Do you need to book a flight? If you are looking to take a vacation, you may be. When it comes to doing so, you will find that you have an unlimited number of options. There are thousands of airports across the country, as well as multiple airlines that service those airports. Since you will likely have a number of different options, you are encouraged to compare prices before making any official reservations.
As nice as it is to hear that you should compare airfare rates before making your travel arrangements, you may be wondering why you should. For starters, you will get more travel options. When comparing flights and airlines, in general, you are likely to come across flights that you may not have otherwise seen or known about. In addition to getting a better deal, you may also find flights available with a different airline that has more convenient times and less layovers.
Another reason why you should compare prices when looking to buy airline tickets is because you can save money. What many people, especially first time travelers, do not take into consideration is price differences. Although you will find some similarities, different airlines charge different fees. That is why it is important to price compare. While the amounts of money that you may be able to save will vary, any savings, even just ten dollars, is enough for many.
Another important point that many travelers do not think of, when examining the importance of comparing prices, is the money that can be put towards travel. When you spend less money on your travel arrangements, such as your airline tickets, you have more money that you can put towards your vacation. Depending on the amount of money that you are able to save, you can enjoy a nice meal, add an extra activity to your to do list, upgrade your overnight accommodations, and much more. This is always an important factor to take into consideration, as saving money on your airline tickets can enable you to better your trip.
As nice as it is to know that you should compare airfare before buying your airline tickets, you may be curious as to how you can go about doing so. One of your first stops should be an online travel website. Online travel websites are nice because they let you compare flights from different airlines, all at the same time. With that said, not all online travel websites are the same; therefore, you may even want to compare travel websites and the rates that they offer. What is nice about using online travel websites to compare airfare rates is that you can also pay for your tickets through them as well.
As nice as online travel websites are, you may be looking to go straight to the source. When doing so, you will want to visit the online websites of airline companies. If you have to fly out of a specific area, like Albany, New York, you will want to visit the online websites of airlines that you know fly in and out of that airport. Then, you will want to compare prices. This process of comparing prices will take a little bit longer than using online travel websites, but many take comfort in knowing that they are doing business directly with the airline company.
Travel insurance is one of those areas that mean nothing to you until you decide to hit the road – or the air – then suddenly every ad is for travel insurance and everywhere you look another company is touting for your business. So how do you choose the best insurance company and the best travel insurance for your unique travelling needs?
5 Points To Consider
1.The cost of the policy could be more than what you pay
When reviewing the policy options never start with the price first. As with most things in life you get what you pay for and while you want to be sure to get the best value for your money, this does not necessarily mean the cheapest price. Comprehensive cover that delivers and supports in time of need is what you should be looking for.
2.What back up do you receive in an emergency?
Are you being sent on your world tour with a 9 to 5 Monday to Friday contact number or are you provided with fully comprehensive numbers providing 24/7 contact and support, reverse charge options and 0800 numbers.
3.What is included as standard in your policy
Some companies come in with a low rate and then charge extra for every doorknob eventually leading to over inflated cover. Go through the company’s policy offerings to be sure exactly what you are covered for. The range should be extensive as the company should know and have addressed a range of pitfalls you may not have thought of.
4.Who underwrites and supports the company
Establish who your support company will be should you face a medical emergency or the need for evacuation. Most companies do not handle these highly specialised areas themselves but have aligned themselves with skilled and experienced worldwide organisations to ensure the best possible protection and support for their customers.
5.Does the company cater for varying needs?
Does the company provide a one size fits all policy? Beware, you may be paying for cover you don’t need or be under insured in some critical areas. Look for a company which provides a range of covers including NZ only travel policies, backpacker, group or duo options, long stay, one way or gap insurance and more.
Health Insurance policy issued to you is valid in India only. When you travel out of India then you need Overseas Travel Health insurance policy because of following reasons :
i. If Hospitalization is required while you are in a foreign country then treatment may not start in a hospital; unless you make the payment in cash or by credit card or produce health insurance policy reference / card.
ii. Some embassies of foreign countries need it as part of documents for issue of visa itself. An example is the Germany Embassy or Spain Embassy.
