Updated: Mar 6
By: Jon Shumaker
Casco Viejo French Quarter.
For everyone, the decision to get a second residency or passport will be particular to the individual. Common general reasons might be for a place to retire, tax reasons, or as business base. Panama might be a good option for your reasons, but you will need to evaluate your situation or consult a flag planting specialist. This article will only address the Friendly Nations Visa (FNV), but there are other options available. The FNV and Pensionado (Retirement) Visa is a common visa many benefits. For the Pensioner’s Visa, the primary hurdle is to meet the minimum retirement income from a fixed pension system, such as social security or other pensions (income generated by investment does not qualify). The law governing the FNV is changing on 20 August 2021 and if a person’s application has been submitted, they will be grandfathered in under the current rules. The primary change in the FNV requirements is the elimination of establishing a International Business Corporation (IBC) as an option and the new law requires a $200,000 investment in real estate. These changes will exclude many folks who have a lower net worth or who does not want to finance the property due to a limitation that the property must be paid off by 70 years of age. With the advancement of the Panamanian economy and the useability of their passport, the increase in requirements is overdue. The new standards are matching the prices of similar second tier citizenships, but instead of paying an initial cost in dollars it will cost time. Just by observing the change in Panama City in the last 20 years, the economic boom is evident. When the United States handed control of the Panama Canal to the Panamanians in 1999, the city scape lacked skyscrapers. Now there are 77 buildings in the city classified at over 150 meters. In the last twenty years the countries GDP has increased from 12.3 billion to projected 2021 GDP of 60 billion according to Trading Economics. The largest sector of the economy is the service sector at 67.49% according to Trading Economics. The population is concentrated in Panama with 408,168 people, with San Miguelito and Juan Diaz the next largest population centers according to World Population Review. The country has a booming economy that will provide great opportunities for those who embrace the opportunities.
Butterfly at Gamboa.
To determine if a Panamanian FNV residency is right for you, here are the benefits and disadvantages depending on your primary country, these will differ. As a United States citizen, myself, I will be addressing the United States laws directly but for those of other nationality the laws will vary. The first benefit for those with USD (United States Dollar) sourced income, is that the official currency is USD, and the local currency (Balboa) is fixed at par to the USD. This will eliminate any potential currency fluctuations. The second is the potential for a Panamanian Citizenship after 5 years of residency. The third is an amazing banking sector with stable, well capitalized banks, and an opportunity to get investments not generally available to US citizens. When applying for the citizenship, the level of commitment to Panama will probably be a factor. The current law requirements to maintain the residency is to stay in Panama 2 days every 2 years. Your time spent in the country, integration, knowledge of the country, and linguistic skills will be a factor if you intend to apply after 5 years. As soon as you get your permanent residency, apply for your E-Cedula (national identity card) as this will be required to get a bank account and start the process for an application for citizenship. The Panamanian citizenship enables visa free (including e-visas and visa on arrival) travel to 151 (as of July 2021) countries. With full access to Central and South America (including Brazil), the European Union, and other desirable countries. The big benefit for US citizens is the 90-day visa free to Russia. Under the US passport, one must apply for a 30-day visa to Russia. For the average traveler, this is enough time but for the long-term travelers, the country is to big and diverse to visit for only 30 days. The US and Canada are not visa free. By having a second passport, a person can get around the restrictions. For those that work remotely, there could be tax benefits for US citizens (consult your primary countries tax law). By having a secondary residency and using tourist visas, while working remotely in Europe (or other countries), you can use the Foreign Earned Income Exemption (FEIE) for the first $108,700 of earned income per person (2021, there are annual adjustments) (IRS). The passive investments will still be taxable based on classification, but the overall tax rate will be lower depending on your total income. Check the tax treaties pertaining to the applicable countries. Panama has the highest tax rate of 25% after $50,000 of income sourced from Panama. By structuring and locating your investments/business correctly, you could have tax reductions. Companies are taxed on local sourced income only and income earned outside of Panama is tax free. The corporate tax rate in Panama is a 25% flat rate. The yearly corporate fee is $300. The minimum corporate tax treaty would not be expected to affect the tax rate, as the minimum rate is below the Panamanian as of this writing. The FEIE applies if you are a tax resident on another country (can spend up to 4 months in the States), only spend 30 days or less in the States (airspace and territorial water counts).
