Panama City, Panama(cont’d)-Part 3-Breakfast and off to the see the sights
Before we ventured out to see the sights, we ate a really good buffet breakfast at the Panama City, Panama, Marriott hotel. The continental buffet was $13.50 and the full buffet was $16.50.
We stuffed ourselves for breakfast–after all, it was a buffet! The plan on this day was to first visit the Panama Canal and then see different segments of the city as time permits. I had read on the internet, that if you ask the doorman the price of a taxi to anyplace, they will try to up-sell you a tour package, or charge you more than you would pay if you found your own taxi.
I asked the doorman for the price to the Canal and he said $20. BTW, the official currency in Panama is the U.S. Dollar which makes it easy. Anyway, I knew the $20 price was high based on my research. So, we went across the street and waited until a decent looking taxi stopped. He had a Jesus decal on his window so I figured he was safe. He introduced himself as Alberto and said $6 to the Canal. A good deal, so we took it.
Alberto did not speak English and spoke that fast Panama Spanish, which gave me some really good practice, and a really good headache. Good thing I had done some research before the trip because when he spoke of some places I was already familiar with, I was able to understand him.
Alberto wanted to up sell us on a couple of side trips, such as show us the view of the city from the mountain, etc, etc. for $20 for 2 hours including the ride to the Canal. At first, I said no, but Steph said, “for only $14 more, we can see some sights with Alberto that we might be paying extra for later”. So, we took him up on the offer and were really glad we did.
We ended up hiring him for 6 hours and saw sights we never would have been able to see. Otherwise, we would have been piece-mealing a bunch of little trips together, and would have wasted time. He turned out to be a great hire and a great use of our limited time.
Next-part 4-The skyline of Panama City
Panama City, Panama(cont’d)-Part 2-The Marriott Hotel
When I first started researching the trip, I found it very difficult to decide which hotel to stay in while in Panama City, Panama. Since we were only going to be there for 3 nights, I wanted to make the right decision. We decided on the Marriott Hotel after much research on TripAdvisor and the Lonely Planet guide book. I chose it because it seemed to be in a central location to everything, including restaurants and shopping. It also was in a good neighborhood.
As it turns out, the Marriott Hotel was a great choice for us. The location was better than what I anticipated. We found the staff to be extremely helpful and accommodating. The rooms and common areas were very nice. Check out these photos:
The Panama City Panama-Marriott Hotel Lobby.
Panama City Panama-Marriott Hotel Lobby
After we checked in to the hotel, we decided to check out the neighborhood. There were a number of other hotels close by and lots of retail shopping. It was very hot that night and we were tired after the long trip. After about 45 minutes of checking things out we returned to the hotel. The next day was going to be big day. We needed energy to hit the ground running.
Next-We check out Panama City the following morning.
Panama-Part 1-The arrival in Panama City, Panama
In total, our flights from OKC-DFW-MIA-PTY took 12 hours. The airport in Panama City (PTY) is very modern. If you want to see their web site, check it out here:
Immigration was pretty chaotic, lots of people rushing to get in line. As soon as we got to the immigration window, the agent said we had to go back and buy a tourist card. No one had told us anything about a tourist card! A supervisor came over and said he would hold our place till I returned with the cards. I left Stephanie at the immigration window, went back, bought the cards and in a few minutes we were outside in the heat and humidity of Panama.
We had been told to only take official taxis and watch out for the “gypsy” cabs. We were approached at least 6 times by taxi drivers that did not appear to be “official”. Finally, someone with an official looking ID tag directed us to a taxi, and soon we were being driven by our new best friend, “Bennie” to the Marriott hotel. Bennie was a nice guy who immediately wanted to sell us a condo. He was ok with it when we told him we were just a couple of tourists and didn’t really need a condo in Panama City. We told him we would hire him to take us back to the airport on Saturday at 5:30 a.m. in lieu of buying a condo from him!!
Since my daughter, Stephanie, was traveling with me, I figured I should spring for better accommodations than usual. When traveling solo to Latin America, I prefer to stay with local families to get the full immersion experience, but Stephanie wouldn’t have any part of that. So, I parted with some Marriott points for 2 free nights (Wed. and Thurs) and then paid a reduced weekend rate for Friday night.
We were at the Marriott in about 30 minutes. Bennie dropped us off, we exchanged cell phone numbers, and he told us where it was safe to walk in the area surrounding the hotel and where it wasn’t.
Steve Barrymore email@example.com
Next-photos of the Panama City, Panama Marriott Hotel.
Panama and Ecuador
Earlier this year, I was looking to head to South or Central America to work on my Spanish. As I began to search for air fares, I found a reasonable fare to Quito, Ecuador. I had been to Quito once before, but just for one day. I had always wanted to return.
I had also always had a desire to go to Panama and see the Panama Canal. As I started to check out my options, I discovered the round trip fares from Oklahoma City to Panama City, Panama were the lowest I had ever seen–$380.80 to be exact! As I continued my research, I found I could really do both cities, Panama City and Quito, for just a little bit more money.
My wife was not able to go due to work, so I asked my daughter, Stephanie, if she would go with me. She could go for only 3 days due to her own job, but was certainly up for the adventure if we could make it work.
The plan was set—We would fly to Panama City for 3 days, see the Panama Canal and whatever else we could possibly squeeze in. After 3 days in Panama City, Stephanie would fly home to OKC alone and I would fly southward on COPA airlines to Quito, Ecuador. I could have saved a little bit of money by flying from Panama City back up to Miami and then down to Quito all on AA, but time was money for me. Plus I figured it would be more fun flying Panama City direct to Quito.
My goal in Quito was completely different from Panama. In Quito I planned to enroll in Spanish Language school, live with a local family, and travel around in Central Ecuador as time permitted. I had only 3 weeks to plan the entire trip. It would be a trip of 2 different experiences.
I will post a series of reports of my adventures in both countries. I have plenty of photos to share……so stay tuned.