Even though this policy in the beginning was for taking care of hospitalization/medical treatment only but at present this product is available with certain additional features.
You will notice that while in the case of Health Insurance policy valid with in India is having the limit of Rs 5,00,000 but in case of Overseas Health Insurance policy sum can be as high as US$ 5,00,000, which is nearly equal to Rs. 235 lakhs. (Rs 2.35 crores)
Health Insurance policy valid within India is issued with difficulty for those above 60 years in age. In the case of Overseas Travel Health Insurance for India, the policy can be issued even for the age of 84 years but subject to following documents being attached with proposal form for all those whose age is above 70:
• ECG test
• Blood test
• Urine test
Medical assessment in specified format duly filled/signed/rubber stamped along with license no. of the postgraduate (M.D. or a above) doctor who has filled the report. It is to be understood that report by MBBS qualified doctor is not valid.
The medical specialists of the Insurance Companies generally based in Zonal office or Head office review the documents and decide:
1. Whether to accept the proposal and underwrite the risk
2. If to underwrite the risk should there be loading on premium rates and what should be the maximum amount of Hospitalization covered.
This approval cycle can take 2 to 5 days. Normally for a person of 70+ age the limits imposed with respect to hospitalization / medication in the policy are between US $ 10000 and US $ 50000. You will notice that this is much less in comparison to limit of US $ 5,00,000, which is available to those who are in age group of 70 years or less. The good thing about this policy is that it is even issued to those who have preexisting disease. Hospitalization in foreign country even with the disease (preexisting) is covered.
On the concept of loading factor starting on a specified data it has been seen that for a person aged 84 traveling to USA, a specific PSU loaded the premium by 150%. Private Insurance Companies are generally not issuing policy to those, who are 80+in age.
In these recent months we notice that PSU’s have started discouraging the issue of such policies
These policies can be divided in to :
1. Single trip policy
2. Annual multitrip policy
As the name indicates single trip covers a single trip, which is starting on a specific date and ending on a specific date. It is possible to extend the date on payment of additional premium subject to condition that no claim has been made. Extension of policy is at the discretion of the Insurance Company.
Annual Multi trip policy is having validity of 1 year. As many trips as you wish are possible but it is subject to the condition: “Single trip not being more than 30 days.” Some Insurance Companies now offer option of single trip not being more than 45 days.
The Canadian Health Care System is based on several socialized health insurance plans providing full coverage to Canadian citizens and a model to follow that the American Health Care System has been analyzing for a while.
In Canada, federal government set the guidelines that apply to the different provinces and territories of the country in health matters, but the system comes from public funding on a territorial or provincial basis.
Because every Canadian region manages its own health care system, there is too much controversy and debate in relation to health care coverage for both locals and people visiting the country.
People who want to access the Canadian Health Care system must apply for a provincial health card and wait for no longer, than three months to obtain their health card in the case of new immigrants.
While the Canada Health Act guarantees that all residents of a territory or province will be accepted for health coverage, temporary visitors can only access this system purchasing insurance by themselves.
However, there are also Public Health Care Providers that ruled under the same act, providing services such as hospitals, dental surgery, ambulatory services,pressure gloves, primary care doctors,bp machine and specialists to cover provincial insurance policies.
As a visitor to Canada, you can purchase a health care insurance policy and benefit from these public services during your stay in the Canadian territory.
Canada counts with about 30,000 primary care doctors, who account for over half of all Canadian doctors so you will not have a problem finding a physician that can provide you with preventative care or basic medical treatment.
Specialist doctors account for 28,000 all over the country and there are countless private clinics operating in the country offering specialized medical services, although under federal law they should not provide those services covered by the Canada Health Act.
Even though, most clinics offer such services regardless the legal limitation, they are covered by private insurance policies to provide health care assistance to people that otherwise would be left without medical protection.
Private insurance in Canada may cover up to 80% of medical cost and it is available to visitors and local residents unsatisfied with their provincial or territorial health care system.
