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 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.
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.