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7.5 hour Layover - strategy check

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Toronto, Canada
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7.5 hour Layover - strategy check

Hi!

In February, I'll be touching down in PTY at 2:20pm on a Tuesday, flying out at 9:50pm. My bag will be checked through to my final destination. With 7.5 hours, I would love to take this opportunity to get a small taste of Panama City!

Can you let me know if my plan makes sense?

3pm - leave airport with dedicated taxi

4pm - Miraflores Visitors Centre

4:45pm - Casco Viejo, lunch in Plaza de la Independencia

6pm - Panama Viejo, explore ruins

6:45pm - make way back to airport

Also, is it fairly easy to hire a taxi at the airport for about 4 hours? What would be a fair rate for this service?

Thanks in advance!!

Panama City, Panama
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1. Re: 7.5 hour Layover - strategy check

It looks rushed to me.

That gives you 30 minutes or less at Miraflores.

Can you really eat in under 45 minutes in Casco Viejo.

Atlanta, Georgia...
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for Colon, Isla Grande, Portobelo
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2. Re: 7.5 hour Layover - strategy check

Sorry, but this is not realistic for a number of reasons. If you get there at 4:00pm, you'll actually get about an hour at the visitors' center before they kick everyone out. If traffic is slow and you get there at 4:30pm, you won't get in.

There is no way, at the height of rush hour, that you'll get to Casco Viejo in less than 45 minutes..

Restaurant service in Panama redefines the term "slow." Figure 1 1/2 hours for a meal at that time of day in that location.

Panama Viejo will be closed when you get there, so you can actually relax and enjoy your meal in Casco Viejo before heading back to the airport.

Figure $10 to $15 per hour for the taxi. Negotiate the price.

Toronto, Canada
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3. Re: 7.5 hour Layover - strategy check

gb_williams thank you for providing this extra level of detail.

Now, I can concentrate my efforts on viewing the canal and having a nice lunch in the square at Casco Viejo. I will still take a chance in getting to Miraflores before closing.

I've read that the restaurant above the visitors' centre is open until late. Is there a bar area where one could grab a drink and enjoy the view? If not, are there any other [informal] viewing points that you can suggest?

Los Angeles...
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4. Re: 7.5 hour Layover - strategy check

When we visited Miraflores in July we went late, saw the visitors center and when it closed we went up to the restaurant to watch some ships pass through the canal. We said that we just wanted to have a drink and that was not a problem. The one thing we noticed was that when we arrived at Miraflores we watched 2-3 ships pass through the canal before going through the visitor center, and we thought there would be the same amount of traffic later, but that was not the case. While sitting on the patio after 5:00 we saw a couple more boats and then the traffic stopped for about 30-45 minutes. We were told that the tides affect the traffic on the canal.

I hope you enjoy your time in Panama City. You might consider arranging for a driver to make things easy. We used Luis Vega, and he was fabulous. His email is vegaluis.2010@gmail.com. Cherie

Toronto, Canada
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5. Re: 7.5 hour Layover - strategy check

Thanks Cherie for sharing your experience at the Miraflores restaurant and the boat "action" that you were able to witness around to the visitors centre's closing time. So helpful!

Thanks as well for the driver recommendation. Much appreciated.

Edited: 02 November 2013, 17:09
Atlanta, Georgia...
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for Colon, Isla Grande, Portobelo
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6. Re: 7.5 hour Layover - strategy check

Unfortunately, there isn't another spot on the Pacific side of the Canal to watch traffic in the locks. You watch the Pedro Miguel locks from ground level at a distance through a chain link fence. And, you can see the locks at a distance while crossing over the Bridge of the Americas and Centennial Bridge. The vew from the restaurant at Miraflores is nice.

Los Angeles...
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7. Re: 7.5 hour Layover - strategy check

Can you consider going to Miraflores first, and then have dinner afterwards? We arrived at Miraflores about 3:30, were starved, had a snack at the ground level cafe area while watching a couple of ships go through the locks. Toured the museum until it closed, went to the restaurant and sat outside with beer and wine for about an hour and then went to dinner. It sounds like you are pretty committed to Casco Viejo, but another option, which we did, was to go from Miraflores to the Causeway for an early dinner. I loved seeing Panama City from another vantage point and seeing the sunset. Having a relaxing dinner in Casco Viejo would also be a nice way to end your day. Cherie

Toronto, Canada
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8. Re: 7.5 hour Layover - strategy check

Hey Cherie, not only am I making my way to Miraflores first, I've pre-selected a seat at the front of the plane for a faster exit upon arrival. I'm not opposed to running through the terminal either lol ;).

The Causeway does appear to have beautiful vistas! Perhaps on a subsequent (extended) stay, I will make my way out there. Sounds like you had a lovely time.

I do have my heart set on dinner at a little cafe in Casco Viejo that specialises in Panamanian food.

New Orleans...
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9. Re: 7.5 hour Layover - strategy check

any updates on how your trip went? The reason i ask is because i am contemplating the exact same trip. I have a ~7 hour layover however mine is in the morning. I Land at 6.45am and depart at 2pm.

i really want to get down to see the canal. then maybe an early lunch somewhere to take in the views and back to the airport.

how was it leaving the airport/clearing customs etc? did you get slowed down picking up bags or were they checked through? i am flying united if that makes a difference.

Thanks

Danny

Toronto, Canada
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10. Re: 7.5 hour Layover - strategy check

Hey Danny,

My time in Panama City was short but sweet :). My flight arrived 15 mins early (2pm) and deplaning was quick. I flew Copa Airlines, with baggage checked to my final destination - Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, whatever time I had gained was lost when I hit customs. Coming down that escalator and seeing the massive bottleneck of people was soul-crushing.

90 minutes later lol, I cleared customs and negotiated a $60 USD price with a taxi for Miraflores-return. I made an executive decision to forgo Casco Viejo for another time.

It took an hour to get to the canal. I arrived at the Visitor's Center just before closing but opted to get the free ticket up to the restaurant instead. Took some great panoramic pics, had wine and relaxed for about an hour. I was hoping to see a ship pass through the locks, but it was not meant to be. I still had a lovely time enjoying the views and the great weather. Traffic was kind of brutal going back to the airport (approx 1hr20min) - but I made it back with time to spare.

Honestly, I'm so glad I did it...super fun experience and a nice introduction to a country I'd like to return to. My only regret was not getting my driver's email address - he was a stand-up guy with a great attitude (and cool music collection).

Edited: 06 June 2014, 05:25