Panama Essentials

Wifi – 3/5

The wifi in Panama is less prevalent than in Colombia. It doesn’t usually exist within bus terminals, parks or other public spaces. If it does, its annoyingly complicated to login or issues the statement “Connected, no internet” which doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.  Within the few hostels we have connected, it is easily bogged down by the number or users and is difficult to make calls. Typically the more remote the hostel, the better the connection. Right now we are at Playa Venao, a surfing paradise and the Wifi is great!

Transportation – 4/ 5

Urban transport is efficient within Panama City, there is a new Metro and new modern buses going into place. The old form of chicken buses are going out of style (although still incredibly stylish with 2pac painted on the back, weird 90’s cartoons over the sides, purple bubble windows on the top and only about 6 inches of visible windshield after taking all the insane stickers into account).

The main form of medium distance travel here are collectivos. Easy to figure out by the to & from locations listed on their windshields (“Anton – En Valle”); easy to catch (wave your hands frantically at the side of the road); and cheap. To travel from Panama City to the ecolodge in Coronado only cost $5.50USD and it was 2 collectives over 2-3 hours. Much cheaper than Colombia!

Long distance travel is always a nightbus, which from what we can tell are modern with bathrooms and on time. We have no experience with this nonsense anymore though – we have our own long distance transport now suckers!

Road Conditions – 3.5 / 5

The Pan-American highway is a dream here. Smooth sailing, divided and beautiful.  Not to mention there are only tolls in Panama City which are electronically monitored with stickers. So maybe, if you have an foreign plated vehicle you can just drive past them without issue! Don’t trust us on this one though, we inherited a sticker with our Panamanian truck.

The traffic congestion within Panama is absolutely atrocious though. We assume to be frustrated within every latin american city but Panama City is our first and we dislike it. The city is small, the streets are well paved but the traffic planner must have been drunk. Every street, including the thoroughfares are one way, and without a well-laid grid pattern its not exactly easy to get from one side to the other. Shaped like a banana, its sometimes easier to from one end to the other then through the middle. Also, a quick trip can take literally hours during peak traffic.

Food  – 2 / 5

Pretty boring if we are honest. Fresh fruits are good but variety is limited; standard Pollo Asado (BBQ chicken) is good if a little repetitive; the remaining food is a bit bland for us. For the record if anyone tries to suggest the local version of KFC to you “Pio Pio”, just skip it. The versions served by mom & pop establishments are far superior.

Street food is typically a steamed hotdog, maybe a stale empanada if you are lucky.

One thing we can say is that western food is very prevelant here, thanks to the huge expat population. As long as you have money, you can find any kind of sustenance you want! Want some fancy bread? French Cheeses? Kraft Dinner Mac and cheese? You got it! This is only appealing to us because we have reached the part of our trip where we (specifically Jessica) is going a bit crazy for the tastes of home.

Sorry Panama!

Safety  – 5 / 5

Great! No issues yet (knock on wood). Some neighbourhoods in Panama City are not safe at night, but also not really interesting to see so why even go there? We haven’t heard about anyone getting robbed, or assaulted and certainly have been easily keeping out of trouble ourselves.

Just don’t try to invest money here, seems you might get in trouble or something.

Street Dogs – 3.5 / 5

There seems to be better stray dog control here, as there are fewer within city limits than other countries. The dogs we do see are again very well cared for, and maybe too well fed. Hostels tend to start collecting them and we haven’t stayed anywhere that hasn’t had a few dogs kicking around.

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