Panama’s Casco Viejo neighborhood is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. It’s also home to the seat of Panama’s government, and one of the hottest areas for both residential and commercial real estate. In other words, Casco is the “place to be”, and that means that by nature, prices for goods and services tend to be higher. Casco has lots of luxury options when it comes to dining, shopping, and seeing the sights, but there are also some great deals to be had, too! If you want to see the best of Casco on a budget, here are some easy-to-follow tips. Check it out!
Casco Viejo is very easy to reach from pretty much any part of the center of Panama City. You can get there by taxi or Uber for about $5 from downtown hotels, but you can also walk there via the Cinta Costera (Coastal Park), or take a bus to the nearby fish market, where you can easily walk to Casco in minutes. Once in Casco, walk everywhere. Taxis from place to place add up, and you can save about $10-$15 throughout the course of the day if you use your feet!
Eat at Local Fondas:
A “fonda” is a traditional Panamanian eatery/cafeteria, typically serving Chinese-influenced Caribbean fare. It is as local as it gets when it comes to eating in Panama City, and portions are huge, while prices are high. Casco is home to only two Fondas, but they are both located on Ave. A, very close to the main tourist attractions. You can get lunch for less than $5, and small snacks and apps for less than $2. This is the perfect way to keep your travel budget low if you want to enjoy Casco without having fine dining as a priority for your stay.
Take Advantage of Happy Hours:
We all love a nice cocktail or beer while on vacation, and Casco’s bars are the best in the city. Drink prices are typically very high at these places, but if you time it out right, you can pay 50% less every day. Happy hour varies by bar, usually between 4pm-8pm, depending on the place. Schedule your afternoon drink around whenever happy hour is (check with place first), and either spend half of what you normally would, or get double the drinks!
Use Apps Instead of Tours:
Casco Viejo has many great tour companies that offer guided tours of the neighborhood and its principle sites and attractions. If you’re on a tight budget, however, you can still see and learn about these things without spending a dime. Download the Casco Walking Tours App, or do some Google research on your phone or computer before heading out (or while there) and read up about the sites. You can download free detailed maps, get price info for local restaurants, reviews about churches and museums, and give yourself a tour on your own, with results that are almost as good.
Spend Time in the Plazas:
While Casco is mainly known for its nightlife and attractions, one of the best ways to pass time there is to just sit back and relax in one of the neighborhood’s many beautiful plazas. It’s free, and there are plenty of benches, fountains, and other sitting areas to relax in. This is also a great way to people watch, and absorb a bit of local culture without having a schedule, or spending money. Enjoy!