Fear not, it’s safe in Panama
I have been to Panama numerous times now and it feels so safe. I rented a one bedroom with my own bathroom and shared kitchen with the host Nienke (ex-tour guide) who is now working for the Government. She was a great help on getting to know Panama. She also had another room for rent that was rented out most of the time I was there, and it was nice meeting more travelers from around the world. My friend Joe came to stay at the condo too, he got a great deal at $30.00 a night and I paid only $550.00 for the month. It was in a great location, about a block and a half from the Hard Rock hotel and about the same distance from the Rio hotel the other way. People staying at those hotels are paying between $150.00 and $1500.00 a night.
Traveling around Panama is safe and cheap. Metro bus is 25 cents, subway 35 cents and the bus to visit my friends in Coronado about an hour outside of the city was only $2.50, or about $80.00 for a taxi. The bus was great and air conditioned. Nine out of ten times I was the only tourist on the bus, most of the people in Coronado don't know that they have a van available for 50 cents that can take them from one end of town to the other. We played golf cheap at the golf course in Coronado. Joe and I paid $49.00 included clubs, power cart and green fees after 1 pm. I have never seen so many people movers (that's what the Aussies call it), buses, trains, vans and taxies in a city. People from Panama don't need a car as it's cheap to get around in all the above, and you can share taxies around the city for between $2.00 to $4.00.
I also took a trip up to Colon on my own for a day. They don't recommend going there on your own but I felt okay, not threatened at all, but I would not do it at night. There are no really good deals in the free zone anyway. John, Joe Pedro from Panama, and I went to Colon just to check it out, and they saw for themselves that there is no good deals there too.
Old town (Casco Viejo) is a place where you have above average and the poor living together in the same area. They are doing the same thing in Calgary where they have two big homeless shelters and in between them we have a lot of new above average condos (East Village) being built. It's good to see and it works! In old town (Casco Viejo) they are renovating all the old buildings. There are ones they have not got to yet where a lot of poor families are living before they get moved out of their homes. Some are squatters but it is a great place to visit. It's a big tourist attraction, people go their day and night with great restaurants to choose from too.
I was surprised when I brought my friend Joe there. He felt so safe, he saw a door open wide and he loves to take pictures so he walked right up into a poor family’s home to take pictures. I saw someone coming towards him, so I walked up and started talking to the man of the house and checked he was okay with us taking pictures. He was telling us that the roof had just caved in on them a couple of months ago. I went back a couple of days later and took some video and I noticed it looked like they had 2 or 3 families living there. Just think of where you are living right now and if the roof blew off your home. Now you only have rooms so to protect us from the weather we would do the same as they do; cover the room you're living in. Luckily they live in a warm climate; we cannot do that in Canada. It's way too cold!
Down the road they have a seafood market, top notch walking, running, biking paths along the Pacific Ocean plus parks, an outdoor gym, lots of soccer and basketball along the path. I was watching a soccer game one night and noticed after the game that one team walked towards the poor area bridge and the other team walked over to their nice cars. It showed me that we are all the same, never judge one another. I do not know who won the game but they sure were competitive and had a great time.
Joe and I started off at the Canal in Panama City, where Joe has taken over a boat (he thinks that anyway!) then John and Pedro picked us up to go to the other end of the Canal in Colon were you are so close to the ships.
Joe this song is for you. This guy has been singing this song for the past five years I have been going there, and I had to video this a couple of days after Joe left to prove this is the only song he knows and he will sing in between falling asleep on the same bench for years. My friend Conrad the tour guide said the singer is younger than he is and Conrad is 79 and still likes to be a tour guide. I told Conrad that I am also a tour guide; I bring people after I find safe places for them to come to.
Joe Forzani is a great guy to travel with. We are the same in a lot of ways, he has no problem going to places that most tourist will not go into. Funny thing, we were walking in this one area which has good deals on shopping and I said to Joe, “Do you notice there are no tourists here?”. He was the only one with a camera in his hands. I said there are no worries being there during the day, it is safe, but I would not go there during the night. Think about it. Are there places in your home city that you would not go to at night time?
The five days Joe spent with me in Panama City we went hard (walked about 12 kilometers one day) we were up and out by 8:00am, back home around 10:00 pm, and Joe just had a hip replacement 3 months prior to his holiday. I met lots of good people again this trip, Julian from Colombia, Pierre from the hostel Casa Areka, Dennis from New Jersey now living in Panama, Victor the inventor of Ingenuity, Anna who took us to the resort she worked at, she does look after us VIP's, Panama Peg who has a nice mansion on the beach (Joe knew her from Calgary) Jim and Derek from Toronto who I met from the trip before and so many others. Thanks everyone.
TravelCheapWithPete Pete Montgomery hanging with friends in Panama.
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