Mochileros pidiendo un aventon.

Panama is one of the most popular destinations for backpackers in Central America, and even though the prices are a bit higher than in other countries of the region, backpacking through the country is still affordable.

Getting around

Mobility in Panama City can be a headache, but getting out of the city to explore the interior is easier, thanks to a well-established public transport network. Buses operate 24 hours departing from the National Bus Terminal in Albrook mall. The fare to popular places close to the city like El Valle de Anton, Gorgona, Cerro Campana and Coronado is less than $5.

Further away destinations such as Bocas del Toro and Chiriqui cost less than $25 in an overnight express, but if you prefer day travel, you will have the chance to see some of the most stunning landscapes in Panama.

Lodging

When visiting a country of high economic and real estate development as is Panama, finding accommodation on a tight budget can be difficult, but nothing is impossible. There are several options within the city such as “The Mostros Hostel,” “Hostel Siriri”, “Luna’s Castle” to name a few, which offer rates of between $11 and $18 for a bed in a shared dorm or between $30 and $50 for a private room.

Such low prices can also be found in popular destinations like El Valle de Anton, where a good option is the hostel “Bodhi Hostel & Lounge” located near the town center, or if you prefer to be close to nature “Mamallena Eco Lodge” in the mountains near the valley, offers ecological cabins, shared dorms and river cabins at reasonable prices.

Another very good option to find inexpensive accommodations in and out of the city is the “AirBnB” platform (www.airbnb.com.pa), where you can find everything from dorm rooms in hostels to cozy Bed & Breakfast and full vacation homes, accessible to all budgets. This platform gives you the chance to meet and get to know the hosts, normally locals or expats living in Panama, who rent their property space and will share time with backpackers.

Eating Out

A backpacker explores Panama’s roads.

A backpacker explores Panama’s roads.

There are many restaurants with typical Panamanian food. They offer an excellent dining experience. Daring to eat at a local “Fondita”, is definitely an economical choice, but you can always count on a quick stop at one of the big supermarkets, usually located near bus stations, to get some supplies for the trip. Anyway, most of the hostels offer economic enough dining options, although their menus rarely vary.

Where to go?

Panama offers something for everyone. If what you’re looking for is a sunny beach very popular options are Bocas del Toro, Playa Venao, Santa Catalina and La Costa Arriba of Colón. Among these options the less crowded and most beautiful could be La Costa Arriba, on the Caribbean side of the Isthmus, where you can enjoy a backpacker atmosphere in Hostels like “Wunderbar” in Puerto Lindo or “Sister Moon” on Isla Grande.

For those who like to explore nature Panama has several parks and forest reserves. Many of them have special facilities for camping, in addition to showers, toilets and rangers, ensuring a safety environment.

Panama is very diverse in culture, and backpacking through its roads, picturesque towns, secluded beaches and wild forests provides a memorable experience.

By Gabriel Guandique

Courtesy of The Visitor