Panama City is a difficult place to get a grasp of – a muddled mixture of soaring skyscrapers, ramshackle buildings and chaotic highways, and on first look a traveller may be tempted to skip it completely. But this would be a complete mistake, because as any Panamanian local will tell you, they absolutely love their city and actually what you really need to enjoy your trip to Panama City is simply for someone knowledge to help you navigate it, to show you Panama City Off-The-Beaten Track!
This is how I found myself on a Panama City De-Tour with Joey, an energetic Kentuckian native who transplanted himself to Panama 5 years ago after falling in love with the lifestyle on offer here. Joey also runs PTY.Life, Panama City’s premier lifestyle resource for travellers and locals alike who are looking to discover the soul of Panama City…..so really who better to help travellers discover this city through local eyes!
Joeys De-Tour is in itself a unique proposition, eschewing the regular fixed-itinerary model where you follow a guide and their waving stick – and instead offers you more of a friend for the day experience. Everyone knows the best way to discover a city is with a friend and Joey has designed his de-tour around this idea. He knows all the events in offer, rooftop bars, delicious restaurants and other hidden gems, and it’s up to you to decide what you would like to see – Panama City Off-The-Beaten Track has never been so easy right!
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Want to focus on the best of Panamanian food? Discover the cities burgeoning craft beer scene? Or just have a bit of everything – it’s no worries, Joey will help you expertly navigate this chaotic city like a pro using a combination of Uber, subways, buses and walking and in only one day you will be feeling like a seasoned local. By keeping his tours to a maximum of 6 people you are really able to get a authentic feeling for the city, interacting with its inhabitants one-on-one and exploring small boutique businesses and locations with no gringos in site, all located in areas where locals will be impressed you even found your way to!
I think however what I loved most about the PTY.Life De-tour is Joey and his intimate knowledge of this city along with Panamanian life in general. While he definitely doesn’t like to reel off a blur of facts at every place you visit he did expertly answered every question I posed to him, with incricate details and ease. His knowledge seems to span everything from the Panama City’s urban development history and future plans to which bars and clubs will best suit for what kind of crowd – complete with a accurate price guidance. Oh and my personal favourite – make sure to ask him how to see the Miraflores locks on the cheap! He will save you $18 just like that!
I loved the concept so much I actually went on two de-tours with Joey and I can promise you there was no overlap at all – it was like a completely different tour, and that’s the point! If you go you will be guaranteed a totally unique experience, but just to give an example of what we did on just one day: we sampled delicious Panamanian cuisine, saw parts of old and new Panama, learnt about the burgeoning street art scene, visited a hip dive bar, explored a hectic local market and the cities only pedestrian mall, witnessed the rapid development in Casco Viejo, gazed in awe at cities skyline from a secret viewpoint, had some famous Panamanian coffee and sampled some delicious craft beer. Phew, a lot I know – but thankfully it never felt stressed or rushed at all. I have no idea what you will see or do with Joey but I can guarantee two things: 1) you will have an unforgettable experience and 2) you will come away with a completely new and different appreciation for this dynamic city!
Now you're all set and prepared to explore our big wide world, why not sort out everything else out all in one go? If necessary for your travel plans make sure you have brought proper travel insurance, protected your privacy by getting a secure VPN, compared all the top hotel booking sites to find just what you're after, reserved an unbeatable rental car price and - of course - booked the best flight deals!
Many budget travelers (including me) indulge in worldwide airport lounge access, so we can experience luxury while still slumming it in economy. Naturally, we would never leave home without a more a more general travel guide since we couldn’t possibly cover everything here!
Just add an adventurous attitude and plenty of smiles - they go a long way - and that about covers it all! Now go out, find your own path and don't forget to share your best inspiration stories with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram...I'd love to hear from you!