5 Reasons Panama is a Shopper's Paradise31st March 2015
Whether you're an avid bargain-hunter or just in the market for specific items or gifts, Panama is one shopper’s paradise that’s hard to beat. This tiny country is a shopping Mecca for visitors from throughout the Americas and Caribbean. And for the more adventurous at heart, Panama’s smaller stores and stalls offer up everything from hand-made crafts to rare and exquisite orchids.
How does Panama do it? There are some truly unique factors that have come together to make Panama popular among shoppers:
1. Only the best will do:
Nowadays, many countries boast attractive malls…but it can be hard to find both value and variety. Panama’s malls strive to be the best in the region, however, and they feature a massive variety of Latin-American and international brands. Visitors from foreign countries are often amazed at the selection. (Even a visit to a local supermarket shows that Panamanians are spoiled for choice!).
Here, you’re not limited to items made in one or two specific countries. You’ll find everything from Hermes and Coach to Under Armour and Armani at malls in and around Panama City, including Multiplaza, Albrook, Multicentro, Metromall, and Westland Mall. Bath salts from the Dead Sea region…Russian caviar…Italian leather shoes...you’ll find it all here in Panama.
2. Panama aims to please—and pamper:
Can you imagine getting a massage worthy of a five-star hotel…at the mall? Or having a world-class meal after the day’s shopping is done? Panama’s new malls are modern and attractive, so shoppers often choose to spend the day. At the posh Multiplaza mall in Panama City’s Punta Pacifica sector, you can get a relaxing massage (and visit the steam room and sauna while you’re at it), spring for a mani-pedi, and then take your pick from Japanese, Chinese, Lebanese, Peruvian and many more cuisines.
Sure, there’s a food court featuring favorites like French fries and other fast food. But if you’re craving something spectacular, try hidden gems like The Upper Crust, where local chefs—and their cuisine—shine. In the evenings, nightspots like Isabella attract well-heeled locals and visitors with live music and signature cocktails...so don’t forget your dancing shoes!
3. Everybody loves a bargain:
Though Panama boasts many luxury shopping opportunities, this country is also proud to offer some of the best bargains imaginable. Panamanians love to dress up, and here people can afford to follow the latest trends. At most every mall, you’ll find department stores where you can buy ten items or more for $100. It’s not uncommon to find jeans for as little as $7.99 and men’s dress shirts for just a couple dollars more. Though Albrook Mall has added a new luxury wing, it was conceived as a bargain shopping destination, so many of the stores continue to sell brand-new merchandise at rock-bottom prices.
4. A vibrant indigenous culture:
Panama is unique in the region in that its many protected areas have helped preserve indigenous culture. Major tribes like the Guna, Ngäbe-Buglé, and Emberá–Wounaan have their own autonomous governments and carry on rich traditions that include some of the region’s most sought-after handicrafts. Even if you’re not a big shopper, you won't be able to resist hand-woven baskets with intricate designs and the bright, colorful Guna textiles known as molas. They’re coveted items that sell for a pretty penny online and abroad. But if you buy here in Panama, direct from the makers, you can save up to 50%—and as an added bonus, the funds go directly to the tribespeople.
You’ll find excellent items for sale sans middlemen at the renowned open-air market in the mountain town of El Valle. And Panama City has great options, too—especially in the historic Casco Viejo and Panama La Vieja districts.
5. We heart art:
Panama has a new and exciting art scene, and it is growing fast. Unique pieces range from inexpensive souvenirs to one-of-a-kind jewelry designs to paintings that can cost thousands of dollars. Galleries have proliferated in recent years—and if you enjoy learning about Latin culture, you’ll really enjoy seeing art created in the region.
But remember, you don’t have to spend big bucks to own original art from Panama. Small shops in Casco Viejo sell handbags and accessories (some made from recycled materials) that make for fantastic gifts. A local company called Reprosa makes jewelry and figurines with designs and methods from the pre-Colombian era. You can visit the factory in Panama City, but you’ll find many hotel and museum gift shops carry Reprosa items. Boutiques like Diablo Rosso carry a variety of art—both wearable and not.
No matter what you’re looking for, it’s likely you’ll return from Panama with truly special souvenirs and gifts. You can shop in comfort at immaculate air conditioned malls or dabble in haggling at handicraft stalls. Even the airport is getting in on the game, with everything from an uber-fancy Rolex shop to cheap electronics stands. If you’re leaving the country on an international flight, you can buy Panama’s premier Abuelo rum duty-free, get a couple extra packets of award-winning Panamanian coffee, or load up on traditional duty-free items like perfumes and colognes. If you’re just arriving, you can pick up a cell phone or SIM card to make your visit to Panama even more convenient.
Whatever it is you’re looking for…whatever you need…you’re likely to find it here, in Panama!
P.S: By the way, did you know that Panama is home to the second largest duty-free zone
in the world? Alas, Panama Customs requires that all purchases be wholesale and destined for export, so unless you're a retail business owner, this isn't the shopping venue for you!
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