Panama City On A Budget

by - September 23, 2016

Hey dolls!
If you're following my Instagram (which I know you are), you would have realised I spent a few days in Panama this past week! While my trip was purely for business, grossly unplanned and tightly budgeted, I still managed to gain some memorable experiences. During my stay I didn't take the typical tourist route and visit the Canal or do any paid attractions for that matter. Here are some of my favourite and FREE things to do in Panama City:

Avenida Balboa: I stayed at the Hampton Inn hotel which was about 10 minutes away from Avenida Balboa by foot. This area is host to one of the most beautiful parks in the city, flanked by the seaside and providing an outstanding view of the city's skyline. I spent a few hours walking through the entire park which served as a historic site with monumental statues, a yacht club, a sports hub equipped with several courts (plus a makeshift gym and runner's path), home of the infamous #VisitPanama sign and several other charming gems. Here you will meet many friendly locals, be able to get a taste of their street snacks from vendors all along the pathway and fall in love with the little oasis in the heart of the city.

Casco Viejo: Perhaps my most favourite place in Panama City. There is so much history behind this little place. As a tourist, it is so easy to miss some of the most impressive things about this area since all the roads seem to look alike. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a local ("Colón": 507-6258-4479) who was able to show me around and teach me the rich history about each monument. From the Plaza de Francia (host to Panama City's cultural centre aka the perfect place for buying souvenirs) to the monumental churches, statues and building; I was really able to get a great sense of appreciation for the old city. This area is also famous for its wide range of restaurants and cafes, though they can be a bit pricey. I did have an inexpensive meal at a cool spot called Tantálo which seemed to be THE place to be at lunch time. During my visit there was a lot of restoration in progress but personally, the rustic buildings and ruins of old structures gave the quaint town its personality. There is also a lot of street art that makes for awesome photo ops!

Malls: I went to two malls while in Panama City; Albrook Mall and AltaPlaza. Albrook Mall seemed to be more popular among locals with a massive food court and several cute attractions (especially for kids). If you're hoping to do a little bargain shopping Albrook is definitely recommended. Alta Plaza is a lot more upscale and features more high end/ First World Brands. My favourite thing about this mall was that it has a vegetarian/vegan restaurant called Juice Market with a BOMB ass quinoa burger and green juice (heaven). It also had some pretty cool street art that would look perfect in your next Facebook profile pic ;) Both malls are surrounded by other cool places that if you had the time to walk around I'm sure you'd find a few gems.

On the subject of walking, I found that on the days that I decided to forego the cab and explored by foot I found some pretty decent and unassuming little spot like a local bakery with cheap and delicious local treats. Unfortunately I didn't get to venture out much as stated above I was on a business trip (which I will tell you more about soon ^.^) but for the most part it was a good experience and with more time I'm sure there would have been even more hidden gems to discover.

A point to note about Transportation: Upon arriving at the airport, if you're like me and have no pre-arranged pick-up, I advise that you do not take a random yellow cab available upon exit. These drivers will charge you exorbitant fees. Instead, opt for an airport authorised taxi van. Usually there are men standing on the inside of the airport by the exit with a "Taxi" sign who will charge $15 (per person) to take you into the city. This is a standard rate, which is much more competitive than say $30 that my friend paid to be taken to our hotel as opposed to the $15 I had paid earlier that day.

To get around the city, I suggest downloading the Uber app. No matter the time of day Panama is teeming with yellow cabs eager to take you around. From my experience, there is a huge disparity in price stamps provided for the same distances with the yellow cabs where as the Uber drivers are generally more cost effective and it helps that most of them speak english!

ALSO, please be sure to keep hydrated and wear your sunblock while exploring the city. The sun can be pretty brutal!

until next time......

Do Good, Dress Well

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