The banks in Panama are better capitalized than most developing countries and on par with banking centers such as Hong Kong. The banks in the United States and Europe generally have a capital to loan ratio of 9-13%, with a higher rate of banks going defunct in the States. In the last 30 years, there has not been a single bank failure in Panama. The current bank capital adequacy ration is around 15%, but some maintain 90% or more (Helgi Library).
Cats of Panama City.
The third benefit is having greater flexibility in starting a business in a rapidly growing economy with a lower regulatory environment than many developed countries. With incomes increasing (still less than the cost-of-living increases), this is the perfect opportunity to enter a high growth market. The fourth benefit is of course to the opportunity to live in the country without doing border runs every so often (some countries you can go to the embassy to get a fresh stamp, but a border run is often easier depending on the country). Panama is cracking down on folks living in Panama and doing border runs. The FNV or another visa program will solve the issue and enable a person to apply for a work permit.
The process of getting a FNV is the easy part, but the processes of gathering the properly documented documents will take time and there is the potential for holdups. First the requirements under the old FNV law are to get the proper documentation (a clean national background check, notarized and apostilled/authenticated), open a bank account and maintain a balance of $5,000 USD, and start an IBC (there are several investment options, but an IBC will require the least capital). Make sure you bring 5 passport photos. If you need to get the photos done in Panama, the pharmacy Farmacias Arroche in Panama City is available at some locations. The key part is getting a good immigration lawyer to handle the processing, it is debated if this is a requirement or suggested but regardless it is worth the cost. There are many good and similarly priced firms, but I used Kraemer and Kraemer, based out of Panama City. They are a very professional outfit that will take care of you and minimize your bureaucratic headache. This will be a 6-month adventure, so choosing the right firm is important. From talking with others who completed the process expect to pay around $2,000 to $3000 in lawyer fees (depends on what you need). There is potential for negotiation in the price. For another full service option, Morgan & Morgan that can complete every aspect in house including the bank. One key point to remember, the more you rush the process, the more the residency will cost in time and/or money.
The national background check (in the United States an FBI report) can be obtained from your local courthouse for around $35 processing fee that will generally take a week. If you are in a rush, there are services that will cost around $100, but you will get your results in two days or less (for me it took less than 8 hours turnaround). If you have been a resident of another country for greater than 2 years, the country of residence is acceptable. This report will need to be notarized and then there are two options for the final certification before you will send the document to the law firm in Panama. The first is the apostilled report. This is expensive and it currently is a 4 to 12-week turnaround. My recommended option is having the local Panamanian consulate certify the background check. The Washington D.C. consulate is not recommended. The processing time is 8-16 business days, not including the shipping time and if it gets lost on a desk, it might take far longer. Make sure you check-in after a week to ensure the document was not lost. The consulate I would recommend is the Long Beach California location. They have a quick processing time and responsive staff. They try to have a 1 to 2 day processing time, but if they get backed up, it might take a week. You can have the document expedited and sent directly to your lawyer in Panama (for a fee).
View of Panama City.
The bank account is the second requirement of $5,000 for an individual or $7,000 for a couple. It depends on the bank that will allow you to open an account on the actual balance you will need to maintain. If you are currently in Panama, it should be easier to open an account. The private banks often have a higher minimum balance of $10,000 or more. These banks will have more options for investments and foreign currency accounts. Once you have access to the investment bank, there may be other opportunities. The credit card selection would be expected to be limited, but the cards that are offered will be better. Compared to banking in other countries as a US citizen, you have options to invest in Panama. In Canada and Australia, US citizens are blocked from even accessing their equivalent to a Certificate of Deposit (CD) (in Canada the GIC has both characteristics of a CD and a bond, some have equity enhancements, be aware of the difference). The documentation for opening accounts is stricter than in the States and you will be required to provide 1-2 bank references. Some banks in the States are unwilling to provide these or there can be complications. If you want to open a credit card in Panama, the bank makes required verification of the bank reference. This may require a conference call between your reference bank and the Panama bank to verify the reference. Credit cards operate a differently in the Panama compared to the States. In Panama, they operate on an account pledge off your savings account that can be secured if you have a delinquent bill. This prevents the accrual of credit card debt that is problematic in the States. This also means that the credit limit needs to be maintained in that bank account.
