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Going Solo in Panama – Budget Central American Travel

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Panama solo travel destination

Panama could be described as an ‘up and gone already’ destination, having proved very popular with American tourists and expats for a number of years. Actually it is very easy to get off the beaten track in the country and Panama for solo travel is a great destination for backpackers.

The country is very much at a geographical crossroads being at the tail end of the North American continent and the beginning of South America proper. Panama is very much part of Latin America with Spanish being the official language.

Panama is often overlooked by backpackers and independent travelers who seem to prefer Costa Rica and the new darling of the gringo trail, Nicaragua. This is a shame as Panama has a lot to offer and isn’t really that much more expensive than Nicaragua and similar in cost to Costa Rica.

Panama for solo travelers

As we mentioned before Panama is very much the crossing point between South and Central America and it’s where you can find the Panama Canal, an amazing feat of engineering which carries ships from the Caribbean to the Pacific, saving them a rather long round trip down round the bottom of Argentina. It’s geographical position has been fundamental in shaping the nation there today.

The local people are very friendly and proud of their country.

cheap panama tours

Is Panama Safe for solos and females?

Well lets take a look at what various governments say about travel to Panama.

The British government travel website is not too alarmist about Panama suggesting that all but a few areas are unsafe to travel, particularly down near the Colombian border which is possibly one of the unsafest travel areas in the World!

The US are a little more cautious about travel to Panama citing a few more areas that are currently deemed unsafe such as the Mosquito coast area.

We consider Panama a safe country for backpackers but solo travel safety precautions should always be taken no matter which country you are visiting.

Cheap Accommodation in Panama City

For cheap sleeps you can camp if that’s your thing, there’s no law against wild camping but don’t leave a mess if you want to stay popular. You should always be alert too if you decide to wild camp, indeed this should be the case in any country.

If you want to sleep in a more solid structure try looking for a lodge, particularly in the countryside, which will be basic but reasonably priced.

You might like to check out which covers much of the country as does Hostel World too.

How much can I get a single room for in one month’s time?

We did a quick search and came up with this great option in Panama City…

Los Faroles Hostel & Guesthouse
Panama City
Good 7.6
Score from 21 reviews
Single Room FREE cancellation

There were many double rooms too at around $30 a night and for those on an extreme budget you could have yourself the following deal!

Hostal Iguana
Panama City
Good 7.0
Score from 5 reviews
Bed in 4-Bed Male Dormitory Room FREE cancellation

Surfing is very popular in Panama with Pacific and Caribbean coasts and lots of pumping swell.

A Traveler’s Budget for Panama

The main form of transport around the country is bus or minibus, some areas are served by boat (some by canoe!) It is possible to hire a car relatively cheaply – around $25 a day.

A meal will set you back in the region of $3 if you eat local produce consisting mainly of meat and rice with salad. In the cities there is a much greater choice and in the villages even less so but the price drops along with the selection wherever you are.

Finding somewhere to stay is cheap as we have mentioned before so Panama can really be a great budget destination providing you don’t get too carried away with activities.

You may wish to check out our travel budget guide to Panama to help you work out a budget for your visit, but also make sure you have at least 90 days travel insurance if you are going for a long time.

Solo Travel Activities in Panama

Hiking in Panama from coast to coast, or up Volcan Baru, the country’s highest peak

Birdwatching nine hundred species of bird

Whitewater Rafting down the Chiriqui

Surfing along the Costa Arriba or along the Pacific coast

Diving at the reefs in the Caribbean or the Pearl Islands in the Pacific

Group Travel Companies that cover Panama

Looking for a Panama tour group that is solo friendly?

Check out some of the companies below for their latest Panama trips!

Intrepid Travel Panama

Intrepid does a number of trips to Panama and also longer trips through Central America that ends or starts in Panama. We highly recommend them! They are suitable for people from all countries, ages and particularly solo travelers!

GAdventures for Panama

G Adventures also covers Panama in their massive portfolio of trips in the Americas. They are for people of all countries and get rave reviews from younger solos!

Explore Travel for Panama

Explore are a UK company that does tours all over the world. They are popular with people of all ages and from many different countries, not just the UK


When to go?

Best time to visit is during the United States winter specifically from December through April when the rainfall and temperatures are at their lowest. Of course being so close to the equator Panama is still hot this time of year but less humid.

Why go?

Beaches, islands, the weather, the fast paced capital, to learn Spanish and to go trekking and diving. Not forgetting the man made marvel that is the Panama Canal!

How to get there

More and more airlines are flying into Panama.

From the North…

You can travel overland through Central America by the extensive bus networks. You can fly from a number of cities in the US and also from Mexico.

From the South…

Don’t even think about traveling overland from Colombia! If you do then be aware that you might be taking on a life threatening trip.

You can fly direct from Peru and Colombia although there is not much competition on these routes so could be quite expensive ways to travel to Panama.

Indeed you might be better off flying all the way up to Florida from South America and then back down to Panama.

Here are some of the airlines that fly direct to Panama City…

KLM flights; Air France flights;  US Airways flights
United flights; Delta flights; Aeromexico flights
Iberia flights; TAP Portugal flights; Avianca flights;
American Airlines flights

From Europe / Asia

There are some direct flights from Europe to Panama. Iberia flies direct from Madrid to Panama City but when we looked up flight on Google Flights for the month of may we could not see any under $1000 one way.

It will almost certainly be cheaper to fly to Panama via the United States if coming from Aisa, Europe, Australia/NZ or the Middle East.

Panama in January-March

Panama’s dry season from January to March is perhaps the most picturesque time of year. Yet, you may still catch what locals call bajareque, a comfortable misting rainy mist. For beachcombers, a pleasantly warm seaside climate makes the Pacific coast a great place to get some sun on white-sand beaches, while the Caribbean coast is known for its excellent surfing. The warm, clear waters on either coast are also great for scuba diving and snorkeling.

In the mountains, temperatures are more comfortable than in the lowlands. This is prime hiking season, and Panama’s national parks are full of wildlife. While in the jungles, you’ll also see that Panama’s exotic bird populations are out in full force, so take advantage of prime birdwatching season.

This is the height of tourism season, so expect the coasts and cities to be crowded. Your tourism dollar will not go as far for street vendors and restaurants, yet the beauty that blooms in this season cannot be missed.

Panama in April-June

The rainy season begins in May, which means water levels throughout Panama are higher. Whitewater rafting is a favorite pastime at this time of year, as you have your choice of robust rapids and calmer, smoother flows.

As most tourists prefer the dry season, the heavy crowds of winter will be gone. In Panama, the frequent downpours will often fade away to clear, shining skies on a whim—this in itself is a sight to behold. The rainforest and high-elevation cloud forests become especially stunning—Panama’s flora blooms in intense color from the increased rainfall.

Panama in July-September

During Panama’s summer, both coasts are a welcome escape from the hot and humid climate. Tourists tend to avoid Panama, and most of Central America, because of the enduring heavy rains at this time. You can travel at a value, as prices for almost everything are much lower.

Opposite to Panama’s autumn, the Pacific Coast becomes ripe for surfing. The wind patterns are now affecting the other side of the country, so waves for all skill levels are available. This would be a great time to learn the art, or practice with more robust waves.
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Panama in October-December

By the time the rainy season ends in November, Panama is covered in lush vegetation. Flowers are blooming, and peering down a mountainside will reveal astoundingly verdant landscapes. Hiking through San Lorenzo National Park, or any of Panama’s outdoor reserves, will reveal a newly-born effusion of life. Take advantage of the longer daylight hours to enjoy the country’s natural treasures.