New Years in Panama, PTY

Old Nov 16, 16, 12:11 pm
  #1  
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Cool New Years in Panama, PTY

Hi, I will be going to Panama for the first time, for two weeks, to celebrate the New Years. I have done some research, but I would appreciate if you could answer some specific questions.

1. I have already read that it is the best to have small bills, as change is hard to come by; also avoid using bills over $20 in denomination. Is condition of cash bills important? In many countries frail US dollars would be refused. Is it necessary to take only crisp cash to Panama? Uncirculated bills are often hard to come by in the US; it is not unusual for local bank branches to not have any. Should I make an effort, before going to Panama, to stock up on crisp notes?

2. Are US Quarter coins accepted in Panama? Would it be a good idea to bring good supply of US Quarters? Do I need smaller coins? How much do public restrooms normally charge?

3. I have read advice not to buy SIM cards at the airport, but purchase in the city instead. Is there really spread in SIM card pricing? How exactly to identify a good place to purchase a Panamanian SIM card? For example, if I want to get a Digicel SIM card, should I just head to their official Albrook Mall location?

4. When negotiating taxi fare, does the negotiated fare include tolls?

5. How likely random taxi drivers in Panama are to speak English?

6. I have already booked trips to Pearl Islands and to San Blas. Is it necessary to book any Panama City and Panama Canal activities in advance?

7. I read conflicting information about beaches in Panama City, are there any in the vicinity worth going to or should I keep all my beach activities to the islands?

8. Arriving at PTY from the US (American Airlines), would I be able to wait and meet my friend, who is arriving half an hour later from Europe (Lufthansa), by the plane arrival gate?

9. Staying at the Hotel El Panama for the New Year’s celebration. Is the party the hotel throwing the place to be, or is there some other venue we should try to get to?

Thank you.
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Old Nov 16, 16, 4:06 pm
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1. Change isn't difficult except for taxis sometimes. Bills over $20 are a hassle. Major groceries accept them but they jot down your passport and other info and need a supervisor's approval. No need to pursue new bills.

2. Yes, US coins are freely in circulation; Panama's coins are size/weight duplicates. I've never seen a pay toilet here.

3. By a SIM card at any mall, grocery, or minimart, they're ubiquitous.

4. Not sure, but if there's a way to scam you into paying more, you can be sure they'll try. Ubers and the airport taxi into downtown definitely do.

5. Not very likely. Will probably understand gringo accented tourist locations and main areas.

6. No problem walking up to tourist sites and activities.

7. No beaches in the city. The ones 90 minutes west are inferior, stick to your plan.

8. No problem at all, all pax disembark to the main terminal, you can do as you please until you decide to go downstairs and through immigration / customs.

9. I can't opine on El Panama's party specifically, but the hotel is usually a happening place, and you're well located if you go somewhere else. I've never been aware of any "go-to place" for NYE.
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Old Nov 18, 16, 1:23 pm
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Awesome. Thank you.

How prevalent is WhatsApp in Panama? Can I expect Uber drivers to dial me over WhatsApp to confirm the location?
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Old Nov 18, 16, 3:57 pm
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Approximately 100% or more of smartphone users in latin america use Whatsapp.

If you have a local #, Uber drivers will invariably call to confirm location, it doesn't matter how popular or how clear your location is. With an international phone, I'm not sure what they'd do.
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Old Dec 8, 16, 2:58 pm
  #5  
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Thank you.

Three more airport specific questions:

1. Apparently there is 2-hour free WiFi available at the airport. I have read that you need to give your name and email address to login. I am confused, if I do not have Internet how can check my email; or can one simply give any fake name and email address to login? Could someone familiar with PTY WiFi elaborate?

2. Are international regional jets (Republic Airlines, in particular) parked by the gates? If a plane arrives to outside parking rather than passenger boarding bridge, can the arriving passengers enter the clean area?

3. Are customs declaration forms required for passengers with nothing to declare? Is the following the correct form?
https://www.panamatramita.gob.pa/sit...5_15_24_21.pdf
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Old Dec 8, 16, 7:20 pm
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1. I don't think it's too complicated.

2. I don't understand your question. All arriving passengers arrive to the wide open terminal. From there, a passenger either connects to a departing flight or goes downstairs to pass through immigration and enter Panama. Aircraft arriving to non-jetbridge landing locations or jetbridge spots are treated the same: i.e., bused to the terminal and released to an open terminal area. No passengers are directed directly to the immigration area.

3. Yes, customs forms are required for all persons entering Panama, regardless of declarations. If you are connecting, ignore any and all forms; you need none.
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Old Dec 8, 16, 7:37 pm
  #7  
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Thank you, you answered 2 and 3 perfectly.

About the WiFi question…

Is there a captive portal type of system that one needs to first open a web browser and login somehow?

I gather name and email address is required. But if a verification link or something is sent to the email, then how can one get to it without access to the Internet? Or is the email address never verified?
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Old Dec 11, 16, 5:45 am
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Originally Posted by TObject View Post
Thank you, you answered 2 and 3 perfectly.

About the WiFi question…

Is there a captive portal type of system that one needs to first open a web browser and login somehow?

I gather name and email address is required. But if a verification link or something is sent to the email, then how can one get to it without access to the Internet? Or is the email address never verified?
Obviously you don't have to access your email before getting allowed to use the internet. There's a big number of airports where such a system is used. Lately, though, the procedure is being abandonned for easier ones (e.g. ATH, the Mosaici lounge at FCO, etc.)
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Old Dec 12, 16, 12:32 pm
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Originally Posted by TObject View Post
Hi, I will be going to Panama for the first time, for two weeks, to celebrate the New Years. I have done some research, but I would appreciate if you could answer some specific questions.

