Take Your Dollars to Panama

My new MSNBC column is out this week: Beating the Crowds to Panama. If you’re aghast at the plummeting U.S. dollar (and wondering how our inept president can possibly do any more damage than he has already done to the economy), head down to Panama. You don’t even have to change money at the airport.

That doesn’t mean everything there is a screaming bargain. It’s a strong economy after all, with a per capita income that’s far higher than the rest of Central America, including Costa Rica. But if you ever get bummed out that you are paying more than you expected for hotel rooms, it’s easy to drown your sorrows:

As our boat trip ended in Portobelo, we stopped off at a local cantina for drinks and dancing. I picked up the tab for 23 Balboa beers as we departed. No, Iā€™m not a big spender: at 75 cents a beer, I paid with a $20 and said, ā€œNo cambio, gracias.ā€

kayak Panama Chagras

If you’re into nature and outdoor adventure activities, Panama is a nice alternative to Costa Rica, with hardly a tour bus in sight. There are some big cruise ships docking there, unfortunately, but they don’t stay long or go very far off the beaten track. You definitely won’t be with a big crowd if you go kayaking on the Chagras River (as in this “view from the kayak” photo of mine).

  1. Jessie

    Twenty-three beers for less than $20? Sold.

    I really like your kayak shot. It reminds me of my banana-ish vessel from my days as a guide in Southeast Alaska. The rainforest there isn’t quite as broad and leafy.

  2. Mary

    Amazing price for beer. How did it taste? Interesting the comparison you’ve made with Costa Rica – a place I’m interested in visiting. I’ve been following a blog over at http://www.CostaRicaHQ.org and according to the guy who writes it, you can get a good meal at a decent restaurant for about $20 (I’m more of a food person than a drinker!) and if you eat in a small Soda, you can get a great meal for only $2. What would be the equivalent in Panama?

  3. tim

    Enough with the links to your Costa Rica blog, but in general, Panama is cheaper than Costa Rica overall. Neither one will knock you out with culinary prowess, however, so if you’re a foodie head to Mexico. But if you eat where the locals eat, you can indeed find a meal for $2 in Costa Rica. It’s easier in Panama though as the place isn’t so flooded with tourists (and tourist restaurants).

  4. Joey

    It’s hard to get excited about a beer with such an unimaginative name (same goes for BeerLao), but it’s hard to go wrong at that price.

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