After spending a night in Casco Viejo, Panama City’s attractive, atmospheric but not particularly salubrious old town, I was more than ready to move to a hotel in a safer and quieter location.
Baru Lodge is a small bed and breakfast in the El Carmen neighbourhood.
Located on a pleasant, mostly residential street it’s only a short taxi or bus ride away from the action.
The taxi driver had a bit of trouble finding the hotel, which I quickly learned wasn’t a one-off – every time I took a cab the driver had to call reception to get directions, which was a little frustrating. To be fair, though, the taxi drivers in Panama City aren’t exactly well known for their intricate knowledge of every neighbourhood!
Recently renovated, the room was tastefully furnished, with TV and air-con. It also smelled great thanks to a scented candle in the bathroom, which was a nice touch.
Outside on the ground floor was a beautifully shady garden, which is the perfect place to relax and escape the heat of Panama City.
Beside the garden is the breakfast room, where a simple continental breakfast is served each morning, including yoghurt, cereal, toast and fruit.
It’s always a bonus when breakfast is included, but I was a little miffed when the water for my tea was heated in the microwave rather than boiled, which is not a particularly safe practice nor does it necessarily heat the water to boiling point.
For long term travellers in Latin America, Panama City is often a chance to eat some familiar food, refresh the wardrobe with clothes from familiar chains like Zara and maybe visit the cinema – all of which I did during my time in town!
Baru Lodge is in the perfect location for people who want to do this – Multiplaza Mall, home to a huge cinema, supermarket and all the stores you’ll find at home, is only a 15 minute walk away, or a $2 taxi ride.
The hotel is also right around the corner from Exedra Books which has a fabulous collection of English language novels and Lonely Planet guides – and it can be hard to find something decent to read in English in Latin America!
On the day I hit the tourist circuit rather than the mall, Baru Lodge’s owner was incredibly helpful and a wealth of information. He pointed out key sights on a map, suggesting an itinerary including the best places to eat and writing down the buses I needed to take to get out to the Panama Canal at Miraflores Locks.
With rates starting from $60, Baru Lodge is not the cheapest place to stay in Panama City (but nor is it expensive) – head to the hostels of Casco Viejo for that – but it’s definitely worth paying a bit extra for the security of a safer neighbourhood. And I loved being so close to the mall. But I mentioned that already!
Baru Lodge is a clean, comfortable and friendly place to stay in the heart of Panama City – what else could you ask for?
Disclaimer: Baru Lodge kindly sponsored my stay at their property. All views remain my own.