panama city

Why Panamá?

I recently went to Panamá to study Spanish at the Casco Antiguo Spanish School.  Some Americans might ask why not Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Spain as these are popular places to visit for United States citizens. 

Of course, they all have draws, but having visited each country previously, I was pleasantly surprised by Panamá.  Below I’ve listed some wonderful conveniences about Panamá City. 

Easy International Destination to Reach

Panamá is an easy to reach international destination.  The Tocumen International Airport serves 31 countries with affordable non-stop flights, many from the USA.  The airport is easy to navigate and is only a $25 Uber ride from town.  Easy access to Panamá City along with favorable expat laws, gives the city a very international feel. 

fishing harbor with panama city skyline

The Exchange Rate

Due to the influence of the USA during the construction of the Panamá Canal, Panamá uses the US dollar.  The exchange rate for the US Dollar to Panamanian Balboa is literally 1 to 1.  After taxing my brain in four hours of Spanish class a day, the last thing I wanted to do was calculate my lunch costs.

The Water is Drinkable

With the exception of two rural areas, the water in Panamá is safe to drink!  It doesn’t matter whether you are at a hotel, a restaurant or a homestay.  It was nice to know I could eat the vegetables, brush my teeth, and have drinks with ice without getting sick!  I can’t imagine attending Spanish school only to be sidelined with digestive problems.

International Cuisine

Speaking of vegetables, which I usually crave after visiting other Latin America countries after a few weeks, the variety of food available in Panamá is wonderful.  Restaurants serve all types of international cuisine.  Panamá City even features a few restaurants by a contestant from Top Chef.  I loved having so many healthy choices just steps from the school, especially for my peculiar diet.

Natural Surroundings

Just as with many other Latin American countries, Panamá delivers natural beauty.  A short Uber ride from the city is Parque Natural Metropolitano de Panamá.  The park features 5 kilometers of trails through the jungle with a chance to see sloths, monkeys and coati. 

coati in panama
coati

In addition, Vera Cruz Beach is just across the Bridge of the Americas.  Closer by are the Cinta Costera and the Causeway.  Though they are manmade, they both feature bike and running paths for exercising outside. 

the causeway in panama
the causeway

For a weekend getaway to nature, El Valle de Antón is just a few hours southwest of Panamá City.  The small town literally sits in an inactive volcano crater and affords a variety of activities including hiking, ziplining, horseback riding, and off-roading.  I participated in all kinds of outdoor recreation while studying Spanish in Panamá.

el Valle de anton

A Mix of History and Modern City

The Casco Antiguo Spanish School is located in Casco Viejo, a revitalized historic district and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The old quarter’s brick streets lined with restaurants, stores, and ruins are a great place to stroll after class.  The awesome vibe even attracts the locals.  I really enjoyed discovering the life of Panamanians around the district.

In the distance, skyscrapers tower over Casco Viejo.  Global hotels offer all the amenities and comforts of home.  It’s like being in two cities at once with the best of both worlds.

Favorable Business and Expat Laws

While favorable business and expat laws don’t currently apply to me, as I am only a tourist, I learned from David, the owner of Casco Antiguo Spanish School, that such regulations are some of the most agreeable in the world.  As a result, Panamá City attracts all sorts of people and is a melting pot of cultures. Just at school alone, I met students from Germany, Australia, Canada, England and Brazil!

These are just a few reasons why Panamá is an attractive city to visit.  I’m glad I had the opportunity to study Spanish there for a few weeks.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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