In terms of medical availability as of 2007, there is one primary care doctor for every 1000 Canadians, who spend nearly $3,300 per capita on health care attention every year.
Keep in mind that the Canadian Health Care System does not provide basic services to residents, and some of them are those that visitors usually require, such as optometrists, dental services, and prescription medication, which people have to pay.
Going on a vacation doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go out of the US. There are a lot of beautiful vacation spots here in the US that you can visit for cheap prices that are still worth your money!
Going to these vacation spots can be really practical especially nowadays that the price of gas in incredibly high. So if you want to save up on money yet still want to have a great vacation getaway, then here are some of the places that you may want to consider going to around the US.
Texas: South Padre Island
This destination is relatively a cheap one. If you want to save even more, you might want to consider getting a hotel that is situated across the beach, instead of getting one that is o the beach itself. You can rent a car to go around the island and visit different shops and markets where you can buy various souvenirs, shells and the likes. There are also a lot of cheap Mexican restaurants that offer scrumptious meals that can totally hit your palate. If you don’t like shopping and rather have a quiet moment with yourself, then you can simply relax by the pool or at the beach.
South Carolina: Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach is very alluring that it gets to attract thousands of visitors each year. Thus it is one of America’s most loved vacation spots. Other than great beaches, you could also take pleasure in shopping at boutiques, area malls, and specialty stores nearby. At the beach, you can go collecting shells, sunbathing, boating, surfing, kayaking, scuba diving, parasailing and windsurfing. The sixty miles of beach area is all yours to enjoy!
Florida: Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach in Florida is a definite money saver since it offers a wide variety of hotels and motels at very affordable rates. In fact you could even get a unit that has a kitchen where you can prepare your own meals. If you want one good way to relax, you could spend your whole afternoon just bumming around and exploring beaches. You can also go to the Area Scenic Inland Waterway where you could board a canoe or kayak and have a memorable trip.
The beach is also near theme parks that you can visit. You can also join historical tours and visit facilities where golf and tennis championship games were held!
If you’re someone who is an art and music lover, then this is the perfect destination for you. Considered to be the music capital of US, Memphis attracts a lot of music fans from different parts of the world to see its fine establishments.
Memphis can offer you a lot of outlet malls, outdoor amusement areas,swim spa, entertainment, nightspots, zoos and different kinds of festivities for everyone, regardless your age or interests. There’s definitely a lot more things that you could do in Memphis other than taping your toes and listen to country music!
These are just three of the best places in the United States that you could go to and have a pretty cheap vacation. It doesn’t really matter if you’ll be going with family, friends or by yourself. These places are a surefire hit and can definitely give you a pleasing vacation experience!
Remember, if you really want to save some dollars, it would be best that you search on the Internet about airline discounts. You can also join a travel club where you could get different discounts on all kinds of things such as hotel stays, plane tickets, car rentals and restaurants!
Air Travel with toddlers doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Here are some exclusive tips that will help you make it through your flight.
Schedule your flights to coincide with nap/bedtimes.
Whenever possible, try to book direct flights during the time of day or night your child would normally be sleeping. In all likelihood, they will keep up the pattern and fall asleep despite being 25,000 feet in the air. Any sleep they get on the plane will serve to cut down the time they must be entertained while awake!
Car seat on the plane?
When our daughter was an infant we choose to save the money and only purchase seats for ourselves which meant she spent the duration of the flight(s) on our laps. More recently, we have taken to carrying-on the car seat which accomplishes two very important things: freeing up our laps, arms, and such, and keeping her in the seat. It also adds some familiarity to a new vehicle/mode of transportation – a little piece of home(life) in a new place. Yes, it is frustrating having to carry the seat around the airport, but the in-flight payoff is worth it. One Step Ahead sells an adapter to turn a car seat into a backpack which may help you manage your carry-ons.
