Things you should know during your Panama Layover

“In Panama for you must be silly or careless to get robbed”. 

An American friend

 

After many years of experience serving travelers who chose to do activities during their Stopover at the airport, I can share some practical recommendations.

 

Currency

The legal and commercial currency is the United States of America dollars. All US bills and coins are freely accepted. Panama does not issue paper money, although it does issue metal coins ranging from One Cent to One Dollar. These metallic coins of the same size as those of the United States, are called Balboas. You will often hear Panamanians indistinctly calling money Balboas or Dollars, and in each case it is correct since they both represent Panamanian legal and commercial currencies. If you have coins in your pocket when you arrive in Panama, and they are United States dollars; use them to pay or what you need.

 

Mobile network

In Panama the mobile network systems reaches the 4G version, so if you want to activate a roaming service to communicate freely and use your social networks it is very possible that this connection requires some adjustments on your cell phone. Frequently restarting the cell phone or even turning it on and off when you are already in the cell coverage areas will solve the connection problem.  If the problem persists you should contact the customer service people in your country.  It is also sometimes recommended the old tradition of announcing to your cellular service that you will visit other countries and required mobile data and mobile connection for calls. 

 

Hot Spots and WiFi access

Panama has multiple Hot Spots free to access.  Frequently you will be asked for an email so that the service is free. My experience is that these free WiFi accesses will engulf your email Junk trays with information that you often do not need, but if you are willing to tolerate that, then use the free WiFi service that is available throughout Panama City surroundings. 

 

Texting

In Panama people often communicate with the text messaging platform WhatsApp and Telegram, Although it is also usual to use traditional text messages, Skype, Facebook Messenger and Instagram Messenger.  If an eight phone is shared digits, you must always include the country code +507 to link. Throughout the Republic of Panama there are no city codes.

 

Be safe

Panama is a very safe country, and they tell you the many experiences that exist. Although crime exists, it is mostly related to drug trafficking, limited to very specific areas of the country. An American friend said this: “In Panama for you must be silly or careless to get robbed”.   As in every country, delinquency exists, so the recommendation of my American friend works very well.  Inside stores, avenues and public places you will find that if you are really careless you will probably lose some item from your wallet or your suitcase if you leave it open.  The violent arm robberies are very scarce, even that in Panama although there is no army for almost 25 years.  There are several police forces: the national police that wears blue uniforms, the municipal police wearing brown uniform, and the tourist police group wear a blue uniform too.  Shopping centers often have private security employees in parking lots and within premises.  The video surveillance security system is implemented in Panama City with more than 5000 cameras and there are many occasions where tourist activities are supervised by national police units.  I personally trust all police estaments in Panama.

 

Transportation

Transportation in Panama, especially in Panama City, is good enough to travel safely, with a number of options: private platform systems such as Uber, Cabify, and other are good enough to trust them and you can often find drivers that speak English.  The most important recommendation with these platforms is to use your internal text messaging system with the driver during Pick Up to avoid significant confusion at the beginning of the trip.  The satellite positioning systems in Panama have an average error of about 15 m, but this could come up to 75 m.   This olny means you need to text your Driver when the Ride has been accepted.

 

Metro de Panama and Metro Bus

In Panama City there is a Metro System consisting of two lines that cross from north to south, and from east to west, which shares with the Bus system a common card that can be used and shared between members of the same family or travel group, but is always recommended that users of these systems have a card for each with at least three dollars. This card is used when entering the Metro or bus system and at the exit, so having it at pocket reach is very important. The Metro and Bus card you can use it to travel on  more than 100 routes within Panama City. Transport system has an application that you can download to your phone to know about the arrival time of the units of the routes to get to places, with costs ranging from 35 cents to one dollar.   The Metro and Bus services cannot be paid with cash, as there is Metro + Bus cards can be refilled convenientely on machines inside the terminals that receive cash (coins and bills of up to 10 dollars). 

 

Cab services (be carefull)

Traditional cab services from the airport are known as “SET”, and can be hired directly at the exit of the airport, providing the service with spacious cars that could accommodate four people and even more.  Service has a cost that could be considered high compared to the platform services such as Uber, Cabify and others, and often you will have to deal with the driver deviating from his route and stuffing other passengers into the hired car.  The cost-quality ratio of “SET” comparative to platform services makes it difficult for me to recommend its usage.  It is not advisable to take any type of transport service at the airport other than platforms services or “SET”.  Stay away from yellow cars and people offering cheap services at the aisles or airport parking lots.  Within the city there are many  yellow Taxi services, this being one of the low points of the Panamanian transport system, as they do not have taximeters, do not accept credit cards, many have cars are in a rather precarious state, drivers do not wear worth tourism clothing, they do not speak English, often they will stuff other users in the car, but most important, they will charge double or triple if they find out you are a tourist.

 

Traffic

In Panama, especially in the capital city there are significant mobilization problems due to the high amount of cars, narrow roads and the large number of construction and maintenance projects. There are avenues where you transit at a speed below 5 MPH during rush hour, but that same avenue during regular hours you could travel at 35 MPH.  Google Maps and Waze are a great way to calculate the arrival times to the places you want to visit, with very low error margin of error.  You can definitely rely on these applications, and I recommend its usage profusely if you want to avoid being late to places and also for safety reasons.

 

Driving in Panama City

Vehicle users in Panama City especially have a driving format that could be quite messy and sometimes considered even aggressive.  Prepare to see sudden turns, bad signaling, cars that do not stop, unusual access, vehicles that obstruct driving, strange crossings without traffic lights, and the use of the horns in an excessive way.  This is not entertaining, but it is part of the landscape.  If you are driving, use Google Maps or Waze and try to stop at each crossing as a precaution.   If someone is going to drive for you, prepare and relax.

 

Coming out of the airport

After your flight has landed, follow the mob to the migration service stations, ask the officer permission to visit the city and this will be granted at no cost. If your luggage is on board the plane, it will take not more than half an hour to get to the exit gate on the ground level of the airport after the usual Duties check out. The exit gate is where we usually pickup passengers. Get ready for a moisture blast as you approach the doors, as in Panama relative humidity is as high as 90%.

From the Tocumen International Airport in Panama, it is possible to reach any of the city’s points of interest in 20 minutes; with the exception of morning traffic that will take some 60 minutes to get to the city. If you are on a long layover, our services are right for you, as we are all about you getting back to the airport on time so you can get your next flight safely. Our tours are logistically estimated so we can be sure you have a good time without worrying for the time. If we have a hint that there is risk for you and your family to get to your next flight on time, we will advise and pass on the option to provide you with our services. That’s our main goal: Turning your layover in fun over.

 

Check out some of our tours at:

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If you any questions or doubts, you can text us via WhatsApp or Telegram to our mobile phone +507 63014752.

 

I hope you have a great PANAMA LAYOVER.

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