My accommodation picks in the past were usually resorts, mid-range hotels and villas. Deciding to travel long-term means that it is necessary to conserve my dollars. One way of accomplishing this was to get brutal by slashing my accommodation budget. I moved from my normal choice of hotels at $160 USD to hostels at $15 USD per night. When your native currency is weaker than the U.S. dollar, the impact this has on resources is clear as a bell.
Switching to hostels in my thirties wasn’t easy, but by no means impossible. It did take some adapting and on this trip, I recognized things I took for granted.
My biggest shocker was realizing that bathrooms aren’t all made equal. I learnt the hard (and cold way) that hot water in the shower isn’t standard. Also, imagine reading signage that says toilet paper goes in the bin and not the toilet. The first time I read this I was so confused that I took to the internet and found this helpful resource. Believe it or not, much like Panama, there are many many countries in this category. Why? Usually, it’s either culture or their waste disposal systems cannot cope with it.
Here are my top hostel picks for the places to stay in Panama, all priced 22 USD and below (hot water included).
Hostel Siriri offers everything a budget traveller needs from a lodging. The staff is friendly and helpful. They are actually more like a family who cares about you rather than being a place to stay. I had many conversations with the staff there helping with my Spanish and they even gave me a Panama Hat.
Siriri has comfortable beds each equipped with privacy curtains. Bathrooms are clean and the toilet paper goes in the bowl (I had to mention it). The common area has a pool table, a small outdoor swimming pool and grilling equipment. It provides a good environment to socialize with other travellers.
It’s located a short walk away from the city’s Metro system, major supermarkets and Cinta Costera. Also, several shopping centres, restaurants, bars and casinos. Nightclubs like the Hard Rock, Red Lion and the famous Habanos are a mere 10-minute walk.
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Now, it was a fluke that I wound up at Taca Tucan. I booked another hostel for my visit to la Playa de Farallón but when I arrived in the area, I couldn’t find it. After a few minutes walking around with no luck, I went into Taca Tucan seeking help. The owner Trixie who speaks English helped to set me on my way with directions to the nearby hostel. She even called to advise of my arrival. But, there was a mix up with my reservation and the hostel was not open since they weren’t expecting anyone. Trixie came running down the street after me to inform of the situation and also offered a bed.
Taca Tucan is a small, cosy hostel in a tranquil village, Farallón, where you’ll get a good night’s sleep. What it lacks in space, it more than makes up for in character. Oh, in case you’re wondering, toilet paper goes in the bin here. It’s a short 100m walk to the black sand beach and is close to small cafes and a basic grocery. The main common area is the backyard and it’s where everyone dines. It is also equipped with a couple of hammocks to admire starry nights.
Trixie serves a delightful breakfast of eggs, toast and fresh fruit. As a mango lover, I was fortunate enough to have a fresh mango off her tree. On some nights guest come together for a group barbeque dinner.
As a side note, don’t leave your things unattended on La Playa de Farallón (the beach). I had my slippers and clothes stolen whilst I was taking a walk down the beach. Though, I lost nothing of value except the clothing itself; this was not a pleasant experience. I hope the new owner of my size 6 Adidas slippers gets good use out of them!
Situated on the beach this hostel has more of a resort vibe. It has by far exceeded my expectations for a hostel. Dorm rooms were spacious and there’s a bathroom ensuite (no bin here). It also has a restaurant (meals are 5-10 USD) and beach bar with happy hour specials. There are more dining options down the beach at neighbouring properties. The kitchen is large with an ocean and pool view. For a short stay, cooking here isn’t practical because the nearby grocery is more on the expensive side. Otherwise, purchasing produce isn’t convenient as it involves going to the town of Pedasi.
I spent 2 nights there and both nights had a party. In fact, one party started at 4 pm and was still going on at 8 am when I checked out. It’s another great place to meet travellers.
Playa Venao is famous for surfing and Selina offers surf lessons and board rentals. Tours such as hiking, seasonal whale watching and other activities are also available. Selina also accepts volunteers, to “stay and play”. It’s worth looking into depending on your availability and interests.
Playa Venao is currently under development so there’s some construction in the area. In the future, I expect there will be a few more hotels and accommodation options.
As always if you have any questions or comments, please let me know.