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Panama City sits in the middle of the country, between continents, and stands as both the cosmopolitan centre of the nation, and the international gateway to Panama’s natural attractions.

 

Things to do in Panama City

 

Stroll through the streets of Casco Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and filled with Spanish colonial architecture. Wandering this neighbourhood will give you a chance to admire the 17th century homes, churches and government buildings that were once the centre of administration here, and you can also see the French monument dedicated to the 22,000 men who perished while constructing the Panama Canal. If you’d like to go even further back in time, see the original settlement—Panama Viejo—founded in the 16th century, and a huge trading point for the Incan gold that the Spanish seized.

 

Then hop on a bike, or walk down the Amador Causeway, a road that connects the islands to the mainland, and provides a fantastic view of Panama City. There’s the added advantage of the excellent dining and drinking that can be done on each of the islands. However, if it’s views you’re after, then hiking up to Ancon Hill offers the best panorama of Panama City, offering outlooks from 200 metres high.

 

For time outside the city, Isla Taboga is the most popular spot, with colourful houses stepping down palm fringed hills, to golden beaches and warm waters of the Panama Bay. It is a great way to slow down and appreciate the tropical charms of Panama.

 

Of course, the must-see item on any Panamanian itinerary is the extraordinary Panama Canal. This canal historically connected the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and changed the course of modern shipping as we know it. Head to the Miraflores Locks for the best view of this groundbreaking canal.

 

Best time to visit Panama City

 

·         Panama City is renowned for its good weather, with sunny days dominating the year, with highs that hover between 17-32°C.

·         March to April guarantees warm weather so this is a lovely time of year to visit, but be warned, the crowds and prices are at their highest.

·         September to October are less expensive, and cooler, but the highs are between 27-31°C.

·         July and August are when the rains come to town and are best avoided.

 

Best time to book

 

·         Trips out to South America are best booked just shy of seven monthsahead, to save yourself the most money you can.

 

Expect to pay

 

·         Panamanian Balboa (PAB) or United States Dollar (USD).

·         Your morning coffee in Panama City will come to about 2.80USD/PAB ($3.65).

 

Arriving in Panama City by plane

 

·         The Panama City Tocumen International Airport (PTY)is the key transport hub for Panama City. Carriers flying between Australia and Panama City are COPA, Qantas, American Airlines, Delta, United, Hawaiian Airlines, and Air New Zealand.

·         Panama City’s international airport has a decent range of facilities, including free WiFi, a selection of coffee bars, kiosks and restaurants, duty-free shops, ATMs, and bureau de change services.

·         Stopovers are inevitable on a long-haul journey like this one, and you will be subject to one or two layovers depending on who you fly with, but expect to be routed through Los Angeles (LAX), or Santiago (SCL).

 

Visa requirements

 

·         Australians do not need to apply for a visa prior to flying to Panama City, but you will have to pay a nominal fee upon entry, and there are a few requirements travellers needs, such as a credit card, or a set bank balance of 500USD ($655) or equivalent. For more information, please go to the smart traveller’s dedicated page on Panama.

 

Transportation to city centre

 

·         There are official taxis designated for tourists travelling from the airport into town, and you must pre-pay for the fare. Expect the rates to start at around 30USD/30PAB ($39).

·         Buses and shuttles are the public transport methods you can take, but if you’d like to have your ride organised in advance, you can book an airport transfer online.

·         There are several car hire companies within the arrivals area of the airport, but you can also arrange a car rentalonline, so your booking is ready for when you arrive.

 

Where to stay in Panama City

 

·         Casco Viejo, or the city’s Old Town is really the best place to stay, most of the city’s sights are here, as well as many of the best restaurants, bars and clubs. Added to that, there’s a comprehensive range of hotelsfrom budget to luxury ones.

 

Useful tips before you go

 

·         Tipping is not required in Panama City, but generally rule of thumb is that you do not tip taxi drivers, and leave around 10% at restaurants.

 

Please note that the information provided above is accurate as of September 2016

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