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Best way to get to Panama

San Francisco...
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Best way to get to Panama

We have been planning on going to Costa Rica but now are thinking about Panama instead.

I'll be honest, I have not done any research on Panama and only know a bit about it from friends.

Can someone tell me where we should fly into from Chicago to Panama? Not sure if there is more than one airport option.

Thanks!

Panama City, Panama
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1. Re: Best way to get to Panama

Only one airport - Tocumen International Airport, code is PTY.

The main gateway cities are Houston (Continental), Dallas (after December 13 on American), Atlanta (Delta) and Miami (American).

I prefer to fly through Houston or Atlanta and try to avoid Miami at all costs.

Cheers,

Andrew

San Francisco...
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2. Re: Best way to get to Panama

Thanks!

Any thoughts on going to Panama instead of Costa Rica?

I guess we're just having a hard time choosing where to go. Now we're thinking maybe Panama. We are also thinking the Yucutan Penisula.

We just want a nice vacation for about 1 week where we can relax but also definitely do some fun adventurous things too. I also prefer a less touristy place then a place overrun by tourists where it is hard to get the local feel.

Thanks!

Panama City, Panama
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3. Re: Best way to get to Panama

When comparing touristy then Yucatan is the most touristy with Costa Rica very close behind. Panama is still lucky in that there are areas that are untouched.

I love to visit Costa Rica but the numbers of tourists in the main areas can be quite overwhelming - and I'm in the tourist business.

One advantage that Panama has over CR is the relative proximity of everything - it's a small country. For a short trip of only a week then you would be able to see and do more in Panama. Maybe save CR for a longer trip where you would be able to do it more justice.

There are zip lines, whitewater rafting, diving, snorkeling, hiking, etc all available as day trips from Panama City or the nearby beach areas - alleviating the need to do a lot of moving about the country in the limited time you have.

The only think you might do is fly to David and transfer to Boquete for a 2 or 3 nights - this is where the best zip line and rafting are - even though these are available close to Panama City as well.

In terms of natural beauty, there really isn't much to choose between Panama and CR - they have similar rainforests, similar wildlife and birds it's just that CR is more advanced in terms of tourism infrastructure - more hotels in more areas - than Panama.

Hope this helps,

Andrew

San Francisco...
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4. Re: Best way to get to Panama

Andrew -

That is really useful info. Only problem now is finding a flight. I can fly to CR for $300 but if I go to Panama it's over $600. I guess the only way we could swing Panama at that price is if we had some inexpensive accomodations. But, I certainly don't want to stay in some shady place.

Are the flights always that expensive to Panama?

Panama City, Panama
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5. Re: Best way to get to Panama

Yup, I see that American is doing Chicago-San Jose for $303 whereas to Panama it's $598...

Just goes to show that distance is not a factor in pricing of tickets...

One option you could look at is to see what prices you could find for an open jaw ticket - fly into San Jose and fly out of Panama - you can fly from San Jose to David on Air Panama and then see the highlands of Chiriqui, then fly from David to Panama City - for not much more than that of a return flight from Panama City/David/Panama City.

A quick look on Kayak.com got me $392 on Mexicana through Mexico City.

Something to look into - maybe a good Travel Agent can get you a decent price.

Cheers,

Andrew

Salt Lake City, Utah
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6. Re: Best way to get to Panama

Yes, that's a good average price to Panama. Just to clarify, Panama is actually larger than CR, 50% larger, but roads are better and the Darien area to the east is largely not visited by most tourists. Hotels depend on your budget range and where you want to go. Decide what areas you want to visit and your budget range, I'm sure there'll be decent options.

San Francisco...
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7. Re: Best way to get to Panama

Thanks for the flight suggestions. I'll have to do some manipulating of flights and see if I can work it out.

Would we have time to do CR for a few days and then Panama?

Maybe a few days in Manuel Antonio and then fly to Panama for a few days and then back to Chicago?

San Francisco...
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8. Re: Best way to get to Panama

One more thing...

I'm on the air panama site and see I can fly from San Jose to David, but can't figure out the fare. I looked in the ticket rate section, but this looks like rates for between Panama City and the desitinations listed.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Fairbanks, Alaska
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9. Re: Best way to get to Panama

I just did it on the panamaair site but used the spanish site. They only fly to David and from Costa Rica Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. I punched in 11 Nov 2007 depart San Jose and depart David 14 Nov 2007. The flights leave San Jose at 11:00 am and arrive David at 12:45 am. Then flights leave David for San Jose at 10:30 am the arrival time to San Jose is listed as 10:35 am but it should be by my math 11:15 am. Prices are 99.50 both directions. I have found issues with other international sites where the English site was not very good. You can pretty much tell what the web site is asking for with out being a great translator. Hope this helps. I am going to Panama in December and January, I have not been there since 1983.

CDY
Medellin, Colombia
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10. Re: Best way to get to Panama

With only one week, I would not suggest trying to do both.

I have sliced and diced the CR vs Panama airfare thing.

CR always comes out about 50% cheaper. Not sure of the reason other than lack of competition. CR has been on the tourist map for 20 years Panama only the last 5 years. I always fly out of Miami, I can fly to San Jose pretty much anytime for $200-$250, Panama is almost always $500 or more when you factor in all the charges.

Spirit flys to CR from Ft Lauderdale they are always running specials, I have heard a rumor that they are attempting to get a PC route, if they do it will drive prices down.

If you decide on CR check out the Domincal on the Pacific coast, more isolated but very pretty and a lot less tourists than Manuel Antonio Park area. On the map the distances aren't too great however CR roads are not the best and there are mountains between San Jose and the Pacific coast.

My suggestion for Panama - spend at least 3 nights in PC and either head north to Bocas for 4 night's or to Isla Grande (3 nights at Bananas Resort). Or if you want to rough it head out to the San Blas Islands.