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Panama Guide

David

On arrival in David it was POURING and the streets were ankle-deep rivers. We took the first place we found and it turned out to be a good, if slightly more expensive option. Hotel Residencial Avenida on Ave 3re Este (Ph 774-0451) is US$22 for a double. Ours was a huge room with 4 double beds, private bath with hot water, AC and cable TV.

El Valle

After you read your LP you might think El Valle's Sunday was worth going to. It isn't. We didn't see one indigenous person, but rather a a few craft stalls and plants vendors selling to Panama's well healed in their Landcruisers and BMWs. Don Pepe does good Creole dishes. The surrounding landscape is pretty, but really unless you want to do some mountain biking and have no plans to go North of the border I would not bother stopping here.

Panama City

Hotel Turistico Volcan is fine for a few nights. Rooms are US$12 a night for a double, with discounts to US$10 for stays of 2 or more nights. The rooms have fan, cable TV and bath. Security is feature.

Panama City is fun and worth a day or 2. The buses cost 25¢ to anywhere and are very colourful often with elaborate neon lighting systems. Taxis are also very cheap with many fares coming to less than US$2. Parts of Panama City do not feel especially safe after dark, but daytime is fine. There is a large mall by the Albrook bus terminal which has a good cinema complex (and lots of mall-style shops). Many places, even smaller ones in Panama City accept visa and other cards.

Panama Canal, Miraflores, Panamax tanker

The museum by Miraflores lock on the canal is excellent. Entry is US$12 and well worth it. There are 4 levels of display showing the building of the canal, the local flora and fauna and how the canal continues to operate. There is a large viewing area on the roof looking right down on Miraflores lock so you can watch massive Panamax tankers and container ships move through the gates. There is also a cinema with a documentary. Showings are in Spanish and English.

Flying South

Panama City is a logical and comparatively inexpensive place to fly from. Panama City's international airport, Tocumen is modern, clean and efficient. Buses run out to Tocumen or a taxi will cost around US$15. COPA flies direct to many South American destinations. We flew to Quito, Ecuador for US$330. A cheaper option is to fly with Avianca which connects through Bogata for around US$265, however, this was booked out when we wanted to fly, so book in advance if you know the day you want to fly. We booked COPA 2 days before without a problem.