What Is Panama’s Dress Code? (Both for Locals and Tourists)

Panamanians value and revel in their physical appearance. Even average laborers tidy up after work before they travel back home. While foreigners often associate the country with sandy beaches and tropical islands, you can hardly find any local citizen walking in Panama City in shorts or sandals, which are essentially deemed as beachwear.

There is no specific dress code in Panama. In general, however, local wardrobe, especially in Panama City, is bordering on casual business attire. The ideal way to dress up in Panama is to look decent and well mannered. Considering the climate of the country, people generally dress up casual. That means neat and orderly casual and not sloppy and slack casual.

The outfit you wear not only reflects your personality but also helps you gain self-confidence. The impression you make to the locals you meet, which is partly influenced by the way you dress up, also affects how people will treat you.

Panama is a conservative and formal country. Well-ordered dress, moral grooming, and hygiene are expected. While the country is flocked by tourists, which led to the spread of shorts, shirts, caps, and sneakers, it is generally considered rude and ill-mannered to dress like that anywhere other than the beach. Even poor Panamanians make an effort to dress neat and nice.

What Should You Wear in Panama if I Am a Tourist?

If you are a tourist in Panama for a vacation, you can easily be excused with dressing up more casually. Panamanians would generally understand why tourists would wear summer vacation outfits in the city. They understand that most tourists, especially from western countries, are not used to their tropical weather. 

So heading to Panama as a tourist, you can wear shorts, shirts, and sandals or rubber shoes. In fact, seeing someone wearing this outfit during weekdays is a telling sign that he or she is a gringo. Wearing light clothing that is comfortable is customary for tourists who are planning to do the enjoyable things that Panama is known for like going to the beach and doing nature adventures. Apparently, your comfort is your priority. 

Tourists, however, should also consider bringing more decent casual clothing when visiting Panama. Overly casual beachwear can limit the places you can go to. Men ought to bring a pair of trousers and a polo shirt while women can bring a skirt and blouse for women as well as matching casual shoes. If you plan to enjoy the nightlife in Panama like going to clubs and restaurants, you need to wear tidy casual outfits that are more appropriate for these places.

In addition, having a light jacket or sweater on hand is recommended. There are places in Panama like buses, restaurants, banks and government offices where air conditioning can be chilly cold. The temperatures in the highlands and the coastlines can be colder at night. Having a jacket can definitely help to keep you warm and comfortable.

What Should You Wear if I Live in Panama?

The general idea when it comes to your attire as an ex-pat in Panama is to look presentable, smart and respectable. Panamanians place importance on appearance and it wouldn’t hurt if you adopt this simple cultural value.

You can adopt the local casual wear that locals use. You don’t necessarily have to dress up and appear like them, but you have to dress up to match up and harmonize with the people to be respectful and prevent offending home-grown sensibilities. After all, Panama’s casual style is quite simple to follow. 

Since it is hot and humid, wearing decent shorts and shirts on a daily basis is still totally sensible. However, if you are going out and meeting some people, it would be advisable if you match your shorts with more casual tops like a polo shirt and casual shoes or sandals. Men usually wear long pants on a daily basis. If you find wearing pants uncomfortable because of the weather, then wearing khaki shorts is reasonable. 

For foreign women, wearing shorts and shirts are also practical if you are just at home. However, women normally wear pants like jeggings or leggings. When going out to meet people, wearing a more garbed casual attire would be ideal such as jeans, and blouses.

The daily average temperature in Panama is between 89-95 °F (32-35 °C). It’s sunny so people wear summer clothes all the time. The general outfit can be described as casual light clothing. However, you need to raise the level of formality of your casual wear depending on the place that you are going. 

One of the most versatile shirts that you can consider is the local guayabera. This is a button-down shirt that is worn tucked out or hanged over the trousers, which makes it casual. You can wear guayabera practically anywhere. You can use it as daily wear or when going shopping or visiting places, or even going to parties and weddings.

What Is the Business Dress Code in Panama?

business man

The conventional fashion attire in Panama City is actually geared for business. By business attire, this does not mean suits, tuxedos, or cummerbunds, but business casual wear, which people put on when going to work, to an office, club, classy restaurant or church. 

The Business Dress Code in Panama refers to casual wear with smart looking elements such as khaki pants or slacks and short or long-sleeved polo shirts for men; and skirts and blouses or dresses for women. Business suits are hardly used daily but can be reserved for important business meetings or conferences that may require more formal attire.

