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Colon,Panama-Safe??

Shirley, New York
3 posts
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Colon,Panama-Safe??

In March my husband and I are traveling to Panama City for 5 days with another couple. We have tours planned for the Canal and Rain Forest but we were going to visit Colon on our own. We wanted to go to Colon for one day to see the Fort and shop. We heard that Colon has the 2nd largest duty free shopping in the world. After reading some of the other comments I'm not sure about the shopping. Do we need our passports to get into the shopping area? We usually leave our passports in a safe and just travel with a copy or we use our drivers lic for Id. Also, is it true we are limited on what we can buy? We like to collect local art work from the countries we visit. Will we be able to purchase mask, paintings or crafts in Colon?

Atlanta, Georgia...
Destination Expert
for Colon, Isla Grande, Portobelo
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11. Re: Colon,Panama-Safe??

The best molas at reasonable prices are found in Portobelo ... which is on the Caribbean side, in Colon Province, within an hour of Colon. The best way to get there is to hire a taxi at the port where you disembark. Since you speak Spanish fluently, you should be able to negotiate the best rate to go wherever you want to go ... Portobelo ... San Lorenzo ... the Gatun Locks, etc. The SET (Servicio Especial de Turismo) taxis are best for non-Spanish speaking visitors, since the drivers are reasonably fluent in English. But, if I were you, I would negotiate with the regular yellow cabs as well, since few of them speak much English.

Panama (the city) is about a $75 cab ride away. If you're only interested in San Lorenzo and molas, there is no need to go there. You should be able to work out a trip to Portobelo and back for $40 or less. Or, hire the cab by the hour -- $10 to $15 per. Figure an hour to get to Portobelo ... an hour there ... an hour back ... another 2 hours to go to San Lorenzo and back ... add in another hour (or less) for the locks at Gatun.

The market in Portobelo is between the church of the Black Christ and the Customs House. Since Portobelo is so small, it's very easy to find. You'll find 3 to 4 Kuna women selling molas and tinkets.

The "dangerous" area is within the town of Colon, around the port and the central area of the town.

California
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12. Re: Colon,Panama-Safe??

gb_williams,

Thank you for your response. Portobelo sounds perfect since I am interested in Molas. We are in Colon from 9am to 7pm. Do you have any suggestions reagarding what we should see. I like to take photographs of people, churches, old buildings etc... The Embera Village looks like a great photo op, but I don't get the feeling that these tours are very authentic. I love mingling with the locals and buying local crafts. Is it worth going all the way to Panama City ? or is there plenty to see and do around the Porobelo area? Any suggestions are appreciated. I would like to be back to the port area around 4pm.

CDY
Medellin, Colombia
Destination Expert
for Panama City
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13. Re: Colon,Panama-Safe??

Panama is fine on your own - Colon City is not if you don't know your way around.

To get to Ft San Lorenzo and Gatum locks just grab a taxi

Atlanta, Georgia...
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for Colon, Isla Grande, Portobelo
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14. Re: Colon,Panama-Safe??

Portobelo is an excellent place for photographers. It's one of the most historically significant New World settlements from 1600 until the mid-1700s. Named by Columbus, established as a port by Spain in 1600, it held 1/3 of the world's wealth in its customs house. Much of the Inca gold and silver came through Portobelo. As such, it was attacked by Sir Francis Drake (who died of dysentery and was buried at sea off the mouth of the bay) and raided by Henry Morgan the pirate and Admiral Vernon.

Much of the four colonial Spanish forts still remain. Although one was severely damaged by a mudslide in December 2010. My favorites are the two forts across the bay. You'll have to take a water taxi to get there. (They will ask for $20 for a "tour" of the bay and harbor. Tell the skipper you don't want the "tour" (there's nothing worth touring) and offer $10 for him to take you to the forts and return. Don't pay more than $15.

In town, are the customs house and the church of the Black Christ. There is quite a legend about this statue, and it is the source of one of the country's most celebrated religious festivals. Every October, hundreds of people make pilgrimages to this church from all parts of Panama. Some make the trek on foot, a few even carry crosses. And, then the priests carry the Black Christ through every street in Portobelo by taking two steps forward, one to the left, one back, one right and repeat.

As mentioned above, there is a Kuna market between the church and the customs house. One woman in particular makes some of the finest molas I've seen anywhere in Panama. If you are buying more than one, you can negotiate on the price. I always like to get a picture of the woman holding the molas I buy. (They will let you take their picture without buying molas, but they will charge you $1.)

Stop for lunch at either La Torre or Los Cañones. La Torre is a couple of kilometers out of town. IMHO, it's the best restaurant in the province. I don't usually like empanadas, but their empanadas are to die for! They also do great seafood in either garlic or creole sauce and wonderful coconut rice. Los Cañones is very similar, but without the empanadas. They have a excellent ceviche and I love their octopus or shrimp in creole sauce with coconut rice.

After Portobelo, I would recommend going to see the Locks at Gatun. There is a small visitor's center, there. You can see the locks from a different perspective than what you will have on the ship.

If there is time, continue to San Lorenzo. This fort guarded the mouth of the Chagres River -- the main route to and from the Pacific side. Morgan raided this fort and massacred almost every Spanish defender before crossing the isthmus to sack Panama City.

If you are looking for "authentic" Emberá villages, you won't find them near Portobelo or Colón. The closest one that I know of is at Gamboa, which is a good hour away. It's so authentic they even built a restroom with porcelain fixtures for the tourists.

Since you speak Spanish well, you shouldn't have much trouble negotiating a good rate with a cab driver at the terminal. Tell him that you want to be back at 4:00 and where you would like to go.

¡Buena suerte y buen viaje!

California
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21 posts
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15. Re: Colon,Panama-Safe??

Thanks to all of you for all your help. I really appreciate it. The suggestions you have given me are exactly what I was looking for.

Pittsburgh...
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16. Re: Colon,Panama-Safe??

My wife and I will be traveling to panama in march to pick up a cruise that leaves from Colon. My question is how do we get from the toucumen airport to the boat docks in colon? Neither of us speak spanish and the plane arrives at 8:00 at night...any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.....

LN
Panama City, Panama
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17. Re: Colon,Panama-Safe??

Jay S, it would be better if you asked your question as a new subject rather than tag your question onto a post over a year old - not even on the same topic.

Just go to the main page of Panama forums and click above the forums where it says "Ask a Question" and copy and paste your above question there. I think you will have better luck that way. Thanks.

18. Re: Colon,Panama-Safe??

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