Panama Travel Guide: Budget-Friendly Tips When Traveling to Panama on a Budget
September 22, 2023

Welcome, fellow travelers, to a budget-friendly escapade through the heart of Central America! I'm here to spill the beans on one of the most captivating and often overlooked gems of the region – Panama. But we're not just here to talk about Panama; we're diving into the world of affordable exploration, where every dollar counts and every adventure leaves a lasting memory.

Why Travel to Panama?

So, why Panama, you might wonder? Besides its world-famous canal (we'll get to that later), Panama is a land of contrasts. Located right next to Costa Rica, this country has everything from vibrant, bustling cities to serene beaches, lush rainforests, and historic streets. But here's the kicker – it's remarkably economical. Yes, you heard me right! Panama lets you experience the best of Central America without emptying your pockets.

In this guide, we'll stroll through Panama City's urban jungles, uncover hidden gems, savor delectable Panamanian cuisine, and even bask in the beauty of its pristine beaches. So, tighten your shoelaces, grab your sunhat, and embark on a journey showing you how to make the most of your Panama travel adventure without breaking the bank. Let's get started!

Visit Panama City

Panama City, the vibrant heart of the country, will be your first stop on this low cost expedition. Before we dive into the city's treasures, let's chat about some essential aspects that will make your visit smooth and enjoyable.

Safety Tips

Panama City is generally a safe destination for travelers, but it's wise to stay vigilant like any central urban area. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

1. Stay in Well-Lit Areas: When exploring the city after dark, stick to well-lit and populated areas, especially if you're wandering away from the bustling city center.

2. Use Official Taxis: If you need a taxi, opt for official ones with registered logos. Negotiate the fare before you hop in.

3. Watch Your Belongings: Petty theft can happen anywhere. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded places like markets or public transportation.

4. Stay Hydrated: Panama's tropical climate can be unforgiving. Carry a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the day.

While these safety tips and cultural insights will enhance your visit to Panama City, we want to emphasize that the most secure and enriching journey is to enlist the expertise of a trusted tour operator like ReConTur.

ReConTur ensures that every aspect of your adventure aligns with the highest expectations and safety standards. With over 20 years of experience in providing quality, sustainable travel experiences, they are your reliable partner (they even include travel insurance) for cultural immersion and unforgettable memories.

By combining these safety measures, cultural respect, and the guidance of ReConTur, your Panama City adventure promises to be both budget-friendly and profoundly rewarding.

Panama City

Local Customs and Etiquette

Respecting local customs and etiquette is essential to connecting with Panamanians and having a smooth travel experience. Here are some tips to blend in seamlessly:

1. Greet with a Smile: Panamanians are known for their warmth. Greet people with a smile and a friendly "Buenos días" (good morning), "Buenas tardes" (good afternoon), or "Buenas noches" (good evening).

2. Respect Personal Space: While Panamanians are friendly, it's essential to respect personal space. Give people a comfortable distance when interacting.

3. Dress Modestly: When visiting churches or rural areas, dress modestly to show respect. This means covering shoulders and knees.

4. Learn Some Spanish: While you can get by with English in tourist areas, learning a few basic Spanish phrases will be appreciated by locals and make your journey more immersive.

By following these safety tips and embracing local customs, you'll not only stay safe but also connect with the heart and soul of Panama City. Dig deeper into the city's attractions and experiences that won't dent your wallet.

Travel Guide to Daily Costs in Panama City

Now that you're acquainted with the safety measures and local customs, it's time to get down to budgeting for your daily expenses in Panama City. We'll break it down into categories, offering you a comprehensive view of how to make the most of your money.


  • Public Buses: Public buses are cost-effective and reliable. A single fare within the city typically costs around $0.25 to $0.50, making it the most economical way to get around. You must purchase a Metro Card that can be used for public buses and metro.
  • Metro: The Panama City Metro is both efficient and budget-friendly. A one-way ride will set you back at just over $1, and it's an excellent way to navigate the city's bustling streets. Keep in mind to purchase the Metro Card.
  • Walking: The city's downtown is pedestrian-friendly, and strolling is not only affordable but also a fantastic way to soak in the city's vibrant atmosphere.


Casco Antiguo
  • Casco Antiguo Exploration: Wander through the charming streets of Casco Antiguo, the historic district of Panama City. It's free to explore, and you can admire beautifully restored colonial architecture while enjoying the local vibes, and don't forget to buy an original Panama Hat.
  • Visit Museums: Panama City boasts a range of museums, and many offer affordable admission fees. For example, the Panama Canal Museum (currently closed for renovation) charges around $15, while the Museum of Biodiversity, designed by Frank Gehry, offers entry for approximately $22. These museums provide fascinating insights into the country's history and natural wonders.
  • Panama Canal Miraflores Locks: Witness this engineering marvel at the Miraflores Locks. Entry fees are reasonable, with prices around $20 for adults and $12 for children, making it an unforgettable and educational experience. Your ticket purchase includes entry to the IMAX Theater which features a 3D movie about the Panama Canal history and operations.

