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QUICK TAKES

It's Carnival again

By Juan Carlos Martinez

carnival

It's that crazy fun time again in Panama. Carnival is here. Carnival is one of the most important holidays in Panama. Many people save all year for these festivities. Carnival this year starts on Friday, March 4th with the coronation of the Carnival queen. Carnival in some form or other is celebrated in Panama City as well as almost every other town in the Republic of Panama.

Government offices, banks and many non-essential services will be closed on Monday the 7th and Tuesday the 8th of March. On Wednesday 9th, some businesses will be open at 1:00 p.m., some may open normally, and some will not open at all. It generally varies on Wednesday so it's hit and miss as to what is open and when. Many government offices will not be open on Wednesday this year as they worked the last two Saturdays of February to pay for Monday March 7th and Wednesday the 9th as Tuesday 8th is a national holiday. Banks will open on Wednesday at noon.

It's best to plan to get everything done by Thursday March 3rd, if at all possible. Most people leave the city for the interior, be it the beaches, El Valle, or Las Tablas and Penonome. The best Carnival, if you are looking for a quaint party atmosphere with lots of booze, is in the interior: Las Tablas, Penonome, Chitre, Santiago, among others. For those who can forgo the party and just want to chill, the beaches are a great option and they are packed for this holiday. The Royal Decameron is full and Playa Blanca has a 90% occupancy for the entire dry season. In the interior hotels in Los Santos and Herrera are already full as people made reservations in November and December of last year. A four day package depending on the hotel may start at $350.00. In Los Santos there are approximately 8 hotels so the locals rent out their homes. In Herrera there are some 14 hotels and two hostels, all full. Even the Bambito Hotel in Chiriqui is full for Carnival as of several weeks ago.

Due to this massive exodus of people from Panama City starting on Friday March 4th up to Saturday evening, it's best to avoid both the bridge of the Americas and Centenario bridge as well as roads leading out of town unless strictly necessary.

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Copyright© 2011, Pan Am Publishing S.A., Republic of Panama