Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Panama Backpackers Party Here!

Panama is the best city in Central America to party. But here are a few general rules:

1) Taxis are cheap in Panama. The most expensive taxi ride to get to a bar is Isla Flamenco on the Causeway which should cost around $6 but you could be asked to pay up to $8. Negotiate the cab fare first

2) Keep in mind the most expensive taxi ride is $6. If you meet a lady and the next morning she asks for $40 to take a taxi home then you may be in denial. If she asks for $200 for her sick kid in Cali then you have to admit to yourself that you just spent time with a hooker. If she is wearing a skirt made from a gym sock assume she is a hooker. If in doubt ask her what she does for a living and look for hesitation in her voice.

3) Bring a good copy of your passport with a photocopy of the entry stamp. You will be asked for this as police look for the girls described in #2.

4) Bring the address of the hostel with you. Taxis don’t use addresses and your drunk broken Spanish will just put dollar signs in the taxi driver’s eyes.

There are four general bar areas – more detail about each place after

Calle Uruguay is the famous nightlife area but it is slowing declining in popularity as nightlife branches out. There are a couple of classy lounges here with no cover but $4 beers, a couple of great places with strong Latin flair. Saharah has great live rock and 80’s music and La Bodeguita is super for Salsa and is on fire with action – sadly in both places most of the women are working girls. There are also five or six of the big nightclubs with all night partying but be prepared to pay an average of $15 to get in.

Uruguay Bars in detail:

Prive… Look for the two story building just across the street from Kraze. There is no cover here but that doesn’t stop them from making their money with four dollar beers. Wealthy and wannabe wealthy Panamanians put on their adult clothes and there are some pretty funky tunes spun by the resident D.J. It has the big disco feel but is the size of a pub. Worth a look before you dish out the cover at some of the other places around.

Shahara… An institution in Panama for great live bands playing covers of Classic Rock. There is a large outdoor patio visible from the street with T.V.s playing 80’s music. There are two pool table near the back and another outdoor quiet area out back. Caution with the girls here though, many are working. Cover is $5 but it includes a free drink which goes for around $4 anyway so it is almost negligible. This place is empty until around 11 but picks up around midnight and goes hard till the wee hours of the morning.

Moods and the bar right above Moods…

To the right of Moods is a staircase leading up to a little bar with no cover and economical drinks. This is a great pre-drinking place but the party can get lively with dancing to reggeaton and salsa. Great place. But if you don’t like the ratio of guys to girls then you can shell out the $10 cover to see something very similar with lasers, disco balls $4 highballs but better ratio of dudes to chicks.

La Bodeguita… A Cuban bar on Calle Uruguay, playing Spanish music with Columbian hookers. The last point is really too bad but it can still be worth a look as this bar has the most energetic Latin Flair on the street. Cover can be steep at $15 after midnight but it is lower earlier… try before 10pm and try to negotiate a $5 entrance. The hookers are friendly but not aggressive and if you tell them you are not in the market they will either leave you alone or still flirt until someone with more money than savvy with the ladies comes. La Bodeguita is the last bar on Calle Uruguay before Avenida Balbo (towards the bay)

Guru… Also know as The Clubbing Cult and the elite moniker means that yes it is pretentious but the beautiful girls do come here to spend $15 cover or more for special djs. Mostly techno music but from time to time the dj might put on a couple of salsa songs to change it up.

People… This is a good place to see your average middle class party it up with a mix of music that includes a few salsa songs followed by a couple of marenge, then reggaeton (Daddy Yankie) then 80’s then pop then back again. At $10 it is also average for a cover charge.

The Causeway is an excellent spot for dinner, a stroll between the islands for photos of the bay, city skyline and luxury yachts. There are also a dozen or so clubs. The causeway is busy anytime of the day, the air is fresh and you can rent bikes. There is a brand new bar area planned just before the causeway and one or two place have opened in an attempt to start a formal nightclub area like other cities in Central America.

