Panama City vs Mexico City: Which City Is Better?

 

It's time to go head-to-head once again!

This time, we'll compare Panama City and Mexico City and determine which is better for visiting or living. In many ways, these two capital cities are similar - they are both modern, they both have a large number of expats and they are both easily accessible from the USA, with a large number of cheap, daily flights from major American cities.

I'll say right off the bat that both are solid choices for someone looking for an introduction to Latin America.

But there are some differences that you'll want to consider before choosing either one of these destinations.

We'll break things down by Cost of Living, Weather, Food, Nightlife, Women and Infrastructure. By the end of the article, you'll know which city is better suited to you.

Let's get started.

 

 

Panama City vs Mexico City: Which city is better?

                                             Panama City

                                             Panama City

                                                 Mexico City

                                                 Mexico City

 

COST OF LIVING

For many of you, this is a deciding factor in choosing a city to either live in or visit. I know it is for me. As you might expect, as one of the more developed countries in Latin America, Panama City is more expensive than Mexico City.

But you may be surprised to find out just how much more it is.

According to Expatistan, Panama City is 50% more expensive than Panama City. Having spent a good amount of time in both, I can confirm that this figure is accurate. In other words, if you can get by on $1000.00 a month in Mexico City (it's possible), expect to spend $1500.00 a month in Panama. This is quite a substantial difference, and one of the main reasons I chose to live in Mexico City instead. In a recent article, I mentioned that I'd personally spend over $2000.00 a month if I were to live in Panama.

The biggest price differences you'll likely notice are in transportation, entertainment and housing. You'll pay a fuck ton more for taxis and Ubers, restaurants and cafes, drinks at a bar and apartment and Airbnb rentals in Panama than you will in Mexico City. In fact, other than electronics, I can't think of a single thing that is cheaper in Panama City than Mexico City.

Although Panama is safer and slightly more developed and modern than the DF, it isn't enough to justify this massive cost of living differential. Big win for Mexico City here.

 

Winner: Mexico City

 

 

WEATHER

Not everyone knows this, but it rains a lot in Panama City. Its rainy season typically goes for about 8 months of the year (May to January). Not only that, but it can get pretty hot and humid. Mexico City on the other hand has a shorter rainy season (May to September) and it never gets too hot or humid; spring-like temperatures basically all year round. 

Personally, I'm not bothered too much by the humidity in Panama, and the rainfall in both cities only typically lasts for an hour or two at a time - very rarely will it rain all day. But, objectively speaking, Mexico City has a climate that will be preferable to most people.

 

Winner: Mexico City

 

 

FOOD

Mexican cuisine is known all throughout the region, as well as the world. Panamanian cuisine? Not so much. It leaves a lot to be desired in terms of spice and flavour. There is also a sickening abundance of fried food, yucca and plantains being the most popular. Although there are some top-notch restaurants in Panama and more American-style food than there is in Mexico, it's really no contest. This one goes to Mexico City.

 

Winner: Mexico City

 

                                                                 Mexico City

                                                                 Mexico City

 

SAFETY

Mexico City has a horrible reputation for safety. When most people think of Mexico, images of kidnappings, gang violence and armed robberies jump to mind. It's not as dangerous as most people think, but there are many neighbourhoods where I wouldn't want to be strolling alone at night.

Panama City isn't without its problems either. There are several barrios with pretty fierce reputations: Panama Viejo, Chorillo and San Miguelito, for instance. But in general, Panama City is safer, statistically, and based on the way you feel walking around both cities. The tourist areas of Panama City are well lit and very well patrolled. They know how much of their economy rides on tourism, so the government makes sure that tourists are safe.

It's unlikely that you'll run into problems in either city if you're smart about it, but this category definitely goes to Panama City.

 

Winner: Panama City

 

 

NIGHTLIFE

Both cities deliver in terms of nightlife. There are spots for people of all stripes and all tastes in both the Mexican and Panamanian capitals. No complaints from me for either city.

However, one thing that you won't find in Mexico City that you will in Panama City is good dancing. Sounds weird but it's true.

I could care less about good dancing. I hate dancing. I only do it if I can't avoid it. But there's no denying that there is a much better dance scene, especially for things like Reggaeton, Merengue, Bachata or any other type of sexy dancing that tends to be popular in Caribbean countries.

One hilarious thing is that Mexicans have a reputation for being the worst dancers among Latinos that know anything about Mexico. It's probably one of the reasons I feel more at home in Mexico. More hilariously, is that Mexicans have no idea that they have this reputation. But talk to any Latino or Latina foreigner in the country and I'll guarantee they'll tell you the same.

This might not matter at all for you - it doesn't matter for me - but everything else being equal, I'm going to give Panama City the win for nightlife.

 

Winner: Panama City

 

 

WOMEN

Unlike its food, Mexico is not known for its women. This is somewhat unfair, since girls in Mexico City can be pretty hot. But it makes sense - they really can't compare with Colombians, Venezuelans or Brazilians. After spending time in both cities, I can say that, overall, the women in Panama City are better. There is more diversity - you'll find a solid number of black, mestizo and white girls here. Their bodies are also significantly better than what you'll find in Mexico's capital. It's likely that the high number of Colombian and Venezuelan immigrants are raising the average in Panama City, but the fact remains: girls in Panama City are fitter and more attractive overall than girls in Mexico City.

They are, however, also harder to get into bed.

 

Winner: Panama City

If online dating is your thing, check out Mexican Cupid for Mexico and Latin American Cupid for Panama.

                                                                 Panama City

                                                                 Panama City

 

INFRASTRUCTURE 

The infrastructure in Panama City is impressive. I remember taking a cab from the airport one time and being surprised at how not-poor much of the housing looked (areas around airports are usually pretty rundown in most Latin American cities). In fact, most of the places that tourists spend time in in Panama City could easily be mistaken for an American city; many say that it has striking similarities to both Miami and Chicago (haven't been to either so can't confirm). That being said, the area of Chorillo right next to Casco Viejo is a pretty shocking contrast...it's a borderline slum.

Mexico City also has impressive infrastructure. If you stick to the affluent areas like Polanco, Santa Fe, Lomas etc., or along Insurgentes or Reforma, it can also be mistaken for an American city. However, the rest of the city can be pretty dire. The outskirts of the city are for the most part incredibly poor. Same with more centrally-located barrios like Doctores, Guerrero and Tepito.

The metrobus transportation lines in each city are of similar quality, as is the Internet speed.

Service and getting shit set up is annoying in both countries.

As a tourist or expat, sticking around the places that tourists and expats usually stick to, you'll probably find (like I did) that Panama City has a bit better infrastructure than Mexico City. Although the difference between the two is not something that will affect you terribly, Panama City takes the win here.

Winner: Panama City

 

CONCLUSION

Cost of Living: Mexico City

Weather: Mexico City

Food: Mexico City

Safety: Panama City

Nightlife: Panama City

Women: Panama City

Infrastructure: Panama City

 

As you can see, Panama City comes out on top. However, depending on what you value, you might find that Mexico City is a better fit. For me it is - the lower cost of living and accessibility to other cool cities was enough for me to choose to live in Mexico City. Panama is a small country and, apart from some nice beaches, I found that there wasn't too much to explore.

For a week or two long vacation I'd suggest Panama City. The nightlife is top-notch, women are the best in Central America and it's easier to explore than the vast monster that is Mexico City. But if you're on a budget and looking for a place to base up for awhile, I'd pick CDMX.

 

Until next time,

Vance