVER take these taxis. All they do is wait for foreigners and then charge four times the price.
  • Some taxis at the main bus station prey on visitors as well. Never put your belongings in the trunk. Sit in the back seat along with your belongings and have your luggage firmly grasped while entering and exiting the vehicle. The reason? They can drive away with your things while you are still trying to get in.
  • Lock the doors once inside. Avoid and ignore anyone who approaches you to “get a taxi for you”; go to the curb to get one yourself. At best they will want money for this “service” amounting to half the taxi fare; at worst, they are setting you up to be robbed with certain drivers with whom they work. Lastly, the cabs are marked on the door with a unique registration number — memorize it or write it down and secretly tuck it safely away on your person before entering any cab.
  • Never lose your temper with taxi drivers or police (or anyone else really) no matter how bad you may find a situation or service in some places. Exert your rights politely but firmly.
  • Beware the ATMs and their tendency to “cancel” transactions at the last moment while still debiting money from your account. Try with a small amount of cash first if you must use an ATM, otherwise only get cash by walking into the bank with your passport and card.
  • There are occasional stories on the Internet about police in Panama City allegedly attempting to shake down tourists for bribes, although it appears that in those situations, the tourists usually did commit some kind of technical infraction in plain view of a police officer.
  • This is better than more corrupt countries like Mexico where the police will simply make it up. In any event, it is a good idea in general and especially as a tourist to drive carefully so that the police won’t get an excuse to pull you over. One thing that is unsettling is that many Panamanian police regularly carry automatic rifles slung around their shoulders, as opposed to the convention elsewhere of packing pistols as sidearms and carrying rifles or shotguns in the trunk.
  • Beware of an ongoing scam at the toll plazas on the tollways around Panama City. If you are obviously a tourist driving a rental car (i.e., you don’t speak Spanish well, you don’t look Panamanian, and you are well dressed), and you pull into the “RECARGA” lane to purchase or recharge a toll road card, the cashier on duty may either demand an excessively large sum or deliberately undercredit the card’s account before opening the toll gate.
  • They are well aware that as a tourist, you don’t have all day to sit there and argue with them while the recharge toll booth lane backs up (and everyone behind you starts leaning on the horn and yelling at you). Thus, you may end up paying as much as five or six times the current toll to get to and from the international airport.
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  • Canada, Torres de las Americas, Tower A, Piso 11, Punta Pacifica, ☎ +507 294-2500 (After hours emergencies 613 996-8885, 613 944-1310 TTY,, fax: +507 294-2514). M-F 8:30AM-1PM, visas M-Th 1PM-3PM.
  • Egypt, Calle 55, Casa #15, Panama City Zona5 El Cangrejo, ☎ +507 2635020 (+507 2657235,, fax: +507 2648406). 9:00 AM – 17:00 PM.
  • Greece, Antiguo Edificio NCR, 3er piso, Calle Manuel Espinosa Batista y Entrada de la Via Argentina, El Dorado 6, 1918 Panama, ☎ +507 263-0411 (, fax: +507 263-5511).
  • India, 10325, Calle Federico Boyd y Calle 51, ☎ +507 264-2416 (+507 264-3043,, fax: +507 209-6649.
  • Japan, Calle 50 y 60E, Obarrio, Apartado 0816-06807, Panamá 1, ☎ +507 263-6155 (fax: +507 263-6019).
  • Mexico, Samuel Lewis y Calle 54, Edif. ADR, Piso 10, Obarrio, Panamá, ☎ +507 263-4900, .
  • United States, Bldg 783, Demetrio Basilio Lakas Ave, ☎ +507 207-7000 (+507 207-7030,;, fax: +507 317-5568).
  • Venezuela, Avenida Samuel Lewis, Torre Banistmo, Piso 5, ☎ +507 269-1014 (, fax: +507 269-1916).
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  • Take the bus (2 1/2 hours from Panama City) to El Valle de Anton (not El Valle the similarly named town further north) to experience the highlands of Panama on a one or two night trip.
  • Go to the Miraflores locks to watch the boats go through the locks.
    Take a boat trip out to the islands off the coast of Panama City (Isla Taboga).
  • Check out the birds and Chagres River in Gamboa.
  • Take a tour of the San Blas Islands
  • Visit the the forts of Portobelo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Continue onwards to Isla Grande for some nice R&R – buses goes from the main street in Portobelo to La Guira and from there it is a 5 minutes boatride ($2)

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Panama City is the capital of Panama. Panama City is a very multicultural place and the most cosmopolitan capital in Central America, with large populations from many different parts of the world. Spanish is spoken by most, and many speak some form of English.

Travel and tourism in Panama City. How to get in, maps, activities to do, where to eat and sleep. Download the Free Panama City Travel Guide.

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Michel Piccaya


As a freelance travel photographer, Michel Piccaya has been on the road worldwide for more than 20 years, exploring the most incredible itineraries. He’s currently based in Brussels however never stays at home for a long time !

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