If you happen to’re a budget-conscious traveler seeking to go to Panama City, begin with these money-saving ideas.

Whereas Panama is costlier than most of its Central American neighbors – apart from Costa Rica – its cosmopolitan capital remains to be good worth, particularly when in comparison with cities within the US and Europe.

There are many alternatives to splash your money within the metropolis – fashionable boutique accommodations, world-class museums, connoisseur eating places, and hip cocktail bars amongst them – however there are methods to chop prices too, from sharing a hostel dorm room to taking the bus and consuming with the locals.

You’ll be able to at all times use the cash you save to splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime expertise – maybe swimming with whale sharks within the Parque Nacional Coiba or desert island-hopping across the Comarca de Guna Yala. Listed here are our high tricks to stretch your funds additional.

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Keep away from the excessive season and the best costs

Tropical Panama is a year-round vacation spot, however costs rise in the course of the sizzling, dry season – which runs from round December to April – and get even greater across the a number of independence-related festivals in November, Christmas, New 12 months, and Easter. If you happen to journey in the course of the hotter, wet season – round Might to November – you’ll escape the crowds, in addition to bag a cut price on lodging and arranged excursions.

Go overland to Panama Metropolis on one in every of Central America’s long-distance buses

If you happen to’re already exploring Central America, take into account catching one of many budget-friendly, border-hopping bus strains that function across the area. Ticabus has air-conditioning, wi-fi, bogs, and reclining seats and, should you’re coming from Costa Rica, the 18-hour bus journey from San José to Panama City prices round $45 – means cheaper than the 75-minute direct flight that is available in at round $230.

The old town of Panama City, lined with colorful buildings
A homestay might imply saving some cash in addition to enhancing your Spanish © L. Toshio Kishiyama / Getty Pictures

Bunk up in a dorm room or stick with a household

There’s no scarcity of wallet-friendly beds round Panama Metropolis with one thing for all budgets, from a hostel bunk to lodging in a household dwelling. Try reserving websites resembling Hostelworld, Homestay, Couchsurfing, and Airbnb, and also you’ll get to take pleasure in some social interplay, insider ideas, and kitchen area – your Spanish may enhance as nicely.

Money remains to be most well-liked in Panama

Bank cards are extensively accepted at extra upscale institutions across the metropolis, however utilizing plastic typically means ATM costs and bank card transaction charges again dwelling. It’s smart to hold money for day-to-day dealings and when the ATM doesn’t work. And be sure to have some small payments for neighborhood diners, native outlets, and metropolis taxis as they hardly ever have change.

Public transportation is the most cost effective method to get round Panama Metropolis

Elements of town are simply walkable (or runnable, or cyclable), particularly the cobbled streets of Casco Viejo and the waterfront promenades of theCinta Costera and the Amador Causeway.

However should you’re going farther afield, town has an environment friendly public transportation system, together with Central America’s first and solely metro, that hyperlinks town middle with the northern and southern reaches of the metropolitan space. You’ll want to purchase a $2 rechargeable Metro, MetroBus, or RapiPass card to make use of it, then all journeys are $0.35.

The cross additionally works on the Metrobus, the smooth replacements for the eye-catching however unregulated diablo rojos (purple devils), with journeys costing $0.25.

Aerial view of Panama City with skyscrapers and lots of yellow taxis on the street below waiting in traffic
Rent a yellow taxi from exterior a lodge or mall and you will be paying extra in your fare © Gianfranco Vivi / Getty Pictures

Be smart when taking native taxis or obtain a ride-hailing app

Panama Metropolis’s yellow licensed taxis is usually a budget-friendly method to get round, however they’re not metered so you should negotiate a fare earlier than you set off – be sure that it’s for the trip and never per individual. And keep away from taking taxis from exterior a lodge or shopping center as this robotically means a value hike. Drivers don’t anticipate ideas however you may at all times spherical up the fare.

Uber is a greater possibility; there’s additionally UberEnglish for non-Spanish audio system and UberAssist for individuals with mobility points. Lyft can also be accessible.

Be taught some Spanish to keep away from “gringo tax”

English is extensively spoken in Panama Metropolis so you will get by with out talking a phrase of Spanish, however slightly of the native lingo goes a good distance. It’s at all times price having a number of helpful phrases up your sleeve – and the Google Translate app in your telephone – to sidestep greater costs, particularly when coping with taxi drivers and market distributors.