The third requirement of an IBC under the original law will be completed by the law firm when you give your inputs. This is the simplest part currently, but the change in the current law to a real estate investment from $100,000 to $200,000 minimum investment (can be financed) or work in Panama for your permanent residency. The start a business option was removed from the new law. The new law increases the capital requirements to get the FNV and will make it more difficult for some folks who do not qualify under another visa program.
One important note with driving in Panama is that as a tourist you can drive for 180 days, but if you get your residency, you will need a Panamanian driver’s license. The process is to get your home country license with an affidavit by your home country consulate or embassy in Panama. Then your home country license needs to be authenticated and a copy of the drivers license by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Be aware that if your consulate is the States, the wait for a appointment is three to four months and will cost around $200 for the four stamps (reported to me by a friend who did it). The best option might be going through the normal cycle to receive a drivers license. The normal cycle costs around $70 for the certificate, $5 for the blood test, and $40 for the license. The drivers test study material is only in Spanish but the tests are in both English and Spanish. The driving test will include some basic parking skills that any experienced driver should be able to do. You can rent a car for around $25 from some car driving schools for the test. If the home country license does not have the blood type, this will be needed by a medical laboratory certified by the Panama Transit Authority (ATTT). Go to the SERTRACEN Service Center with the medical report of blood type, passport, home country drivers license, residency immigration documents, notarized affidavit, and MFA documents. This will cost $40 and to take a eye exam. The license is valid for 4 years and takes about an hour to complete.
To receive an E-Cedula, wait a minimum of 45 days from completion of the permanent residency. Take a copy of the immigration resolution to the Electoral Tribunal offices. This can be received from your lawyer. This is possible to complete with limited Spanish in about two hours, with about a five workday wait to print the card. You will need to go back to the office to pickup your E-Cedula.
Scarf on a bench at the Metropolitan Park, Panama.
One of the central concerns of many folks when going to other countries is safety. Like any place, there are areas you do not go, and you must be cautious. The police here are very professional and well trained. To deal with some corruption issues in the past, the officers are reassigned duty stations on a regular basis. Property crime is not uncommon, but like any central American country have a good door and bars on your windows. You can get mugged in any neighborhood, but by not dressing like a tourist and do not flash expensive items is a good rule anywhere. The one neighborhood that should generally be avoided in Panama City is Curundu, west of the metro Station Albrook (there is a good seafood restaurant that you need to drive, uber, or taxi to get there). The police may stop you ask to see your passport and even examine the contents of your bag. The current covid restrictions of wearing a mask is minimally enforced but most locals and many tourist abide by this. The covid restrictions as of July 2021 are a mask must be worn outside of the home, a face shield must be worn on public transit and in government offices (you can buy one for a dollar from vendors ($2 for a higher quality shield) or ask the metro station office for a free shield), and a curfew in parts of the country. My experience with the police and customs was very pleasant. If you do have an incident of corrupt behavior on the part of the police, you can report it to a local station. Most police and Panamanians in general speak no to limited English. The police are a professional national paramilitary force with physical standards.
Panama City view.
The cost of living is very reasonable depending on where you want to live. In a popular expat haven Casco Viejo, rent is commonly around $2,000 if you do not negotiate, but you can find housing for $400 to 500 a month. Eating out is expensive depending on where you go. If you eat near the local market areas, go to the local areas, or eat around the large public transit stations it is cheap. There are many small vendors that you can eat for a plate of good food between $2-4 dollars. For produce go to local street venders where you can get a lot for a few dollars. Grapes (with seeds) cost $1 to 1.50 a pound. There are less large grocery stores, but the local mini marts often will have higher priced fresh produce. The price of a vehicle is generally less than expected in the States, but expensive for Panamanians. The mileage is generally lower for the comparable vehicle in the States. As with any place, your cost of living will reflect your expected living standards and your ability to negotiate prices.