Managing the Flight
An easy and effective way to manage your in-flight, family-with-toddler(s) experience is to break the trip down, mentally, into 20 minute segments (to borrow an airline term). So, if you have a 2 1/2 hour flight, you really have only 7 twenty minute segments to schedule and occupy your child’s (or children’s) time. When you think of your flight in this manner it becomes a relatively manageable event. Here are some parent and flight tested tips on segment ideas that will occupy and entertain your kids, providing you with some down time to peruse the SkyMall catalog, and not have you lugging a suitcase full of toys around the terminal.
(remember: each idea has to occupy a mere 20 minutes, anything more than that is a bonus!):
* A new toy or book (nothing fancy, just something brand new to him or her)
* Crayola Color Wonder Markers (an inventive product that will only write on the special Crayola paper) – This is a favorite of ours. No messes at all and no toxic marker smell. The marker caps make for great, silly kid fingernail extensions. In fact, if your child is anything like ours, the caps alone could be their own segment.
* Tape and/or Stickers – Plain old Scotch tape can be a load of fun for a little one. Roll it up inside itself to make a sticky circle and let them stick it to their nose, your nose, between their fingers…just good old fashioned fun with a 2 inch piece of tape.
* Magna Doodle (Travel Edition) – A classic toy that our modern kids still enjoy. (Note: really young ones may get frustrated at their inability to, independently, erase their work as the tab to clear the screen can be rather difficult to slide)
* A Discman/Portable CD player – If you do not have an old one collecting dust somewhere, they can be had relatively cheap in the iPod age. This is perfect if your child has a particular CD they are diggin’ at the moment (or if you have made a Mix CD of their favorite songs). If they have never used a portable cd player before, the novelty of this device combined with the music they already love should carry you for two segments. Be sure to keep the volume at a low level and use only the classic earphones with the large, round and padded ear pieces that sit on the outside of their ears. kid size earphones?
* Their favorite book(s) – (often a bedtime book, which is essential if your flight will involve a nap or take place during bedtime).
* For older toddlers/young kids: some brochures/city-location guide books or floor sweeper. Allow and encourage your kids to plan a day trip, museum visit, etc. Give the reigns over to them for a period of time (whatever you are comfortable with/have the time for) providing they devise a plan using the material you bring on board. Not only will this occupy a good amount of time, but they will love the chance to be the boss and decision maker. By engaging them in the trip planning you will also increase the chances of them enjoying themselves and going along with something you want to do (reciprocating the favor). For the younger members of your family, use the brochures as a conversation piece to get them excited and interested in what they will be seeing during the vacation.
Snap-Crackle-Pop (Dealing with the altitude and popping ears)
Be sure to pack their favorite beverage and snack on board. Not only will the eating and drinking occupy a segment but it is also an method of reducing the impact of air pressure on their ears. By drinking or chewing they will hopefully not feel an uncomfortable amount of pressure while taking off and landing.
The Kingdom of Morocco owns more than a thousand alluring sights that travelers from all over the world find strikingly irresistible. With this, who could say no to exciting beach activities along the beautiful Atlantic coast? Who wouldn’t be mesmerized by the classic beauty of Marrakech art in the Dar Si Said Museum? Who could resist the comfortable rooms and appetizing cuisine of reputable hotels in Morocco? And, who wouldn’t dare witness the splendor of the highly-acclaimed Sahara desert? Once you are smitten by one of Morocco’s spellbinding attractions, you can never fight the urge to book in one of the excellent hotels in Morocco and enjoy this magnificent African country.
A trip to Morocco will definitely be worth your precious time. With a lot of wonderful activities that await impassioned tourists, there’s surely nothing to lose. But for you to make your Morocco adventure more pleasurable, first, you need to get the right hotel accommodation. Though hotels in Morocco are generally tourist-friendly, as a distinct traveler, you also have your own preferences that may not be provided by every hotel. As such, you should know whether or not the hotel will suit your specific needs and wants. In this case, a little break down of options might help. Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself before you finally pick a hotel:
Do I want a luxurious hotel or just a simple place to stay?
