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There is an app called Kosher PTY that has a lot of helpful information (I didn’t use it) although some is in spanish.

Flights
 From NYC area there is UA and CM (copa) who have multiple daily flights to and from EWR which are bookable when saver is open from 17.5k+ $6.85-$80 a way in Y on UA, plus UA offers XN on CM. J is bookable for just 30k +$6.85-$80 a way.
LH prices RT in Y for 35k+ $76.71 and J for 60k
Other options include stops like AA with a stop in MIA from EWR, JFK and LGA, as well as from PHL which we did on AA.com for 25k RT+$82.31, bookable on IB/BA in the 35k-40k+$95+  range for RT in Y. J on aa.com is 50k RT +157.31.

Hotels
There are many amazing options as far as hotels are concerned. While they are all cheap by comparison to their comparable hotels in America, some are cheaper than others. Since the prices are so cheap I’m glad I didn’t go cheap. There are multiple point options such as the Sortis Hotel, Spa, and casino where we stayed for 15k MT a night, which was certainly well worth it. I do recommend it since many of the kosher restaurants are walking distance or a $2-$3 dollar taxi away. There is another MT hotel that seemed like good value, while the hilton and Hyatt options didn’t seem worth it at all for points. Since the revenue prices are so cheap it may be an ideal time to use CSR @1.5cpp, Barclays, or Capital One points for the hotel.

Weather
Despite being warned many times about the crazy weather here, and the many short downpours, we never had more than a light drizzle which was just once. The humidity here is extremely high- upwards of 90%, while the temperatures were not as bad- in the 80°-90° F.

Transportation
All normal transportation options can’t go wrong, cars are dirt cheap, as well as taxis and Ubers, if you feel the need for a tour guide they are cheap as well, obviously far more than the first 2 options, I’d recommend getting a tour guide for the first day or two and go to the places that need a guide like San  Blas, Monkey Island, and the Native villages, since it’s the first day the information you get from them can help for the remainder of the trip.

Parking
I haven’t seen any parking meters or anything of that sort, parking was generally easy and we parked within a block or 2 of the hotel for free every time, as the Hotel parking was really confusing and it seemed they charged $0.05 a minute for parking.

Food
There certainly isn’t a shortage of Kosher restaurants here, we tried out, Aria, and Lula by Darma  for Meat, neither was crazy cheap nor expensive although the servings were relatively small, Aria blew me away and and had some english speaking waiter, and Lula by Darma was ok but nothing like Aria as well as it didn’t have any english speaking workers.
For Dairy we tried Jeffery’s twice and it was incredible, and they had english speaking workers as well. We also went to Aroma which was decent the sushi wasn’t quite like I was told it would be, and not only didn’t they speak any english they couldn’t even get one english word out. It is more of an upper class Dairy spot and the prices were quite cheap for that style spot. There is Kava as well where we didn’t make it since they only open at 12pm but it’s supposed to be amazing. We also tried the takeout at the supermarket “Deli K”, which was cheap yet not impressive.

Culture/Language
The people here are all quite friendly, while barely any speak english, anywhere important like the hotels and many taxi drivers do speak english, the restaurants were half and half. As far as safety is concerned I felt safe at every given time.


Attractions
The skyline is of the nicest things in Panama as well as the tours we took to the Monkey Island, and to the Native American villages which I’d consider a must do. We are told that the San Blas island is a must do as well, but it takes a full day for 5:30 AM which we didn’t have time for.
Although all along the coast, the closest beach is Santa Clara, which is about an hour and a half from Panama City, it is beautiful, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you rent a car.

Shul
For Zmanim you can go to godaven.com, but just a fair warning that proper attire is required such as long pants, and IINM socks as well. You also are required to give in your passport when you go in, and should you go on shabbos you have to have them make a copy of it before you go in.


Author Topic: Panama in 3- A mini TR  (Read 2884 times)

Offline davidrotts63

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Panama in 3- A mini TR
« on: August 10, 2018, 11:05:04 AM »
Huge thanks to @Denverite and anyone else who shared ideas, opinions and TRs about Panama. And to @elya  for his amazing help with the planning, and constant suggestions, and of course to @rollingstone  for reminding me between each flight that I wasn’t flying his CX F.
Thanks to @sams for donating a Gogo pass and allowing me to work on this on my final flight.

Part 1: Planning
When I first was arranging my short vacation I spoke to a friend about it and he gave me 2 options, “we are going to Panama, or I’m not joining you”, well PTY it was.

