The Push Button

I’ve heard that there are Push Buttons all over Latin America, and I have seen many in Panama. A push button is a hotel that you can rent by the hour. From the outside they look like something fancy and romantic, and it’s clear that they are meant for couples. Many Panamanians live with extended family so there are a lot of people in one house. Adult children often live with parents.  Privacy must be hard to come by so I can see why a get-a-way place would be nice.

So in the interest of blog research, of course, we decided to investigate. There are a couple places on the west side of town, one with signs advertising $10 options.

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Privacy is a priority. There are walls in front so when someone drives inside, they cannot be seen from the road. Once they are in a garage, they are totally out of sight. I believe the one we visited was typical of how things work. When we got behind the wall, we saw a line of garage doors. Some of the doors were open and through them we could see signs with the basic prices of the room ($10, $12, or $25. We chose a $12 room).

When you are in the garage, there is a button on the wall that you push to close the garage door behind you (this is where the name Push Button comes from).  There is a slot in the door and you are supposed to put your money in there. The staff is alerted by the garage door button so they come pick up your money and then unlock the inner door. Then, you can enter without ever being seen by them.

I was surprised by the room – large, pleasant, very clean, and comfortable. I expected something a lot more basic. What would you get in the US for $12? They provided clean towels wrapped in plastic (along with a bar of soap, a couple hard candies, and a condom!). There was air conditioning, almost worth a visit itself on a hot afternoon. There were menus on the wall for food and drinks – a very good selection at reasonable prices, everything from light snacks to full meals. If you order something it is put in the box at the back door, and you then slide your side open and pick up your order.  We didn’t get anything to eat so I can’t comment on the quality of the food. But, you definitely could stay for as long as you wish with all your basic needs provided for.

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When you want to leave you call on the phone and tell them you are ready, and go get in your car. They check the room to be sure you haven’t run off with anything, and then open the garage door so you can drive off. So, from arrival to departure you can spend the entire time there without ever seeing another person or being seen by anyone.

We were seen though because I didn’t understand the slot in the door thing when we arrived, and the staff gal had to open the door and ask for the money. But, she was really nice and polite. I’m sure she had a story to tell her coworkers about a couple old, confused gringos! I’m glad we went though. I have seen these places for ages and was very curious. This one was a lot nicer than I ever expected, and didn’t feel the least bit sleazy or funky. Maybe we’ll have to go check out some of the others. I’ve heard stories about themes for decor, hot tubs, and who knows what other fun stuff.

I asked my friends about the push buttons, and was told they are also called push buttons or just push in Spanish. They were surprised and she giggled when I told them of our plans, and both said they have never been to such a place. They live with a son, a daughter and son in law, two grandsons, her mother during the week, and his mother on some weekends. If it were me I’d go just for the peace and quiet! But, I also didn’t get the impression that they thought these places were bad, just something they themselves didn’t use.

Our friend Ryan did a video of his visit to a couple places, and the first one he talks about is the same one we visited.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WarEbQLephw  He just went behind the walls though, not into any of the rooms, and he is a bit more judgmental of the concept but it’s still interesting. Of course human nature is what it is, and some people will have more interest than others in not being seen together. But, from what I have read, the most common danger is people leaving their car on in the garage and becoming overcome by the carbon monoxide. Like anything in life, a good dose of common sense is in order.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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30 Responses to The Push Button

  1. Wow! I’ve heard of these places but your pictures and descriptions are not what I expected. This was a real education. Great review! 😀

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  2. i had to laugh! good for both of you for exploring this! bravo!

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  3. I heard about them too . Good discovery 🙂

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  4. allig565 says:

    On our last trip to Panama, we ventured down the road to the push button hotel. We didn’t check in but saw some pretty pastel garage doors 🙂 Our friends, Clyde and Terry, were also “curious” and posted about their stay at one just as you did. Guess this will be an experience I, too, will have to be curious about lol just for blog posting and educating purposes! Thanks for the wonderful pictures–the bathroom looks fantastic!

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  5. oldsalt1942 says:

    I’ve wondered what they look like inside, too. On my ride in from Boqueron to David there are FOUR pushes. From Boqueron to Bugaba there are two, and on the road from David to the Boquete “Y” there are two that I can remember from my bus rides down from Potrerillos Arriba.

    I’ve thought that if I was writing a mystery thriller located here in Panama and I had someone in an auto chase I’d have the person trying to escape duck into a push to escape.

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    • Kris says:

      I read somewhere that this actually happened, that a couple criminals holed up in a push button to stay out of sight.

