Here at Los Cuatro Tulipanes, we do not consider it our responsibility – or heck, even our right – to attempt to sell people on Casco Viejo. There are people who are attracted to it as a travel/investment destination and there are people who are not. This list is intended to avoid major disappointment in that latter group, and to clarify — or perhaps commend — those guests of ours who actually do get the most out of their visit. Some reasons that, before visiting, you should consider:
1. Lack of English: From its museums to restaurants to locals on the street, Casco Viejo – not unlike Panama as a whole – does not stress English. If you’re a traveler or investor who only feels comfortable in surroundings where English is spoken primarily, and who fears surpassing language barriers, Casco Viejo may not be for you. Alternate option: London.
2. Lack of brand names: If you are someone who enjoys traveling abroad but likes to consume mainly brand names which you’ve become accustomed with at home, Casco Viejo may not be for you. There are very few international chains in Casco Viejo, the majority of its businesses either boutique or mom-and-pop style establishments. Alternate option: Cancun.
3. Little direction/guidance: If, when traveling or investing, you are someone who looks primarily to tour groups, tour guides, and organized events for activities, Casco Viejo may not be for you. Because its tourism industry is so nascent, Casco Viejo has only a small handful of tour opportunities, most of which are unreliable and/or not in English. There do exist regimented escorted tours but these generally are based with tourism companies outside of Casco Viejo Unless you are comfortable with exploring on your own, asking locals for suggestions, and making your own sleeping/dining arrangements, Casco Viejo may not be for you. Alternate option: Costa Rica.
4. Few events staged for tourists: Whereas downtown Panama offers a number of tourist-designed Panamanian dining and leisure activities, Casco Viejo has very few organized events period, not to mention even fewer meant specifically for tourists. If you’re idea of the perfect Panama vacation is to eat large platters of “native food” and see “traditional dance” in a comfortable and controlled environment, Casco Viejo may not be for you. Alternate option: Mexico.
5. Potential risk factors: Because it is still an emerging neighborhood with issues, Casco Viejo and its residents do deal with things like uneven cobblestone roads, poor handicapped access, and some less savory surrounding neighborhoods. If even the slightest hint of this sort of risk worries you or your family, Casco Viejo may not be right for you. Alternate option: Denmark.
6. Strays: If stray dogs, stray cats, or stray individuals searching through garbage cans make you uneasy, Casco Viejo may not be for you. Alternate option: Multi-Plaza Mall.
7. Minor inconveniences: Are you the type of regimented traveler or investor who is put off by minor infrastructure inconveniences such as parking difficulties, uneven sidewalks, potholes, lack of light on side streets, dirt/grime…etc. Casco Viejo may not be for you. Alternate option: Costa del Este.
This is all to say that, those with strict and dependable requirements for travel (be it on vacation or for investment) are oftentimes put off by Casco Viejo, and rightly so. We often find that guests at Los Cuatro Tulipanes who need large-hotel-amenities like room service, pool, buffets…etc are better suited to stay downtown at a Marriott-like hotel. This alternative is often best for both the guest and for us. There is often too the flip side: guests at the Marriott-like hotel that visits Casco Viejo and embraces its pulse, who then cancel their downtown reservation in favor of a night with us!!!