Here at Los Cuatro Tulipanes, we have guests, friends, and business associates asking all the time, “tell me the truth, is Casco Viejo really safe?” It’s an understandable concern, really: seeing as though the neighborhood experienced nearly 40 years of neglect and some of that danger still lingers in its dark alleyways. The answer is overwhelmingly yes, as long as you practice the same kind of awareness you would in any urban environment.
The heart of Casco Viejo’s tourism district, an area we’ll call inside 9th street, is one of the safest places to live in Panama City. The police force is strong, the presidential guard presence is omnipresent, and the military soldiers (the guys in green fatigues) even wander Casco Viejo’s tourist zone streets, limiting the crime to the occasional gang confrontation and regular petty drug deals. That same cannot be said, however, about the areas outside Casco’s ‘tourism zone’ where the ghetto emerges and the police presence diminishes. This is the area where you’ll be focusing your efforts to get robbed in Casco Viejo.
How to get robbed in Casco Viejo in 3 Simple Steps
1. Begin by dressing like an unmistakable tourist. Tall socks, fanny packs, and dangling valuables such as purses, cameras, binoculars from your neck. Wear obvious tourist shirts like Hawaiian button-downs, obvious headwear like the souvenir Panama hat, and perhaps hold a map to show the public you have no idea where you are.
2. Be female and/or go for a walk on your own: Without being sexist, females are the targets of petty crime in Casco Viejo more than males. Further, females walking on their own fit the profile of the occasional robbery we hear about. If you plan on venturing outside of the ‘tourism zone,’ going alone can be a good way to get robbed as the maliante consider this more vulnerable.
3. Walk outside the tourism zone: This one is perhaps the easiest to avoid for tourists, yet it’s also one of the biggest our guests occasionally fail to adhere to. Walking too far outside of 9th street can be dangerous, particularly if you are following steps one and two above. On Plaza Herrera, a borderline plaza, there’s a small soccer court, behind which is a quaint little alleyway: arguably the best, closest place for you to get robbed in Casco Viejo.
And there you have it, how to get robbed in Casco Viejo in three easy steps. Having lived and worked in many of Panama’s “most desirable” neighborhoods, we can personally vouch for Casco Viejo tourism zone’s safety and security. The most dangerous areas are on the fringes where tourists should not wander, though as the neighborhood expands these streets are getting less perilous. It’s safe to say that if you want to get robbed in Casco Viejo, you can achieve it with no problem. If you don’t want to get robbed though, staying out of harms way is a cinch.