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  6. indacampo says:

    I think we may have to go looking for one just to use the bathtub. LOL! We have seen many on the TransAmerica but there don’t seem to be too many that are obvious around here. 🙂 Thank you for the “research”! 🙂

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    • Kris says:

      I know! I haven’t seen a bathtub anywhere in Panama before this one. And, lounging in a bathtub is certainly a nice idea for a little getaway so why not.

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  7. AnneliseD says:

    I’ve heard of these in the Dominican Republic called Cabanas, or hook up rooms. 🙂 it’s a fascinating concept! Thanks for the pics too.

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    • Kris says:

      They are everywhere here! You could start one in Florida 😀 I’m sure people couldn’t accept that level of privacy and anonymity though, or make it so easy for people to steal away together. The culture is a bit more relaxed here.

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  8. Jeff Burnham says:

    Hi Joel & Kris:
    A great story! I think the sign for $12 for 2 hours reveals their main purpose. LOL…. Unfortunately, infidelity is even more common in this culture then in the USA.

    On the humerous side….I talked to a guy that drove to Panama from the USA. He stayed at Push Button’s throughout Central America to secure his vehicle at night. He shared that the biggest problem was conveying his intentions to stay overnight and get a price for that length of time. Thanks, Jeff

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    • Kris says:

      I can see how that would work. Ryan (video link above) said the same thing. He and his friend were on motorcycles and were glad to have them in the garage for the night. I wonder how the overnight price compares to a hotel.

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  9. Don Ray says:

    They are known as very client oriented businesses. In fact their motto is that he customer always comes first. 😉 sorry, I couldn’t resist.

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  10. donraycc says:

    I hear that they are very client oriented. In fact I understand their motto is that the customer always comes first.

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  11. Awesome! I hope you enjoyed your stay! I always wondered what they looked like inside. 🙂

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  12. Emma says:

    seriously, thank you! i saw that motorcycle video a while back but still wanted to know what they looked like INSIDE. the ones in the city i know of are all way too close to where i work (a school!), making it a bit dicey for my recognizable car to turn into one. maybe someday on a trip to the interior i’ll stop at one… haha. and ditto about going just to use the bathtub… when my parents were visiting and stayed at the crown plaza i totally went over just to use their bathtub for a while!

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    • Kris says:

      I don’t know how they all are, but this one was surprisingly comfortable. I know people who use push buttons as hotels because of the garages so they can protect their car. There’s an excuse for you 😀
      I’m interested in your blog and your life too. I can’t figure out how to get posts emailed to me though and then I forget to go check for updates.

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      • Emma says:

        haha, sounds like a good excuse! maybe when i finally get out to chiriqui/boquete next year…. as for following posts, i use a reader (switching to feedly since google reader is going goodbye at the end of May!) to follow blogs. it pulls all the new posts to one website. pretty handy! and you haven’t missed much lately – the musical kept me pretty busy! i’ve got a list of posts and random pictures on my phone i keep meaning to blog about….. some day 🙂

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        • Kris says:

          I know what you mean about pics and ideas that don’t always get posted. (and I don’t even work). I have feedly, but I’m just in the habit of email so maybe I need to get some new habits. Good luck with the musical! Maybe afterward you’ll have some breathing time and then you can tell us how it went 🙂

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          • Emma says:

            absolutely. hopefully sunday i can do some more posting. saturday is reserved for the new star trek movie! haha.

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            • Kris says:

              New Star Trek movie?? I looked and it’s also showing in David. Maybe it will be there when we get back. Thank goodness for fellow bloggers or I’d never know what’s going on 😀

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  13. Dan says:

    Hey Kris & Joel,
    Mi esposa and I stayed at a push in Matehuala on three different occasions. It broke up the trip from Ft Worth to Ajijic nicely. Even though there were motels & hotels in town, this was on the outskirts and they didn’t say anything about the dog. I asked “quanto cuesta por todo la noche” and as I recall it was $40 to $50, cash of course, until 0800. Clean and very acceptable but the hot water was problematic. One channel of news on the tv and 2 channels of hard porn. This was in 2007, probably more now. We would stay again if we needed a place to sleep. Please shoot me an email at viejodan@gmail.com. I have a lot of questions to ask. We enjoy your blog.

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    • Kris says:

      I’ve heard quite a few people say they have stayed in pushbuttons instead of hotels. The closed and secure garage is a nice thing if you’re concerned about your vehicle or motorcycle.

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