Why only 3 days? Well, there’s a story to that and it involves an airline. Not just any airline but the same blasted one that caused us such difficulty departing Brazil. CopaAssholeAirlines.

But board it we did, thankfully. You’ll see at the end of the post the challenge this time around but in the meantime, let’s explore Panamá.

With plenty of recent positive comments on my Instagram, I had to point out to an old friend that travelling can be far from glamorous a lot of the time. It’s not the sparkly pictures all the time and Panamá has been a prime example of this.

In fact, we’ve had more negative experiences here than positive which thankfully doesn’t happen too often!

Let’s start with a burger. Yes, a classic burger. How can you get a burger wrong and in a hotel of all places. By cooking it so that it’s lukewarm is your answer. I actually sent it back much to Vivian’s surprise as I’m very much a ‘just get on with it and eat it’ kinda guy and that’s the first time I’ve sent food back for longer than I can remember.

The main attraction here, the Panamá Canal has had its “visitors centre” and cafe/restaurant closed due to Covid. We were completely unaware of this but apparently it’s been the case for sometime and yet the opening hours online via Google continue to show ‘open’. That’s quite a big deal for such a small piece of information that wasn’t updated. To put that into perspective, we would likely have not chosen to come here so that sucked, big time.

At least the official Panamá Museum would allow us to learn some history and see some old artefacts. Except by the time we got round to wanting to go here, it was closed for the final two days that we would have here in this country. Oh FFS.

Face masks are mandatory in all public places. That’s not something very easy to live with when it’s 30 degrees outside and 95% humidity. It makes walking really quite difficult and certainly less enjoyable.

Traffic is really quite busy and the horns, those flaming horns. Road manners are non-existent, the people don’t give off a warm and friendly vibe (a generalization of course) and food and drink is expensive. Last night we stumbled on a Brazilian rodizio (all you can eat). We tried hard to justify visiting knowing it would be expensive so we set aside 25 dollars each for this ‘one-off’ which is more than the cost of our room. Except upon enquiry we were told 40 dollars per-person! My goodness. Not for us then, sadly.

We took an Uber to an attraction that was again closed due to Covid but information online said otherwise. The driver seemed to take pity on us and instead suggested an alternate location and then after that, he would drop us in the old town. Sounded fine at first until we realised that he was driving a little too much for this to be a freebie. But how would he charge, I pondered? Unbeknown to us, the driver had not “confirmed” and therefore completed our original drop on the app (a negative to us not having a cellular connection) and therefore “kept the online meter running”. An original 6 dollar trip turned out to be 26 dollars. What a cunning, deceptive little bugger. Lesson learnt.

As you can imagine after those experiences, we utter the following words quite often when we’re frustrated over here:

Bloody Panamá.

Still, with some 84 hours at our disposal, we were able to find some picture moments amongst the hustle and bustle. When you’re downtime and in sight of the pleasing skyline showcasing various skyscrapers, you get a sense of wealth in the city. However, discounting a few nice areas such as Punta Pacifica and a beautiful old town known as Casco viejo, it really isn’t picturesque and instead dirty and visibly quite poor.

Instead here are some images of the not-so-visibly-poor areas named above.

As you can see from the previous images, we had a lovely stroll through the gorgeous old town and eventually located its prime roof-top bar. We stayed there for an hour indulging in overpriced cocktails which was our coping medicine to help sedate us after our rage for the self-touring Uber driver. Amusingly we had a large ice-cream (to share) for our supper having realised we couldn’t justify the expense of a Casco viejo, restaurant meal, especially after cocktails!

The next day we located a small viewpoint on top of a foot hill known as Cerro Ancón. The area happens to be a nature reserve and so within 10 minutes we had honestly seen the following: Butterflies, spiders, two tiny frogs, more coatis (like in Costa Rica), some big angry birds and an actual sleeping (surprise surprise) sloth! 

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Having stayed in rough surroundings for our first couple of nights, Vivian found us a cracker for our last night. Given the views, you’d expect this to be a £100 room – especially for a capital city. Instead she got us it for £45 with breakfast.

