Solo Female Travel Guide: A Solo Trip to Panama

by Sojourner

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A solo trip to Panama is not something you will regret. Between the food, monkeys, beaches, and culture, there are plenty of things to do alone in Panama. And as a solo female traveler, y’all know I have the tips to make it the best experience possible.

I booked this trip on a whim when I saw a flight deal. With a few pre-planned activities, not many, I let people’s recommendations guide me. It was a very freeing experience!

I think Panama is an excellent option for solo travelers to relax and get some adventure on their vacation. So here are my best tips for a Panama vacation guide.

Is Panama cheap to visit?

Panama is one of the more expensive Central American countries. I would not say the U.S dollar stretches as much in Panama compared to Mexico (for example) because their currency is the U.S dollar. So relative to Central America, it is considered more expensive yet manageable.

While on your solo trip to Panama, I suggest budgeting at least $200 USD for tours. As a solo traveler, I found that most of my budget went towards my activities. In Casco Viejo and the other touristy spots, restaurants can be expensive. However, most other food and drink prices are comparable to living in Milwaukee or a bit cheaper. 

When is the best time to visit Panama?

For solo travelers, it is crucial to know when to visit Panama. This is because Panama has two seasons – dry and wet. The rainy season in Panama begins in April and lasts until December. Therefore the dry season is from January to March.

Also, remember that traveling in the rainy or shoulder season means cheaper flights. The rainy season may be referred to as “winter” by locals. Though there is a greater risk of not-so-good weather during this time, it is possible to have a great time like I did. 

Most travelers fly into Panama City’s  Tocumen Airport. This airport is roughly 30 minutes from downtown Panama City, and you can easily catch an Uber from here.  Flight prices vary, but mine was just over $300 USD roundtrip. Join Scott’s Cheap Flights for flight deals straight to your inbox.

Getting around Panama alone 

Uber

Use Uber when traveling from the airport and around Panama City. I had heard some not-great stories about taxis surcharging tourists, so I did not use them. However, the Ubers are a great alternative and cost between $3-$6 USD one-way. To me, this is affordable considering that price is often unheard of in the U.S. 

Walking

When I did not Uber, I walked in Panama City. Staying in Casco Viejo made it easy to get to where I wanted to go quickly. Just make sure to wear sturdy shoes. Panama City has a lot of potholes. To prevent falling or tripping, you must look down where you often walk.

Metro

Panama City does have a metro. So if you are comfortable riding public transportation alone, it is doable. Their metro is relatively new, so there are not many lines. However, it costs 35 cents and can get you from Casco Viejo to Vía Argentina (downtown).

Where to stay in Panama as a solo female traveler

View from my room at Selina

Selina Casco Viejo 

Casco Viejo is recommended for a Panama City itinerary.  So to be in the mix of it all, I recommend staying at Selina Casco Viejo. You get a lively atmosphere as a boutique hostel with superb amenities. Five nights cost me under $300 USD for a standard private room.

The Selina hostel chain started in Panama! And this one, you can tell, is for both solo travelers and remote workers. There are many social activities, topped off with a rooftop and co-working space.

Where to eat and drink alone in Panama

If you choose to stay in Selina, they have a rooftop bar, a taco spot named Tacos La Neta, and a cafe that sells breakfast, brunch, and lunch. For lunch or dinner with a view, head to Sabroso Panama and order the fish and plantains. Casco Viejo and Via Argentina also have lots of options. Walk around, and you will find someplace to eat!

You can also eat at a “Fonda” –  a local Panamanian restaurant. Many fondas and street food in Panama include variations of chicken and rice, empanadas, and tamales. Think of them as roadside cafeterias you can find sprinkled around the city. Again, expect to spend $10 or less – so it is excellent for budget solo travel in Panama!

Tips for creating a Panama travel guide

Watch wildlife on Monkey Island

Going to Monkey Island is a must for your solo trip to Panama City! It is an ethical and more responsible way to see animals native to Panama. You are initially in a boat on the Panama Canal, then head to Lake Gatún for the monkey watching. Bring water and sunglasses with you, though the breeze from the boat does not make it too hot.

I recommend Cesar’s tour on Airbnb Experiences. He, and the driver Eduardo, were great to be around and shared so much knowledge about Panama and the canal.  The price includes round-trip transportation from your hotel or hostel. Cesar also gives you some treats to feed the monkeys.