If you are doing business in Panama, it is very important to consider wearing business casual wear especially trousers and polo shirts. You will be treated with more respect and regarded with higher esteem if you are in business attire than a sloppy beach get-up.

What Is the Dress Code of Schools in Panama?

Elementary and High school students in Panama are required by law to wear uniforms. Every school has their own style of uniform which normally constitute of polo-style shirts and trousers for males and skirts for females. The school emblem or logo is usually stitched or printed on the shirt.

The required use of uniforms in Panama’s school system helps to instill discipline among students. It creates a serious environment in the academe to optimize productivity. It promotes a sense of pride and community among the school’s constituents. It also provides children with a well-defined expectation of standards that must be upheld as students.

Save for some private Catholic educational institutions, college and university students don’t normally wear strict uniforms that are prescribed by their schools. Instead, students wear casual business attires that help create the serious-minded and academic ambiance of their academe.

How Do Locals Get Dressed Usually?

men talking

In Panama, the locals usually were a shipshape casual outfit. You can opt to adopt the local casual wear if you want to fit more to the local community. Following is a general idea of what the locals usually wear out in public.

The archetype Panamanian men normally wear dark wash blue jeans and polo shirts. Light-colored and black jeans are rare. Long shorts are recently becoming more commonplace. For footwear, they usually wear sneakers, sandals or any casual shoes, whichever is more appropriate. Older men often wear brown or grey pants partnered with dainty-colored polo shirts, a fedora-like hat, and loafers.

Panamanian women, on the other hand, usually wear cropped pants, capri pants and tight stretchable jeans matched with blouses, tank tops, and decorated shirts. They seldom sport a skirt or a dress except for formal occasions. Women working in an office normally wear heels. However, flats and sandals are also common. Older women on the other hand, usually wear skirts and capris with light-hued blouses and flat shoes.

Also, the clothes of both men are women, whether young or old, in Panama, are generally fit and tighter compared to those used in North America. Women often wear low-waist pants. 

It is common for Panamanian women to wear make-up especially working women. They wear light make-up typically using eyeliner, mascara, different eye shadow colors, and thin eyebrows. Manicures are also very popular for both women and men. 

Are There Dress Code Exceptions for Tourists in Panama?

Actually Panamanians are generally lenient to tourists in terms of dress code considering that they are not used to the climate in Panama. By lenient, this means tourists wearing shorts and shirts are tolerated most of the time. Panamanians do not require tourists to dress like them but prioritizes their comfort and enjoyment when they visit the country. 

However, it is recommended for tourists to bring at least a pair of pants (e.g. jeans) and a polo shirt/ blouse when visiting the country. You might do some activities such as dining in a fine restaurant, visiting a church, or a government office, where neat casual wear attire is more appropriate and required.

Moreover, being a tourist does not exempt you from following the laws of Panama. While you can get away with wearing shorts and shirts, you cannot get away with legal restrictions against being shirtless. In Panama, people including tourists are not allowed to walk or drive in the city streets without a shirt. It also is not legal for men or women to walk around topless in beach towns. (Fallon and McCarthy, 2019)

Are There Places in Panama Where I Cannot Enter if I Am Not Dressed Properly?

elegant man at the bar

Yes, government offices, fine dining restaurants, banks, and churches are some of the places where you can be barred from entering if you are wearing shorts, beach flip flops or any beach-like outfit.

The typical dress code of these institutions normally follows the business casual attire in Panama. Men should wear long pants (jeans or khakis) with polo shirts while women can wear a skirt, sleeved dress or capri pants partnered with blouses that cover their shoulders.

While not all these places necessarily put signs to that effect, locals and tourists wearing shorts, flip-flops, or a tank top in public offices, banks, churches, and class restaurants may most likely be asked to leave discretely and politely unless they comply.

Conclusion

There is no strict dress code that tourists are required to follow in Panama. As a visitor, however, you should strive to adhere to the dressing norms of the country so as not to offend your benevolent hosts. Panama is a tropical country, hence summer clothing is common all year round. 

However, it is also a reserved and traditional country where appearance is regarded with high esteem that’s why people wear decent casual attire most of the time especially in the city or in the streets. While tourists are spared from wearing shorts and shirts, they should also make the effort to look presentable, decent and respectable especially in places where more appropriate clothing is required.

Matt Romero

I’m Matthew Romero, one of the guys behind PanamaLifeInsider.com I am incredibly passionate about Panama, its beautiful territory, and all the incredible opportunities which offer to people coming here from all over the world both either visiting and settling. In this blog, I decided to share my passion with you!

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