Travelers differ when it comes to their choices of hotel. Some like costly hotels, while others prefer the simple and homey abodes. If you’re the type of traveler who chooses to stay in a five-star hotel, some of the great options are Atlas Riad Medina & Spa in Marrakech, Riad Des Golfs in Agadir, Le Royal Mansour Meridien in Casablanca, and Sofitel Palais Jamai in Fez. On the other hand, there are also less extravagant yet cozy hotels in Morocco. Dar Zitoune in Taroudant, Kenzi Farah Hotel in Marrakech, Zaki Hotel in Meknes, and Menzeh Zalagh in Fez are only some of the inexpensive hotels that offer a comfortable place to rest with convenient services.
Do I need a hotel that is family-oriented or should I go for a hotel that is convenient for business?
A tour in Morocco is a dream come true for most travelers. From ordinary citizens to big-time businessmen, tourists who flock in this country definitely have varying needs. In choosing from the long list of hotels in Morocco, bear in mind the real purpose of your stay. If you’re on a family vacation, better choose a hotel with areas for recreation, so your family can have a great time together. For your children, make sure that the hotel also has a play area or a day care service. Meanwhile, on business trips with your colleagues, hotels with convention halls and good Internet connection would be perfect for you.
Do I want a hotel that has a window view of nature or do I prefer a hotel that has nearby shopping centers, bars, and parks?
Your choice of a hotel must be based on your interests. Nature-loving tourists choose to stay in a hotel that gives them a great view of verdant landscapes and tranquil blue ocean. If you want to experience nature even inside the hotel, you must try Pasha Baghdadi Massriya in Fez or Hotel Ali and Kasbah Agafay in Marrakech. They offer excellent views of the lush garden as well as great sunset. Meanwhile, if shopping and entertainment are your top priorities, you have to stay in a hotel that is located at the heart of the city. Some hotels in Morocco that are located in the city center are The Agadir Beach Club Hotel, Anezi Hotel Agadir, and Hyatt Regency in Casablanca.
The key to finding great hotels in Morocco is knowing your priorities very well. Once you have good grasp of what you truly want, getting the backpacker accommodation that you deserve will be so much easier.
There is a large group of travellers that is self-sufficient while having a pleasant time on the island. They know already where to find beach activities, the secrets of going shopping Bali style, and generally know where to find a good time while avoiding too much sweat.
There is a equally large group that cannot get enough of new activities, latest tour programs and all sorts of organized adventure.
Today I would like to give an overview of popular island tours and tropic activities such as rafting, trekking, cycling, elephant safaris, horse riding, skydiving, paragliding, sailing and other beach and marine sports.
If you are staying at a 4 or 5 stars Bali hotel, you will already have the advantage to be introduced to daily domestic activities available to hotel guests. Such can be gymnastic and jogging exercises, local bicycle tours, cooking classes and all sorts of beach games.
The next step on the activity level are Volley ball – Outrigger sailing – Table tennis – Tennis at Tennis courts – Badminton – Snorkeling – Windsurfing – Fishing – Parasailing that are in most cases all directly available or bookable from the tour desk at your hotel in Bali.
If this is not available at your hotel, or you would rather “go and explore” the island, it is time to consider the tour options offered by virtually 100’s of tour providers. Here you can join large groups using large busses, or small individual groups, down to the size of hiring a personal tour guide for only the 2 of you.
Rafting and Kayaking trips enjoy a strong following and are increasingly popular. The beauty of the Ayung river valley and Melangit river are popular destinations. It looks to be more a sport for adventures types on photos, but it is completely safe and also recommended for younger children.
Sightseeing tours is another Bali favorite, see and explore all temples and monuments of Balinese history on trips to Besakih, Tanah Lot, Tampak Siring, Uluwatu, Kintamani and others.
Increasingly in demand is another “sweat exercise”, cycling tours to villages and mountain trails. This is not recommended for younger children because they will have a hard time to catch up with the group. For families it is better to just rent the bicycles and maybe a private tour guide, if needed.
