Whether you’re packing your bags for an adventure in Panama, or simply wanting to get a feel and understanding for the country, we have you covered on all things Panama 101! It is important to have a general idea of what to expect and the essentials to bring along, as it can help make your trip that much better. Below we’ve put together a comprehensive list for the most frequently asked questions regarding your Panamanian vacation destination. From your travel documents to help you pack your bags, to adventures and activities, we’ve got you covered!
Packing for Your Trip
If you’re wondering what to bring along, these FAQs should help you get on track. The items depend on the activities and the adventures you are going to have in Panama.
What Types of Things Should I Bring to Panama?
Regarding clothes, Panama is situated around the equator, so you can anticipate a hot and humid climate, especially in the lowlands. It is best to pack comfortable light clothes, and if possible, breathable and moisture absorbing clothing. Another type of clothing that will work is thin cotton or athletic gear. The highlands of Panama on the other hand, especially the mountainous areas, can be a bit chilly. For areas like Boquete, a thin jacket or sweater will be suitable. As we spoke about in our Guna Yala Island guide, you will also want to bring along a rain jacket.
What Should I Bring if I Am Planning on Hiking?
If you are planning on hiking or any outdoor activities, the essentials are hiking shoes, a few pairs of socks, and shorts. For sun protection, items such as a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen will be a great idea. A long-sleeved shirt and a flashlight will come in handy for the evening time.
If you are bringing along a camera or a phone, it is a good idea to also bring along a waterproof dry bag or a protective case. It is better to air on the side of caution!
What Should I Bring if I Am Planning on Going to the Beach?
If you are planning on visiting the beach or taking an island hopping tour, the essentials include a beach towel, sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, and for the uninhabited islands with no electricity, a flashlight will be a great idea. Also, an absolute must include ample mosquito spray.
I Forgot My Camera, Can I Purchase a High-Quality One in Panama?
Yes. High-quality cameras are available for purchase. Major cities such as Panama City, San Miguelito, and David, have large shopping centers with up-to-date modern products.
Do I Need an Adapter for My Electronics in Panama?
In most places, Panama’s voltage is the same as the US and EU, 110 volts, and the sockets are two-pronged. So, if you are not from the US, yes you need a socket adaptor.
Vacationing in Panama
Is Panama a Family-Friendly Place?
Yes. Panamanian culture is very family-oriented. The culture places great importance on remaining close with relatives. Due to this atmosphere, traveling and vacationing in Panama as a family is safe and fun! Many hotel accommodations include family-oriented options, like extra single beds and outdoor playgrounds
Where Are the Nicest Beaches in Panama?
Panama boasts some of the nicest beaches in the world, with pristine turquoise water and white sands. Panama’s Pacific and Caribbean coastlines stretch for over 1,780 miles (2,850 kilometers). Some of the world-renowned beaches include Bocas del Toro, Gulf of Chiriquí, and Las Perlas.
Check out our 17 Unforgettable Islands You Can’t-Miss When In Panama and our complete Comarca de Guna Yala: Full Guide to the San Blas Islands articles for in-depth detail of these beautiful islands!
When Is the Best Time to Go to Panama?
Anytime! The great thing about Panama is that the country boasts a great tropical climate year-round. With that said, there are two primary seasons in Panama: dry season and rainy season. Many people prefer dry season, January through April as areas along the Pacific are dry and warm. The rainy season is from May through December. Contrary to what most would think, the rainy season is not quite as “rainy” as most people would believe. True, tropical storms form and usually make rainfall for less than an hour, however, the weather goes right back to being beautiful, hence our rain jacket recommendation on items to bring.
What Is the Weather Like in Panama?
There are only two seasons in Panama, dry season and rainy season. The dry season is from January through April, and the rainy season is from May through December. During the rainy season, there tends to be a tropical storm or shower in the afternoon, with the weather clearing up splendidly.
What Are the Top Activities in Panama?
Not surprisingly, many of Panama’s top activities involve the outdoors. Panamanian National Parks are nothing short of perfect for hiking, and animal wildlife excursions. Whitewater rafting is also popular, check out our Can I go rafting in Panama? And Where? article for in-depth information. Panamanian coastlines are also popular for beach activities including snorkeling, surfing, and fishing. Other activities include getting in touch with the Panamanian culture on a more intimate level, such as visiting indigenous villages and visiting award-winning coffee estate farms in the highlands of the Volcan Baru in Boquete Province. For information on coffee tours, check out our article The Panama Coffee Guide to Plantations and Productions in Panama.
Arrival and Departure
What Major Airlines Fly to Panama From the US and EU?
There are US flights to Panama from over 16 major cities: United, Delta, American, Copa, Spirit, and Mexicana. From the EU, we have Taca and MLK from Amsterdam and Air France.
What Documents Do I Need to Visit Panama?
Panamanian law requires any visitor entering by air, water, or land, to have the following: as you would whilst visiting all foreign lands, a valid passport is required, valid for 6 months minimum from the entry date. Tourists will also need proof of $500 USD minimum, and a return ticket out of Panama. Proof of $500 USD can be in the form of a bank statement, credit card, or traveler’s check, and of course, cash. A ticket to exit the country within 90 days is also a good idea to have, in the event that authorities inquire.
