Layover in Panama, What to do?

Casco Antiguo- layover in Panama

I have a Layover in Panama, what can I visit? It is a question that many ask themselves, and depending on the time of the layover, so are the places that you can visit.

First of all, let’s see the requirements to be able to leave the Tocumen Airport, having a layover in Panama.

Requirements to leave Tocumen Airport

  • Passport valid for 6 months.
  • Visa, depending on the country of the visitor.
  • Submit a plane ticket reservation for departure from Panama (showing that you are only making a layover).
  • You may be asked to show economic solvency (USD 500.00), just show it or you can also show a statement of your credit card (must have at least USD 500.00 free) stamped by your bank.

Another point to take into account is timing.

Minimum times to take into account (let’s say, Yes or Yes):

  • 1hr. and 15min. leaving Tocumen Airport (if there are few flights arriving).
  • 30min entrance to Tocumen Airport (with web check in and without checking suitcase).
  • 1hr. and 30min. transfer Airport – downtown Panama City, round trip.
  • 15min. to leave the carry-on bag, buy a cell phone card and/or transportation if necessary.

Summary, it takes a minimum of 3 hours and 30 minutes to get in and out of the airport. To this time, we add what we will take at each point you will visit, plus the transfer from one place to another, which can be from 15min. to 30min., per transfer. Now, having these clear points, let’s see what you can know.

What to visit in Panama City?

Monumental Center of Panama Viejo

You will be able to see the ruins of what was the first Panama City, attacked by the Caribbean pirates, the real ones! You will be able to climb the church tower, you will see the ruins of the different monasteries and a colonial cistern, as well as the museum, where you will learn about the history of the place and you will visit an example of a colonial house.


  • 1hr. to 2hr.

More information here.

Panamá Viejo

Tour Casco Viejo

Casco Antiguo is a place where you will find many things to do, you can just walk its streets, visit the churches, which are old and there is even one that is known for its golden altar.

You can also visit some of its museums such as the Museum of la Mola (on the textiles of the Kuna indigenous people), the Museum of La Merced, the Museum of History of Panama or the Museum of the Panama Canal. Almost everything has free admission.

Another thing you can do is try the gastronomy in one of the restaurants or go to a soft drink for one of the various flavors in popsicles and ice creams.

And if you go through the Plaza de Francia, I recommend a raspao, it is a typical Panamanian dessert, made with ice and syrup, they sell it on the street, the price is around $1.00 and it depends on what you add to it.

You can also do a free walking tour, it is only on Sundays.

Approximate times:

  • 1hr. just walking
  • 1hr. and 40min. walk and enter the churches (5)
  • 30min. Museum of La Mola
  • 20min. Museum of La Merced
  • 20min. Museum of the History of Panama
  • 1hr. Museum of the Panama Canal
  • 2hr. free walking tour
Casco Antiguo-Layover in Panama


It is probably the best Museum in Panama, it explains all the change in biodiversity, from the emergence of the isthmus, the arrival of the Spanish, with the introduction of species, up to the present day.


  • 1hr. to 2hr.

More information here.

Es probablemente, el mejor Museo de Panamá, explica todo el cambio en la biodiversidad, desde el surgimiento del istmo, la llegada de los españoles, con la introducción de especies, hasta nuestros días.

Biomuseo of Panama

Panama Canal

During the visit to the Panama Canal, you will be able to visit the Visitors Center, and learn a little about the history of this great work, as well as see 3D examples of how the scale works and enter a ship cabin.

Also, you can visit the movie theater, with a short video of the history of the Panama Canal (in English and Spanish, ask when you arrive when the one in your preferred language starts), and in the highest part you can see the ships, see schedule here.


  • 1hr. to 2hr.

More information here.

Panama Canal- Layover in Panama
Panama Canal

Metropolitano Natural Park

If what you like is nature, you can visit to Metropolitano Natural Park, a tropical forest in the middle of Panama City. From the highest point you can have a 360º view of Panama City.


  • 1hr. to 2hr.

More information here.

Metropolitano Park - Layover in Panama

Ancón Hill

Key point for the transfer of the first Panama City, since it came from a spring and due to its height you could see if a pirate was coming.

From the top you can see the current Panama City, the Casco Antiguo and the Panama Canal.


  • 1hr. to 2hr.

More information here.

Ancon Hill
View of Panama City from Ancón Hill.

Mi Pueblito

On the slopes of Ancón Hill, is Mi Pueblito, it is a place created to show the houses of the colonial era, and that can still be seen in some parts of the country, there are also Afro-Caribbean houses and a museum, where we can see skirts (the typical Panamanian costume – some of them old), jewelry and more.


  • 1hr.

More information here.

Mi Pueblito

Gamboa Aerial Tram

In Gamboa, a few minutes from Panama City, we can take an aerial tram tour through the treetops of a tropical forest, where we have the opportunity to see birds, monkeys and other animals. You can eat at the Hotel Gamboa Rainforest Resort.


  • 1hr. and 30min. to 2hr., tour.
  • 30min. (you need 30min. more to arrive)

More information here.

Gamboa Aerial Tram- Layover in Panama

¿How to take a tour?

There are several options, it will depend on your taste and economic facilities.

Tour from the Airport: I do not recommend it very much, since, if it is not a private tour, you may have to wait for other flights to arrive and you will lose time.

Hire a private transport: the best option, you can hire it for the time you need it and it will take you everywhere, in addition, they know the routes. Make sure you use the highway (that route saves time).