Elephant safaris is one of the family trips in Bali, provided by many tour operators venturing yet in another field of activity. To completely feel like Indiana Jones the next step would be to go on a off-road Land Rover land cruise, to discover some hidden tracks of the green jungle.
Since Bali is an island what comes naturally to mind is a day cruise or sunset cruise to Lembongan island. Two of the providers are Bali Hai and Island Explorer Cruises both offering a wide range of cruises and water activities.
Surfers are attracted by south Bali’s waves, and not only Balinese enjoy that activity also lots of Australians are coming to Bali only for one purpose: The Waves, also hot among surfers from Hawaii, statements like “Definitely one of The spots to go surfing” from global surfers. If these waves scare you and you just want to practice a bit you can rent a board in Kuta directly on the beach for a few hours.
Divers are attracted by several locations in Bali, all easily reachable with dive instructors that will pick you up at your hotel and take you for a dive at a destination of your choice. If you need more above sea level action there is also Bungy jumping, ski diving and paragliding.
Bali is a mountainious volcanic island that will catch the attention of mountaineers interested in mountain climbing. Mt. Agung the highest peak at 3142 metres and Mount Batur can be climbed in a few hours. Use a local guide for safety reasons and to find the best routes.
Another interesting encounter with nature is possible at the Bali Barat National Park in the north of the island. It is a protected reserve on an area of over 750 square km. The park is home to wild buffalo, monkeys, wild deer and civet.
Most suitable for families with kids are theme or adventure parks and attractions. Popular with kids are the Waterbom park in Tuban with their huge water slides, Bali Bird Park in Batubulan has a 100’s of exotic birds, and the Bali Reptile Park next door invites with Lizard Komodo Dragons.
Again most tours and adventures are easily bookable from your hotel, or you can call Tourvasia.com anytime while in Bali to arrange a tour for you. From airport pick ups to bringing you safely back to personal meetings at your hotel to book anything from a short Ubud roundtrip to a multiple days Flores tour or visiting Komodo island and their live dragons.
Most visitors to China will only require a tourist L which will allow them to travel freely in most parts of China as tourists. If your situation is not described by one of the other visa types, then this should be the one you need.
If you are travelling in an organised tour group you might not have an individual visa in your passport. Instead, the tour group will be issued with a group L. The invitation letter issued by the travel agency is required. In such situations you will supply your details to the travel agency before you travel and then you have no further concerns. If you are travelling to Hainan province in an organised group you might also find that no visa is required.
Panama is an adventure wonderland just waiting to be discovered. The country’s expansive rainforests are among the richest and most complex on the planet. It’s the only country where jaguars and pumas prowl just a short drive from the capital. Its vast, roadless jungles are home to over 940 recorded bird species and 105 endangered species, including the spectacled bear, the Central American tapir, the American crocodile, the scarlet macaw, as well as several eagle species.
This small, untapped country offers some of the finest diving, birdwatching, and deep-sea fishing in all of the Americas—yet only the most avid adventurers are aware of it. Panama boasts scores of deserted palm-lined beaches, miles of lush rainforests, great national parks, mysterious mangroves (where you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to a time when dinosaurs walked the earth), steamy cloud forests, mountains, waterfalls, raging rivers, abandoned forts, as well as desert.
In Panama you can spend the morning diving in the Caribbean and the afternoon swimming in the Pacific. You can explore historic ruins of the colonial era…dive for Sir Francis Drake’s lead coffin (supposedly buried at sea near Portobello Bay)…see the rainforest in an aerial tram…ride a dug-out canoe to a native Indian village…discover the remote and mysterious forests of the Darién region right on the border of Colombia (where the roads end a few miles before the border, leaving you with the feeling you’ve reached the end of civilization)…come nose-to-nose with a red-napped tamarind monkey or a trio of colorful toucans…
Conde Nast Traveler, in an article from its February 2005 issue said “Panama has temperate rain forests, great surf and beaches, and more birdlife than any other country in Central America. Now…it also has a newly elected administration that wants travelers to enjoy every bit of it.”