What Should I Bring Me to Border Crossings?
Panama’s border crossing with Costa Rica is pretty straight forward. As per the usual, have your passport ready and proof of minimum $500 USD, and your travel ticket out of Panama. The last two are not always asked for, but we suggest having those on hand for if the scenario arises.
Is There a Departure Tax From Panama?
Yes. The Panama departure tax is $40 USD, but it is included in the flight pricing.
How Long Can I Stay in Panama?
Most tourists are allowed a 30-day time frame, with the upper limit of usually 90 days.
What Are Panama’s Main Airports?
Panama’s main airport is Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen, located just 20 to 30 minutes outside of Panama City, with airport code is PTY. There is also another international airport located in the city of David, airport code DAV.
A fun fact is that there are over 100 airports in Panama, making it the country with the most private airstrips per square mile than any other country in the world.
People, Economy, and Government
Is Panama a Safe Place?
Panama is among the safest countries in the Central American region. Petty crimes that are common in other countries are uncommon in Panama, and violent crime is rare. As one would in any other country, exercise common sense and caution. In Panama City, only take authorized taxis, or use an Uber.
My Spanish Is a Little Rusty, Will That Be a Problem?
No. Most Panamanian’s are bilingual in both English and Spanish, especially the more touristic areas and hospitality oriented businesses.
What Is the Currency used in Panama?
The local Panamanian currency is the US dollar. This is a great convenience and simplifies most business transactions.
Is the Government Stable in Panama?
The Panamanian government is very stable. Since 1994, the government has been a constitutional democracy. Due to the construction of the Grand Canal, Panama has had strong ties with the United States, whom in turn, also has a strong interest in the well-being and safety of Panama. Panama does not have a military, however, it does have several public forces including the Panamanian National Police.
What is Panama’s Population?
As of January of 2019, the population of Panama is estimated at 4,159,774.
What is Panama’s Ethnic Makeup?
Over 70% of the Panamanian population is Mestizo, mixed with Native American and white). The other percentages are comprised of 14% West Indian, 10% are white, and 6% are Amerindian.
Is Panama Safe for Women Traveling Alone?
Women traveling alone in Panama will feel safer in comparison to other countries. The potential for harassment is still present, as the culture is dominated by a macho mindset. The occasional flattery by men does exist, the whistling, horn-honking, kissing, etc. As you would any other country, use caution, and common sense. For example, do not walk alone on the streets at night.
Is Panama Child-Friendly?
Yes. Panama is a family-oriented culture, so child accommodations are everywhere. Panama’s abundant outdoor activities make the country a great place to visit with children.
Can I Bring My Pet to Panama?
Yes. There are a few requirements to meet before accompanied by a substantial amount of paperwork that will usually involve legal help. Leaving Panama with a pet requires another round of paperwork and permissions.
What Does the Panamanian Accessibility Infrastructure Look Like for Persons With Disabilities?
In 1999, a Panamanian law was passed that required both private and public buildings to be accessible friendly for persons with disabilities. However, the current infrastructure does not widely include ramps or other accommodations.
Panama City, however, due to the excess of elevators and taxis, is relatively easy for persons with disabilities to get around. However, most taxis are not yet equipped for wheelchairs. Generally speaking, the further one gets away from Panama City, the less accessible friendly the situation becomes, as roads can sometimes become unpaved.
Phones and Internet
What Is Panama’s Time Zone?
Panama is on Eastern Time Zone, EST. Fun fact, Panama does not participate in daylight’s saving time.
I Need to Make an International Call, How Do I Dial Into and Out of Panama?
To dial into Panama from the United States, first use your international country code, in the case of the US, 011. Then dial Panama’s country code 507, followed by the Panamanian telephone number as usual.
Dialing phone number 5555-5555 from the United States to Panama, the number one would dial is 011-507-5555-5555.
Can I Use My Android and iPhone in Panama?
Yes. Depending on international pricing with your current provider, there are options including purchasing disposable cell phones at the airport and loading minutes onto them, for a pay as you go approach.
Wherever Wi-Fi is available, you will also have the option to connect to your apps as per usual. Apps like Whatsapp and Skype will come in handy.
How Long Does It Take for My Mail to Reach the United States?
The travel time of a document or postcard between Panama and the United States is anywhere from 5-10 postal days. Stamps will usually be available at hotels, and most post offices opened Monday through Saturday.
Money and Budgeting
How Much Cash Should I Have on Hand in Panama?
Depending on your activities, the average amount per person per day is $40 to $60 USD. This can range depending on hotel packages, for example, meal accommodations, etc. ATMs are widespread in Panama, however, we advise having cash readily available for remote destinations.
We advise notifying your bank prior to traveling into Panama to avoid any possible service interruptions.
What Kind of Gifts and Souvenirs Can I Find in Panama?