Renting a car: it is not very advisable, unless you have already driven in Panama, because the signs can be confusing and even when you see it, you will already have passed the exit and sometimes the GPS does not have the direction clearly marked. It is better to hire someone.

Go by public transport: that is, if it is your only option, you can take the bus of the Airport (it pasts to both terminals and the Airport Station, then you can take the Subway (you have to buy a card transportation at the Metro station), take the metro where ever you want, there are practically no stops from tourist places, so, you can get off at Corredor Sur Station, then take the Subway to San Miguelito Station (end of Línea 2), then take Línea 1 to 5 de Mayo Station and walk to the Casco Antiguo (about 20min.) (here use the GPS, but that doesn’t look like you`re lost). If you take this option, take into account that the transportation time can triple.

Free Walking Tour
Free Walking Tour

¿Where to buy in Panama?

In Panama there are several places and it will depend on what you are looking for.

La Central: it is the oldest (very close to the Casco Viejo, but it is not recommended to see beautiful and quality things).

Albrook Mall: the most distant from the airport of those in the city, and it is the largest in Panama. You can go by Subway, take the Subway until Corredor Sur Station, then take other until San Miguelito Station (end of Línea 2), and the take Línea1, until Albrook Mall (end Línea 1).

Puedes ir en Metro, tomar uno hasta la Estación Corredor Sur y luego otro hasta San Miguelito (Línea 2 hasta el final) y luego la Línea 1 hasta el Final.

Multiplaza: a place where you can buy items from different brands, and there are even luxury boutiques, it is one of the largest shopping centers in Panama.

Soho Mall: If you are looking for only luxury boutiques, it is the place to go.

Multicentro: it hardly has any open stores, I only mention it because you might see it on another website.

Centro Comercial Los Pueblos/ Los Pueblos 2000: they are next to each other, they seem like one, the first one is quite big, it may not for you, because you have to walk a lot.

Metromall: It is not very big, however, you will have several options in one place, it is in front of Los Pueblos, and by a pedestrian bridge, you can go from one side to the other. In addition, there is free transportation from the airport, round trip, ask the drivers that every time they go back (if you lose it, I recommend you return by Subway- you have to take the Subway until Corredor Sur Station, then take other metro to Aeropuerto Station), more information here.

Tour recommendations according to your Layover time in Panama

Some recommendations according to your layover time. These recommendations are taking into account that you hire private transportation.

5 hours Layover in Panama

Time is quite limited, but there are always some things that can be done.

  • You can go shopping at Metromall, and since it is close to the airport, it will only take you 40 minutes to go and come from the airport. The time in the place depends on how much you like shopping and if you like what you see, if you have time left, you can go to some of the restaurants.
  • You can also visit Panama Viejo, which is halfway to the center of Panama City.
  • If you manage to leave the airport before, you could go for a walk in Casco Antiguo, but with a watch in hand.

8 hours Layover in Panama

With 8 hours you can do more things, such as:

  • Tour the Casco Antiguo*, eat at El Mercado del Marisco * and visit the Panama Canal *,
  • Tour the Casco Antiguo * and Visit Panama Viejo,
  • Go to the Gamboa Aerial Tram * and visit the Panama Canal *,
  • Get to know Mi Pueblito, Ancón Hill and Casco Antiguo *,
  • Metropolitano Natural Park, eat at the Ciudad del Saber, the Panama Canal *,
  • Panama Viejo *, Shopping,
  • Casco Antiguo * and Shopping.

12 hours Layover in Panama

  • Gamboa Aerail tram *, The Panama Canal *, Casco Antiguo *,
  • Panama Canal *, Casco Antiguo *, El Mercado del Marisco *, Panama Viejo,
  • Mi Pueblito, Ancón Hill, Casco Antiguo * and Panama Viejo,
  • Metropolitano Natural Park, Casco Antiguo *, Mi Pueblito,
  • Casco Antiguo *, Panama Canal *, Shopping.

* Places with restaurants.

If your layover is at the afternoon and night, take into account that all tourist places and museums will be closed, many close at 4:00 p.m., malls close at 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m., you also have the option of walking along the Cinta Costera or the Causeway and tasting the rich gastronomy that exists in the country (Panama is a Creative Gastronomic City declared by UNESCO).

Plaza de Francia-  Layover in Panama

¿Where to eat in Panama City?

If what you are looking for is to taste Panamanian gastronomy you can go to

  • El Trapiche, in San Francisco, Albrook Mall or El Cangrejo,
  • La Tapa del Coco, in San Francisco,
  • Luba-Rooftop- in Casco Antiguo,
  • Fonda Lo que Hay- in Casco Antiguo.

Other options

  • Mi Ranchito, in Causeway,
  • El Mercado del Marisco, in Cinta Costera (near Casco Antiguo),
  • Casa Catedral, in Casco Antiguo,
  • Da Stefano Trattoria, in Bella Vista,
  • La Pulpería, in Casco Antiguo,
  • La Vespa, in Banking Area,
  • Siete Mares, in El Cangrejo.


  • Do web checking.
  • Make your plane reservation together, so that they make the connection of the suitcase themselves and do not have to wait for you to leave the plane and check it in again.
  • If you have a carry-on bag, you can leave it at the Airport with the Cooperativa de Maleteros del Aeropuerto de Tocumen (ground floor of the Airport), prices range from $5.00 to $10.00. Phone: (+507) 238-3143.
  • Check the places you want to visit, to verify any time change and that they are open that day.
  • Hire a private transport that takes you to all places.

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