The public transportation is excellent with expansive official system and the typical private transports. It was recommended to me to have a local act as a guide the first time or two going on the public transit and this is good advice. The first time can be a little confusing. Going from the airport, it is generally cheaper to get an Uber over the yellow cabs. The yellow cabs have negotiated prices than must be confirmed prior to entering. The other option is the public transit. To go from the airport to the city, go to the bus stop and a local will need to tap their metro card (you have to buy/recharge a metro card at the major train and bus stations) and pay them $0.35 cents to the nearest metro station. Purchase a metro card for $2 and load around $5 dollars on the card at the metro station. Take the train to the San Miguelito station (the connection point of lines 1 and 2). Since most of the hotels are on the Albrook line and head towards Albrook. The common tourist area to stay is Casco Viejo, so get off at the Cinco de Mayo Station if this is where you are staying. About two blocks over follow the pedestrian road Avenida Central straight into Casco Viejo. Avenida Central is generally safe to walk and this is where the cheapest food in the area will be located. This is where the locals shop. On Sundays, the city and many of the small shops and vendors will close.
Ships at wait for the Panama Canal.
Rental cars are generally cheap, but the expensive part is the insurance. Third party insurance from outside of Panama is not accepted, including for those with primary insurance on their credit card (one of the few I know of with primary insurance is the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and this is the top non-branded travel card for a good reason). The driving is organized chaos with signs seen more as suggestions often, but the drivers work together to get where they need to go.
The lodging options in Panama City will cover any budget from $9-250 a night. If you are looking for options in the popular Casco Viejo area, the lower cost option will be hostels from $9-20/night for a bunk. The top site to find a hostel is Hostel World (HW), but it is also worth doing a search engine search. In the States you will often find that hostels are not using HW. Also, some hostels have a premium reputation that drives business without paying a fee to HW. Tip: if you book directly at the hostel, it will often be cheaper due to not paying HW’s fee. If you are looking for a hostel in the city but near nature, Bodhi Panama City near Casco Viejo is your best option (nearest metro station is Cinco de Mayo). You will have to walk further to get cheaper food, Casco Viejo, and the metro station. The cheapest food in the area will be by the metro station and along Avenida Central (pedestrian street with local vendors and food options). For affordable hotels, go to the Obario area that is a few minutes’ walk to the Metro station (along Via Espana). My personal favorite cheap hotel in the Obario downtown district is a 3-star lodging calling Hotel Marbella (rooms range from $20-30/night) with 2 or 1 bed options and the staff cleans and changes the sheets daily. They have room service, laundry service, and a restaurant. There are several in the area like Marbella, along with some mid-priced hotels along the same street. A nice hotel in the area is Hotel Panama. There are plenty of cheap food options and if you are in a group willing to share a room, the cost will be far lower than staying in Casco Viejo with easy access via the metro.
Zipline at Gamboa Resort in Gamboa.
To note the small differences in Panama from the States, I noticed with the people and the culture. When driving, both passengers and drivers generally do not use seatbelts. This is an odd cultural item, but people rarely cross their legs and when they do it is at the ankle largely by men. The last difference is waiters at some restaurants and the dentist when you have a bag, will move a chair next to you and put the bag on the chair.
One of the best tools in Panama is to have an operational phone. Sim cards can be purchased for $2 dollars and a plan costs around $5 a week for an unlimited data plan. This will help for navigating the city, translating with Google Translate, or getting an Uber. A few of the apps that are useful in Panama City that were recommended to me was Degusta (Food), Waze (directions), LiveWalkPTY (city walking tours), Whats App (individuals and companies use this due to limited minutes on phone plans), and Moovit (transportation organizer).
