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Panama

Another Central American eco-powerhouse, its rainforests, beaches, canal, and castaway islets are complemented by Panama City, the most dynamic urb in Central America, offering a UNESCO World Heritage colonial quarter, casinos, nightlife, and more.

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Comment by Forrest Walker on April 17, 2010 at 4:09am
Greetings! I will tell you a few things about Panama that I can reckon. I lived there for four years. You can find two of my posts here on Tripatini about living in Bocas Del Toro. One is just some basic travel info. The other is an excerpt from my Book called Bocas Timewhich should be on Amazon in a month, or so. If you are a writer of any type you understand the "or so" gibe.
Back to Panama.
I will write from the perspective of a gringo, particulary an American.
Getting there.
Houston, Atlanta and Miami are the best cities to leave from. Respectively that means Continental, Delta or American airlines. However, you can save a lot of money and leave from Ft. Lauderdale on Spirit Air. Spirit flies very inconvenient hours. But if you do not mind arriving in Panama City at 3 a.m. no problema.
Actually, arriving before the roosters crow is very convenient. The immigration and customs lines are enviably short, and the notoriously intrusive workers at each are half asleep and just rush you through. There will be plenty of ground transportation.
Ground Transportation, that means Taxis. No metro or bus service from Tucoman Airport. Taxis do not have meters in Panama. It is quite wise to negotiate your fare before you get in the cab. If travelling wisely you will have hotel reservations. The good thing about the Taxistas in Panama is that they know where things are.
If you plan on staying in the Panama City area, I can suggest Hotel Marbella. It is in tourist friendly neighborhood and last time I stayed a decent clean room cost about $50. Not bad. You can pay a lot more for luxury, or less for, well, less.
Things to do in PC? Obviously, the canal. Any cab driver can take you to Miraflores Locks. Watching a large tanker go through the locks is watching one of the wonders of civil engineering take place. Go through the museum and watch the movie. Think back to 1912 and try to imagine what a feat building this canal really was. You will walk away impressed. For some $$ you can take a boat through the canal. Unless you are budget constricted, it is well worth it. And think about this. The caribe side of the canal is WEST of the Pacific side.
Another suggestion I have is off the beaten track, but close by. Take a one day trip (or stay overnight) to Isla Taboga. Taboga is an island off the Pacific end of the Canal. There is a lot of activity in front of the island. One type is ships from around the world waiting to go through the canal. The other is a very large Tuna fleet. The town of Taboga is quiet and genteel. It has a very old cathedral. There are small inexpensive restaurants and a selection of small hotels. Unless it is a Panamanian holiday, the town is quiet and finding a hotel will be easy. There is a nice beach to just spend a day.
Travel within Panama. Aeroperlas and Air Panama both fly out of the Albrook Airport which is about as far away from the International (Tucoman) Airport as you can get. This makes connecting flights almost impossible. If you think a connecting flight means someone else handles your bags between flights, then it is impossible. Just spend a night in PC. You can gamble and party the night away. You can also see a nice museum in Casco Viejo. There are also wonderful restaurants in that part of town. Again, any cab driver will get you there, for a creative price, unless you negotiate before you get in the back seat.
Car Rentals. Sure, all the major rental agencies operate in Panama, and the prices are about what you would expect. The roads going west out of Panama are actually very good roads. There is nothing going east. (East is the Darien. More people have climbed Mt. Everest than have crossed the Darien. Just forget about it.) You can rent a car and head towards Costa Rica on roads built by the USA to USA standards back when the USA owned the Canal and in effect, occupied Panama. Between PC and Costa Rica you will find the real Panama, the interior. There are many good guide books to give you suggestions.
Water. Don't drink it anywhere. Consider bottled water you best friend, unless you want to see Panama from a toilet seat.
Medical Care. In PC it is excellent. Medical Tourism is in fact one of the biggest industries in Panama. US and Euro trained doctors and surgeons staff modern hospitals. Everything from heart surgery to breast implants to dentistry is very inexpensive in Panama. People find out that the cost of the airfare, hotels for the spouses, and the surgery come out to about what the deductible would cost in America. And the results are just as good.
Best place for sun and cheap beer? Bocas del Toro! I have posted about BDT on Tripatini in previous days, you can find it easy enough. In fact, you can find it easier than you can find BDT!
Enjoy you trip to Panama, and write me if you get lost.
Comment by Karin Leperi on March 13, 2010 at 3:38pm
Need some expert insight on what is proving to be a difficult fact-check. Regarding a partial transit of the Panama Canal from Miraflores to Gamboa - is this going "down" and considered "south to north"?
Comment by EnLinea Media on January 1, 2010 at 5:16pm
Panama gets a shout-out in this week's Tripatini blog post surveying hot destinations for 2010. Check it out!
Comment by John Lamkin on December 25, 2009 at 7:01pm
Just spent a hectic hour in Panama Airport a couple of days ago--all I've seen of the country. I'm looking forward to a better look. As is Nicholas Allen, I'm also interested in a press trip. ciao
Saludos desde Cuenca Ecuador
Comment by EnLinea Media on December 25, 2009 at 5:05pm
This week in Top Tunes and on the Tripatini blog: Panama's top celebrities get together in Panama City's Teatro Nacional to shoot a music video, "Navidad de color (Colorful Christmas)."
Comment by Nicholas Allen on December 11, 2009 at 8:48am
Hi, I'm looking for a Panama Tourist Office contact to organise a press trip. Does anyone have any contacts?

Thanks
 

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