12 Best Tips Before You Visit Panama (w/video)

2 Traveling Lovers

While traveling around the world, Panama was our 2nd stop in Central America. We stayed for a month, and if we were to describe Panama in a few words, it would be raw beauty, gorgeous coastline, an inland area with absolutely beautiful lush mountainside views, hot, humid and trying.   

Outdoor lovers, hikers, adventure seekers, and scuba divers are the types of people we feel would be most drawn to the Panama lifestyle. Be prepared and understand that a vacation in Panama is very different than in the USA. Simple things like eating a salad or going to the store and getting fresh produce are often not a reality, depending on where you are in the country. 

Of course, there are probably a few nice resorts you can stay at that will make your life similar to the United States, but why would you do that? At least for us, we strive to live the country’s lifestyle and experience their culture so we can get a feel for life in that country. 

Soooooo, without further ado, here are our 12 Best Tips Before You Visit Panama (w/video). These tips are after a month’s worth of trials and tribulations.

1. Entering Panama from Costa Rica by land

We walked across the border into Panama from Costa Rica. I’m sure every border agent is a little different, but we thought we should give everyone a heads up in regards to what they wanted from us. They took our fingerprints and wanted proof of us leaving the country. We sometimes don’t have our flight booked for leaving a country. Luckily, in this instance, we did. All he did was check our phone and our email confirmation.

FYI, if you are crossing the border by foot from Costa Rica, it’s a little nerve-racking. This was one of the only times we were nervous about traveling through Central America. Nothing makes the hair stand up on your arms like handing your passport to the Army who have machine guns around their chest, on a bridge. 

2. Take a shuttle on longer drives throughout Panama

Unless you’re really on a budget take the shuttle on longer drives. Experiencing the local transportation is something you should do if you are trying to get the feel of the country. The question is, can you have the experience it with a 2-hour shuttle ride instead of a 3-hour bus ride? After doing it, we say yes. Unless you’re on a really tight budget, get a shuttle on the longer drives. It will be quicker, more comfortable and you’re guaranteed to have air conditioning. 

12 Best Tips Before You Visit Panama

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3. Buy water or bring a water filter 

Before we left for Panama, we joined a few Facebook groups and asked the question about drinking the water from the tap. Many people said they’ve been drinking the tap water for years in many parts of Panama. Don’t want to get into the details but when we got to Bocas Del Toro, Joel was on the toilet for two days straight. I actually went to the pharmacy to get him an antibiotic it was so bad. We did eat a lot of vegetable pizzas which could have been the culprit, but we honestly don’t know. Both of us had stomach issues of some sort for the next week or two. Yes, we could function, we hiked, swam, ate and basically did all the things you would want to do in Panama, but our stomachs never felt right.

Our advice? Be very careful! Buy your water, or use a water filter and wash your vegetables thoroughly with clean water and pray. When you’re done praying, pray some more. Just like anything, I think people adapt to their surroundings. I’m sure Panamanians have iron stomachs. I guess you can say that’s a total theory, but it’s what I think. If you’re from the United States and you’re in Central America, for any length of time, you can pretty much guarantee you’re going to have a stomach issue at some point.

4. Be ready for excessive heat and humidity especially near the coastline

Bocas del Toro is on the ocean they said. When you’re by the ocean it’s cooler they said. Ya right. Yes, Bocas del Toro is a really cool island, but not cool in the sense of temperature. Boy did we sweat! Our advice? Before you rent an Airbnb or reserve a hotel make sure it has air conditioning. Our friends had air-conditioning in their Airbnb, and we didn’t. It makes a huge difference, especially if you’re out all day and just want to come home and relax. By 11 in the morning our house was so hot we really couldn’t even stand being in it, and it didn’t cool down until around 7-8 at night.

TIP: If you enjoy drinking, don’t worry about the cost in Panama. When we compared alcohol costs to Costa Rica, Panama wasn’t even in the same ballpark. It was a pleasant surprise coming to Panama and being able to buy a beer for $2 and mixed drinks for $3. Those are bar prices.

5. Visit Skully’s Bar on Bocas Del Toro

We rented a golf cart and drove up to the coast, eventually hitting Skully’s bar. This was one of the highlights of our trip. We really enjoy a good beach bar, and this definitely fits the bill. Skully’s makes amazing drinks; they have beautiful views of the ocean, and they even have a pool. If you’re not interested in swimming in the ocean that’s fine, the pool is just steps away from the bar. They also have a pool table and ping pong tables if you like playing games. If that’s not enough, they have a bed swing over the ocean which I thought was interesting. Here is the video of our day in Bocas at Skully’s. ——> Click here.

10 Best Tips You Need To Know Before You Visit Panama

This video shows a night out in Casco Viejo. Such a beautiful city!

6. Make sure you have a Language Translate App

The language barrier got frustrating at times. We really couldn’t communicate much for 3 months. The app we used which we felt was the best is Google Translate. I would strongly suggest you learn how to use this and download it before you go if you don’t speak Spanish.