Meals range from $1.25-300 plus depending on where you eat and what. For $2, you can get a filling grilled sandwich from a small vender or a plate of rice, beans, and stewed chicken (at bus stops). If you are looking for the cheapest and very tasty food, eat and shop around the larger metro (train) stations or bus stations. Avenida Central is a local closed off street that has cheap produce, bake goods, and food in general. It is safe and enjoyable to walk. As a rule, this is where the cheapest food in developing nations will be located. It is around $3-6 for the breakfast meal, but less if you get something from a small vendor (i.e., a coffee, holandre, and a cheese pastry costs around $1.50. The nice places like Italian or seafood will cost $10-36. The Fish market by the Casco Viejo is a bit more expensive but fresh and wonderful food (some of the best fish you will ever have, but it is the complete fish). For cheaper Ceviche and food in general, go along the back streets in the local’s area near Caso Viejo ($5-11 depending on size). In the Fish Market, the best ceviche is not on the ground floor, but at one of the small restaurants on the second floor at the Peruvian restaurants. As a rule, get away from the tourist section and go to the local’s area to find the cheapest food. McDonalds is lower priced here with different options you do not see in other countries sometimes.
Good Ice cream: In Albrook Mall is Gelarti, it is not cheap but has premium shakes with a taste less intoxicating that some, but a more complex flavor and texture. There are many small vendors that you can get a cone of creamy and delicious ice cream for $0.75-1. Near Casco Viejo, Coca Cola Café is Rosso Gourmet about a quarter mile from Plaza de Santa Ana on Avenida Central.
Favorite Local food options: Café con leche is different than in the states. The good places will whip the milk. My favorite place is Blondishfood in Obario. The price will range from $0.25 to 3.00 if you are in the tourist district Casco Viejo. Holandre (like a fried flour tortilla that is puffy) is a common food from street vendors around $0.40 each and generally double that in formal restaurants.
Hot Chocolate: One of my favorites I have had is from CACAO Bar Selection. They have a rich and flavorful hot chocolate, but not too sweet. Make sure you get the special toppings of whip cream and caramel corn. They also have premium coffee and ORO MORENO chocolate.
Favorite Café con Leche: Blondishfood (Obario) super foamy and Delicious. It is expensive at $1.75. Also, don't expect 20 oz coffees.
Chocolate: The popular Panamanian brand is ORO MORENO. This is premium chocolate! The price is $4 a regular bar and $5 for a special bar. This is much cheaper than bean to bar chocolate in the States. CACAO Bar Selection and other retailers carry this chocolate. Make sure you try the special hot chocolate.
Beer: large brewery’s- There are two popular Panamanian beers, Panama if you like lighter beer and Balboa for a darker, more flavorful/heavy beer. Microbrewery- A good microbrew is Clandestina Brewery that is available at COCOA Bar Selection bottled and Xavie’s BBQ on tap. Another place with a broad selection of mid-priced micro brews is Capital Cerveceria in Obario.
Cheap eats: My personal favorite cheap eats is Pataconera De MARIO near the Panama Viejo visitor center. A few blocks over from the Cinco de Mayo metro station, Avenida Central is closed off to cars and a prime spot for cheap produce, food and just to enjoy. The Plaza de Santa Ana is beautiful and a popular spot for the locals. This pedestrian walk leads directly to Casco Viejo. It is a highly recommended to walk in the evening, seems safe (some of the side streets can get rough). Mambo (near the Cinco de Mayo Station side) has some of the best non-custom fresh made donuts I have ever had. There are numerous pastry shops along the area that are worth trying.
Cafe con leche at Blondishfood.
Good Slow breakfast: My personal favorite breakfast place for a light meal is Blondishfood in Obario. There is comfy seating, good service, amazing café con leche, and great food. For a large breakfast, my favorite is Delicias Antioquena #2 in Obario for the Columbian breakfast plate that is delicious and huge. They have large platers and great Columbian food with the obligatory café con leche. For lunch, my recommendation is the Daily Special. In the San Francisco area is The Cereal Corner that has a Panamanian breakfast for $5.50 and tasty shakes, that are works of art. This is a good place to chill with friends in a cozy environment over a board game and ice cream.
The Hamburgesa Raclette at Chevre
The cheese selection at Chevre.
