Sometimes the unexpected trips are the best trips! When planning a trip to spend a few days on Curaçao, my husband and I realized our best option was to fly with Copa Airlines and take a 17-hour layover in Panama City (PTY). Lucky for us, Panama encourages this!
We had such a good time, we decided to plan a future trip to Panama so we could spend more time and see all this crossroads country has to offer. In the meantime, here are the best tips to help you enjoy your own stopover in fascinating Panama!
You Can Stop Over for up to 7 Days
Copa Airlines actually has a program that allows travelers to plan a “stopover” or “long layover” for up to seven days at no extra cost. It’s called the Panama Stopover Program, and they even offer possible itineraries to make the most of your time. Steve and I feel like we did so much on our layover tour, which was only four hours, but think of how much you could do with three days, or a full week!
Bring U.S. Dollars
Panama does have its own Panamanian currency, the Balboa, but it is pegged to the U.S. dollars (USD), which is also widely used and accepted. If you’re American, save yourself the ATM fees and bring USD with you. Panama is a very inexpensive destination, making it a great place to jet off to for a long weekend or a long layover!
Also helpful: Can I Use the U.S. Dollar Abroad?
Set Your Watch to Eastern Standard Time
East Coasters, rejoice! You won’t need to reset your watches. You also won’t deal with the jet lag. Unless, of course, you’re visiting during Daylight Saving Time! Panama doesn’t spring their clocks ahead in the spring or fall back in the fall. They are close enough to the Equator that it wouldn’t make much of a difference (much like Hawai’i). So, if it’s easier to remember, Panama is on Eastern Time in the winter and Central Time in the summer.
More here: The Top 10 Trips Every Traveler Should Take
Casco Viejo is the Safest Place in the Country
Panama City has its good areas and bad areas, at least according to our local guide! There are places you shouldn’t go alone, even in the day time. That said, there are also some really beautiful, safe areas as well, just like any city! And Casco Viejo, the old town, is the safest place in the entire country. Why? That’s where the Presidential Palace is located. Security is always up here, if you’re looking for a safe area to stay or just to walk around. It’s also perfectly charming!
Read next: The Top 30 Trips to Take in Your 30s
You Have to Visit the Panama Canal!
If you go to Panama without visiting the Canal, you didn’t really go, did you? If you’re here on a layover tour, it will almost certainly be included as a stop, or you can hire a cab or ride share to take you there. It’s about half an hour from Panama City, and you’ll want to spend about an hour and a half to two hours here. Pro tip: Start with the movie first, then go to the Canal Viewing Area!
Get the details: Your Guide to Visiting the Panama Canal
Want more? Get everything you need on my Panama Page!
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