Taking a holiday offers the opportunity to unwind while making new and meaningful connections. Along with creating new connections, over 40% of us claim that we travel in order to learn more about ourselves and to create a connection from within. While personal growth is important, it is equally as important to learn about the places we visit so that we can enjoy our trip, learn to appreciate different cultures, and stay safe all while avoiding breaking the bank.

If you are on the lookout for a new holiday destination, Panama is a top choice as it has much to offer including rainforests, parks, island getaways and nightclubs. On trend, this Central American country is one of the nations currently experiencing a rapid amount of tourism growth. When considering traveling to Panama, it does pay to know the basic tips for planning a visit to the country, as a little knowledge can go along way in making time spent just that much better.

Tips, Tricks, and Things to look out for

Beware of strangers posing as tour guides

This situation is mostly common in the Casco Viejo district of Panama City, which is part of its downtown, characterized by its colourful colonial buildings. Outside of Casco Viejo, the city as a whole is quite safe. As a tourist, you may be approached by a person claiming to be a guide who can show you around the city. A simple no will suffice in most cases, but some of these so-called guides may continue to follow you while pointing out items as though the tour has begun. If this continues for some time, they may demand payment and get aggressive when you refuse to pay. If the first no doesn’t work, walk away politely to avoid being manipulated.

Make sure you take a day trip to Taboga Island

Tabago Island Panama

Just a few kilometres off the mainland, Taboga Island offers white sandy beaches and an interesting history. It is also known as the Island of Flowers because of the stunning landscapes, architecture and warm weather. On land, there are plenty of hiking and cycling options available; by the water, the array underwater activities seems endless. Boat rides to the island include slow, fast and round-trips. The island is less chaotic when compared to Panama City and so if you want a peaceful change of scenery, Taboga Island is certainly the place to go. 

Expect quality, but not fast service at meals

In Panama, unlike in the UK and most other parts of Europe, dining out is reserved for special occasions with loved ones and usually lasts for several hours. Servers are trained to be friendly and attentive, but speed isn’t always mandatory. Plan to enjoy your dining experience. Avoid booking non-refundable tours after lunch or dinner because you might end up missing the tour and losing your money. Moreover, it’s nice to allow yourself the luxury of savouring the experience of dining in a new country. 

Shop at the Artisan Market in Balboa

Located in the YMCA building, the Artisan Market is packed full of native craftsmen. Frankly, not all the items on display can be categorised as art. But you’ll be able to distinguish between tourist junk and real buys with a keen eye. Among the highly coveted souvenirs to get in this country are Molas, a colourful and ornate tapestry created by indigenous artists from the Embera and Kuna tribes. The Kuna Cooperative is close to the YMCA, and it exclusively features Kuna handicrafts. 

You don’t need to pay exorbitantly for a first-class view in Panama City

Panama City from above

A gorgeous view and first-class dining always attracts an expensive bill in upscale restaurants around the world. But in Panama, you can enjoy fast, affordable food with a view at the MultiCentro Mall food court. The mall is the perfect option for travellers on a budget as it offers great views of Panama City for you to admire as you dine. Once you’ve had your fill, you can enjoy a day of shopping; including a visit to the supermarket in the basement to stock up on the essentials.

Make sure you negotiate fares before departure 

Although taxi apps like Uber calculate your fare according to the distance travelled, most of the taxi drivers in Panama do not have the app or meter equipment. Although the drivers mostly set prices according to distance and travel time, the prices can vary greatly. Owing to this fact, it’s advisable to negotiate fares before departure. If the negotiation becomes long and unfruitful, you can just move to another taxi. Familiarise yourself with the going rates to avoid being overcharged. 

With these tips to guide you, you are now ready for your Panamanian adventure, so what are you waiting for? With so much to offer, Panama is a holiday destination that’s flexible enough to suit everyone and anyone.

*This is an affiliate post written by Herson Blake*