Flights
Looking up on IB we found availability on AA departing on the 6th of August with a stop in MIA, and again a stop in MIA for an August 9th return. Although really short for Panama as I was warned, it was just right for myself who generally prefers short vacations and was perfect for my 3 companions who couldn’t take off for longer because of work. Now that our trip was just 3 days regardless, may as well make it Panama.

While I found availability in J for the MIA-PTY leg and the MIA-PHL leg, IB did what it does best and errored out, as not to lose availability I booked PHL-MIA-PTY-MIA in Y, and MIA-PHL in J for a lousy 36.4k IB+$95.81.

lodging
Although the amazing Trump Hotel was bookable for under $175 a night and the Waldorf for around $150 a night, we set on the Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino, Autograph Collection by Marriott for 15k a night x3 for 2 rooms. The hotel had great reviews and looked amazing despite being just a 4 star hotel.

Transportation
Now as far as transportation was concerned we were getting conflicting reports whether we should book a tour guide, take taxis or just rent a car. The taxis option required no notice, and a full time tour guide would (likely) need to be guaranteed. So we booked a SUV with free cancellations at Sixt for under $100 for 3 days including LIS, knowing we can ditch should we chose to.


Part 1.5: change of plans?
After everything was booked I realized I had to be in DC on the 5th, the day before our planned travel, which left me with 2 options, take a one way rental and drive the 2.5 hour trip from IAD to PHL, or book the 56 minute flight, the choice was easy for me.

Looking up, I saw UA has 4 daily flights from IAD-PHL all which had wide open X space, I chose the 10:15pm flight and booked it for 12k LH and due to my HUGE (5’ 11” ;) ) frame I upgraded to seat 7A for measly $16 as having my feet dangling as my knees were stuck on the seat in front wasn’t going to happen this time. Had “I” space been available when booking, I would have no doubt splurged the extra 5k.

As per my rituall I was nice and early sunday night at IAD, so I stopped by the KLM-AF lounge in terminal B,simply- iit’s worth nothing more than 2 cans of coke, the Wifi was so bad that I used my phone’s hotspot for my laptop, there was nothing edible for myself aside from some whole oranges and apples.
       
Although the TK lounge where I went next isn’t amazing coming out of the KLM lounge it was great. Although there was lots of Halal food
 
there was no food that seemed Kosher. So it was some more Coke cans, beer, and vodka. From my past experience the shower there was a lifesaver although I didn’t use it this time


Once on the flight I was glad “I” space didn't open as I clearly had the most legroom on the A320, more than any J seat.

Once boarded we were told that our flight time was 29 minutes, although in practice from doors closing until we deplaned was just over an hour, the actual flight time was just 32 minutes long, barely half of my previously shortest flight. I never felt like we had even taken off as we flew at an average altitude of 8,000 feet, while not even reaching 11k at peak, speeds averaged just 350 MPH as well. For the night I booked a category 2 SPG Four Points by Sheraton for 4k, which I probably would never do again as unimpressed would be an understatement.

Part 2: The Trip
PHL-PTY
Boarding began just minutes late in PHL, and I got upgraded to Main Cabin Extra, which gave the lifesaving extra legroom and free alcohol. “not too bad American” I thought, “just 10 minutes late”. Once seated I noticed this box labeled “human remains” going under which creeped me out just a little.


We then sat at the gate and waited a few long minutes, than the pilot got on and said we needed more fuel because we were taking a changed route. A little later we were told that we were rerouted again and we still needed more fuel. In short AA made sure to keep up to their standards and brought us to MIA over an hour late, the plane doors opened at 6:14 pm, while our MIA-PTY leg was scheduled for 6:25 pm which would mean boarding should end at 6:15. Luckily as we got off an agent let us know that they have not begun boarding, and the flight was delayed to 6:45. We made a run that almost killed us from gate D33 to gate D19 to find that boarding hadn’t even begun, by the time we were ready to board they were up to boarding group 7, we were the last to board which also allowed us to take the available Exit row/ Main cabin extra seats.
Free alcohol never disappoints ;)


Arriving day
Once we landed we had already decided that we were going with the rental car option, although I had a small SUV booked at Sixt they gave me a Kia Sportage courtesy of my Sixt Platinum status, the total price was just over $200 for 3 days with LIS and CDW.

