I had no idea Panama City was so large, so modern and so beautiful. At least from the air. It looked like we were flying into Manhattan, what with all the skyscrapers. And, best of all, we passed right over the Panama Canal so we got to see that too!
We spent a most decidedly boring two hours in the airport there. It is being totally remodeled and added onto and they have renamed it the Hub of the Americas and expect it to become a very important international airport for flights between Central and South America. Judging from the number of planes parked there and the number of people inside the terminal, I would say they are correct.
We passed through the boarding gate with no problems and were taken by bus again to our plane. Everybody safely onboard, off we went down the runway. Next stop….San Jose!
Since L was already in San Jose, he wanted to come out to the airport to meet us. It is half an hour by taxi from downtown so we could not see the need for him to undertake the time or expense. We knew the name of our hotel and told him we would just grab an airport taxi and meet him at the hotel. We worked our way through immigration and made it to the baggage claim area, which is just before customs. They have a very sophisticated bank system located there where the weary traveler can easily exchange money. The monetary system in CR is the colon (no laughing please!) and the plural is colones. A little trivia fact.
Their money is named after Christopher Columbus, whose name is Colon in Spanish. In my opinion, they do need to revamp their money, like Mexico did in the late 1990s. Everything is done in thousands and it gets very confusing. We both exchanged $100 there so that we would have some cash to pay the taxi, get something to eat later and all that good stuff. We got 56,000 colones! I thought I was going to get this big stack of money but that was not the case. They have 10,000 colon notes so it wasn’t cumbersome at all. That is equivalent to our $20 bill.
Luggage all collected, we made it through customs with no problems at all. They just waved us through. At this point, I was wishing that we had told L to meet us. We were tired and still had to figure out where everything was at the airport and I was not looking forward to it. L had also warned us to be sure to check that the meter in the taxi was working and that the driver turned it on when we got in. Otherwise we were not to take that taxi. I guess they cheat a lot of tourists who don’t know any better or what the correct fare to downtown should be.
Upon exiting customs, we rounded the corner to the exit and what did we see? There was L standing outside the terminal window, frantically waving to get our attention. I am here to tell you, he was a sight for sore eyes and we were greatly relieved to see that he did not listen to us after all and made the trip to collect us.
With our tour guide now safely in the lead, we made our way to the nearest taxi stand. L said a few things to him in Spanish and instructed us to load in our gear, we were going downtown! It was now going on 9 PM and totally dark so it was not possible to see much as we darted, dashed and sped our way downtown. I knew it was a big city because we had just flown over it and could see the lights for miles around. From my research, I also knew that it had a population of just over 900,000. Thus all the traffic and people about. We made it safely to the hotel, paid the driver and L showed us to our room. It was one of the nicer rooms and had three beds. No sharing tonight! Most of the time we end up with rooms that have one double and one single bed or two doubles. Triples are hard to find. Our bags were thrown onto the beds and we immediately headed out for our first Costa Rican meal.