Earth : North America : Central America : Panama : Panama City
For other destinations of the same name, see Panama (disambiguation)
Panama City is the capital of Panama.
Panama City is a very multicultural place, with large populations from many different parts of the world. Spanish is spoken by most, and many speak some form of English. Customer service is slowly improving, and surprisingly dismal in hotels. However, on the streets Panamanians are for the most part extremely friendly and helpful and would love to give you some advice. There's great shopping, from high-end stores in the malls around Paitilla and in the banking district around Via Espana, to veritable bargains around La Central (Central Avenue, now turned into a pedestrian walkway) and the Los Pueblos outdoor mall. You can find many ethnic stores (mostly Chinese and Indian), in certain parts of the City.
Tocumen International Airport (IATA: PTY) is just outside Panama City (it's part of the San Miguelito district, which has been incorporated as a separate city but essentially exists as part of Panama City). The airport is a hub for Copa Airlines, and is also served by American Airlines (Dallas/Ft.Worth, Miami), Delta Airlines (Atlanta, Georgia), Continental Airlines (Houston, Newark), Avianca (Bogotá, Colombia) and TACA (San José, Costa Rica and San Salvador, El Salvador). Most major Central American airlines, and several South American airlines and European Airlines also serve the city. There are at least six daily flights to and from Miami, two from Orlando and Atlanta, and three daily flights from Houston, 1 from Los Angeles LAX, two from Newark, and 1 from New York's JFK. There are daily flights to Mexico City; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Caracas, Venezuela; Santiago, Chile; Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Havana, Cuba; Kingston, Jamaica, at least 7 Colombian cities (Medellín, Cali, Pereira and Bogotá included) and several international destinations. There's also service to Madrid, Spain, and service to Amsterdam with KLM.
Domestic flights leave out of Gelabert/Albrook Airport (IATA: PAC) ICAO/MPMG, a former US military airfield (Albrook Air Force Base). Domestic airlines are safe, and many fly very modern small jet aircraft. There's daily flights to every major town and city in the country. The major carriers here are AirPanama  and Aeroperlas .
There's only train service between Panama City and Colon. It's mostly a freight train, but it has a very nice passenger car. The train ride offers excellent views of the Panama Canal and the tropical rainforest.
Panama City has one of the most modern Bus Terminals of whole Latin America. It s the main Hub and well organized. The terminal is next to the Albrook airport (the domestic terminal) and it is very easy to find a bus here. All of the internatinal buses(tica bus too) starts and ends in this terminal. Arrivals are usually on the top floor and you can transfer to city busses on the lower level You can find all you want in or next to the terminal. There is a huge mall, cinema, showers, etc.
One of the easiest ways to get around town is by taxi. Taxis do not have a meter. Fares are set by the authorities, and are determined based on what section of the city you are starting at and what section of the city you are going to, with a surcharge for every additional person. The cab driver should have a table (which may include a map) that will show the costs for the fare, and they are required to show it to you if you ask. Fares are around $1.25 for travel within one zone, and the longest fares within the City at about $5. Keep in mind that the former Canal Zone is in a different section, and it will be at least a $5 fare. The surcharge for additional passengers should be $.50/additional passenger, and there's also a $.40 surcharge if you call a cab (at least these were the prices a few years ago). A taxi to or from the international airport typically costs $25 plus tolls if you take the Corredor Sur highway. A taxi to the Amador Causeway costs between $5 - $10. Cab drivers do not expect tips, and they may pick up additional passengers along the way. The rule is that unless there's little to no deviation from the first person's route, the first person picked up is the first person dropped off, otherwise they will ask if it's ok to pick up the other fare. Cabs can also be rented for the day, and the fares again are set (probably around $20-$25). In this case, they will expect a little extra (tip and/or lunch).
Getting around by bus is also cheap and convenient. Fares are $0.25 and the destination of the bus is written across the front windshield in large letters. Buses are privately owned and drivers usually compete with each other for passengers. For this reason, buses have colorful decorations to attract customers. During rush hour some buses can get crowded, and it is not unusual to see 3 people seated on a 2-person bench and lots of people standing along the aisle. It is not advised to use buses during these hours.
Panamanian crafts High end crafts can also be purchased from shops in the Centro de Artesanias in Balboa neighborhood or in the shops of Mi Pueblitos. Indian stores on every major shopping distric (El Dorado mall and surroundings, Los Pueblos, and along Via Espana) also sell many Panamanian souvenirs. Gran Morrison is also a place to find many handicrafts.