Nicer Restaurants: If you are looking for quality steaks, Parrillada Jimmy is the place to go. One of my favorite, but not a cheap recommendation is Chevre that has quality food with a creative menu and a high-class ambiance. With it’s intoxicatingly scrumptious food and probably the best selection of high-end cheeses in the city, with a few I have not seen any cheese shop before, this is a must for the foody. The price per person will range from $30 to 350 depending on what you order. Here is my review of the Hamburgesa Raclette with fries. The fries are fresh cut and perfectly fried with just the right amount of salt, that are good without ketchup. The burger is the real artwork with its intoxication flavor. The patty melts in the mouth and is covered in tender bacon. The cheese is what makes this burger special. The cheese master brings out half of a cheese wheel of melted cheese and pours a melted creamy mixture on the bacon and burger. The mixing of the fries and cheese is a must. The intoxicating combination is on a brioche bun with a thousand island base with diced onions and pepper. This is the only burger I have had that could be described as intoxicating!
Fish dinner at Peach Fuzz International
Seafood: The seafood in Panama City is some of the best I have ever had and everyone I talked said the same. The tourist and local favorite is the Fish Market by Casco Viejo. This is an expensive option. If you want to break out of the mold and see an area most tourists and travelers will never go (for a reason), checkout Peach Fuzz International. This place is a gem in a very sketchy area. The menu here is what is available that day and is basic. The owner is from Brooklyn NYC and a Panamanian. Take a taxi or an Uber. Do not walk from the Metro Albrook for your safety. I walked there and it was sketchy and then a police officer made sure I got a taxi back to the station. Do not go at night and minimize your walking around the area.
Milkshakes: FYI- often when vendors say they have milkshakes, it is a fruit smoothy. The price will generally be from $1.00-2.00 in the local areas, depending on the flavor and location. These are very refreshing after eating fried food all day. There are some odd flavors, such as Corn Flakes that I did not try.
Milk Shake at The Cereal Corner.
- Xavie’s BBQ (Obario) is a unique take with Panamanian flavor and amazing service. He has a good selection of craft Panamanian beer called Clandestina Brewery that is highly recommended and other. The food has an artful presentation that the owner is always working on perfecting. The service that Xavie and Maria provide is amazing.
-Andy BBQ: This place is open Thursday to Saturday and is a must for all BBQ lovers. Here is my review of Andy BBQ. The ribs are dry but moist and flavorful, with light BBQ sauce (a bit sweet). Brisket has a less dense texture than expected, but the meat was cooked to perfection. The brisket is moist and flavorful, it does not need sauce. It is flaky and falls apart with a well-balanced meat fat ratio. The meat has a hint of pepper flavor. Service is good, but a little confusing when going there the first time. Remedied issue when realized they messed up the order.
-Austin Mama’s Brisket: Austin Mama’s specializes in brisket (hence the name) and has a first-rate brisket in an unlikely industrial area. The entrance is in the back of a small parking lot of an industrial building. Here is my review of Austin Mama’s. The tortillas were out of the package but put on the grill and flavored with meat juice to make a tasty side. The bread roll was hearty and grilled. Tiny portion of meat for a higher price some of the other quality local places. Sides were separately priced. Service is lacking at best. It was difficult to get seated and they got the order wrong. Summary: some of the best BBQ I have ever had; service is some of the worst I have ever had.
-Spicy Sugar BBQ: Plentiful sides and a moist and flavorful BBQ, good but basic. Low cost at $4 for a filling meal. This is a mid to low end place, but it is a solid BBQ for a good price of $4.
-Chombo Williams Smokehouse Barbecue: This place has smoked ribs that are meaty and moist with a sweet molasses-based sauce (also have a spicier variation). The brisket is made on the weekends if that is your meat. The coleslaw is colorful and flavorful, without the overpowering mayo flavor of many. The owners of this restaurant are passionate men with a heart the mastering the perfect flavor profile. These folks are a part of the trifecta that shows the Panamanians knows how to make BBQ.