TIP:  A new item we just started using daily is our Primocean Backpack with an insulated cooler bag.  We use this as Christie’s carry on bag on the plane and as our cooler at our final destination.  We used to use a different backpack and we switched to this one because it’s better made of durable material with quality zippers.  We love this backpack!!  The cooler section is smaller than our last backpack; however, all the compartments and the quality of the backpack make it a much better choice for basically the same cost.  We wish we would have found this backpack at the beginning of our world trip. If you are interested in checking it out here is the Amazon link: Click Here.  

7. Don’t miss Visiting Boquete 

When most people think of Panama, generally you hear of Bocas del Toro or Panama City. One of our favorite towns in all of Central America and Mexico over three months was Boquete. The weather was perfect, the mountain and city lights view from our balcony at our Airbnb were stunning, and the town had all the amenities of home. If you enjoy the outdoors, this is going to be your paradise. There are tons of hiking trails, waterfalls, and natural hot springs to explore and the coffee is amazing. 

Throughout the town, rivers run through and around the roads. There are bridges everywhere with beautiful lush green forests and tons of flowers. The smells of all the flowers are something you can’t even describe.  Boquete is known for its coffee plantations.  We wrote an article on all the things to do and see in Boquete if you are interested in reading more and seeing the video click here.

One of the best days we had while in Central America was renting a scooter and driving all around the town of Boquete. Here’s the video of our day at the Lost Waterfalls and on the scooter driving all around Boquete. Boquete has awesome grocery stores, shopping, restaurants, lots of produce, coffee shops and even an organic store. Boquete is also very affordable in the way of hotels or Airbnb’s.  If you want to check out hotels in Boquete, click here.

8. Car Rental in Panama

We found car rentals to be very expensive in Panama. We did endless hours of research on this topic, and it was so discouraging we decided against renting a car during our stay in Panama. Just a heads up, the price that you get online for the car rental company many times does not include all of the insurance that the rental company will expect you to have. We heard stories of people renting a car ahead of time, paying for it, and the rental company up charging them when they arrived to pick up the car. Our suggestion is to use public transportation for short rides, shuttles for longer trips, a scooter in the smaller towns (Boquete), and Uber in Panama City. Uber is really cheap, but not readily available throughout Panama. 

Panama City

9. A few tips for the Panama Canal (Mira Flores) 

Of course, the Panama Canal is going to be on most people’s to-do list when in Panama. I  wanted to go over a few points and things we learned. First, if you don’t have a car take an Uber, it’s going to be around $10 depending on where you are in the city. The area you will be going to is called Mira Flores.  There’s a Panama Canal Museum in a completely different area, so make sure you say “Mira Flores” to the Uber driver.

The one mistake we made was going when no ships were coming through the canal. Call first and find out the ship schedule so you can go to the Panama Canal and actually see a ship going through. Bring water and snacks if you think you’re going to get hungry. The food and drinks are really expensive. The entrance fee is $20, and we felt it was well worth it.

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10. Visit Casco Viejo in Panama City

We stayed in Panama City for 12 days, so we went to Casco Viejo, a bunch of times. The area of Panama has a rich history, lots of restaurants, nightlife, shops, churches, and monuments so make sure you don’t miss it.  Our three favorite things were:

  1. The Sunset at Casa Casco. Not only is the sunset nice, but the building is really cool. It has three restaurants, a lounge, and a rooftop bar. Here is the video that shows this area.
  2. Pedro Mandiga Rum Bar. This place has a fantastic happy hour, and they make delicious drinks. You can also ask to sample their different types of local rum.
  3. Mercado Fish Market is within walking distance of Casco Viejo. It’s huge, and there are lots of vendors who will fight for your business. They are known for their great ceviche and fried fish.  This is a must-try while in Casco Viejo.

If you are interested in more information in Casco Viejo you can check it out here.

11. Download WhatsApp

Download and use this App it’s great! It’s a phone App that you can text, call, send pictures and confirm your location for taxis and Uber drivers.  Best of all it’s FREE!!! Also, EVERYBODY that is doing business in Central America uses it. Youtube how to use it or set it up, they’re lots of videos.

12. Walk the boardwalk along the ocean in Panama City.

It’s a beautiful walk during the day or at night. So many people are out biking, walking, running, playing and loving. Don’t miss doing this!

More 2 Traveling Lovers Article & Video links from Panama:

We spent a month traveling throughout Panama.  If you’re interested in visiting the area, we hope you will find our articles and videos helpful.  All of our posts have a video included, and we have new videos on our YouTube channel. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel too so you won’t miss a video.

Below are a few articles and videos from our stay in Panama:

12 Best Tips You Need To Know Before You Visit Panama

Best Casco Viejo Food & Nightlife (Panama City)

The Ultimate Travel Guide – Boquete Panama

10 Best Things To Do – Bocas Del Toro

Bocas del Toro – Couples Getaway Series

Cost Of Living For A Couple In Panama


Where to stay in Panama. If you are looking for a list of top rated properties in the towns, we stayed click on the links below to check it out.

Bocas del Toro

Click here to see the latest prices on booking.com.


Click here to see the latest prices on booking.com.

Panama City

Click here to see the latest prices on booking.com.

If you are interested in checking out Airbnb prices, click here. You will receive a $40 travel credit after your first booking.


Closing Words


I hope you found our 12 Best Tips Before You Visit Panama (w/video) to be useful and you are excited to visit Panama.

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