Uusally when I travel, I like to blend in with my surroundings. Sure, there are the trips I visit the famous landmarks and eat at the famous restaurants, during which I don’t mind being recognized as a tourist because, in truth, that’s what I am. But most of the time, I like to look as non-tourist as possible. The anti-tourist you could call me. Besides than the deeper cultural connection that seems to result from assimilating with society, I get ripped off less this way.
If you are coming to visit us here at Los Cuatro Tulipanes in Casco Viejo, I have compiled a list of things you can do (or in some cases, things to avoid) in order to blend in best.
1. Talk on a cell phone: Traditional travelers don’t use their cell phones while on vacation. If you have access to a Panama cell phone, use it while walking around Casco Viejo. If you don’t have one, just fake talk on yours from home. You’ll never be mistaken for a tourist again.
2. Carry keys or an extra pair of shoes: I guess this has a way of telling people you live there or something. It’s a form of innocence by disassociation. By carrying keys, you couldn’t possibly be a tourist because tourists don’t need keys on vacation.
3. Don’t wear a Panama hat: If you decide to buy one, just put it in the suitcase until you get home. It goes in the same category as fanny pack and that new style of passport holder that goes around your neck as obvious out-of-towner accents.
4. Eat at Mama Chefas: This is a restaurant nook some locals don’t even know about. It’s located on 4th street about half a block from the Presidential Palace. Mama Chefa is an older woman who serves amazing home cooked Panamanian lunches for $2.50. Get there at 11:30 to beat the crowd of government officials.
5. Have a beer on a plaza bench: This is technically illegal (drinking in public without the service of a liquor licensed establishment) but as a tourist, you can get away with it. It’s the best of both worlds because locals know enough not to do it.