Fortunately, Panama is a small country. In a short one- or two-week trip, you can see much of what this diverse country has to offer.
In this special report, the IL team proposes a plan to get the most out of 24 hours in Panama. From a traditional Panamanian breakfast to a trip to the Miraflores Locks to evening drinks in a little boutique hotel overlooking the Bay of Panama…we have it all thought out.
Breakfast in El Trapiche
Exploring the best Panama has to offer is hungry work. Start your day on a full stomach and head for breakfast in El Trapiche, a busy diner in El Cangrejo (Vía Argentina, tel. (507)269-4353). Here you can enjoy breakfast Panama style and indulge in a hearty feed of carimañol—a yummy roll made of mashed yucca and stuffed with ground beef and boiled eggs—and a side of corn tortillas, that more resemble silverdollar pancakes than taco shells. The bill should be less than $8, even with that second café con leche.
Trip to the Miraflores Locks
No trip to Panama is complete without seeing the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Panama Canal. According to the Panama Canal Authority “The history of the construction of the Panama Canal is the saga of human ingenuity and courage: years of sacrifice, crushing defeat, and final victory.” This statement, while true, doesn’t go far enough to describe the mighty toll taken by the building of the Panama Canal. Construction began in 1904 and took 10 years to complete. It remains one of the greatest engineering achievements of all time, completed despite landslides, disease, setbacks, and the loss of 75,000 lives in total. Engineers directed most of the actual construction, which cost $375 million, and involved the excavation of 240 million cubic yards of earth.
The Canal, 51 miles long, opened to shipping in August 1914 and was formally dedicated on July 12, 1920. In 1921, the U.S. paid Colombia $25 million as redress for the loss of Panama; in exchange, Colombia formally recognized Panama’s independence.
On average it takes a vessel eight hours to travel from one ocean to the other, passing through three sets of locks. The best place to see the Canal is from the Miraflores Locks (open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., admission free). Make sure to get to the Miraflores Locks for 9 a.m. as this is when you are most likely to see large ships passing through.
Tamales in Casco Viejo
By now you’re probably feeling a tad peckish… Time to hop on a bus or hail a taxi and make your way toward Casco Viejo for tamales. If you’re in luck, you’ll bump into Luis Antonio Visuette on the streets of Casco Viejo, where he has been selling delicious homemade tamales, wrapped in plaintain leaves, for more than 10 years. With his Yankee cap and five-gallon bucket of hot and spicy tameles calientitos, Luis is hard to miss. These lunchtime treats are available in both large (50 cents), and small (25 cents), and are a real hit when washed down with an ice-cold drink. International Living’s local office is located in the Casco Viejo area, in the Cathedral Plaza, next to the Panama Canal Museum and just in front of the stunning Metropolitan Cathedral, so if you want to enjoy your tamales in our office (Luis will be making the rounds) call in for a Panamanian style “power lunch.”
Explore Casco Viejo
Located at the mouth of the Panama Canal, Casco Viejo is the oldest city on the Pacific Coast of the Americas…although it was there long before the Canal was built.
In fairness to history, the original Panama City (now known as Old Panama or Panama La Vieja) was founded in 1519, about two miles from the center of Panama City as we know it today. From here, expeditions were mounted to conquer the Inca Empire of South America and all of the wealth pillaged from Peru, Chile, and California flowed to Spain through Old Panama. It is no surprise that this booty attracted pirates like Henry Morgan, who looted the city in 1671.
During Morgan’s attack, this original Panama City was burned to the ground. Two years later, in 1673, the capital was moved two miles to the west, and present-day Panama City was founded. This is the area now known as Casco Viejo.
As the city was being rebuilt by the Spanish settlers, they decided to build a massive surrounding wall and a stronger fortress for its protection and to ensure that the enormous wealth in gold and silver that passed through it would never again be susceptible to the likes of Henry Morgan.