We then immediately went to Aria Restaurant which was absolutely amazing as well as a bargain- my total (pre-tip) was just $57(no deserts). I got the Salmon Tartar and a boneless rib eye.
The Salmon Tartar simply blew me away.
         

After eating we crossed the street and checked in to the Sortis where they upgraded one of our 2 rooms to a 1 bedroom suite, which was actually quite impressive, the hotel all in all seemed great, with all the staff speaking a relatively good english. Exploring the hotel supported my opinion, this hotel is undervalued. The rooftop pool looked nice, with many amenities, as did the Spa and Fitness room. It was late and the rooms were waiting for us, our first half a day was up.

From our room:


Day one
On Tuesday morning we woke went to the 7:30 minyan at Shevet Ahim, due to the tight security and the fact that my companion was denied entry because he was wearing shorts, we didn't get in until 8:00. They asked us many questions, and held our passports while we were inside.

For breakfast we went to the Supermercado (supermarket) Deli K, was cheap but didn’t impress at all, they did have a full supermarket with whatever you can need there. After that we took the 1.5 hour drive to Santa Clara Beach in San Carlos district, which was absolutely beautiful. On the way we passed the Panama Canal, and Veracruz area where the poorest of the country live which was a rather interesting site to see while quite creepy as well.
Santa Clara Playa(beach):
     

Traffic in the city is acutely a wreck, it made me feel like I never left the NYC region. Then you have the guys cleaning your windows, and selling items from tomatoes (for pennies on the dollar) or cell phone chargers, to chocolates. Random police checkpoints seem to be a norm, we were reprehended for not having our passports on us, and some not wearing seatbelts, after under a minute of telling him we don’t speak spanish we were back on our way.

Later in the evening we went to Lula by Darna for dinner the prices were slightly more than the previous night, still decent. I saw something called a Toko Bowl on the menu which had “salmon, avocado, seeds, with lemon on rice” and figured if it was anything like my Salmon Tartar at the Aria it’ll be great. Well turns out the salmon was frozen, and it had mango and beans that I wasn’t expecting, I wound up picking out the avocado, mango and some salmon, and dumped the rest of the salmon with the seeds and beans. For the main I chose the Skirt steak despite it being local, I was in the mood of that, it wasn’t super tender but it really was great. Prices were a little more than the Aria, and portions were smaller.

My almost great dish


Day Two
We decided to go to spots that needed a guide, so we booked “Mario” who is a local that speaks great english, and we really had a great experience with him, the following 2 parts costed us $140 each (he can be reached via whatsapp at +50768213947 or via the website)

6:15 we were on the road with our tour guide heading to “monkey Island” which is located on the other side of the “hill", the drive was a nice 40 minute trip when the tour guide definitely did a better job then me handling the locals driving. Once there we good on to some sort of motor boat where we went out for about twenty minutes until we hit the islands where we fed monkeys and led them on the boat, we got to see 3 different types of monkeys there before we turned back.


For brunch it was Jeffrey’s Bakery which really was next level from the sandwiches and shakshuka to the pastries and coffees.
                   

A few minutes later we were back on the road toward the Pacific, we took a 1.5 hour drive with a stop for some fruit on the way went deep in the jungles where we passed the poor areas and the poorer, until we reached Lake Alajuela we then go on a wooden boat with a motor driven by native americans and traveled for about about 20 minutes and then took a 20-30 minute hike through the beautiful jungle of Parque Nacional Chagres (which is a huge national park which a large portion of it is where the poor live). At the end of the hike we reached a nice waterfall where we jumped in and went swimming with the sardines. After the hike back it was back on the boats to the native american village where we got a warm musical welcoming and then some dances they then brought out freshly cooked tilapia and cut up fruit (partially from what we gave them), and opened up the “souvenir shop”.

Swimming with the fish at the waterfall:

Cooking freshly caught tilapia:

“Souvenir shop”:


For dinner we chose to go dairy and went to the Aroma Gourmet, the place looked nice and didn’t have a single english speaking worker. Conversing in the approximate 10 spanish words I know, and showing them what we wanted to say from google translate was actually quite fun. I got myself a Tuna+Salmon Avocado roll which wasn’t on the menu, it was quite tasty but certainly didn’t blow me away. It was also rather interesting that my custom roll wound up costing more than any other item on the sushi menu even more than the far larger and extravagant options.