Take a day trip to the beaches 

While going to the beach solo is not my thing, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go! Taking a solo trip to Panama means you can go and stay at beaches or make day trips. San Blas and Bocas del Toro were my two most popular recommendations. Check with your hostel or hotel to see if they have the hook-up for a tour and transportation service.

Walk around Casco Viejo

A stroll around Casco Viejo is a perfect, low-maintenance activity while on a solo trip to Panama. There are streets filled with shops, restaurants, a few historical buildings, and cafes to pop in and visit. On the Plaza de Francia, you can also get a nice view.

Watch a soccer/kickball game on the beach 

While walking around Casco Viejo, I stumbled upon a kickball game. Some locals told me that people come together and play on the beach when there is low tide. If you want to watch a little bit of it for yourself, walk towards the coast and view Plaza de Francia. 

Go on a food tour

Solo traveling in Panama needs to include a food tour! It’s one of my favorite ways to learn about a new culture. I found mine with Joey, a blogger who moved to Panama 10 years ago, on Airbnb Experiences. You can find dishes such as duck, chicken and rice, a sweet pork belly sandwich, and even ceviche in mini tacos. His tour was great and took me through multiple parts of the city, including Casco Viejo and Via Argentina. I’d recommend it to all solo travelers.

Stroll around the Malecón de Panamá

For an afternoon stroll while in Panama head to Avenida Balboa, aka the Malecón de Panamá, near the Mercado de Mariscos. It’s a beautiful oceanfront view where you can walk, run, or rent bikes. Or, you can do my favorite thing and people-watch with a snack on one of the benches. You can see locals and tourists hanging out on Sunday afternoons in good weather.

Do a jungle hike and Embera Village tour

Outdoor exploration is necessary as you solo travel in Panama. Do this tour to combine a jungle waterfall hike and learn about the Indigenous culture in Panama. You learn about the Embera people who live off the Chagres River. Unfortunately, since the government made their land a national park, they can no longer grow their agriculture which sustained them. Now, they offer tours for visitors to learn about their culture.

The entire experience is $95 and includes roundtrip transportation and lunch in the village. Bring extra cash to shop from the local artists. Also, wear comfortable clothing as the hike is a bit difficult. And bring a small backpack with extra clothes for post-swimming in the waterfall.

Enjoy one of the many rooftops

On my solo trip to Panama, I learned how much Panamanians love to party! From Tántalo to Selina’s rooftop, they love to go out from Friday to Sunday. On a Wednesday, I heard live music on the rooftop, and there was a band and dancers. So go out and enjoy yourself!

Hike Cerro Ancón

Cerro Ancón is the highest point in Panama City. You can do this hike solo as it is popular with tourists and some locals. Or, you can find a tour service that leads a hike from $25+ as part of a group tour. It’s an ideal opportunity to stay active while on your solo trip to Panama. 

Why Panama is worth visiting as a solo traveler

If you are a city girl like me, I think Panama City is worth the visit. I loved the big city vibe. Their downtown has a lot of modern buildings and it can get busy. But overall, it is not overwhelming and safe if you are a savvy and courteous solo traveler.

Also, I think a solo trip to Panama suits multiple travel personalities. The variety of beaches, adventure, food, and cultural activities makes it easy to find what you like to do. And if you want to leave Panama City, there are places to choose from, including Boquete (the town with Volcano Baru), and Bocas del Toro for beach life.

My experience being a Black solo female traveler in Panama City

As a Black solo female traveler, I had a pleasant experience in Panama. To be honest, there were a lot of Afro-Panamanians who looked like relatives back home. I think the familiarity made me more comfortable, so I have the diaspora to thank for that! But, overall, I would return to Panama. I feel like there was more Black history to be learned. 

I did get quite a few stares while on my solo trip to Panama City. However, they looked more like stares of curiosity than disdain or disgust, mainly when I spoke Spanish. The only thing I did not like as a Black solo female traveler in Panama was the catcalling.

Final advice on traveling solo in Panama

Would I go back to Panama as a solo traveler? Yes! Going on a solo trip to Panama requires the same caution you would have in the U.S. I stayed in Panama City primarily, though there are so many other towns and beaches to explore. I can for sure see myself going back sometime in the future. There is a grittiness yet modern feel to the city. Until then, plan a trip to Panama to see it for yourself.

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