Tropical white fish marinated in lemon juice and chopped onions, served in a coconut with green plantain baskets surrounding the plate.
Panama Metropolis is full of recent seafood choices © Sergio Amiti / Getty Pictures

Rustle up your personal meals

Hostels and homestays often include well-equipped kitchens, the place you can also make your personal meals, prep your personal picnics and save your self a fistful of {dollars} by buying in supermarkets, resembling Tremendous 99 and Justo & Bueno. There’s at all times plentiful recent fruit on supply – the aguacate (avocado), sandia (watermelon), piña (pineapple), maracuya (ardour fruit), and papaya are particularly scrumptious.

Eat like an area and replenish on Panama’s favourite dishes

Panama Metropolis has a cosmopolitan restaurant scene, from bento packing containers to spaghetti bolognese, however a few of its finest – and most cost-effective – eats are conventional Panamanian dishes, or comida típica, served in hole-in-the-wall eating places, self-service cafeterias, and from road carts.

Arroz con pollo (hen and rice) is a lunchtime favourite with the locals, and well-stuffed empanadas and transportable patacones (fried inexperienced plantains) make satisfying snacks.

At metropolis establishments resembling Café Coca Cola and El Trapiche the reasonably priced, filling (and infrequently fried) fare contains ropa vieja (pulled beef with greens and rice) and sancocho (hearty hen and vegetable soup), or go all out on the bandejas (combined platters) to strive slightly of every part. Wash all of it down with a glass of chicha, a refreshing mixture of tropical fruit juice and water.

Go wildlife-spotting with out leaving town

You don’t have to depart the city jungle to take pleasure in a style of Panama’s staggering biodiversity. For simply $5, you may discover the well-kept trails of town’s inexperienced lung, the Parque Natural Metropolitano, an unlimited protected area the place the luxurious tropical forest is dwelling to a tremendous array of natural world.

Go early for probably the most animal motion – and cooler temperatures – with the possibility to identify somnolent sloths, chattering monkeys, and talkative toucans. And don’t miss the stellar metropolis views from the park’s viewpoint.

A hand holds a can of beer out against a body of water with a city skyline in the distance
Avoid wasting bucks by selecting an area beer as an alternative of an imported one © Impressed By Maps / Shutterstock

Drink the native brew

Thirsty vacationers searching for a chilly one ought to cross on imported beer manufacturers and select one of many native lagers – Panama, Balboa, and the lighter Atlas – and intention for pleased hour at a hostel or native watering gap.

Panama’s craft beer scene is booming and La Rana Dorada serves up a raft of award-winning brews, together with a Belgian-style wheat beer, a German-style pilsner, and an English-style pale ale, together with some seasonal specials. With an increasing variety of brewpubs across the metropolis, the Casco Viejo department is all naked stone, polished wooden, and gleaming brass, with a really liberal pleased hour that runs from midday by way of 6pm.

Hold hydrated for much less with a water filter bottle

With Panama Metropolis’s excessive temperatures and even greater humidity, it pays to remain hydrated. Faucet water is mostly secure to drink within the metropolis – though it’s finest prevented in rural areas and islands, together with Bocas del Toro and the San Blas Archipelago. Get monetary savings and reduce plastic air pollution by investing in a water filter bottle, such because the LifeStraw Go.

Ferry hop to Isla Taboga for a funds slice of island life

You don’t need to splash out on a visit to Bocas del Toro or the San Blas Archipelago to get a style of a tropical island paradise. With golden sand and swaying palms, the historic Isla Taboga is only a 30-minute, $24 roundtrip ferry trip from the harbor on the Amador Causeway – good for a day on the playa, with seashores, cafes, and outlets all inside strolling distance from the dock. Attempt to go in the course of the week when it’s a way more tranquil escape.

Try Panama’s low cost web sites

Discount hunters ought to take a look at the every day offers on Panama’s low cost web sites. The most well-liked is OfertaSimple, the place yow will discover every part from half-price burgers in Casco Viejo to discounted day excursions of the San Blas Archipelago. Gustazos is one other good possibility – each web sites are in Spanish and English. And check out Degusta Panamá for large reductions at eating places once you e-book by way of its web site or app.

Every day prices in Panama Metropolis

Hostel dorm: $10–15
Fundamental hostel room for 2: round $30
Airbnb double room: round $30
Metro ticket: $0.35
Bus ticket: $0.25
Meal for 2 in an area restaurant: round $20
Draught beer: $2.50
Espresso: $3.50


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