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Travel Guide Panama

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Panama City: A Vital and Nice City

Panama City is a vital and nice city located between Central and South America, offering a multicultural scenario, and a mix of natural beauty. Travelling just a few hours from the city, Panama offers a variety of things, lush rainforests, a vibrant capital city, Caribbean beaches, and a scenario for every taste. In this article, you can find all the essential information for your trip to Panama!

Getting There

You can get to Panama easily by flight, with the International Tocumen Airport (PTY) in Panama City. PTY is the primary gateway and the largest airport in Central America with flights to more than 60 cities between Europe and America. Most of the major airlines offer direct flights to Panama from various international destinations.

The other 2 airports in the city, the Albrook “Marcos A.Gelabert” International Airport (PAC) and the Panama Pacific International Airport (BLB) are mainly used for domestic or short flights.

Getting Around

  • Uber: Uber is the safest and most common way to move around the city. With Uber, you can move easily, safely and in a relatively cheap way. Similar to Uber, but only payable by cash you can use the InDrive app.
  • Taxis: Taxis in Panama are inexpensive, and you’re unlikely to spend more than 22 - 5 for a ride in the city, but it is payable only in cash! On occasion, taxi drivers will try to charge foreigners more than they should. Taxi drivers stop and bring up other passengers during the ride.
  • Public Transportation: In Panama City, you can rely on a modern and efficient metro system. Buses are also widely available.
  • Car Rentals: If you would like to travel outside the city, renting a car is a valuable and cheap option.
  • Domestic Flights: For exploring local destinations like Bocas del Toro or David, consider taking domestic flights. Shuttle for this kind of travel is still a good option, especially for the price, but it takes a lot of hours.

In Panama City

Casco Viejo

Casco Antiguo, also known as Casco Viejo or San Felipe, is the historic district and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Panama City. Casco Antiguo has plenty of shops, hotels, restaurants, cafeterias and bars. Here, the ancient churches, squares, streets and avenues offer a unique experience. Casco is considered the best spot for nightlife, considered the largest site for nightclubs and bars.

Amador Causeway

Constructed in 1913 from stones cut out during the making of the Panama Canal, Avenida Amador connects Panama City with four islands: Naos, Perico, Culebra and Flamenco. You can easily reach the 4 islands by crossing the Amador Causeway by car or by bike. Take a leisurely walk or bike ride along this scenic causeway and enjoy stunning views of the Panama City skyline and the Pacific Ocean.

Panama Canal

Start your journey with a visit to the world-famous Panama Canal. The most convenient way to see the Panama Canal is to tour the Miraflores Visitor Center, guided by an expert. It is only a 30-minute transportation away from the heart of Panama City.

Museum of Biology

It is located just a few minutes from downtown Panama City, near the Amador Causeway. Explore Panama’s biodiversity and natural history at the Museum of Biology, designed by architect Frank Gehry.

Outside The City

San Blas Islands

The San Blas Islands located in the Northwest of Panama facing the Caribbean Sea, consist of an archipelago of 365 islands, most of them habited by the Guna indigenous group. These gorgeous paradise islands are a must-stop when you visit the country, especially if you are looking for a place where you can relax on pristine beaches and snorkel in crystal-clear waters.


Located in the highlands, in northwestern Panamá, at 7 hours by car from the city, Boquete is a colorful, wooded valley surrounded by the mountains of Chiriquí. Boquete is a perfect place if you are looking for a cool climate, hiking, bird watching, and exploring coffee plantations. In Boquete, you can enjoy one of the coolest places in Panamá, with temperatures from 53 ºF to 86 ºF (12 ºC to 30 ºC).

Playa Venao

Playa Venao is a beach on the southwest coast of the Azuero peninsula, which is located on the Pacific Ocean. The black sand beaches and the perfect waves make this scenic destination a world-class surfing destination for the distinct lack of crowds. Surfing is the main activity in Playa Venao. If you don't like surfing, this place also offers a few sea activities such as deep-sea fishing, snorkelling, diving, stand-up paddleboarding, and whale watching. There are also many “land” activities like hiking, horseback riding, yoga, or visiting the weekly market of Pedasí market.

Getting There:

  • There are several ways to get to Playa Venao from Panama City. There are a few options available at your disposal. For instance, if you have been getting around by own car, or a private shuttle bus, it may take 5 hours to drive the distance. The most economical choice is to use a public bus from Panama City that passes through Las Tablas.

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro is one of the favourite destinations among Panamanians and visitors. The beautiful beach and the perfect waves make Bocas one of the perfect spots for relaxing or surfing. The archipelago of Bocas is a reflection of Afro-Caribbean culture. Bocas has 3 main islands: Isla Colón, Isla Carenero, and Isla Bastimentos. Bocas, particularly the main island of Colon in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, is renowned for its vibrant nightlife.

