A Guide to Panama City, Panama

April 29, 2015

Panama City has everything from a beautiful, twinkling skyline, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, hiking, and an exciting nightlife. There are rooftop bars and restaurants, parks, and all these with amazing views of the water. 

Panama alone can be expensive: take a look at my guide for help budgeting your trip to Panama.

There are plenty of things to do and see in Panama City. I’ve written a guide to Panama City, Panama, to help you pick a place to see, find cheap places to eat, and see a few attractions, all on a budget. 

Accommodation 

I stayed at Luna’s Castle Hostel while I was in Panama City. They offer dorm rooms for $15 a night, and air conditioned rooms for $16 a night. I recommend staying in the A/C rooms! They offer a free breakfast of pancakes, bananas, and coffee. They also offer free bikes, which is a great way to see more of Panama City. There are a few bike lanes along the water which are incredibly beautiful. 

There is a bar underneath Luna’s which is very lively on the weekend nights. Their happy hour consists of $.50 beers- try and find a deal cheaper than that! 

Other budget accommodation includes Airbnb and Couchsurfing. I tried searching for and messaging a few hosts to try and go Couchsurfing, however, none of them were able to get back to me. 

Food

To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed by the food in Panama City, and found it to be quite expensive.

One delicious budget place I found was called Cafe Coca Cola. I ate here a total of four times. They offer a huge plate of arroz con pollo for $5, breakfast items, pasta, and other chicken dishes.

Another budget option was eating at The Fish Market. There’s a bunch of different stalls offering fried fish, grilled fish, and ceviche.

Don’t make the same mistake I made: I ordered a $6 quart of ceviche, thinking, “wow, this is so cheap! I’m going to eat the entire thing!” I should have known when I looked around and everyone was ordering the $1.50 cup size, and when the woman gave me three spoons. Or even when the Panamanian family sat down next to me saying, “es muy grande! Ha ha!” 

Twelve bites into it and I was already sick of the overwhelming taste of raw onion. I hadn’t even dented it. I powered through, eating almost half of it before I was greeted with a huge headache and a burning stomachache. 

Other restaurants I found to cost around $15-20 for a meal and a drink. 

Grocery shopping is another option, which I did pretty often for at least two meals a day. 

A Guide to Panama City, Panama

Transportation 

Whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to take taxis everywhere in Panama City. They’re not cheap, either. There are buses, but you have to first purchase a metro card to use the bus. Luna’s Castle Hostel wasn’t near any bus stations, so we had to take taxi’s everywhere (or walk). 

As I said above, there are a few biking paths on the outskirts of Panama City where you can bike along the water and enjoy the view. There are always people walking and running along this path, especially on a beautiful day. 

A Guide to Panama City, Panama

Activities 

Panamá Viejo: A UNESCO World Heritage Site from the 1500s, this is where Old Panama stands. The buildings are still standing from so many years ago, and it’s truly an amazing place to explore. 

Casco Viejo: Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is a great place to walk down the narrow streets and observe the old buildings that are still standing next to the modern ones. 

Cerro Ancón: This is a great place for nature lovers. Take a taxi to the bottom and hike to the top (it’s about a 25 minute hike). This hike offers wonderful views of Panama City, and is a great escape from the bustling city life. 

A Guide to Panama City, Panama

Panama Canal: This is a famous canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, and is a channel for international maritime trade. It is labeled one of the seven wonders of the modern world. 

The Bridge of the Americas: This is a bridge in Panama that spans the entrance of the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. 

Nightlife 

Panama City has everything from relaxing bars to rooftop clubs. This list explores the top bars and clubs in Panama City. 

I went to a few rooftop bars in Casco Viejo, however, was unable to catch their names. One of the bars I went to had a $10 cover charge (which I didn’t realize until 3 of my friends had already gone through and paid). 

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