By considering these daily costs, you'll find that Panama City offers plenty of ways to enjoy its attractions and immerse yourself in its culture without breaking the bank. Now, let's venture further and explore the hidden gems, the best times to visit, and Panama's delectable culinary scenes.

Things to do in Panama

Now that you're armed with budget-savvy tips for Panama City, it's time to spread your wings and explore Panama's diverse attractions. From urban delights to natural wonders, we've got you covered.

Hidden Gems and The Best Time To Visit Them

  • Metropolitan Nature Park: Escape the city's hustle and bustle at the Metropolitan Nature Park. It's an oasis of biodiversity within Panama City, offering hiking trails and birdwatching opportunities. The best part? Entrance is usually free, making it a hidden gem for nature enthusiasts. For comfortable hiking conditions and better wildlife spotting, go in the morning or during the dry season (December to April).
  • Biomuseo: While many flock to the Panama Canal Museum, don't miss the Biomuseo, designed by architect Frank Gehry. It's a visual masterpiece and one of the best places to visit in Panama that delves into Panama's incredible biodiversity. Admission costs around $22 and visiting during weekdays can help avoid crowds. Biomuseo opens Wednesday through Sunday.
  • Ancon Hill: For panoramic views of Panama City, hike up Ancon Hill. It's a lesser-known gem that offers stunning vistas. What is the best time to visit? Early morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday heat and crowds.

Food & Dining in Panama: Savoring Regional Delicacies

Panama's culinary tapestry is woven with flavors from diverse regions. From the bustling city streets to the tranquil coastal towns, let's embark on a gastronomic journey, highlighting must-try dishes unique to each area.

Panama City

  • Cafés: Kickstart your day with a cup of rich Panamanian coffee at local cafés. A quality brew will cost much less than when bought in international chains.
  • Sancocho: In the heart of the capital, you'll discover a decadent urban twist on Sancocho, Panama's beloved chicken soup. It's prepared with chicken and hearty vegetables, making it a satisfying delicious choice for city explorers.
  • Ropa Vieja: Casco Antiguo, Panama´s historic district, boasts restaurants serving succulent Ropa Vieja, a savory shredded beef stew. Dining amidst the charming colonial architecture adds to the experience.
  • Street Food Delights: The streets are a culinary adventure waiting to be explored. Treat your taste buds to savory empanadas for as little as $1, or dive into a bowl of ceviche for approximately $5 at the Mercado de Mariscos.

Coastal Delights

  • Ceviche in the islands: You'll find ceviche prepared with the freshest seafood along the coast, particularly in the San Blas Islands or Bocas del Toro. This coastal town is a paradise for seafood lovers, where the ocean's bounty is transformed into zesty ceviche.
  • Patacones by the Beach: In coastal towns like Pedasí and Santa Catalina, patacones take on a coastal twist. Enjoy these crispy plantains while soaking up the seaside ambiance, where the salty breeze complements the flavors.

Traditional Flavors of the Countryside

  • Rural Sancocho: In the rural countryside, sancocho retains its traditional charm. Here, it's often prepared over an open fire, infusing it with a rustic, smoky essence that's a delightful departure from the city version.
  • Hoja de Guanábana in Towns Along the Coast: As you explore the coastal towns, visit local bakeries for Hoja de Guanábana, a sweet dessert made from soursop fruit. Its tropical flavors reflect the essence of these laid-back seaside communities.

These regional culinary delights offer a diverse palate of flavors, showcasing the unique character of each area. Whether in the heart of Panama City, the coastal towns, or the serene countryside, Panama's food scene promises a delightful journey for your taste buds.

Accommodation Hacks in Panama

Finding a place to stay in Panama is easier than you might think. Here are some hacks to help you rest your head without breaking the bank:

  • Hostels: Panama City and popular tourist areas boast a variety of hostels with dormitory-style rooms.
  • Guesthouses: Consider staying at guesthouses, which often provide a more local and personal experience. In places like Boquete or Bocas del Toro, guesthouses offer reasonably priced cozy rooms.
  • Camping: For the adventurous budget traveler, camping is an option in some national parks and remote areas. Just ensure you have the necessary equipment and permits.
  • Airbnb: Explore Airbnb for unique stays. You can find private rooms or apartments that fit your budget and preferences.
  • Booking in Advance: Planning and booking accommodations in advance can often secure better deals. Look for discounts and promotions offered by hotels and hostels.

