Solo touring in Panama City

Old Aug 26th, 2016, 02:11 PM
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Solo touring in Panama City

Arriving into Albrook airport at 10:30 AM on a Sunday in a few weeks and am looking for advice on what is safe to do by myself for the day. I'll be in the city for business but am getting there early so I can see a little.

I will be visiting Miraflores Locks later in the week with a group, which will also include a "city tour". Unfortunately, I don't know yet what that will involve—I have asked my hosts but have not heard back.

Photography is part of my travel recreation, so I would like to visit places where I can take pictures with my DSLR camera and not worry about getting mugged for it.

Some possibilities that interest me include

-Casco Viejo
- Panama Viejo ruins
- Cerro Ancón
- Metropolitan Natural Park
- Gatun Locks and the Canal Expansion (and maybe Fort San Lorenzo?)

Obviously I can't do all of those, but which would be safest for a solo tourist who wants to be taking photographs while walking around?

I was considering renting a car. Obviously it's a must if do Gatun etc. (which have been recommended by friends as well worth seeing)—or at least I assume it is—but I also won't be able to check into my hotel until later in the day, so that gives me a place to keep my luggage.

If I forgo Gatun, should I engage a taxi (or other driver?) for the day instead? Would he be willing to get out and sightsee with me as well? That would give me company while walking around, but I don't speak Spanish, so he might be a bit bored if he does not speak English. I would need someone to stay with me (rather than just taxiing one way) because I will have my luggage (unless the hotel would let me drop off the luggage before I check in—but that would also take daylight time away from touring).

Any idea what a taxi or other driver for the day would cost?

I imagine I can combine at least 2 of the options (other than Gatun) I mentioned. If I visit Casco Viejo in the evening I could make it 3—but is that area safe for a solo stroller at night (I would not have a driver at that point)? Luggage would not be a concern by then.

And as far as hotels go, any advice on an inexpensive/moderate (less than $60) hotel for one night? Among those I am considering are Hotel Occidental, Hotel Avila, Hotel Stanford, Albrook Inn, and Ohana B&B (the latter two convenient for returning a rental car to Albrook on Monday morning).

Thanks for any advice you can offer!
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Old Aug 26th, 2016, 02:18 PM
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This may be neither here nor there, but I would never rent a car in a new destination I am not familiar with where I don't speak the language. There's just so much that could go wrong.

Whatever my plans, I'd figure it out using a taxi, driver, or other method of getting around.

As far as dropping your luggage at the hotel earlier than check in, I have never heard of a hotel that would not do this for a guest. And as long as distances are not too great, seems like the smartest first thing to do upon arrival (rather than risk having it with you in a rental car).
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Old Aug 26th, 2016, 03:27 PM
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suze,

Of course things can go wrong. I had all kinds of hassles with one particular rental in an English-speaking city in western Canada, for example. But I have rented cars on first visits to more than one "foreign" country without encountering problems.

And I have stayed in hotels that refused to hold luggage for extended periods before the stated check-in time. Maybe it's more common in budget and mid-priced properties than in the high-end ones many Fodorites seem to favor.

That said, I should check with the hotel when making a reservation to see if they will hold my luggage (although, as we all know, saying something—even in writing—and actually doing it are sometimes two different things when one is traveling). It probably would take no more time to go directly to the hotel in a taxi and continue from there than it would to pick up the rental car—certainly true of PTY, although I don't know how true it is of PAC.

Got any specific recommendations concerning my questions about Panama City?
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Old Aug 26th, 2016, 03:33 PM
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Never been to Panama City. That's why I didn't comment on that part of your inquiry.
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Old Aug 27th, 2016, 08:21 AM
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Thanks, suze!
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Old Aug 27th, 2016, 08:26 AM
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Sorry but I don't think there are many posters here with the experience you need help with (from reading this forum for a long time).

Have you tried the Trip Advisor forum for Panama City? I know for Mexico those are way more active than here.
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Old Aug 27th, 2016, 08:26 AM
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And Lonely Planet's forum, The Thorn Tree.
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Old Aug 27th, 2016, 03:25 PM
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Good point, suze - although I did hope people might at least be able to address the places safe to visit as a solo traveler part.

I trust people on Fodor's more than those on the other sites.
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Old Aug 28th, 2016, 09:12 AM
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<people might at least be able to address the places safe to visit>

Still you need someone with Panama City experience. Hopefully there are some posters here who have that and will see your question soon.

Like I mentioned, I just haven't seen much conversation about your destination on this forum in the past.
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