A Safe, Cosmopolitan City That’s Perfect for Singles

What’s it like living alone in Panama City? It’s a question I get a lot, and I can never seem to give a short answer. That’s because there are quite a few factors that make this a great place for any single.

Take, for example, the last time I went out with one of my single Panamanian friends.

We enjoyed delicious Asian cuisine…live jazz (no cover fee)…and fun, funky decor. I was thinking “it doesn’t get much better than this” when it did. Our bill arrived, and it was just $60. That was for three appetizers, two mojitos, and a bottle of wine at a little dive called Aki. A similar place in New York or San Francisco would charge $9 to $11 for a single glass of wine.

To get there, I hopped on the metro—just 35 cents—then took a short stroll along the Bay of Panama. At the end of the night, I took an Uber home for $6. (My rides are often under $4, but longer distances or “surge pricing” when demand is high can add a couple bucks to the fare.)

Aki is located in Panama City’s colonial Casco Viejo district, one of the best places in the world for a nice evening out. With softly-lit plazas, narrow brick lanes, and romantic architecture, it’s fun to just wander around.

A typical street in colonial Casco Viejo, Panama City.

That said, you’ll find everything from casual eateries known as fondas to gourmet restaurants and trendy bars. There are art galleries, boutiques and souvenir shops, venues for live music, comedy, and dancing, and the list goes on. I’ve roamed these streets at all hours…bar-hopping with friends or walking back to my car alone…and I’ve never felt unsafe.

That about sums up my life as a single woman living in Panama City—safe, convenient, and cosmopolitan.

In 2005, I quit my job in the cruise industry. I’d spent five years touring beautiful locations in the Caribbean and Latin America. A lot of them were great for couples, but a little too quiet or remote for me.

As a single, I had a specific list of requirements. I wanted to live somewhere inexpensive, with a mild climate, on or near the water. I also wanted a lively social and cultural scene, so there’d be lots of activities to choose from and I’d have an easy time making friends.

Panama City delivered, and then some. It’s very international, close to pristine beaches and islands, and the people are welcoming. I have a friend who’s happy to watch my pets when I travel. Another brings me whatever I need when I’m down with the flu. (A few years ago it was a hideous case of adult chicken pox…thank goodness for good friends!) Living here, I have a “support group” that I can call on for anything.

So if you’re single and considering a fresh new start overseas, I say bravo. Go for it.

My first piece of advice is always the same: don’t pick a place just because it’s inexpensive…or even because it’s warm and pretty. That might be enough for a self-sufficient couple, but the happiest singles I know recognized that they would need a little more.

Look for a place with expats, because they’ll help you settle in when you’re new. Make sure there are opportunities to socialize—check local bulletin boards and visit the local hangouts. And find out whether you can drive/use public transportation, go out at night, and even travel around the country on your own, without fearing for your safety.

Though no country on earth is perfect or completely devoid of crime, I found a place where I am free. Free to roam and explore…and free to live my life as I see fit. That’s what being a happy single is all about.

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