Casco Viejo is a happy enigma of sorts. Panama City’s unique ability to soak in the history, culture and flavours that this charming part of town is packed with invites the crème de la creme of everything essential for a stop on an overnight layover. This short-stay survival manual is organized to give you a comfortable, fruitful way to get by during your brief vacation in the country.

How to Whirlwind Through Tocumen International Airport on Arrival at 5:13 PM

Touching into Tocumen International Airport (PTY) at 5:13 PM, you have initiated a race against time to experience the essence of Panama City and its ancient quarter, Casco Viejo. Generally, it is a lengthy procedure—usually up to one hour, judging by some travellers who had moved beyond the inspection queues for tourists and luggage. The duration may as well be longer depending on the time of day or the time of year, so patience and a good book might be your best friends. Moreover, with the next day at 10 AM in mind for your departure and the standard practice of arriving at least three hours earlier, particularly for U.S.-bound passengers, it is advised that an itinerary be crafted much in advance. Although you are not checking luggage, an ideal arrival time would be 2 to 2.5 hours ahead of your flight, with a margin considered for any impromptu delays.

Where to Stay: The Quandary Between Convenience and Experience

Your choice of how to spend your night is a significant part of the layover game. Spending a night at a hotel near the airport can be pretty tempting to alleviate worries, such as the distance from the hotel to the morning commute. However, with its thriving dining scene and historic charm, a night in the Casco Viejo section is tempting. Staying in Casco Viejo involves all the reasons a person might be captured with great interest. Here, one can enjoy spending an evening at a leisurely dinner, taking a walk among the cobblestone streets, and getting the concept of the rich history and culture in Panama City. Security is a rather pertinent issue, especially when travelling with family. The Panamanian Uber in the City is relatively safe, reliable, cheap and more popular among travellers to and from Casco Viejo. However, the person hired for driving would give a much more individualized and secure service to those who fear further. This is useful, especially for first-time explorers or people moving around the town with kids.

What to Enjoy: Food Lovers’ Delights in Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo is much more than one sees at a cursory glance—it’s a food lovers’ paradise, filling every sense with delight. Many fancy restaurants, such as the famous Fonda Lo Que Hay, urged Mahalo meals and great sushi from La Barbara; all were too diverse and delicious. Seasoned travellers and locals recommend La Pulperia or Kaandela for solid traditional flavours and rooftop views, while others rave about LAZOTEA, which has better food and views from the top. Casa Casco is an attractive choice for families, especially those with small or conservative eaters. A lively ambience with a mix of foods perfect for all kinds of palates – from cheesy pizzas and burgers to rooftop dining. Although some will argue about the food quality at Casa Casco, none will dispute this restaurant’s striking setting and the city’s panoramic view. Some of the finest restaurants are within walking distance of the places to stay in Casco Viejo, such as the delightful Casa Magnolia, so one doesn’t have to go very far to get the best dining experience. Plus, the added convenience of booking a $35 ride back to the airport with many hotels takes that extra stress out of your Panamanian stopover and allows for a seamless conclusion.

When to Depart for Your Return to Tocumen International Airport

When leaving Casco Viejo to return to Tocumen International Airport, timing is of the essence so that your travels go off without a hitch. Traffic conditions change a lot on the day of the week, so factor this in. For a 40-minute ride on weekdays, though, weekend rides can be as short as half an hour. Depending on your flight, it is generally advisable to depart early from Casco Viejo, between 6:00 and 6:15 AM, to avoid the morning rush traffic and for some additional time for all the pre-flight issues.

In essence, spending a night in Panama City, especially in historic Casco Viejo, is an invaluable experience of soaking in the living soul of the beautiful metropolitan city. You can ensure that your layover is memorable by arranging your airport transitions carefully, choosing the right hotel, tasting local culinary delights at all reasonable times, and returning to the airport at the right time.


How long does immigration take at Tocumen Airport?

An hour approximately—one-hour roundabout is what immigration takes at Tocumen Airport. This includes a queue of tourists and another line – customs control. Remember that time can vary depending on the time of day and the volume of passengers.

When should we get to the airport if we need to check baggage? When should we arrive at the airport if we need to check baggage?

Even though you are not obliged to check your baggage, two and a half hours usually suffice because this is when you are supposed to come up for a flight. For U.S.-bound flights, this extra security screening shall be effected at your gate. Hence, you will need some minutes of leeway.

Where is the best place to stay with a layover and have dinner in Casco Viejo?

If you stay in Casco Viejo, you will be more able to sink into it enough that there are possibilities for dinner, wandering and not having to transit back and forth from the airport. This is highly possible if you will have an overnight layover, as you can just get an Uber or recommended driver to have you back at the airport first thing in the morning.

What is the safest way of travelling from Tocumen Airport to Casco Viejo?

Another very safe, cheap and quick way to travel to another place within Panama City and get from one place in Panama to another for example from Tocumen Airport to Casco Viejo, is by using Uber. Alternatively, a contracted driver offers a more individual, and it may be almost safe service to clients, mostly when families have children along on vacation.

How long does the drive from the airport take until Casco Viejo?

An average driving time from Tocumen Airport takes 30 minutes; however, traffic jams can really stretch in natural length at some hours of the day. During rush hours or weekdays, plan for a bit more time to navigate through traffic.

Maximizing Your Layover: Dinner and Exploration in Casco Viejo
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