What's so special about Panama, you may be asking, also why should I visit Panama?
Ask 100 people who have been here as to what it is about Panama that makes it special, and you'll get 100 different answers.
I'll try and give you a flavor as to what Panama is like. It's different than London, New York or Sydney, Panama is unique, it's Panama. Now I hear you saying that tell's me nothing.
Currency is the Green Back or $US, although the Panamanians prefer to call it the Balboa, same thing, a dollar is a dollar.
Hotels are clean, fairly inexpensive and plenty of them, with everything from small Pensions to 5 star International Hotels and anything in between. Many of the hotels especially in the centre of Panama have casinos, if you stay in one they will often give you free money to spend inside the casino.
Panama is many things, it's modern or it is in the centre of the International Banking District, it's also typical Central American in many other areas. Drivers tend to be erratic and the local buses, well it's best to keep away from those. Taxis are cheap and easy, although do not expect a limousine as they are few and far between. Most of the taxis are air conditioned, well if you like to drive with the windows open, that is. They tend to avoid accidents as they know the roads and all the short cuts, plus they don't have meters, so ask for the fare, before you get inside, few speak anything other than Spanish.
Weather is consistently hot, with only two seasons, wet and dry and the humidity is generally around the 60 to 70% area, although if you can say, Miami is okay, then you'll have no problem in Panama.
There is plenty to do, day or night, the locals love to party and for them party time starts on a Wednesday through to Sunday. Areas to visit in Panama City area is, Casco Viejo, Miraflores Locks, Saturday is the only day tourist's can go on a boat on the canal, either partial or full length of the canal.
Other areas are Old Panama, Gamboa, Embera Indians, Central Avenue if it's shopping you are after, National Theatre, Canal Museum, Quarry Heights, Amador or as it's often called The Causeway. This area is great for restaurants and the views are spectacular. Always carry your camera, you never know what is around the corner.
Below are a further few ideas about wonderful Panama.
Cheapest place on earth:
Enjoy an eco-vacation in this underrated, economical Central American gem.
While its next-door neighbor Costa Rica draws hordes of eco tourists, quieter Panama actually has more animal species and a greater amount of preserved terrain crawling with colorful macaws, monkeys, and endangered shorebirds. Despite the fact that people tend to overlook its jungles, the Central American country with a middle that's slimmer than a super model's is fat with inexpensive adventures.
For $1.95: A fifth of Seco, the unofficial Panamanian national drink, made from distilled sugarcane. It tastes similar to rum, but it's like no rum you've ever sipped. Odd as it sounds, ask for a Seco con leche (with milk)—many locals prefer it creamy.
For free: A hike to the top of the formation called La India Dormida ("The Sleeping Indian Woman"). Not only will your sweat be justified with an awesome view of El Valle ("the valley," actually a huge dormant volcano crater a few hours from Panama City), but along the way hikers are rewarded with sightings of what anthropologists believe to be pre-Columbian petroglyphs, as well as several waterfalls.
For $1.50: Served everywhere, the national dish known as sancocho is a robust stew of chicken (usually) with yucca, avocado, and aromatic seasonings.
For 50¢: A soak in the Pozos Termales, hot-water springs just off the main road in the town of El Valle. Anyone weary of outrageous prices at day spas should head to these five small, hot mineral pools—plus a spring with therapeutic mud—which attract plenty of Panamanians. Visit during weekday mornings to avoid crowds.
For $20 or less: Any bus ride within the tiny country. Taxis hailed in the streets of the capital shouldn't cost more than $4 to cross town, and tipping isn't customary—but negotiate your fare first.
For free: You know you're dying to see it: the Canal. You don't have to pay a cent to watch ships of all sizes navigate its mighty chambers. Miraflores Locks, at the northeastern edge of Panama City, is a convenient spot to watch the machinery in action, and the Miraflores Visitors Center, which includes four exhibition halls and a 182-seat theater, costs $10 or thereabouts to visit.
For $1: A big helping of tamales or patacones de plátano (fried plantains) at any market. The tamales here are different from the Mexican variety—they usually come wrapped in banana leaves rather than corn husks.
For $16 or less: Accommodations, from thatched-roof huts to hostels. Fancy resorts also fall on the low end of the international scale: At the 600-room, all-inclusive Royal Decamerón Playa Blanca, on the Pacific coast, get lost in nine pools and eat yourself silly for around $79 a night during low season (April to December). It's a short walk on the beach to check out Manuel Noriega's old, pre-prison crib.
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