The new city boasted a cross-sectioned design of 38 blocks, with three main streets running from east to west and seven streets running from north to south. Unfortunately, this urban development was interrupted by various fires that devastated its streets. In 1737, the “big fire” destroyed two thirds of the city, and the “small fire” of 1756 destroyed more than 90 houses. These and other catastrophic fires help explain why so few true examples of Spanish colonial architecture exist today.
The fortress still survives, though, and today houses several important, cultural, and historic buildings and monuments. But it is the architecture of Casco Viejo that makes it so special. The old Spanish colonial style is overlaid with French balconies and architecture, remnants of the French inhabitants who made the initial attempt to build the Panama Canal in 1881. Over the years, a Caribbean influence also took hold and, today, Casco Viejo is a melting pot of architectural inspiration and style, with some buildings dating as far back as 300 years.
Museums, shopping, and fortune telling
Up until the early parts of this century, Casco Viejo remained a thriving cultural center. But as Panama City modernized, and as the automotive age made transportation easier, it spread outward, leaving Casco Viejo behind. The old city’s narrow labyrinth streets were difficult for cars to maneuver and its buildings were obsolete in comparison to modern skyscrapers being built. By the mid 1900s, Casco Viejo had gone the way of most city centers of that century. No longer the center of Panama City, it was too oppressed for the upper class and quickly became a poor area of tenement-style housing.
The area is currently undergoing a complete transformation, however. Restaurants and bars are opening with gusto, tourists are coming in growing numbers, and people from all over now want to make their homes in Casco Viejo.
In 1997, UNESCO declared Casco Viejo a Patrimony of Humanity. Today, it is revered as the historic center of Panama City. Two- and three-story houses with flower-adorned balconies overlook narrow streets. At its tip is French Park, where you will find the French Embassy and a monument to the hardy French builders who began the Panama Canal. On one side is an historical Spanish building called Las Bovedas, now housing an art gallery and French restaurant. Panama’s Supreme Court was once housed here. A walkway around the monument offers a nice view of the Amador Causeway, Bridge of the Americas, and Panama City’s skyscraper skyline to the east. A plaque commemorates the firing of canon shots to ward off a Colombian warship and solidify Panama’s independence from Colombia in 1903.
There are excellent museums in the Casco Viejo area, including the Museo de Canal. Here, you can learn about Panama’s history as the connector between the Atlantic and the Pacific from pre-Hispanic to modern times. Next door is the Museum of National History and across the way is the National Cathedral. Nearby is a small museum dedicated to religious art, found in the old Santo Domingo monastery. This is where you will find the famous Flat Arch, which reportedly helped convince engineers that Panama was earthquake-proof and a geologically stable area for building the Canal. A few blocks away is the old San Jose Cathedral, with gleaming spires inlaid with mother-of-pearl and its beautiful gold altar, intricately carved of wood and gilded with gold. This is a must-see when you visit Casco Viejo.
Casco Viejo is home to the Presidential House. If you want to see this, be sure to come on a Sunday as it is closed to the public for the rest of the week. Famous sons and daughters of Panama also make their homes here, including actor/singer (and now Panama’s minister of tourism) Ruben Blades, and boxer Roberto Duran.
Bargain hunters can take a break from the historical sights at Salsipuedes, which roughly translates to “get out if you can.” Located just before the entrance to Casco Viejo, it is Panama’s bizarre bazaar, a street so narrow and filled with vendors that it is dark at noon. A few steps away is Santa Ana’s Plaza, where you can have your fortune told for just $5.
Dine at The Bristol
To finish off your day in style, make your way to The Bristol Hotel, just a short taxi journey from Casco Viejo. Dining at the Barandas Restaurant at The Bristol Hotel is an event to savor. The Panamanian-inspired gourmet cuisine, restful ambiance, stunning presentation, elegant settings, and attentive service combine to create an unforgettable dining experience.
A Trip To Panama Caught Your Fancy?
Hopefully, this special report has given you a few ideas on how to spend your time in Panama, but don’t forget that this amazing country has much more to offer. Pacific Coast beaches near the city; Coiba Island National Marine Park; and the Darién Province to name just a few.