There's several cafes along Via Argentina. The Spanish sandwich shops offer excellent sandwiches, coffee, and churros. Try Manolo's Churreria (don't miss the churros rellenos, pastries filled with dulce de leche and rolled in sugar) or Del Prado. Sandwiches should cost from $3-$5. Also on Via Argentina is El Trapiche, serving traditional Panamanian food for under $12/person. They serve excellent breakfast food. Niko's Cafe has several locations around the City. Owned by Greeks, they are all open 24 hours and the have a good selection of sandwiches and hot food served all day long. Don Lee is a panamanian chain serve Chinese fast food, and definitely worth a try. There's an abundance of Chinese restaurants, and some can be very affordable. Try some around El Dorado, they should be pretty authentic.
Restaurante Poly (Corner of 26th and Avenida Sur) A very crowded, noisy and not very hygienic restaurant, it's however a truly gastronomic experience. Do not miss the delicious fish soups and the bistec picado, both for under 2 USD each.
Lung Fung on Transistmica Avenue serves some of the best Chinese food in the City. It will be a different experience. Try Dim Sum any day of the week (expect long lines on weekends), although it has lost some of its charm now that the wait staff speaks such good Spanish instead of only Cantonese or Haka. Marbella is a very old school Panamanian restaurant on Balboa Avenue. It's a Spanish place specializing in seafood. Excellent paella and overall good seafood. Prices are stuck in 1984, so a hearty plate of paella will set you back $13, and there's only one item with a higher price on the menu. Van Gogh - This nice little Italian restaurant is right near the Via Venteo Casino. It has great food, great service, and a great atmosphere. It is one of the best Italian restaurants in Panama City.
Calle Uruguay is a neighborhood filled with bars and discos for wealthy Panamanians and foreigners.
Taberna 21 is a local hangout serving great cheap beer and Spanish tapas.
Buy and try some Panamanian and Cuban coffee while you're here. It will be some of the best you've ever had.
Be careful in both Casco Viejo and the Panama la Vieja ruins area. There are tourist police aplenty in both neighborhoods but do not wander too far in these areas alone (even in the day) and certainly not in the evening.
Stay out of El Chorillo, Santa Ana, and San Miguel. It is very dangerous right now due to infighting between drug gangs. Tourists have been kidnapped right off the street. El Chorillo borders San Filipe so it is very easy to accidentally walk into it.
Look both ways before crossing the street! Panamanian drivers are notoriously aggressive when the traffic allows and will not slow down for you even if you're lucky enough to find a crosswalk. There's only one way to cross the road here. Wait for a break in the traffic and walk. Once you start, keep going. Drivers will stop(99% of the time......). Otherwise you'll be stuck for hours waiting.
The central neighborhoods of Marbella, El Cangrejo, Obarrio, San Francisco, and the Banking Area are generally the most safe. In any case, be careful of your belongings, even if sitting in a restaurant, as people have had things snatched without noticing it, especially when enjoying a glass too many of Panama's great wine selection. It is never a good idea to drink heavily and walk back to your hotel.
A dumb tourist mistake is bragging aloud about how cheap things are when local wages are also much lower compared to Europe and North America.
It's always a good idea (in any country really) to spend a few minutes to find out exact taxi fares before taking a taxi and always have exact change for the correct fare. This avoids over-charging and problems with some drivers. Having to ask a taxi driver how much the fare is is the equivalent to wearing a "kick-me" sticker on your shorts, as you're telling him you don't know. Some have paid $20.00 to get from El Dorado to Via Argentina, but the real fare for one person is $1.75.
Some taxis at the main bus station prey on visitors. Never put your belongings in the trunk. Sit in the back seat along with your belongings and have your luggage firmly grasped while entering and exiting the vehicle; otherwise, they can drive away with your things while you are still trying to get in. Lock the doors once inside. Avoid and ignore anyone who approaches you to "get a taxi for you"; go to the curb to get one yourself. At best they will want money for this "service" amounting to half the taxi fare; at worst, they are setting you up to be robbed with certain drivers with whom they work. Lastly, the cabs are marked on the door with a unique registration number -- memorize it or write it down and secretly tuck it safely away on your person before entering any cab.
Never lose your temper with taxi drivers or police (or anyone else really) no matter how bad you may find a situation or service in some places. Exert your rights politely but firmly.