Traveling to Panama

Traveling to Panama from Havana took 2.5 hours on Copa Airlines, similar to what we experienced on the way in to Havana, except the meal service was slightly different – sandwiches instead of a hot meal, and they remembered my special fruit meal this time around. I’m planning to write a separate review of this Copa Airlines flight 437 later.

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We easily and quickly cleared PTY immigration while traveling to Panama (no Visa required for a US passport holder), and since we didn’t check any bags, immediately went outside to find a taxi. Traveling to Panama was a  breeze – a stark contrast from traveling to Cuba.

There was a little confusion of the cost of getting downtown to our hotel (the Hyatt Place) as it seemed to be a fixed rate but we thought the drivers were supposed to be using a meter, but eventually we settled on $30. Immediately we were exposed to the sticker shop of traveling to Panama City – everything was priced equivalently to prices back in the States. Cuba was certainly expensive for transportation, but not for anything else. This was the only part of traveling to Panama that was inconvenient.

We got to our hotel just as sunset was happening so not to see the city a little bit in the daylight – in particular we drove over a beautiful highway over the water called the Corredor Sur that reminded me of that long bridge in Tampa spanning over the bay. Panama City was a very modern and new looking city, as expected. It seems a lot of foreign investment has poured in to the country in the last 10 years, and we later learned that half of the high-rises built are unoccupied – this building boom will certainly change once the U.S. raises interest rates in the near future, and the bubble may pop.

Traveling to Panama City

Traveling to Panama City

Our hotel was right downtown, equidistant between Panama Vieja (the ruins of the old city that no longer functions, which we decided to skip), and the Casco Viejo (the Old Town that is still functional and is the cultural center of the area). The hotel was also right in the midst of a strip of shopping and dining, and we got some good tips for dinner from the taxi driver.

Hyatt Place Hotel in Panama City

Hyatt Place Hotel in Panama City

After briefly stopping at the Hyatt Place to check in and dump our luggage and book a Panama Canal tour the next morning at 1030AM, we set out to the nearby strip to grab some food and take a walk. We ended up settling on a Lebanese restaurant called Habibi’s, which also served Peruvian and Panamanian food, and a variety of fusion dishes. The taxi driver who dropped us there explained that there was a large number of Lebanese in the area, as well as Jews. It seemed like there was a thriving expat community, as it was an easy place to live (safe, comfortable, just like home – but in Panama).

Dinner was good – I had the Sea Bass and Dave had the Red Snapper, and we both had a Seca (the local moonshine based on fermented sugar cane) – and we were able to catch some football on the several big screen TVs Habibi’s had. It was kind of a surreal experience walking up and down the road in that area – every other bar was an American styled sports bar, and it looked very similar to home. Definitely a big contrast from Cuba. Our waiter was a very nice guy and we got to talking to him for a while. He was Colombian and came to Panama for more opportunity. He said it used to be pretty easy to come to Panama – but that there was a weird loophole. You had to dwell illegally for 1 year, and then after a year you can apply for a temporary work visa for a year. You had to apply every year for another one – and they were expensive. However, he said it was still worth it. The government recently changed its position on immigration though, and is now making it harder for people to come in and legally work.

We got back to the hotel around 1030PM and went to bed a little bit later after devouring some free internet that we had been without in Cuba. We also enjoyed the view of the city skyline from our hotel room window.

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therestlessroad

About therestlessroad

The tar in the street starts to melt from the heat
And the sweats runnin’ down from my hair
I walked 20 miles and I’m dragging my feet
And I’ll walk 20 more I don’t care
And I’ll wander this world, wander this world
Wander this world, wander this world all alone
I’m like a ghost some people can’t see
Others drive by and stare
A shadow that drifts by the side of the road
It’s like I’m not even there
And I’ll wander this world, wander this world
Wander this world, wander this world all alone
Well I’ve never been part of the game
The life that I live is my own
All that I know is that I was born
To wander this world all alone, all alone
Some people are born with their lives all laid out
And all their success is assured
Some people work hard all their lives for nothin’
They take it and don’t say a word
They don’t say a word
Sometimes it’s like I don’t even exist
Even God has lost track of my soul
Why else would he leave me out here like this
To wander this world all alone
And I’ll wander this world, wander this world
Wander this world, wander this world all alone
–Jonny Lang, “Wander This World”

3 thoughts on “Traveling to Panama

  1. […] wasn’t feeling great the night before walking around Panama City downtown, but pulled myself together enough to make it to the Panama Canal. I had stomach cramps – so I […]

  2. […] few weeks ago we took a trip to Cuba and Panama, and came back in to the US via Miami Airport immigration. The lightning show on the plane helped […]

  3. […] Airport immigration. A few weeks ago Chandra took a trip to Cuba and Panama, and came back in to the US via Miami Airport immigration. Getting in to both Cuba and Panama were […]

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