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Don’t be fooled by a few pictures, our experience in Panamá was a country that undelivered and not one we would be recommending. Neither, sadly, would we have an interest in returning, even with an open-for-tourists Panamá Canal viewing point.

Oh and here’s that airport story if you have a further five minutes spare…

We arrived at the Costa Rica airport exactly two hours prior to departure. A mixture of us being packed and ready and us not wanting to hang around San Jose longer than we needed to.

We see there’s a queue so we roll our eyes and join the others. The queue does not appear overly long, it’s just that check-in control seems to be keeping people longer than normal. (We would later discover a portion of the extra time was due to extra stringent PCR test checking as apparently airlines were receiving fraudulent ones!).

An hour passes . Yes, an actual hour before we reach the check-in desk. Our process then begins including passport checks, PCR test checks, Health form questionnaire for Panamá and that was that. All good.

Except before asking us to load our luggage, the chap asks us for our onwards ticket. He means out of the country we’ve even yet to arrive in!

“I’m sorry we don’t have one. We are travelling so only planning on staying a short while before moving on”.

He responds without much sympathy or compassion that it’s obligatory and we cannot board without an onward ticket.

Oh shit.

We scurry to the side of the check-in counter allowing other passengers to proceed but still in serious shock as to what’s happened. We’re also alert to the fact that there’s just one hour to depart. This was gonna get interesting…

So suddenly we had to decide on where we were going after Panamá, let alone decide how long we wanted in Panamá and to then find tickets that worked for us financially. We also had to do this with some serious pressure of timing going on in the background. Some twenty five minutes later and we’ve found something for somewhere. Except, like in the movies, we’re at the payment part, the final part, on Viv’s mobile and it is wanting credit cards only. We have just one of those but we have plenty of debit cards but still, thankfully we have the one!

We enter the details of our one credit card thinking we have finally accomplished this except it is erroring out and not letting us finalise the details. You gotta be kidding. Viv is stressing right out and that’s stressing me out. Voices are being raised, people are looking at us from other queues. We go through the same process a second time. Another error. OMG.

It’s now 30 minutes until our flight departs and we still don’t have a ticket. Frantically, I message my friend Ben on WhatsApp and ask him for his credit card details. But before he’s had a chance to respond, Viv has tried launching her VPN software. She specifies the country of payment origin to be the UK and tries a third time to pay and this time, it passes!!!! We shout with joy and relief in equal message and in just a couple of minutes, the all important email arrives and we show the staff and are OK to do the bag weight checks.

OMG, this was insane.

Still, there’s a queue to get to immigration/security control and we take a photo of us having not cleared luggage scanning yet and it’s 11.58. Plane is scheduled to depart at 12.10.

Once we clear this we run to our gate and I swear to you as we approach the gate in the near distance, we hear our names being called over the tannoy! That’s a first.

We do our business consisting of those usual and final passport and boarding card checks and we’re able to walk down that tunnel thing to board the plane. Funnily enough, although we were the last passengers, there were a few passengers still in the aisle loading their luggage’s in the compartments so thankfully it wasn’t one of those scenes whereby the entire plane stares at you with angry eyes!

Anyway, that’s not something we’ll ever wanna experience again and those feelings will stay with us for sometime.

Bloody Panamá.

6 Responses

  1. Been there. Completely different experience. Haven’t I always told you to get to airportrs much earlier than you need to?

    • It’s gotta be a woman that made it more enjoyable here!? 🙂

      You do tell me that to be fair (which is why I arrived a whole two hours earlier and not one) 🙂

      If you’re able to brush up on any Panama history, we’d love to hear it on our return over a coffee. Doesn’t seem like we’re gonna get many local information sources at present.

    • Hi Teresa, Vivian here.

      Yes my stress levels were at their maximum. Need some rest for a couple of days now so hopefully our next country will allow us to enjoy ourselves again.

      X

  2. Hi Vivian,
    What an odeal at the airport. I can imagine both of you were stressed but you got through it. Well done. I was getting anxious just reading about it.
    Enjoy your rest where ever you are going next. I’m guessing Columbia or USA.
    Look forward to your next blog
    xxxxx

  3. You’ve guessed correctly 🙂

    We will update our map location in the next day or two if all goes according to plan. x

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