There is no shortage of gifts and souvenirs for purchase in Panama. Many souvenir shops can be found in the more touristic areas like Panama City, as well as street vendors. Our recommendation: Panama’s Indigenous groups make the best handmade crafts! Beaded jewelry, handmade shirts, and blouses are all great gifts.
Is Tipping a Thing in Panama?
It is customary to leave a 10% tip after having a meal at a restaurant. It is also customary to leave a tip for people who provide you a service, i.e. a tour guide of any kind, and a boat driver whilst island hopping. Most of the time, a $2 USD tip will be sufficient.
Are Credit Cards Accepted in Panama?
Credit cards are accepted in all major cities in Panama, especially upscale hotels and bars. As we have stated, it is advisable to carry cash to more remote areas, the further you step away from the city limits. Most small stores, market places, and local supermarkets only accept cash.
What Is the Currency Exchange Rate?
If you are traveling into Panama from parts of the world apart from the United States, you will be able to exchange money in Panama City. The easiest will be as soon as you step off your flight at the Tocumen International Airport. For those traveling into Panama from the United States, Panama utilizes the US dollar, so no need to exchange money.
Does Panama Experience Hurricanes and Earthquakes?
Panama does not experience hurricanes, as it is south of the hurricane zone. The majority of Panama does not experience significant earthquakes, however, western Panama has seen a few major earthquakes.
What Is the Landscape of Panama Like?
The Panamanian landscape is extremely versatile. The landscape has a mixture of tropical rainforests where wildlife is abundant, and mountainous regions such as the Volcan Baru region in Boquete, perfect for coffee plantations. Panama also contains some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The landscape also includes wetlands, plains, and pastures.
Are the Roads Paved in Panama?
The majority of the roads in Panama are in excellent condition and are paved. The Interamericana Highway runs from east to west, paved entirely throughout.
Is Panama Bike-Friendly?
No. The country as a whole is not bike-friendly with the exception of Boquete and Isla Colón. If you do decide to ride out in a bike, exercise precaution and be on alert.
Can I Rent a Car in Panama?
Yes. If you are able to do so, it will be highly convenient!
What Is Public Transportation Like in Panama?
Public transportation is reliable, fast, and cheap. There are buses available to most major parts of the country. Most Panamanian’s travel via buses and you would get a good sense of the culture by traveling via a bus.
Is Water Safe to Drink in Panama?
The water is clean and safe to drink in most of the country. Boca del Toro is one of the few places in Panama where water reliability is not the best, as well as in developing areas. If any question as to the water reliability, it is better to err on the side of caution and drink bottled water.
Are There Many Insects in Panama?
With an adequate amount of protection, you will be fine. Our recommendation is to use insect repellent, especially around your legs and feet if you will be hiking and keep your feet covered. Shake out your clothes before putting them on, as there are spiders, scorpions, and ants crawling about.
Do I Need to Get Vaccinations Before My Trip?
There are no vaccinations as requirements for travelers from North American or Europe. Travelers from other parts of the world including South American and sub-Sahara Africa may be required to show proof of vaccination. Our recommendation is to check with your doctor before your trip, as health conditions are subject to change. If you plan on visiting a rural area, then malaria pills may not be necessary, however, if you are visiting remote areas, you may consider bringing some with you.
What Do I Do in Case of an Emergency in Panama?
In case of an emergency, dial 911. This will dial the ambulance and medical response services. There are hospitals in most cities, with smaller towns having clinics. If the ambulance response is not prompt, we advise taking a taxi to the nearest hospital or clinic. Over the counter medicine, as well as prescription medication is available at local pharmacies.
Nature and National Parks
How Much Wildlife Is There in Panama?
With Panama having mountainous regions and tropical rain forests, there is an abundance of wildlife and exotic animals. Most parks and nature reserves will allow you to see monkeys, birds, reptiles, and big cats. If you are in an offshore park, you will be able to see an array of marine life, especially in the coral reefs.
Are there National Parks and Nature Reserves Safe in Panama?
Yes. Larger exotic creatures tend to stay clear of people. As a general rule, if you do not deviate from the trail, or go exploring, you will be fine.
Where Can I Go to Experience Nature in Panama?
Panama offers a wide variety of outdoor nature experiences. For a mountainous experience, towns like Boquete and El Valle are ideal. For beaches and coral reef experiences, coastal areas like Boca del Toro and the Gulf of Chiriquí are ideal. If you are looking for exotic bird watching opportunities, Soberanía National Park is the place for you!
How Much Does It Cost to Visit a National Park or Nature Reserve?
The price depends on the park or reserve. Some are free, however, if there is a fee, the fee is usually no more than $5 USD per person.
Let’s Board the Plane!
If you’ve made it through all of our frequently asked questions, you are more than likely more than ready to conclude your packing. One of the things we cannot express enough is to ensure you have the proper documentation readily available when you need it.
As a rule of thumb, we suggest always carrying the amount of cash you think you would need for the day, and safely keep the rest in your hotel room. Ensure you always keep alert on your surroundings and follow and exercise common sense safety precautions. In doing so, you will ensure to maximize the fun level of your vacation, by always being well prepared!
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