Crossroads of the World
>> Description ? Panama is a world of contrasts, a connection between the Americas, a synthesis between modernism & tradition, Indians & bankers (in traditional costumes), natural retreats & shopping centers.
>> Why go there ? Admire the triumph of men ingenuity at the Canal / Shop to save or save to shop / Meet colorful Indians, inside or outside of their natural habitat / Get away from the tourist crowd / Discover sandy or underwater paradises / Breathe fresh air and cool down in the mountains
>> Drawbacks ? The slightly higher cost of accomodation / The ridiculous cost of some resorts near Panama City / The airport's related costs (taxi or departure tax) / The safety issues in the cities / The lack of safe land connection with South America / The obvious exploitation & misery of the Indians in some parts / The overpriced experience of the San Blas / The very bad welcome from some immigration officers
>> Cultural Highlights ? Watching a huge vessel as it passes the locks from one ocean to the other / The charming colonial San Felipe district in the Capital, a UNESCO world heritage site / The traditions of the Kuna people in Eastern Panama
>> Natural Highlights ? The white sand, blue water & multi-colored coral reefs of Bocas Del Toro Archipelago / The fresh air, wild torrent, coffee plantations, amazing gardens and volcano of Boquete area / The wilderness of San Blas Archipelago / The many surf spots
>> How long ? One week for the central parts (minimum requirement), one week for the San Blas adventure and one week for additional discoveries ?
>> Budget ? $15 per day or less if eating in basic comida. Much more for San Blas.
>> Visa ? Necessary for a few Anglo-Saxon nationalities in theory but usually suppressed in practice
>> When to go ? Outside of the busy season between December & April : Panama is not too affected yet by tourism (except maybe Bocas del Toro) but Costa Rica is...