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Shopping in Panama


Panama is considered a duty-free country and many people will come in order to save money on designer items and luxury goods, although the prices in the towns are higher than the shops that can be found at the airport. Locally produced goods that are popular with shoppers include jewellery made by Panamanian Indians, leather goods, handicrafts and pottery. There are several handicraft markets which are popular with locals and tourists.

Although the “Panama Hat” originates in Ecuador, there are still plenty for sale in Panama, as this became a major exporting area for the products. These hand-crafted woven straw hats take between two and four months to make, and although traditionally worn in Ecuador they became known simply as ‘Panama Hats’ after foreigners started buying them from the ports around the Panama Canal. The trade has continued, and today you can still purchase a genuine and high-quality hat from vendors in Panama, without having to make the voyage south to Ecuador. You can go to Mercado Nacional de Artesanías (National Artesian Market) in Panama Viejo to find these products.

Most shops in the country are open from 9 am to 8 pm from Monday to Friday. In the larger cities, there are some supermarkets which are open 24 hours a day.

Panama City

Panama City has more shopping options than you can shake a credit card at. Because of the country's role as an international port, manufactured goods from all over the world are cheaper in Panama than in most countries. Merchants from South and Central America regularly travel here to shop, but Americans will find that the US megastores often beat the local prices for cameras and other electronic goods. Busy Via Veneto in El Cangrejo, and the Casco Viejo have souvenir shops. The city also has several modern malls, where the selection ranges from the cheap to chic.

There is the Kuna Cooperative (Avenida Arnulfo Arias Madrid) which has traditional Panamanian items such as molas (panels which can be sewn on to blouses, bags, or pillowcases, for example), Tagua nuts (tiny carved figurines), or traditionally woven baskets or carved wooden masks. There is a handicraft boutique called Breebaart (Calle 50 and Calle 39) which has designer items based on traditional Kuna art.

The main shopping drag in Panama City is called the Via Espana, where you will find a range of products, for a variety of prices. There are also many modern shopping malls in the city, although prices here will be similar to those found in America. The main malls are Mulitplaze Pacific, Multicentro and Allbrook Mall. All contain a good range of stores for purchasing anything you may have forgotten at home; Allbrook has some low-cost outlet stores for any fashion purchases. It also contains a cinema which shows films in English, for those days where you want to escape the heat in an air conditioned environment.

Panama City has promoted itself as a “shop ‘til you drop” destination, because of its proximity to a free-trade zone due to the presence of the Panama Canal. There are many new shopping malls in the city offering a variety of products, which often can be bought cheaper than at home, because of the low taxes. Flamenco Shopping Plaza (Amador Causeway) has duty-free shops.





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