How I un-prepared for Panama

 map_of_panama and panama major cities

Maybe I had too much good luck winging it in Greece. I thought I could do the same for Panama. After all, early December is the end of their rainy season. It shouldn’t have too many people seeking a warmer climate yet, right? Wrong. I did try to reserve a hostel ahead of time but they were full. And, after getting to the airport, we used the tourism desk to call around to see if we could get another hostel or hotel. On our fourth choice, someone picked up and offered a room for $50/night. “Okay, we’ll take it.”


With that problem solved, we took a taxi in from the airport to the central part of Panama City. This ride costs $28. However, have the proper amount if you can as the driver will conveniently not have $2 to give back to you. Another Gringo Tax.


Panama City, first impressions:


Panama City is not so different from most of Central America except it might have the tallest buildings.

High rise condos and slummy shacks are not too far from each other. Busted sidewalks with no drainage grates (watch your step) yet shopping at the grocery stores is a real treat. Not only do you get the added bonus of really fresh fruit but the selection of items is wider than what it is in Canada. (Diet Cherry 7up!)


We spent our first night at the Balboa Bay Hostel

Somehow this place was recommended in Lonely Planet but it shouldn’t be. Two positives from here were: The staff was very friendly  and it came with breakfast. The rooms are DIRTY. Weird stains all over the floors. Busted buttons on the AC (but we got it working), questionable sheets, and I had to kill a huge bug that was casually strolling across our floor. Oh, and someone thought the TV would work better as a coaster. I guess there was another 1/2 positive. The bathroom looked recently renovated and was clean. But there was only squirts of scolding hot water during an ice cold shower. Sure I’ve stayed in some dirty rooms before… but not for $50 USD. Again, I feel a little ripped off but my own fault for not booking ahead of time.

$50 room at Balboa Hostel Panama City, Panama

 dirty Floor of Balboa Hostel Panama

TV BalBoa Hostel Panama

broken Air Conditioning unit Balboa Hostel Panama

It we didn’t want to spend the beginning of our trip in Panama City anyway. So one night here was enough. The next day we were off to catch a bus to San Carlos and El Palmar beach to try some surfing! But this time, winging it (I should really try to learn from my mistakes eh?) turned out much better at the Ranchos Los Toros.

9 Responses to How I un-prepared for Panama

  1. So you got there okay but lesson learned on the it should be fine method of planing. Take good pictures and bring me back good rum. Ron

    Ron December 6, 2012 at 6:53 pm Reply
    • Lesson learned man, whoa! I’ll bring you back something good for sure.

      Shaun December 6, 2012 at 7:43 pm Reply
  2. How did I miss your trip to Panama City?! I thought it was the weirdest little city. The tall buildings were wild! And it had soo many different kinds of restaurants that other Central American towns don’t get; I never thought of that Canal having that effect lol. And YUCK about this hostel!!

    Abby December 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm Reply
    • Hah, it was a total dive. Not too sure how it ended up in Lonely Planet.

      Shaun December 16, 2012 at 1:43 am Reply
  3. Such a lovely set of pics of hostel, Shaun 😉 Panama is on my To-Do-Go List for a while. Not many people I know go there… So I’ve enjoyed the read and would love to see more text and photos of Panama 😉

    memographer December 18, 2012 at 2:27 am Reply
    • Thanks Alex, aren’t they nice? Panama was not what we expected but we left with a big smile.

      Shaun December 18, 2012 at 2:57 am Reply
  4. Yikes! There are no other words for it – that hostel is a dump! I’ve stayed in some questionable hostels, but nothing quite THAT bad.

    Audrey | That Backpacker December 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm Reply
    • LoL! It was not enjoyable… the TV-coaster made me laugh though. That part of the city wasn’t nice either.

      Shaun December 21, 2012 at 1:52 am Reply
  5. Wow! I can’t believe how expensive that place was! It looks worse than anywhere I’ve stayed in South America! Sometimes Lonely Planet gets it so wrong!

    Arianwen January 4, 2013 at 10:37 am Reply

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