Panama City Guide
OVERVIEW: Often mistaken by Google for Panama City, Florida in my online searches, Panama City is the largest city and capital of Panama. It is an important international financial and commercial hub, and home to one of the largest Carnival celebrations outside of Brazil. Has similar vibe and layout to American cities.
WEATHER: Tropical wet & dry (23-29 °C). Rainy season May-December.
SAFETY: Panama is one of the safer Central American cities. But, there are a few slums that have a reputation for gang violence. El Chorrillo is reportedly one of these slums and borders Casco Viejo, a popular tourist destination. I walked through El Chorrillo many times with no issues.
MUST DO: Ancon Hill. Gives a good view of both the old city and the new, and the hike takes minimal effort.
RENT AN APARTMENT IN PANAMA CITY: $600.00 can be done in a safe neighbourhood like Rio Abajo (predominantly West Indian community), but if you want to rent anywhere close to the seawall or Calle Argentina, you're looking at $700 at the least.
HOSTEL DORM BED/NIGHT $9.00
NIGHTLIFE IN PANAMA CITY: 8.5/10
Most clubs are on or around Calle Uruguay. There are some classy spots around Casco Viejo and Calle Argentina as well. The nightlife on Calle Uruguay is a phenomenal mix of locals and internationals. What it isn't, however, is cheap or inclusive, so dress accordingly. You're looking at a $10 cover to get into most bars, but once you're in, it's a good time.
BOTTLE OF BEER: $3.00
CHANCE OF HOOKING-UP IN PANAMA CITY: 6.5/10
Exoticness won't factor in much here; Panamanian girls don't seem to really give a fuck if you're from somewhere else. Spanish is also a must. Not much patience for (or knowledge of) English. Many clubs aren't set up well for mingling, i.e. lots of tables not lots of floor space. Considerably hard to close if you don't exhibit social capital of some kind. I suggest that if you have the money, go with a group of people, a few of whom speak Spanish, rent an apartment or hotel rooms near Calle Uruguay, dress nicely, and have a good back story about being in Panama.
***ONLINE DATING: Latin American Cupid allows you to talk with girls and set up dates before you arrive in the country. For this reason, I recommend it.
ARE GIRLS HOT IN PANAMA CITY?: 7.25/10.
Many of the hot girls from Panama look like rich Mexican girls from D.F or Guadalajara. There are some hot black girls here as well (I was here during Carnival, and boy did they ever show up!) but you generally won't find too many of them partying around Calle Argentina or Uruguay. I'd say Panama City has the best girls that Central America has to offer: A lot of immigration and mixing has created quite a cool-looking bunch of women. Nothing as nice as Brazil or Cuba, but still worth looking at.
If you want to meet women in Panama, you will need to speak some Spanish. The Pickup Spanish Program is the only course of its kind, designed specifically to teach you Spanish for meeting Latinas in Latin America.
GROCERIES: Milk (1L)= $1.30 Loaf of Bread= $1.50 Eggs= $2.25 Water (1.5L)= $1.50 Cigarettes= $4.50
JOB OPPORTUNITIES: Banking. I'm sure many major America banks are up to no good here in Panama City, so if you work for one, you could aim for a transfer. I knew a guy who worked as a private English teacher here, and there is a market considering the business environment and amount of tourism, but you'd have to work for yourself. Panamanians look after their own first when it comes to work, so getting a work visa will be tough.
TAXI: Never pay more than $5 to get anywhere. Even that is too much, but the taxi drivers here are dicks and may not pick you up if they don't feel they are ripping you off enough. Zone-based system, so study the zones to know the cab fare and only pay that amount when you get out: don't negotiate before hand. Hell, I'd even bring a printout of the zone prices with you if hate confrontation as much as getting ripped off.
NOTES: A good time. Panama city has decent food, relatively cheap living costs and pretty girls. Try to come during Carnival in March if you can. All the rich people flee for Las Tablas because they think that the Panama City Carnival is too dangerous. That gets all of the fucking prudes out of your way so you can really enjoy yourself. The lineup to get into the fairgrounds can be about 1 km long, but don't let that intimidate you; It moves fast. Panama City would be worth an extended stay if you can find affordable housing that satisfies your logistic desires.
OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10
*More city guides from Panama here!