Panama Travel Hacks Every Traveller Should Know

May 12, 2023

With several direct flights into Tocumen International Airport daily, Panama is a great place to travel if you're looking for direct and easy flights from Canada or the U.S. Since Panama does not require a tourist Visa for U.S. or Canadian travelers, traveling to Panama is a quick and easy endeavor for most North American travelers. To make things even more hassle free we’re offering up our best Panama Travel Hacks that every traveler should know.

From navigating Panama City & exploring the colorful streets of Casco Viejo, to finding the perfect spot on a world class surf break in Playa Venao, these Panama travel hacks will save you time, money, and hassle when traveling to Panama. 

Explore your Options when Booking your trip to Panama

Booking a trip to Panama? Be sure to shop around! Not all routes are priced equally, you might be surprised to find that flights are available from destinations near your for less. For example, flights leaving from Toronto, Canada, might be more expensive than flights leaving from Montreal, Canada or Newark, New Jersey. If you are willing to drive to the next province or state, or take a hopper flight (for instance from NYC to NJ), you can definitely save some money! You can also save by being flexible on your departure date, as some dates are more expensive to travel to Panama than others.

By using a booking platform like Kayak you can benefit from the Matrix which allows you to see the prices of several days before and after your travel dates.

Use Waze to Navigating Panama City & Exploring Casco Viejo 

Don't let the size of the country of Panama fool you. While Panama is a small country, Panama City can feel like a big city when you're driving. Getting around in Panama City is easy using Ubers, taxis or shuttle services for transportation is often less stressful than driving.

Wide photo of Panama city centre

If you do choose to rent a car in Panama City, make sure you download Waze for navigation. Waze is the most useful app for navigating Panama City. Traffic and road closures are common, especially in Casco Viejo, Panama’s old town. Exploring this area on foot is recommended.

To ensure you have data on the go, you might want to consider buying a local SIM card from a provider like Mas Movil. Pay-as-you-go cell phone plans are very reasonably priced (starting at $3.00) in Panama and are a great way to stay connected.

While Panama City is full of  beautiful architecture and cultural experiences, in our opinion one of the biggest Panama Travel Hacks is to get past the city.

Travel beyond Panama City to Playa Venao

Panama is a relatively small country geographically, so it is easy to explore, and there is so much to see. From beautiful beaches just hours out of Panama City, to stunning waterfalls not but a 10 minute hike from the road. If you are looking for a magical experience outside of Panama city, Playa Venao is the place! Hidden in the tropical rainforest on a pristine beach perfect for learning to surf, Playa Venao is an ideal place to visit outside of Panama City. 

Venturing out of the city will give you an entirely different experience. Beach Break Surf Camp offers a shuttle out of Panama City, with one night in Panama City to give you the best of both worlds and safe & reliable transport in-between.

Three transport vans in front of the Beach Break Surf Camp in Panama

Pay a Little More, and You'll Get a Lot More

Panama is full of great experiences, but what's kind of special about Panama is that high quality accommodations and some all-inclusive offerings are cheaper compared to Costa Rica and other Central American destinations. When looking for places to stay in Panama be sure to check what’s included in the stay.

While hostels and shared rooms are generally on par with other Central American countries, you can enjoy beachfront resort-like amenities for a great price in Panama. Explore options, even if you're on a budget you might be surprised what is available to you!

Check out BBSC all-inclusive options and what they include. 

A photo of the shared room accommodation in Beach Break Surf Camp in Panama

Learning some basic Spanish phrases will help you connect!

In Panama if you speak even just a little bit of Spanish people will be even happier to chat. Being able to communicate with locals will help you get immersed in the culture. Here are some common phrases that you might find useful:

  • Hola: Hello
  • ¿Cómo estás?: How are you?
  • Gracias: Thank you
  • Por favor: Please
  • ¿Dónde está...?: Where is...?
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta?: How much does it cost?
  • No entiendo: I don't understand

Learning a few phrases can not only help you communicate with locals, but also show them that you respect their language and culture. Plus, it can make your travel experience more fun and meaningful. However, if you're not comfortable with learning a new language, don't worry. Many Panamanians also speak English, so you can still enjoy your trip without knowing Spanish.

Travel during Green Season

Panama has two seasons, and honestly they're both great! Depending on what you're looking for in Panama, you'll probably find varying information on which one's better. 

If you google best time to travel to Panama you might find results telling you to "visit during the dry season" (December - April) when there is less rain. The truth is Panama is gorgeous when it rains in Panama because everything is lush and green. Locals call it green season!

Whatsmore is, typically only rains for a few hours and then the sunshine brightly for the rest of the day. Don't count the rainy season out in Panama, it's the best time to surf on the Pacific coast of Panama and there are some great travel deals from North America. 

A surfer heading out into the water while holding his bright red surfboard

Explore the Local Food Scene

Food in Panama is cheap, if you eat local. Try the traditional dishes like ceviche, sancocho, and empanadas to get a taste of Panama’s unique cuisine and a great price.  Panamanians are warm and friendly people, eating at local restaurants is  a great way to get a feel for local cultures and customs.

In addition to the traditional dishes, Panama also offers a wide range of fruits and vegetables that are unique to the region. Make sure to try the sweet and juicy pineapples, mangoes, and papayas, which are abundant in the country. 

Save money by Traveling to Panama in the Summer 

Since most people travel to Panama when it is cold in the U.S. or Canada, travel tends to be cheaper in the spring & summer months. Starting in April there are many travel deals from North America to Panama. But don’t wait as deals typically don’t last long.

Now is the time to book your summer vacation at BBSC.

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