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12 Step Planet: Panama
The crossroads of the Americas, there’s more to Panama than the canal! A fantastic party atmosphere, paradise islands and stunning scenery for a start...
Eamonn Seoige, 02 Nov 2012
Where exactly is it?
Panama is the most southerly country in Central America. It’s an isthmus, a narrow strip of ground that joins two major land areas, in this case the South American and North and Central American landmasses. The Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean border its northern and southern coast. Costa Rica and Colombia are to its west and east.
How do I get there?
Probably the most cost-effective route to Panama City is to fly Aer Lingus to Madrid and connect with a direct flight to Panama’s Tocumen International Airport. Flight time is approximately ten hours.
What language do they speak?
The official language is Spanish, first brought to Panama by colonists in the early 16th century. English is also increasingly popular with those working in services and the international business sector. A number of indigenous languages are also spoken, especially in remote, rural outposts.
What’s the local beer like?
Panamanian beer is nothing to write home about. The most fashionable brands are bland, weak flavoured, pale lagers, similar to mainstream American beers. Amongst the most popular varieties are Panama, Soberna and Atlas. There’s little discernible difference between them, but thankfully beer is always served close to freezing point! Panama City is one of a handful of locations around the world where Guinness is brewed under licence.
Don’t leave Panama without trying their favourite tipple, a potent clear liquor called Seco Herrerano. Seco is a national institution, triple distilled from sugarcane and served mixed with everything from fruit juice to milk! Panamanian rum is some of the best in the world, with numerous brands distilled throughout
What is the transport like?
Travelling around Panama is fine by Central American standards. The Pan American Highway spans the length of the country and is in relatively good condition. There are numerous exits leading to the regional towns of the mountainous interior. Renting a car is the way to go, ensuring you’ve the freedom to explore this beautiful country at your own pace. If time isn’t on your side, it’s also possible to fly to even the remotest part of Panama by air charter. The country is dotted with numerous airstrips and there are plenty of reputable operators. Bus travel is cheap and relatively efficient, with connections departing Panama City daily to every corner of the country. Taking a bus in Panama City’s gridlocked streets is quite the experience! Known as ‘red devils’, due to their loud colour and reputation for reckless driving, buses are often insanely overcrowded and rarely if ever have air-conditioning. A safer and saner bet is to hop in a reasonably priced local taxi.