Panama City, Panama
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What to See
Once you get to Albrook, walk toward the food court. The ticket window is past Burger King on the right. There you can ask which bus will take you to Miraflores Locks. The bus takes 10 minutes and will drop you off right in front of the visitor's center.
An adult admission to Miraflores Locks for foreigners is USD$8. This includes admission to the museum, which you'll want to see, and a brief video. With a student ID (a non-ISIC card is acceptable), you'll save $3.
Plaza De Francia
This site in Casco Viejo is dedicated to French initiation and involvement in the construction of the canal. One of the staff members at the Instituto Nacional de Cultura, which is in walking distance and has a nice mural you should check out, explained the significance of the monument and surrounding sites. Good bit of history to absorb as you take in the views of the financial district and the canal. Very picturesque in already photo-friendly Casco Viejo.
Where to Stay
Urraca is a nice, comfortable hostel in a great location and the people who work there are wonderful and helpful. WiFi, coffee, with a toast and juice breakfast, great kitchen, and 2 blocks from a grocery store. This is my first choice for Hostels in Panama City. Located on calle 44 near Parque Urraca. http://hostalurraca.com/
What to Eat
El Mercado de Mariscos is a open fish market near Casca Viejo and La Plaza Cinco de Mayo. You'll see plenty of locals milling about buying fish from the various venders, and can get a nice big cup of awesome fresh ceviche of all kinds for $2.00.
Upstairs, the market houses a restaurant. It's usually busy, especially during lunch hours. The prices are between 7 and 20 for a meal, and the food is fresh and delicious. You can even buy seafood from the market downstairs and they'll prepare it for you and charge you a nominal fee per pound.
You can tell a taxi driver "El Mercado de Mariscos" and they'll take you right there. I definitely recommend it.
Sabor de la India is the best Indian food in Panama City and it is reasonably priced. Two people can be satisfied on one entree with a side of rice and splitting an appetizer. The butter chicken is awesome. At lunch they have an all you can eat buffet for $7. It is located on Calle 51 in Bellavista. To get there, head North on Calle Uruguay until it dead ends into Calle 50, go right on Calle 50, take the first left onto Aquilino de la Guardia, then take the first left again onto Calle 51. It will be a half block down on your right across the street from Rincon Aleman pub.
If you spend long enough in Panama, inevitably you will get sick and tired of eating rice and plantains and one day you will wake up with a craving for some good ol' bagels and cream cheese or american-style egg breakfast. That's where NY Bagel Cafe comes in.
In Panama City's cangrejo neighborhood off of Via Argentina, the NY Bagel Cafe is a comfortable spot with coffee, WiFi, and good food. You'll spend between 5 and 10 dollars on breakfast, but it's worth it if you just canīt stand the thought of putting down another plate of rice and beans.
Near the old city (in walking distance) is a fish market open daily until about 4 or 5 pm, it's along the water front. Here there are loads of food stalls selling fresh ceviche by the cup (various sizes) It was tasty, filling and we wished we'd found it 3 days earlier when we had arrived. It's also a great place to buy fresh fish if you can cook at your hostel, we bought 6 fillets of fish (weren't sure what type as we didn't know the spanish name) but they cost us about $3 and were real good in the curry we made with them. I would definitely recommend a stop there if you in the area.
It took a while, but I finally found a decent "plato del dia" food stand near Bella Vista. It's called Fonda Ani. They serve up a healthy portion of rice, beans, chicken or beef, a fried plantain, and veggies (yes veggies!) for only $3.00. Its enough food for two people to share. You can get a plate to go or sit on plastic lawn chairs outside and eat. It is located on Avenida 5aB Sur between Calle 50C Este and Calle 50B Este. To get there from Calle Uruguay, head East on Avenida 5aB Sur. After about 2 or 3 blocks, the road will bend to the left. Fonda Ani will be on the left side right after this bend.
Worth The Splurge
You know when you are just craving a real American cheeseburger? Head straight to a restaurant called Market. This place is a bit bourgeois, but they've got an real cheeseburger with fries for $7.50. They even have real Heinz ketchup in a glass bottle... the kind you have to tap just right to get the flow going. Market is located on the Southeast corner of Calle Uruguay and Avenida 5aB Sur. This burger is reminiscent of the 'Big Kahuna Burger' scene from Pulp Fiction.
Crepes y Waffles ( www.crepesywaffles.com) was exactly what I needed after my trip back from San Blas. It's a Colombian chain with 3 locations in Panama. The price are reasonable - I had a nutella with strawberries crepes for $5 & my sister had a stroganoff crepes for $10. We went to the venue off Calle Uruguay, about a 15 minute walk from Hostal Urraca. The Panama City locations are listed below:
1. Marbella (Calle Uruguay area)
Calle 47 at Calle Aquilino de la Guardia
(507) 269-1574 or 214-9241
2. Multiplaza Mall
3rd flood, food court
3. Albrook (near airport)
Pasillo de la Jirafa
2nd floor, shop
You'll have to leave the airport and walk toward the bus station to find your economical taxi drivers. Ours charged $15, which we shared with 4 people. If you prefer to take the local bus, expect to pay about $1.25.