Below is a list of the most popular nightlife options in Bocas:

  • Selina: This club is located inside the Selina hostel, here you can enjoy the golden hours doing a happy hour between 7 pm and 8 pm, but most of the people come here from 10 pm to 2 am when the party starts!
  • Filthy Friday: Participating in Filthy Friday is a must when you visit Bocas and you are looking for a party! The extraordinary island-hopping adventure permits you to visit one island after another while drinking a glass of your favourite drink. Get ready to dance to your heart’s content in different bars together with the locals and tourists.
  • Barco Hundido: Located just a few walks by Selina, in the main street you can find Barco Hundido. Every Thursday, the Reggae Night is held here, resulting in one of the most popular events in Bocas del Toro.
  • Aqua Lounge Bar: Taking a $1 water taxi for the main Island of Colon you can reach one of the best bars in Panama, the Aqua Lounge Bar on Isla Carenero. Aqua Lounge hostel, lounge and bar, built entirely over the water!
  • Skully's: Located 5 km from the Colon Island city centre, Skully is an amazing bar where you can relax in the afternoon drinking a beer, and enjoy their private beach in a pirate atmosphere.

Getting There:

  • Just a 45-minute flight from Panama City brings you to the north-westernmost province of the country, Panama Air and Flytrip are the 2 flight operators that can bring you from there from the city. You can reach Bocas del Toro also by bus but it will take around 10 hours of travel plus a small 30-minute boat trip.


Panamá City nightlife mainly takes place in three sectors of the city: Casco Antiguo, the Business District Downtown, and the San Francisco area. Each district hosts a different style of nightlife, providing a specific and unique experience depending on your taste.

Casco Antiguo

Is the most popular spot for both locals and tourists at night, here you can find both bars, restaurants and clubs. In Casco, you can enjoy the beautiful skyline of the city by going to one of the many rooftop bars and clubs present in the area, Casco is where you'll find the country's most prolific nightclubs.

The Business District

Has 2 main good nightlife spots: Vía Argentina and Calle Uruguay. Both of the areas are used by locals and expats while there are fewer tourists compared to Casco Antiguo. In these areas, you can find a multitude of bars and restaurants, while if you are looking for a night club the best option is still Casco Viejo.

San Francisco

is one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in Panama City. This area offers the widest variety of food & drink options, but is a very residential area so not many nightclubs are based here.

Below is a list of the most popular nightclubs and bars in Panama City:

  • Selina Rooftop: This club is located inside the Selina hostel, in Casco Antiguo Neighborhood. Here you can enjoy the golden hours doing a happy hour between 7 pm and 8 pm, but most of the people come here from 10 pm to 2 am when the party starts! Cover charge on the weekends.
  • La Rana Dorada Brewery: The most popular pub and local brewery in Panama City. A nice place to share and enjoy craft beers. This brewery is present in both Casco, Marbella and San Francisco.
  • American Trade Hotel: Fine hotel, restaurant, and bar. If you are looking for a classy and fancy experience, this Hotel could be a good option. Sometimes, the hotel's ballroom hosts special events like artists' performances, fashion shows, and private parties.
  • Tantalo: One of the most popular rooftop bars in Casco. The Tantalo also offers a boutique hostel and a restaurant. Cover charge on the weekends.
  • Noa Nikkei: Noa Nikkei is a fancy sushi restaurant, but after 11 pm it transforms itself into one of the coolest nightclubs in the city. Be sure to dress very nicely as this is one of the nicest spots to go out. Cover charge on the weekends.
  • Buena Vaina Social Club: Buena Vaina Social Club is one of the busiest clubs in Casco. Here you can find Panama City’s electronic music scene but just listen outside the club first to see what they’re playing before going in.
  • Lazotea: Lazotea is a trendy rooftop bar in Casco Viejo, where you can both eat and drink your favourite cocktail. More later the bar became more animated with a live DJ playing mostly reggaeton.
  • El Sotano / El Apartamento: Not a tourist place. El Sotano (The Basement) and El Apartamento (The Apartment)located in Bella Vista a LGBT-friendly bars and nightclubs where you can find a friendly atmosphere.
  • La malaguena: A Spanish bar with a cheap menu and a vibrant atmosphere. La Malaguena is located both in Via Argentina, Calle Uruguay and in San Francisco.
  • Pedro Mandinga Rum bar: The perfect spot for Rum lovers. It's the type of place where you can spend hours with old friends.

Shopping in Panama City

Panama City can satisfy all kinds of shopping tastes from busy markets to modern malls.