With these accommodation hacks, you'll find cozy and wallet-friendly places to stay across Panama, whether you prefer mingling with fellow travelers in a hostel or immersing yourself in the local culture at a guesthouse. Now, let's explore tips for things to do in Panama and making your travel sustainable.

Tips for Visiting Panama on a Budget: Making the Most of Your Journey

Visiting Panama when you're on a budget is not just about ways to save money; it's about enriching your travel experience while staying mindful of your resources. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore a wide range of tips that encompass budget-savvy choices, sustainable travel practices, and technology to enhance your adventure; make sure you include them when you plan your trip.

Budget-Savvy Travel

  • Travel Off-Peak: To avoid higher prices and crowds, consider visiting during the rainy season (May to November). While you might encounter occasional showers, you'll enjoy more inexpensive places to stay and fewer tourists.
  • Use Public Transportation in Panama: traveling around Panama City in public buses and the metro offers convenient and affordable ways to get around. Opt for these options to save on transportation costs.
  • Dine Like a Local: Embrace Panama's street food culture and local eateries. Not only will you savor authentic flavors, but you'll also save significantly on meals.
  • Water: Tap or Bottled? Panama has safe tap water in most areas. Avoid buying bottled water and use a reusable bottle to reduce your environmental footprint.
  • Stay in Hostels and Guesthouses: Affordable accommodations like hostels and guesthouses offer comfortable lodging and opportunities to meet fellow travelers. They're often more affordable than hotels.
  • Travel Light: Pack smartly and avoid excess luggage to save on airline baggage fees. Choose versatile clothing for varied weather conditions.

Sustainable Travel Tips

  • Respect Local Ecosystems: Panama is a biodiversity hotspot. When exploring its natural wonders, stick to designated paths to protect fragile ecosystems.
  • Minimize Plastic Use: Carry a reusable water bottle and shopping bag to reduce plastic waste. Support businesses that are committed to eco-friendly practices.
  • Responsible Wildlife Encounters: If you plan to visit wildlife sanctuaries, ensure they prioritize animal welfare and conservation. Avoid activities that harm or exploit animals.
  • Support Local Communities: Opt for guided tours and activities local operators offer. Your tourism dollars can have a positive impact on communities.
Embera Villa

Tech Tips

  • Travel Apps: Download apps like Maps. Me for offline navigation, Duolingo for language learning, and Skyscanner for finding affordable flights.
  • Currency Conversion: Use currency conversion apps to stay updated on exchange rates. Avoid airport currency exchange counters, which often offer less favorable rates.
  • WhatsApp for Communication: WhatsApp is widely used for communication in Panama. It's handy for staying in touch with locals and fellow travelers.
  • Budget Tracking Apps: Apps like Trail Wallet help you monitor your expenses and stay within your budget.
  • Uber and Local Ride-Sharing: In Panama City, Uber and local ride-sharing apps like DiDi offer cost-effective alternatives to traditional taxis.

By combining budget-savvy choices, sustainable travel practices, and technology, you'll make the most of your journey through Panama and contribute to a responsible and meaningful travel experience. Now, let's delve into the local insights and hidden gems that will add a layer of authenticity to your adventure.

Embrace Panama's Budget-Friendly Adventures

As your budget-friendly exploration of Panama unfolds, you'll discover a country teeming with diverse flavors, captivating landscapes, and warm-hearted people. From the vibrant streets of Panama City to the serene coastal towns and the rustic countryside, Panama offers an array of experiences for every traveler.

By following these tips, you can make the most of your journey and ensure that your travels align with sustainable practices that protect the environment and support local communities. Panama's rich culture and natural beauty are best enjoyed when we're mindful of our impact on the places we visit.

Share Your Experience and Explore with ReConTur

Travel is a collective experience, and your insights can inspire others. Do you have additional budget-saving tips or memorable experiences from your Panama adventure? Share them with us and fellow travelers. Your knowledge can turn someone else's journey into a remarkable adventure.

And if you're ready to take your Panama adventure to the next level, consider exploring the tailor-made tours offered by ReConTur. With over 20 years of experience providing quality, sustainable travel experiences, they're your gateway to cultural immersion and unforgettable memories. Check out the destinations they showcase, and let ReConTur help you plan the Panama adventure of a lifetime.

Remember, Panama is not just a destination; it's a story waiting to be written. So, pack your curiosity, embrace the local culture, and let Panama weave its unique tale into your travel memories. Safe travels, explorers!

Arrow Image