Bright exhibition halls, multi-storey apartment and luxury shopping centers adorn the banking district of Panama City, the epicenter of huge real estate development in recent years. Panama City is an international banking center and a global transshipment hub with generous offshore tax structures and strict secrecy laws.
Dubious money laundered at the expense of real estate has transformed the city’s waterfront since the time of Noriega. Despite this turbulent past and present, it is important to remember that you are unlikely to face cartel roughness as a tourist.
Traveling alone is safe. The banking quarter is well guarded, at least during the day, and most of the crimes are of a discreet and opportunistic nature that you will find in any major city. Some parts of the city are restless, others are closed for visiting, but most are mild. You won’t have any problems if you stay alert and follow the rules of the big city.
Here’s what you need to know before heading to Panama City.
- Plan a trip to Panama City
- examine the map before choosing where to stay
- Each district has its pros and cons. With cobblestone streets and Spanish colonial architecture, the historic district of Casco Antiguo is the most memorable and romantic part of the city.
There are a lot of upscale restaurants, luxurious lofts and stylish rooftop bars, but the shortage of inexpensive restaurants and not the best transport links.
The Calidonia district, in the southern part of the city, occupies a grid of streets stretching from Plaza 5 de Mayo to east 42nd Street. The central avenue is bustling with market stalls, while the roads to the south are dotted with low-cost hotels.
The area is close to many metro and bus stations. You can buy inexpensive food on the street during the day, when the kitchens are open for local hospital staff and government employees. After dark, however, Calidonia becomes gloomy and pessimistic with nutritional disabilities.
To the east of Calidonia, the so-called banking district is a mosaic of several neighborhoods or corregimientos, including Moderna and developing areas that house the bulk of rental properties and luxury housing on Airbnb. There are several budget hostels and hotels. Many decent restaurants are scattered around the banking district, but not always within walking distance.
If you are coming to the city for a party, the neighborhoods of Marbella and bella Vista have excellent access to the bars and clubs of Uruguay Street. El cangrejo is an enjoyment area with a casino, good metro connections in Via España and many restaurants in Via Argentina.
Plan your visit to get good deals and good weather
The high season coincides with the dry season, from mid-December to early April, when prices are usually higher. During the big Christmas, New Year, carnival and Christmas holidays, prices rise in the capital, but not as much as on the beaches where most citizens spend holidays.
Between mid-April and early December is the lowest time to visit Panama City, if you don’t mind getting wet. Most overflow last only an hour or two in the afternoon, but the season gets wetter over time.
In the depths, the skies can be cloudy for several days, but the rains are usually intermittent and the cloud cover can relieve the relentless Panama sun.
Get a subway map
While the car is great for day trips outside the city, do not plan to drive around the city a lot. The one-way highway system is confusing, city roads are often congested, and ring roads are flush with the route.
Instead, take advantage of Panama City’s public transportation system, which includes a fleet of air-conditioned buses and the first metro in Central America. Buy a three-in-one pass on arrival and access the metro and bus stations, as well as the exits from the Albrook bus station.
Etiquette in Panama City
Dress for comfort but look cheerful
Panamanians love to dress up and look their best. The ostentatious fashion shows presented in Obarrio include stilettos that somehow survive the assault of the city sidewalks.
When you are socializing, casual clothes will work, but avoid wearing shorts and sandals in good restaurants or at social events.
Always have low-cost tickets in stock
You will need to present identification and sign a deed if you pay something with a bill of more than. Counterfeit money is a problem in the country, so all 50 and 100 dollar bills will be checked in Panama.
Don’t smoke in public
A law passed in 2008 prohibits smoking in public places. People who smoke in unauthorized places are subject to a fine.
Tips for hotel cleaning staff
If you are staying in a hotel, leave a tip to whoever cleans your room, that’s fine. A 10% tip is often added in good restaurants, but not always – check the bill before paying.
In humble local restaurants, you can leave the change to the waiter. If you do not help with luggage, taxi drivers do not expect tips.
Don’t use medicines
Although Panama City is permeated with narcodollars, Panamanian society does not approve of the use of medicines and the law does not allow it. If the police discover that he has even small amounts of marijuana, he could spend several years in a Panamanian cage.
Don’t expect people to speak English
Spanish in Panama City is Caribbean Spanish, very fast and full of jargon. If Spanish is not your native language, you may find it difficult to learn it.
Don’t expect to find many native English speakers in your daily transactions. English is widely spoken in the business world, but not much beyond, and having some basic Spanish phrases will help you get your bearings.
Health and safety in Panama City
Don’t be afraid to drink tap water
The tap water in Panama City is perfect for drinking. Save on plastic waste by filling the bottles with tap water. If you prefer purified water, you can pour it into 20-liter decanters in most hotel lobbies.
Preparing for environmental harmful
Panama City is an urban greenhouse that emerged from the jungle. The elements are fierce – the humidity is often 100%. You should take a day or two to relax and get used to the heat if you are coming from a cold country.
Always apply sunscreen before going out and have an adequate supply of water on hand. Wear light clothing and a hat to prevent the sun’s rays from falling on your face. Bring a sturdy umbrella if you visit during the rainy season.
Panama City suffers flash overflow during heavy rains. If you find yourself caught in a storm, you could end up in deep puddles. Traffic is generally heavy and many parts of the city are not suitable for pedestrians. People with asthma may find that their symptoms worsen due to smoke.
The Gulf of Panama is a dumping ground for industrial sewage and untreated sewage, so the coastal seawall sometimes sucks.
Evasion of scammers
Scammers operate in all large cities, and some are aimed at tourists. Beware of strangers who tell unhappy and serious stories that end up asking for money. If it smells fishy, it probably is.
Beware of fake guides that require an advance payment and keep you on your toes. Old-fashioned taxi scams related to the diversion of houses to increase fares can occur anywhere in the world. But in Panama City, taxis are usually overloaded.
There are no counters in the cabins. It is assumed that the tariffs vary depending on the region, but this rarely happens in practice. If you look like a foreigner, taxi drivers will increase the fare. It is best to negotiate the price in advance.
Panama City is safe for single travelers
Panama City is generally safe for single travelers, but it is better to avoid walking alone at night in Casco Antiguo, Santa Ana or Calidonia.
Women can attract the attention of talkative men on subway trains or buses. If a man does not want to leave him alone, ask a nearby old woman to help him.
Avoid total quarters
Thirty years ago, Old Town was a pain in the ass. Today, the situation has improved somewhat, but there are still areas in the old area where caution should be exercised.