Day trip to Panama

I decided to take a quick day trip to Panama. County, #40 in my quest for 50 countries by age 50.

I wasn’t really excited to come here at all. I’m not a beach person, as I live on a beach and never go. But flights were wide open so I decided to knock this country off my list.

I hopped on a Delta flight to PTY, Panama City, Panama. Flight leaves Atlanta at 5:50pm and arrives in Panama at 9:50pm. Three hours and 37 minute flight time.

I immediately rush through customs. Expect to walk a bit to the exit. After exiting, I found airport personnel who gets you a cab. I paid by credit card there and then they took me to my cab. Cost was $35 to downtown for roughly half an hour drive.

I decided to stay at the Waldorf Astoria. Check out my review. It took a total of one hour upon exiting the aircraft to my hotel. Off to bed for sightseeing the next day.

The next morning after breakfast, I went to find the Hop On Hop Off Bus. The bus stops at several tourist spots around the city with a recording of commentary of what you are seeing. Price was $33 to use it all day or $18 for one full tour without stopping.

After roughly an hour, I arrived at the biggest tourist spot, the MiraFlores locks. I hopped off the bus for my first stop. Entry was $20. It included an informative 15 minute documentary movie and another museum you walk around. On the fourth floor is the viewing platform where you can watch the vessels pass through the canal.

What they don’t tell you is that there are only certain times boats are going through the lock. I arrived to see one just exiting and the next one didn’t start for three more hours!! So check the time tables before you go. Also one full passage takes 45 minutes of very slow movement. So expect that.

I hopped back on the bus which had average stops about every hour at each place. But lo and behold, at lunch, they stopped at this marina area for lunch and throw you off the bus. No other busses to take. The whole company just shuts down for lunch and conveniently drops you off where there is nothing to do but eat. I was annoyed to say the least. And writing this post sitting on a stump. Sweating.

Speaking of sweating, it’s hot here. 85-90 degrees and extremely humid. It’s one of those countries where most places don’t have air conditioning. Like the Caribbean Islands. So restaurants are open air. I hate that. I like air conditioning.

Finally got back on the bus. I ride around for another hour. You do get some beautiful photos of the skyscrapers on your way back to downtown. There was a stop at the Old Town which I probably would have done if I hadn’t if wasted that hour at the marina stop. I was still hot and annoyed. Got back to my hotel. Roughly spent 5 hours on the bus but that included an hour stop at MiraFlores Locks and and hour lunch stop at the Marina.

I walked back into my hotel at 2:30pm. I headed over to the gym for an hour. The gym is pretty large for a hotel gym. Had everything you need for a good workout.

Then I headed to the spa for a massage. The only thing they had was a half hour neck and shoulder massage. I should have just skipped it. The only massage I really like is a deep tissue massage. Everything else isn’t enough pressure.

I should also mention prices are fairly high here. I spent $60 for half hour massage plus tip. You can get a cheaper massage in the USA!

After my massage I headed to the pool. It’s located on the seventh floor. It’s pretty but somewhat small. A lot of the chairs were full and there’s really no good views. In fact there’s nothing on the top of the building so you can’t see the sunset from any point at this hotel!

Had dinner at my hotel and scheduled an Uber for my morning pickup at 7:00am. The Uber is half the cost of the cab. However note that airport pickup tacks on another $16 for Uber drivers so leaving the airport costs you almost the same as a cab. But going to the airport, you save About half the cost of a taxi cab. My Uber to the airport ended up costing $12. What a deal.

My drive to the PTY airport took 25 minutes. Check in was a breeze and went through the initial security checkpoint in 10 minutes. The security confiscated my tweezers and nail clippers. That was annoying. I’ve been to 39 countries and never had tweezers taken. What did they think I was going to do? Pluck stray hairs and clip hang nails? Ugh. Very annoying.

After the walk to my gate, there’s another mini security checkpoint to sit at the gate. So no water and take everything out if your suitcase again. And you better go to the bathroom before security or you have to go through it again. Another annoying thing.

Overall my two nights in the hotel, meals and tours and taxis cost me $500. My airline taxes were another $70. So $570 for two nights in a 5 star hotel with a day of sightseeing. Kinda steep. If you forego the five star hotel, I’m sure you could spend a lot less. The cab from the airport, the Uber to the airport and tickets on the hop on bus and Miraflores tickets totaled $100. So you could definitely stay elsewhere cheaper.

And nothing here in Panama was really worth seeing in my opinion. Although I’m glad to have checked country number 40 off my list, I would not return. But if you like a beach, maybe this place could be for you.

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