Departure day
We had an afternoon departure but we decided still to just enjoy the hotel for the day, but first we went back to Jefferys for breakfast, we would have loved to try out Kava but they don’t open until 12.
As AA loves to do, I was constantly getting time change notification back and forth, the final one was for 3:40 pm for a 3:16 scheduled departure.  We checked in on time and I got upgraded to an exit row seat. I then stopped in to the Copa Club for a quick banana and Coke then proceeded to the gate.

We then went through security AGAIN and boarded.
As soon as we got Wi-Fi (ironically over Cuba) I was notified that out MIA-PTY flight was delayed 5 minutes. From 9:30pm to 10:25pm, when tracking the previous flights I figured I was destined to stay in MIA for the night, as our plane was enroute to SNU 3 hours late, than had to return to MIA. In the interim we stopped by the Corona Beach House and thanks to my priority pass which gave us a $30 credit per person, we picked up $116 of snacks and drinks from the grab n go.


In the end the craft made good timing and we boarded at 10:30pm and doors closed at 11pm.
We arrived at PHL around 2AM, and from there we returned home ready for a weekend off rest.


I put a summery/my opinions and advice regarding a trip to Panama in the wiki, all the information included there is in the TR as well.

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Offline davidrotts63

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2018, 11:07:33 AM »
a small picture tour
Random pictures of the city/skyline:
























Some of the traffic around the city:


Bridge of America which crosses the Panama Canal:


Getting poorer and poorer as we moved farther from the city:


Shevet Ahim:






Monkeys on Monkey Island:








Native American Village:














The food they offered:




This is one of them, he is dressed regular as he was coming from school in the city, notice how he has a normal smartphone in his pocket


Their school:






Our hotel pool area:







« Last Edit: August 10, 2018, 11:38:50 AM by davidrotts63 »
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Offline myi

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2018, 01:28:21 PM »
Wow looks amazing, cant wait to read through it when I get a minute.
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Offline Moshe26

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2018, 03:00:55 PM »
great first TR! ;D

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2018, 04:41:13 PM »
great first TR! ;D

+1, looks like you packed a lot in for your three days!

Offline davidrotts63

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2018, 04:57:16 PM »
Wow looks amazing, cant wait to read through it when I get a minute.
great first TR! ;D
+1, looks like you packed a lot in for your three days!
thanks!  ;D
We certainly did utilize our time, one thing I do regret missing is the San Blas Islands, I'd love to stop by there in the future.
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Offline elya

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2018, 05:49:45 PM »
Great TR! Thanks for taking the time.

Offline ludmila

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2018, 01:08:37 AM »
Nice TR, love those monkeys :)
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Offline mmgfarb

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2018, 01:34:47 AM »
Nice TR, thanks for sharing!
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Offline davidrotts63

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2018, 10:49:23 AM »
Great TR! Thanks for taking the time.
Nice TR, love those monkeys :)
Nice TR, thanks for sharing!
Thanks!    :D
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Offline rollingstone

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2018, 12:07:47 PM »
Amazing TR!!
The DDF custom is to post your seat number on each flight, so other members can refer to when selecting seats for the same trip.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 01:08:41 PM by rollingstone »

Offline davidrotts63

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2018, 12:14:41 PM »
Amazing TR!!
The DDF custom is to post your seat number on each flight, so other members can refer to when selecting seats for the same trip.
Thanks :)
It was seat 7A for IAD-PHL, and 3F for MIA-PHL. I "don't recall" The other 3 ;).
But if you insist it was 12F, 10D, and 14F for PHL-MIA, MIA-PTY, and PTY-MIA ::)
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Offline aygart

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2018, 12:25:52 PM »
Amazing TR!!
The DDF custom is to post your seat number on each flight, so other members can refer to when selecting seats for the same trip.

True that, but in the future please don't quote a whole long post with the pics etc just to say that.
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Offline zow

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #13 on: August 16, 2018, 11:51:50 PM »
Excellent TR. thank you!

Maybe I didn’t read carefully enough — did I miss a Panama Canal tour?

Also, how did you get the upgrade at the Sortis?


Offline davidrotts63

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Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2018, 12:18:27 AM »
Excellent TR. thank you!

Maybe I didn’t read carefully enough — did I miss a Panama Canal tour?

Also, how did you get the upgrade at the Sortis?

Thanks.
We didn't take a tour of the canal as it didn't seem too appealing, we crossed it multiple times and had a look, the first tour we took wasn't too far out as we saw some traffic from the canal there.
They were really nice at the Sortis and my talking talent did the trick :)
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