A cool hat, the Panama Canal and a Van Halen song. That was pretty much everything I knew about Panama. And then I moved here. And sure thing I’ve found that Panama has much more to offer!
→ Panama is a pretty small country when compared to Brazil. Only 3.8 million inhabitants and a 28.640 mi² area. Panama City, the capital and also the city in which I’m living today, has 813.000 inhabitants against 11 million only in the city of São Paulo for instance.
→ The official currency is Balboa, but the bills are no longer available, only coins. So what do they use? American dollar, which has the same value as Balboa. It is in fact pretty normal to get your change with both coins.
→ The traffic here is insane! People keep cutting each other off and if you don’t just throw your car in the middle of the street you might never be able to get into it.
→ People also park anywhere. Literally.
→ With traffic being this crazy around here, it’s not a big deal to learn that drivers honk a lot!
→ Who also keeps honking are the taxi drivers. When they see you walking on the street, they honk because, you know… maybe you were considering taking a taxi ride?
→ By the way, the taxis here are pretty unique. They’re yellow like in New York and the taxi drivers are…peculiar, to say the least. They can deny your trip because they’re going elsewhere, they don’t use a taximeter and charge you the amount they see fit. Or how much they think you can pay, just because you are a tourist. The rides should be really inexpensive, something around U$ 3 to cross the town, but that can easily get up to U$ 20. So make sure to bargain before boarding.
→ The taxi drivers also stop by on the streets to pick up other passengers during a ride. Ain’t that super weird?
→ One of the options in public transportation is the famous Diablo Rojo. They look like old American school buses (which they might be, not sure), usually with graffitis and black light inside. Almost a walking party – well, in fact, there is actually one of the buses which is an actual walking party.
The Diablo Rojo don’t have a fixed route: so just hop on, tell the driver where you’re going and hope he will get you there!
→ Good thing Uber works pretty well around here! <3 I am such an Uber fan and my love for it has only grown since I arrived in Panama. There is plenty of drivers around town and the rides are super cheap: from Multiplaza Mall to Casco Viajo neighborhood, a 3.7 mile ride, you pay around U$ 3 or 4.
→ But be ready to use your best Spanish to explain to the driver where you wanna go, once there are no addresses in Panama. The streets do have names, but none of the building have numbers on it. So, have lots of place references and relax, the drivers ALWAYS get lost.
→ Online services are pretty lame. Forget about paying stuff on your iPhone and you better not count on Internet Banking from banks in Panama.
→ The Colombian culture is very present in Panama. When we talk about food for example, this is pretty clear in the typical plate patacones, and please make sure you will give it a try before leaving the country!
→ You can easily find American brands and fast food chains here. So you could have dinner in places like Pizza Hut, Taco Bell’s, IHOP, KFC… but really: patacones! Try the local food, it’s delicious and a great part of the experience in every travelling destination!
→ Also be ready to hear a lot of reggaeton, which is played virtually everywhere.
To sum up: Panama is such an amazing country, with nice and helping people, rich in culture and filled with beautiful places to visit.
I’ve been living here only for a month and I can say I already feel in love with this chiquito country, which amazed me with all its differences.
Ain’t that what travelling is all about? 🙂