Panama Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in Panama

Panama is a duty-free haven and luxury goods from all over the world can be bought at a saving of at least one-third. Megamalls in Panama City are chock-full of modern and branded goods, along with giant food courts to sustain you on your shopping mission. The Multiplaza and Multicentro Malls in Panama City centre are popular choices, as is the Albrook Mall, a short taxi ride out of the city and adjoining the main bus terminal.

If you’re after something traditional for souvenirs, local items include leatherware, beaded necklaces made by Guaymí Indians, native costumes, jewels and precious stones, straw products, electrical equipment, handicrafts of carved wood, ceramics, papier mâché artefacts, macramé and mahogany bowls. The best places for items such as these are markets: check the Balboa market or the market at Panama Viejo for such things.

Specific Panamanian handicrafts are molas: fabric panels made with intricate, colourful patters, with can be applied to clothing or bags, or framed as art. You will also come across tightly woven baskets made by the Embera indigenous people. It is possible to buy huacas, which are high-quality replicas of burial jewellery or figurines found in pre-Conquest Indian tombs. Go carefully with these – removing genuine artefacts from the country is illegal.

Shopping hours

Mon-Sat 0900-1800. Some supermarkets are open 24-hours.

Nightlife in Panama

Panama City, in particular, has a wide range of nightlife, from nightclubs to classical theatre. Dancing and entertainment are available in all the big hotels, as well as many clubs. Other large towns and resorts have music, dancing, casinos and cinemas. Further details can be found in local papers.

Casinos in Panama City can be found in the major hotels, such as the Sheraton and the Marriot, and also in some large malls such as the Multicentro. For something more music-based, the Casco Viejo in Panama City has a good variety of places with musical-themed nights, such as Scena Platea’s jazz shows and salsa nights, or the Cuban music at Habana Panama and Vieja Havana.

Cultural shows are also available to see, complete with music, dancing and a dinner for the spectators, in various cities throughout the country, including Panama City and David. These shows incorporate outfits from local indigenous peoples, such as pollera clothing which includes lots of body and head jewellery, and handmade hats. The music is played on accordions, drums and other local instruments. Such shows are blatant tourist attractions, but a good way to get an idea of the broad range of cultures making up the current demographic and history of Panama.

Western-style bars are available throughout Panama City, much more in evidence than in most other countries in Central America, another testament to the Western influence here. You’ll find a few typical “Irish” and “English” pubs knocking around, too.

Travelling to the Caribbean Coast, in traveller-friendly areas such as the Bocas del Toro, nightlife is specifically designed to cater for tourists, with rum and coke on plentiful offer and a plethora of young backpackers taking full advantage. Water-front bars are popular and the best place to try a cocktail laced with Seco Herrerano - the national spirit. Smaller towns in Panama have a more subdued nightlife scene, with local bars and a few beers.

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