Officially the Balboa is the currency of the Republic of Panama and you will see products advertised in Balboas. However, the reality is that the US dollar is used everywhere. You might get Balboas in change, but US coins and notes are the currency of choice.
ATMs are plentiful and are located in many large supermarkets. They dispense US dollars.
Cruiser Resource Guide for Panama City (2022)
This guide to Panama City can be downloaded, free of charge, from www.groups.yahoo.com. Almost anything you can think of can be tracked down with the help of this comprehensive document.
You must join either the “Southbound” or the “Cruiser’s Network” group. The guide is located in the “Files” section of each group. (“Southbound” is generally a valuable source for info west of Central America)
Colon really does not have much to offer in the way of shopping, but if it is your only stop then here are some suggestions:
- Supermarkets: Rey in Cuatro Altos and Super 99 at the Colon 2000 shopping center
- Hardware: Novey in the Millenium Plaza (approximately half a mile from Cuatro Altos)
- Alcohol and electronics: The Duty-Free Zone in Colon
There is no shortage of shopping malls in and around Panama City. Panamanians love to shop. The one located closest to the Causeway (Balboa Yacht Club, La Playita Marina and Flamenco Yacht Club and Marina) is Albrook Mall. This mall is HUGE. At the time of writing it is the largest in Central America. There is a plethora of reasonably priced shops and one large supermarket (Super 99). There are also three hardware stores (Do it Center, Novey and Discovery Center). The Discovery Center (located on Tumba Muerto) is an Aladdin’s Cave of all things hardware and is well worth the trip. Albrook Mall also encompasses the National Transit station (local and national buses).
In general you can find just about anything you want grocery-wise in Panama City.
- Dry goods are fine in Super 99 and Rey. However, their selection of meat and vegetables leaves something to be desired.
- MercaPanama is a massive market, well worth the trip to get unrefrigerated fruit and vegetables. The fresh market close to Casco Antiguo recently reopened as well.
- There is an American-themed supermarket chain called Riba Smith, which is equivalent to walking into any decent supermarket in the US. They stock a lot of US products and their fresh produce selection is head and shoulders above the other supermarket chains. You will also find decent alcohol and deli sections in Riba’s. The store located in Multiplaza Pacific Mall is easy to access and a taxi should cost about $10 to get there from the Causeway.
- A note of warning if you are a meat lover. Any local product is tough and not worth buying. Riba Smith stocks meat vacuum packed by a local company called Pretelt (they do have their own stores in town). Pretelt steaks (Rib-eye, New York Strip etc.) are worth paying the extra for, which is usually no more than $13 for a decent sized steak.
- Hermanos Gago is a major meat and delicatessen supplier in Costa del Este. A bit harder to get to but it might be worth it.
- Panafoto (Albrook Mall) is the Panama equivalent of Best Buy and is your one-stop shop for all things electronic.
If you like your seafood fresh, and who doesn’t, then the Mercado de Mariscos on the eastern side of Casco Antiguo (also known as Casco Viejo) is the place for you. The catch is landed daily and the prices are realistic. There are many eateries located around the outside of the complex so it is a popular place for lunch and dinner. There is no other shopping of note around this area.
There is the Costco equivalent in Panama called PriceSmart. It is a member club with the membership costing $35 per year. If you are looking at a major bulk shop then it is worth the membership because the prices are very cheap and, as you would imagine, you can buy in bulk. The US Costco card does not work here.
If you are looking for more specialized alcohol there is a chain called Felipe Motta Wine Store and Deli. There is a small one located next to the Flamenco Yacht Club and Marina at the southern end of the Causeway. Bodega Mi Amiga has the best selection of all.
There is a reasonable-sized Duty-Free shop located at the extreme southern end of the Causeway. You will need your passport complete with appropriate immigration stamp and, yes, they do check. The shop has a good supply of alcohol, perfume, cigarettes etc.
Chandleries are located in La Playita Marina (VHF channel 9) and Flamenco Yacht Club and Marina (VHF channel 10). Both of these marinas also supply diesel as does the Balboa Yacht Club (VHF channel 6). Be advised that it is often difficult to get fuel after 6pm.
A company called Islamorada is the appointed Admiralty Chart agents in the Republic of Panama. Their office is located just past the northern end of the Causeway.
Panama City Guide for Cruisers
A notice on the board at Shelter Bay has information for all cruisers visiting Panama. It reads:
- Hundreds of listings for services and suppliers in Panama City and some good ones in Colon. Also Panama Sights (things to do and see that do not cost much or are free)
- Some maps with locations of listed services and suppliers
- Collected by and from cruisers
- www.yahoo.com → More on Yahoo → groups → Cruisers_Network_Online → files → Panama and San Blas → 2022 Panama City Cruisers Guide.pdf
- Joining Yahoo Groups and Cruisers Network Online is free
If you are looking for anything specific then please contact us at [email protected] and we will try our best to point you in the right direction.
On to Getting Around or back to Transit the Canal