Last Updated: 02/20/19 | February 20th, 2019
As part of my desire to give you the best budget travel suggestions I can, I’m continuing my informal series on country costs. all over I go, I write down how much how much I spent and do a detail post-mortem on my expenses so you go in better informed!
This time, we’re going to look at the cost of traveling aroundPanama.
I went to Panama with the goal of spending only $35 USD per day.
I spent $1,674.81 USD in 28 days in Panama, which is an average of $59.81 per day.
Why Did I Fail?
I ate good food. lots of good, expensive food.
I found too numerous good restaurants in Boquete and Panama City – and I couldn’t resist. (Plus, for a while, I was traveling with a girl and in some cases I was paying for two, which, additionally, implied I didn’t always stay in hostel dorms.)
But that doesn’t imply traveling Panama is expensive.
While Panama is much more expensive than other countries in central America, it is not the most expensive country in central America (I’d say that is Costa Rica).
You can visit Panama on a limited budget – and, as a budget traveler, get close to my original number.
How I spent My money in Panama
First, let’s talk about how I spent my money in Panama and why I failed in a little bit much more detail so you can get an idea of what went wrong. Here’s how much I spent in Panama during my trip, broken down by catagory:
Food: $748.20 USD
Accommodation: $608.20 USD
Drinks: $142 USD
Transportation: $131.41 USD
Activities: $45 USD
As you can see, I spent many of my money on food and accommodation.
But there’s no doubt in my mind you can do Panama for my original estimate.
If you take out the costs of my non-dorm accommodation ($250 USD) and my upscale eating ($300 USD), my daily average becomes $40.17 USD, which is a lot closer to my original goal. Take away a few Western meals, some nights out, and the taxis I poorly negotiated in Panama City, and you’re best around $35 USD.
That is the backpacker budget for Panama.
At $35 USD a day, you’ll be staying in hostel dorms ($10-20 USD per night), eating at small, local restaurants and food stalls ($4-6 USD per meal), taking local buses, keeping to only a few tours, drinking very little ($2 USD), and maybe having a good meal once in a while ($10-15 USD per meal).
On that “backpacker” budget, you could do Panama on the cheap but that would leave no room for any activities, nights out, shopping, or appeasing sudden desires for pizza.
BUT I would say that $40 USD per day is a better budget for the backpacker. This way, you’ll have extra room for the accidental costs that always come up on the road and any last-minute changes or activities you decide to do.
I always say it’s better to overbudget than under budget.
Additionally, if you wanted a slightly much more luxurious trip through Panama with private accommodation and better food, a budget of $50-60 a day is much much more realistic. I never felt like I wanted for anything or skimped on anything. That’s a mid-range budget. on that is still cheap but not too cheap.
If you want to stay in 3-star hotels instead of hostels, I’d budget $100 per day or much more for your travels around Panama.
How much do things cost in Panama?
To help you plan your trip to Panama, here are some common prices you can use as a reference point when outlining your trip:
Bottle of water/Cola – $1 USD
Hostel dorm – $10-20 USD per night
Local bus ticket – $0.25 USD
Cheap restaurant – $4-6 USD
Mid-range restaurant – $20 USD
Week’s worth of basic groceries – $25-50 USD
Flight from Panama City to Bocas del Toro – $140 USD (one way)
Bus from Panama City to David – $15-20 USD
Bus from Panama City to Boquete – $20-25 USD
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How to save money in Panama
There are plenty of ways to save money in Panama and lower the cost of your trip without sacrificing too much of the quality. If you travel like how the locals live, you’ll be able to afford anything here! here are my top suggestions for saving money:
Eat at the local stands – meals at local food stalls cost $3–4 USD. You’ll get rice, chicken, beans, and maybe another side plus a drink. I didn’t love the food in Panama, but the prices made eating very cheap.
Avoid taxis – I found taxis here to be a complete ripoff. As my friend JP says, “You get gringoed.” They were also far much more unwilling to work out than in places like Asia. I’d try to avoid them if whatsoever possible. If you do use them, keep in mind that they are not metered so you’ll have to agree on a price in advance.
Car-share – If you do take taxis, share your ride. many taxis are typically shared anyways. drivers will pick up people even if someone else is in the car. This reduces your price because if he’s already going your way, he’ll be much more inclined to give you a better price.
Refill your water – In many of the country, you can drink the tap water. It won’t kill you or make you sick. There’s no need to always purchase new water bottles. save yourself a few dollars a day, and fill up from the tap.
Stick to beer – Beer is typically $0.50-$1 during hostel pleased hours. Otherwise, a local Panama or Balboa is $1.50. Mixed drinks are typically $2-3. So stick to beer, spend less, and save much more without cutting into your good time.
Avoid hot water – get rooms with cold-water showers. hot water always costs a lot more. It’s so hot here anyway, you’ll hardly ever want hot water. even I got used to cold-water showers, and usually, I get cranky without hot water!
Do Airbnb – If hostels are not your thing, use Airnb. It’s less expensive than traditional, expensive hotels and extremely widespread in the country, especially in the larger cities.
Carry small change – many taxis and small shops won’t accept larger bills for small purchases so make sure you carry change.
Travel in the offseason – many people visit Panama between January and April. The weather is drier during this time but prices will be higher. consider going to during the rainy season (May-November) to save money. As long as you’re sticking to the coasts, the rainfall will be brief and you’ll have plenty of time to delight in the sun.
Embrace the bus – Long-distance buses in Panama are a few steps above the infamous “chicken buses” so often found here in central and South America. While a far cry from luxurious, they are good enough for long distance journeys if you’re on a budget (there are still plenty of chicken buses though if you want to give them a try!).
Stay with a local – There are tons of hosts (and lots of community events) in the larger cities of Panama, making this a great country to Couchsurf in. pick up some suggestions and save some money by staying with a local!
Barter hard! – If you’re hopping ferries around Bocas del Toro make sure you barter hard. much like the taxis in the city, you’ll likely be charged much more than the locals so barter hard and make sure you know what you ought to be paying.
Panama doesn’t need to be that expensive. It’s never going to be ultra-cheap but if you can keep your accommodation costs down and avoid the really high-end restaurants, you’ll save a lot of money in the country as, for the most part, attractions, transport, and local food are all very cheap.
Book Your trip to Panama: Logistical suggestions and Tricks
הזמן את הטיסה שלך
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search sites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. start with Skyscanner first though because they have the most significant reach!
הזמן את הלינה שלך
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most significant inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the most affordable rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:
Hostel Mamallena (Boquete)
Lunas Castle (Panama City)
אל תשכח ביטוח נסיעות
ביטוח נסיעות ישמר עלייך מפני מחלה, פציעה, גניבה וביטולים. זו הגנה נרחבת למקרה שמשהו ישתבש. אני אף פעם לא יוצא לטיול בלעדיו כיוון שהייתי צריך להשתמש בו פעמים רבות בעבר. החברות האהובות עלי שמציעות את השירות והערך הטוב ביותר הן:
אגף בטיחות (לכולם מתחת 70)
להבטיח את הטיול שלי (לאלה מעל גיל 70)
MEDJET (לכיסוי נוסף של שיקום)
מחפש את החברות הטובות ביותר לחסוך איתן כסף?
עיין בדף המשאבים שלי לקבלת החברות הטובות ביותר להשתמש בו כשאתה נוסע. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. הם יחסוך לך כסף כשתטייל גם כן.
Want much more information on Panama?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide to Panama for even much more planning tips!