Recommended Must Do’s in the Panama City area:
Panama City and nearby areas
-Casco Viejo: This is the historic center of Panama City with buildings dating to the 1600’s. The area has a concentration of historic Spanish buildings focused around the National Theater (tickets are inexpensive at around $10 depending on the show) and the French quarter (where the French Embassy is located) around the old Spanish fort at the tip of the peninsula. For some of the best photos of the French Quarter, go to the beaches across from it at night or for sunrise. The churches are open to visitors during the day but be respectful. If you are looking for a guide to this area, contact Conrad Grant on Whats App at +507-6832-9352. He is an older gentleman who gives tours in English and Spanish. He shares insider information for one of the best tours of the area. The other I would recommend is Reuiz (a formal guide) at +507 6555-3842.
-Gamboa Rain Forest: To get to Gamboa, drive or take the bus from the Albrook bus station (about 45 minutes). To get there by bus, go to the food court and go straight at McDonald’s. There is an exit and a turnstile. You will need a Rapid Pass to get into the area to pay the terminal use fee of $0.10. The bus is a van that has no real schedule. Expect it to cost around $2-3 one way. An Uber will cost around $20 from the Albrook Mall one-way. Going back, you might need to get an Uber, as the bus is not reliable. It is not cheap to stay in the area, but perfect for nature lovers and some activities are reasonably priced. The Zip line is $55 (as of this writing). Having a car outside of the city is extremely useful for flexibility and depending on how much time you want to wait. There are several cheap restaurants up the road a bit that are very tasty.
-Panama Canal Miraflores Lock: This is a must to see the economic engine of Panama. Go to the restaurant to avoid the fee and get a drink with a minimum ticket price. Both are closed due to covid restrictions. The best view of the locks is from Ancon Hill.
-Cinta Costera: This is a pleasant 8.8 km walk with views of the Casco Viejo and the city. Sunset or sunrise is the best times if you want pictures and the best views.
-Chiriqui Province: Chiriqui Province is located on the border of Costa Rica that is a rural community with agriculture and nature. The largest volcano in Panama is in this province. There are many microclimates depending on your elevation and every shade of green.
-Viejo Panama: Take the bus or Uber. Uber is the easiest, but the bus will be an adventure. An interesting view of the oldest European city in the Americas. This is a must if you are in Panama. After going to Viejo Panama, follow your noise to the right as you walk out of the entrance about 200 yards and enjoy some of the best cheap eats in Panama City.
-The Mirador Pacifica: On the weekends, the river front walk is active with people, vendors, and activity. As you get closer to Casco Viejo, the more active. On Sundays, this and the Amador Causeway is the place to go for fun, views, and food.
-Fort of Portobello: A bus is available from Albrook Metro Station and a tour is available for a day trip. A UNESCO world heritage site. The town has character also and this could make for a good weekend trip or even a day trip. The town of Portobello is worth exploring for its character and local culture.
-Ancon Hill: The hill where the Panamanian flag flies near Casco Viejo. Best view of the city from the highest point in the area. The walk up to the top is pleasant and provides a good opportunity to meet other travelers. It closes at 1300.
-San Blas Islands: This is a group of hundreds of islands that have perfect beaches and snorkeling opportunities north of Panama City. Day trips and 3 day trips are available. To reduce the cost get a bunk instead of a room option. A popular option is going to Columbia on a five or six day trip.
-Amador Causeway: The Bio Museo is located here. It is interesting and educational, with both activities for kids and adults (with plenty of reading). It does cost $18 for a non-resident adult, so depending on what you enjoy, there might be better ways to spend your money (i.e., indulging in the local cuisine). Walk the path on both sides of the road, this has amazing views with local vendors selling food, flavored ice with coconut cream (highly recommended), and other local hand food. Located in this area is probably one of the only Go Cart tracks for toddlers and kids/adults in the country. This is an interesting area that is highly recommended to visit.
-Tabogo Island: Ferry from Amador. This is a favorite local spot for a day trip with a round trip price between $14 to $25, depending on if you take the traditional ferry or fast ferry. The island has excellent beaches and some good walking paths with a view. Then indulge in the local cuisine and cocktails.
Other areas of Panama
- Boketa- Coffee growing area in the mountains. Need at least 3 days by plane and longer if by bus (an 7–8-hour trip one way)
-Chiriqui Province: on the border of costa Rica, a rural community with agriculture and nature. Largest volcano in Panama.