You hardly realize the causeway is made of three islands. The first is on your right with a couple of small restaurants with outdoor seating and just after it is Perico, the second island. There’s a Subway here and juice stand but other than these there are good but pricey restaurant. If you are there on a Friday check the last restaurant, Rincon de Andaluz for three for one bottles of wine. There is a small sports bar (usually empty) with no cover but better is to go to the opposite end (the way you came) upstairs to Sing City. There is no cover and late at night the crowd gets going with slightly less cheesy than normal karaoke. At the back with great views of Panama City (near the Rincon de Andaluz) is Bambu, the best disco on the Causeway.

The best place for pre-drinking is further down the Causeway on the last island, Flemenco. Skip all the cheesy Disney like bar at the Flemenco Shopping Plaza. Before that, just after the Benegin’s is busy place with no sign. It is called Cayuco’s. Great cheap Panamanian grub and cheap bears.

Casco Viejo is the gentrified old colonial area that should not be missed. The nightlife is more subdued but this is the place to come to learn that life is not a road but a series of alleyways and piazzas. Come to sit near the park, listen to jazz and have a $5 glass of wine. New lounges are opening up and there is one club of particular interest called La Casona popular with students and has laid back dress code.

Details: Many new lounges pop up monthly. Follow the rail lines through Plaza Mayor to the tourist cop shop to Indigo.(no cover) Follow the Jazz music past the cop shop and the derelict building where the Bond was filmed and you will see La Planetea for the swankiest and priciest Jazz in the city. Prices vary depending on the band. For late night partying La Casona is a great disco of laid back students and artists. There is a modest cover and usually there is some kind of modern art installation in the large airy warehouse. This is in a bit of a dangerous area near Parque Herrera. You may want to ask the friendly tourist police for directions or make sure your cab driver found the right place.

Around Multicentro

Near Multicentro shopping mall and the Decapolis hotel are a series of bars. The Decapolis is wear you shine your shoes, wear a collar shirt and pass out real estate business cards to actually pretty groovy music. A pedestrian overpass connects the hotel to the Majestic casino. Sometimes there are cheap Texas Holdem tournaments and of course all the other gambling games but casinos are great for good bar food for under $8 and beers around $1.50. On a Friday or Saturday night more Panamanains come for the free live salsa and party than for gambling. Panama’s Hard Rock café also picks up at night and is in MutliCentro. Next door to the mall along is Extreme Planet a complex with a bunch of movie theaters, a Bennigan’s restaurant on the second floor and on the 12th that is also home to Sky Bowling. This complex also has a huge Bennigan’s Pub with dozens of large screen TV’s to watch the sporting event of the day. Beers are around $2 here.

Behind the Decapolis hotel was a bar area that is now slowly shutting down but there are a few places to note. Rasputin is a tiny Russian bar with foosball and Guitar Hero. Great pre-drinking place with cheap beer. A good chic club is also here called The Galaxy in Plaza New York at the end of this street on Calle 50.

Via Veneto to The Marriott

Via Veneto is hard to miss with the Vegas Style hotel and casino of the same name lighting up the street with flashing lights. On a street running perpendicular is Istmo Pub with a pool table and one of Panama’s few micro breweries. The Veneto itself is big casino and right behind it (you can go through the exit at the back) is the biggest and liveliest casino with big stage shows, Fiesta.

A little ways out down Veneto toward Via España on your right you will see a few signs, Capri, Oaisis… these are brothels. But the last one is a great little place to have a beer and watch the street action roll by. If you stand at the McDonald’s and look across the busy Via España you will see two busy streets with light. Down the street where the Continental Hotel is perched you will find a great expat hang out called The Terrace. Street views and pool upstairs this is a great place to pre-drink. While seated here you will notice the Royal Casino and Marriott hotel attached. Right across the street from the front doors of the Casino is Kappas and Beirut. Right across the doors of the hotel is a little cigar bar frequented by gringo who frequent hookers.

Via Argentina

Is the up and coming nightlife area. Starting at its base on Via España just after the Blockbuster there are new nightclubs worth a look on weekends. Further up keep your eyes open for a big gorilla for the aptly named Rockin’ Gorilla where beers are cheap, there’s lots of pool tables and sometimes live music. (no cover) Three minutes walking further up is Taberna 21 across from a park good for cheap beer, no cover and good Sangria. Just past the park is one of the few English Pubs with live music and pool called El Pavo Real. There is no cover, a pool table and sometimes live bands.

These are just a small sample of places to stir up trouble.

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