Below some popular shopping spots:

Multiplaza: Modern Luxury and Fashion
For those who crave upscale shopping experiences, Multiplaza stands as a beacon of luxury in Panama City. Located in the city's heart, near the business street, this mall hosts the most important international brands and gourmet food outlets.

Albrook Mall: Retail Paradise
A very expansive mall, one of the biggest in the country, Albrook Mall is a must-visit for shoppers. With 700+ stores, cinemas, and entertainment options, this massive complex offers something for everyone. From popular international brands to local shops, Albrook Mall has something to suit every taste and budget.

Casco Viejo: Historical Style
In Casco, you can find unique crafts, textiles, and souvenirs while immersing yourself in the town's heritage.

Via Espana: Outlet Clothes Shops Street
Walking to Via Espana you can see a lot of clothes shops and especially outlet options.

Where to Eat

With a lot of different restaurants with cuisine from all around the world Panama City offers a varied culinary scene, reflecting the diversity of its inhabitants.

Here is a list of some popular restaurants in the city:

Where to Stay

There are 3 main spots to stay in Panama that offer nice Hotels and services: Punta Pacifica, Casco Viejo and Marbella.

  • Punta Pacifica: For Luxury and Convenience. Situated in the center of the city, Punta Pacifica is a fashionable and modern district with a focus on high quality residential buildings and malls. Some of the city's most luxurious hotels are situated in this area, offering world-class amenities and stunning views of the ocean and skyline. Hotels like The Bristol Panama and JW Marriott Hotel are popular choices for discerning travelers looking for luxury.

  • Casco Viejo: Historic Charm and great nightlife. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is very often visited by young tourists making it perfect for those travelers who are into night life. Here you will find boutique hotels situated in beautifully restored edifices that offer an exclusive mix of old world’s charm and contemporary comfort. Hotels such as American Trade Hotel and La Concordia Boutique Hotel are ideal for cultural immersion, while Selina Hoteland Tantalo are excellent for party and nightlife seekers.

  • El Cangrejo/Obarrio/Bellavista: Dining and Nightlife. Should you need lodging choices from budget and moderate hotels, and areas that are central to the city, these neighborhoods may be good. Hotel Riu , Principe Hotel& Suites, Riande Urban Hotel, The Panama Hat Hostel, etc.

Practical Tips

  • Panama uses the US dollar as its official currency.
  • In Panama, power plugs and sockets (outlets) of type A and type B are used. The standard voltage is 110 V at a frequency of 60 Hz.
  • Vat is 7%.
  • Restaurant and bar usually requires a minimum Tip of 10%.
  • Get a prepaid SIM card to stay connected, you can find it in almost every minimarket.
  • English is widely spoken in tourist areas, but learning some basic Spanish phrases can be very helpful.
  • Tap water is generally good but it's safer to filter.
  • Make sure you have mosquito repellent with you, especially when exploring the rainforest or going outside the city.
  • Respect local cultures and traditions, especially when visiting indigenous communities.

Stay Safe

Safety should be taken into consideration for a tourist in Panama City. Here are some key tips to ensure your safety:

  • Stay Vigilant: Be aware of your environment, particularly in crowded places and make your valuables inaccessible to pickpockets.
  • Use Reliable Transportation: Choose licensed cabs or well-known ridesharing services instead of hailing cabs off the street, especially during dark hours.
  • Avoid Walking Alone at Night: After the darkness falls, remain in the lighted and populated areas and consider getting a ride rather than walking alone.
  • Stay Informed: Know the local laws and customs in order not to make accidental offences as well as to adhere to cultural traditions.
  • Keep Emergency Contacts Handy: Contact details of your embassy or consulate should be at your fingertips as well as a photocopy of your passport and travel insurance.

By being cautious and taking the required steps, you can have an enjoyable visit to Panama City without encountering crime.

Here is a list of essential emergency contacts for Panama City:

  • Police & Medical Emergencies/Ambulance: 911
  • Tourist Police (Policía Turística): +507 211-0366
  • Fire Department (Bomberos): 103
  • National Emergency Management System (SINAPROC): 911

Enjoy your trip to Panama!

Sources & Foot Notes

[1] Visit Canal de Panamá - Official Site
[2] Biomuseo Panama - Official Site
[3] Tourism Panama - Official Tourism Site of Panama
[4] TripAdvisor - Nightlife in Panama City
[5] TripAdvisor - Shopping in Panama City
[6] GetYourGuide - Tours & Activities in Panama
[7] Tourism Panama - Boquete
[8] Tourism Panama - Playa Venao
[9] Tourism Panama - Bocas del Toro

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