1. I have already read that it is the best to have small bills, as change is hard to come by; also avoid using bills over $20 in denomination. Is condition of cash bills important? In many countries frail US dollars would be refused. Is it necessary to take only crisp cash to Panama? Uncirculated bills are often hard to come by in the US; it is not unusual for local bank branches to not have any. Should I make an effort, before going to Panama, to stock up on crisp notes?
I don't see a reason to


Originally Posted by TObject View Post
2. Are US Quarter coins accepted in Panama? Would it be a good idea to bring good supply of US Quarters? Do I need smaller coins? How much do public restrooms normally charge?
Yes, and ya it would be a good idea to have a few handy.

Originally Posted by TObject View Post
4. When negotiating taxi fare, does the negotiated fare include tolls?
Quite (if your Spanish is good) and yes.

Originally Posted by TObject View Post
5. How likely random taxi drivers in Panama are to speak English?
Slim


Originally Posted by TObject View Post
8. Arriving at PTY from the US (American Airlines), would I be able to wait and meet my friend, who is arriving half an hour later from Europe (Lufthansa), by the plane arrival gate?
Yes you can wait before clearing customs - the terminal is relatively well appointed.

Originally Posted by TObject View Post
9. Staying at the Hotel El Panama for the New Year’s celebration. Is the party the hotel throwing the place to be, or is there some other venue we should try to get to?
Hit the roof top bar at Gatto Blanco - good view!
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Old Dec 15, 16, 10:38 am
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You can snag a sim card as soon as you land at the airpot- just ask them to check it to make sure it's working properly. I'd put some extra money on it for later incase you run out of data. The airport wifi is spotty unless they've been updating it.

Forget taxi's in Panama City - UBER is everywhere and it's cheap to cross the entire city in traffic won't be more than $9 and will work right out of the gate from your existing account. Most drivers speak some Spanish.

I've done NYE at Hard Rock Hotel a few years back, the club and the sky bar are cool spots.
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Old Dec 16, 16, 7:24 pm
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Originally Posted by l3arefoot View Post
...Most drivers speak some Spanish...
True, but it wasn't a problem for me when I was there, as I speak some Panamanian!
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Old Dec 20, 16, 8:22 pm
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Thank you everybody, very helpful information. A few more questions:

1. How to pronounce the “oo” in the Panama City destinations such as: Calle Van Hook, Av. Roosevelt, Albrook
Is on case-by case basis? For example, Is it Allbr-U-k, or Albr-OH-OH-k?

2. I am having hard time figuring out which Metro stations are operational, and which ones are planned. The official website is confusing. Is there an up-to date map or a list of operational stations somewhere?

3. What is the interval between buses for the “Albrook – Esclusas de Miraflores” route? I gather the bus operates from 6 am to 5 pm. But is there an actual schedule posted somewhere?

4. What are the best places to shop for clothes in Panama City? Summer clothes, something locals would wear to go out.

5. How strict is the dress code for men in bars and clubs. I hear jeans are welcome. Are fashion/lifestyle sneakers ok or dress shoes required?

6. How is the American Express acceptance in Panama City? Posts from five years or so ago indicate that not so good. Still the same?

7. Is it going to rain for New Years? The dry season should start in December, should it not? How uncomfortable is the rain?

8. Last, but not least, I kept checking the Hotel El Panama website for information about the New Year party, and there were no updates. Then, when searching for unrelated tickets online, I came across Ticketplus selling tickets to “EL CONTEO PANAMA Hotel El Panama”:

http://ventas.ticketplus.com.pa/even...es.asp?evt=580

I am confused. Is anybody familiar with the event? I am staying at the hotel, but the tickets to the New Year party are sold separately?

Thank you
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Old Dec 21, 16, 11:58 am
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Regarding the last question, about the New Year’s party: I tried buying the tickets on-line, but after the “Verified by Visa” step, the transaction would never complete… I had my Spanish speaking friend call the information line, and they said not to worry, I could purchase the tickets at the hotel when I arrive.
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Old Dec 21, 16, 5:53 pm
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1. Tough one. Old Canal Zone words typically maintain their anglophone pronounciations. It's Albruke in the first case. The others may revert to spanish.

2. Only Metro Linea 1 is operational, the one with the station right outside the El Panama.

4. Anything at the major malls.

5. To be sure, leave the sneakers in the hotel. Jeans should be OK.

7. It shouldn't rain, but if it does, it's typically it's a cooling effect at first, followed by a miserable increase in humidity.
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Old Jan 9, 17, 6:29 pm
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Quick notes after the trip

1. Nether I or my friend was able to get the PTY airport WiFi working. After the initial screen that asks for name, last name, nationality, email address, and a checkbox to agree to terms and conditions, the users are redirected to tocumenfree.tocumenpanama.aero website, which never loads, and the Internet access never activates.
2. There are no arrival information monitors on the air side. My plane was diverted, and with no Internet and no information my friend was in the dark as to what happened until she got outside. We were planning to meet inside.
3. Spanish language is definitely needed.
4. McDonalds, hotels, Super 99 grocery store, and some bigger stores (such as El Costo, Primor Internacional, Titan, Sportline America) do accept American Express. But smaller stores and restaurants do not, in my experience.
5. I was impressed with Metro. Did not try the busses. Taxi and Uber work fine, though I was unable to change the phone number in my Uber account from the US number to the Panamanian number. As such after requesting a ride I had to dial the driver myself to confirm pickup location.
6. The rain through my stay was absolutely not an issue.
7. Loved the islands, the food, and the scenery.
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