How to Visit Panama on a Budget

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Planning on moving to Panama or retiring in Panama? You’re going to want to visit first. For many people, budgets are tight when it comes to international travel, especially if you want to do a lot, and see a lot before making your decision to move. With so much to see in Panama, planning a full trip at a great price is important. Luckily for you, it’s also very doable, and with just a bit of preparation, can be done without a hitch. From lodging to transportation, food and entertainment, and excursions for the whole family, you’ll be able to find the perfect exploration trip, without breaking the bank. Here are some tips on how to do it.

Visit Panama on a Budget

Plan a visit during the tourist low season (rainy season)

Panama essentially has two seasons: wet/rainy season and dry season. Wet season goes from late April until January, and is the low season for tourism nationwide. If you’re looking to save money on your travel budget, this is the time you want to go (especially September and October). Prices for hotels can be as low as half of what they are in the high season, and there’s more availability for other services, including plane tickets, which can save you hundreds of dollars per person. Despite the rain, you’ll still have enough sunshine each day to get out and explore, and will find it much easier to get around and do your research for your big move.

Look for specials, group discounts, and bulk pricing

Panama has a competitive economy, and because of this, has some great deals to be had if you know where to look. Many tour companies, hotels, and restaurants have online or in-person specials available, especially if you’re in a group, or are planning a multi-stop vacation. Check out as many websites as possible, and don’t be afraid to even ask for bulk rates, or off-season specials. You may be able to save or upgrade without much of any work at all!

Eat in local cafeterias, called “Fondas”

Because of a strong economy and a high volume of tourists, Panama is now home to some of the best restaurants in Central America. That being said, they can get pretty pricy. If you want to really save on your trip when it comes to food, there’s no better place to do it than at a Fonda. These are very typical, humble, Panamanian restaurants that offer both authentic local plates, and typically Asian fast-food as well. This is a staple restaurant type for most people in Panama, and meals can be as low as $4 for an entire lunch, including beverage! If you stick to these local eateries, you’ll both get a taste for how Panamanians eat, and save money in the process. Plus, it’ll give you more of a budget to splurge on one of Panama’s more refined restaurants when the opportunity presents itself.

Use public transportation, especially for long trips

Panama has a decent public transportation hub of buses and trains, and riding them costs next to nothing ($0.35 in town). Even with Uber and local taxis being competitively cheap ($3-$6 a ride), you’ll find that if you’re traveling a lot, using public transportation will save you a decent amount of money over time. This is especially the case for domestic travel from town to town, or city to city. For example, if you’re going from Panama City to Coronado, you can take a bus for $3.00, where as a taxi would cost you $80-$100, and a private shuttle would cost around $30. Riding buses does require a bit of patience, though, as routes are hard to find online, and you will need to buy tickets the day of your trip, not in advance. That being said, it’s just another fun way to get to know local custom, and live as most Panamanians do, which is totally worth it for an overall travel experience.

About Manoj Chatlani

Manoj Chatlani is a Senior Partner at POLS Attorneys, a full-service law firm in Panama City, Panama. Specializing in offshore services, including asset protection, estate planning, offshore banking, and offshore corporations, as well as Panama immigration and real estate transactions, POLS Attorneys offers clients a streamlined solution to all their Panama legal needs. Manoj is a Panamanian lawyer and holds a law degree from USMA and earned a Masters in Communication Law and Panama Tax law.

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