4 Days in Panama for under $400: How I made it work

Panama City

Trip: 4 nights

Total Cost: $397.50

Vacation days used: 2.5

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Tips to make it work:

  • You don’t need a lot of time in Panama City. It makes for a great long weekend trip. If you’d like to spend more time in Panama, consider heading outside the city for a few days.
  • There are several flights out of the US to Panama City daily. Finding a flight that departs in the afternoon is fairly easy to do (depending on where you’re coming from) and can save you some vacation time.
  • Look into hiring a driver for the day if you don’t want to take a tour of the city highlights. We opted for taxis but they added up. A well-negotiated rate with a driver would likely have been cheaper. This is especially true if you don’t speak Spanish and can’t negotiate with the drivers.
  • Consider using the buses if convenient. Their bus system is not the best nor is it the easiest to use.
  • If you do take a cab, negotiate the price before you get in. The cabs don’t run meters.
  • I say this for everywhere I travel, but it’s true of Panama City, too: Go to the supermarket to stock up on supplies. We always buy beer or wine, some snacks, and maybe some breakfast foods in the Supermarket. Plus it’s interesting to check out the local items.
  • If you’re in the Bank District, check out Costa Azul for some good, cheap eats. They had a huge menu with really good prices. Most of the clientele here was Panamanian.
  • Check out the locks of the Panama Canal if you’ve never been. I’d been to the Welland Canal locks in Canada and didn’t find Panama’s to be that much more exciting, but it’s worth seeing for the historical significance. Skip the museum. It was small and didn’t have a whole lot to offer.
  • The day trip to Isla Taboga was a great, cheap option for our last day. The ferry was only $11 per person round trip. We rented an umbrella and chairs on the beach for $5 for the day.
  • Ancon Hill is another cheap (free) option in Panama City. You can take a cab or walk to the top of the large hill and you’re rewarded with some awesome views of the city.

In case you’re making excuses about the cost, $397.50 = the cost of 2 dresses from J. Crew that you’ll never wear again. Get traveling.



    • Thanks, Jay! The trump hotel looked awesome. I’m impressed you found a good deal there – I would think that place is usually pretty pricey!

      We did get out to the Miraflores locks on the canal for a short visit. Checked out your blog post and I definitely agree about getting out of the city if I were to go back. There are so many great things to see away from the skyscrapers and craziness.

      Happy travels!

  1. Great tips! Panama City does have a lot to do for not too much money. I loved staying in Casco Viejo- just walking around the old cathedrals and buildings there was really interesting and there are tons of great restaurants. Of course the city is pretty spread out so it can be expensive to get around by cab like you said–we ended up hiring a guy to take us all around one day, to Miraflores for the canal and Panama Viejo. Got lucky with someone who spoke English so we learned a ton about the area. Kind of like a personal tour so definitely worth the $!

    • In hindsight, I wish we’d hired a driver. It would have been so much more convenient and probably cheaper. It’s awesome that you had someone to teach you about the area too!

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