Welcome to Panama, a captivating country nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Panama is known for its vibrant culture, rich history, and breathtaking natural beauty. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a history buff, or a beach lover, Panama has something to offer for everyone.
With its strategic location as the connecting bridge between North and South America, Panama offers a unique blend of cultures and influences. From the modern skyscrapers of Panama City to the remote indigenous villages nestled in the rainforests, Panama’s diverse landscapes and warm hospitality will leave you enchanted.
In this Panama cheat sheet, we will provide you with all the essential information you need to know before embarking on your journey. From climate and geography to visa requirements, transportation options, and even local customs, this guide will ensure that you’re well-prepared to make the most of your visit to this tropical paradise.
So, pack your bags and get ready to explore the wonders of Panama. From the famous Panama Canal to the idyllic white sandy beaches of Bocas del Toro, there’s a whole world waiting to be discovered in this small but mighty Central American gem.
Climate and Geography
Panama enjoys a tropical climate, characterized by two distinct seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. The dry season typically runs from December to April, with sunny days and little to no rainfall. This is considered the peak tourist season, with clear skies and ideal conditions for outdoor activities.
The rainy season in Panama lasts from May to November, with increased precipitation and occasional thunderstorms. While rain can be frequent during this period, it usually comes in short bursts, leaving plenty of time for exploration and enjoyment. The lush greenery that blankets the landscape during the rainy season offers a beautiful backdrop for hiking, wildlife spotting, and other nature-based activities.
Panama is blessed with a diverse geography, ranging from pristine white sandy beaches and clear turquoise waters to misty cloud forests and towering volcanic peaks. The country is also home to one of the world’s most famous engineering marvels – the Panama Canal, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and plays a vital role in global trade.
With its coastlines along both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Panama boasts countless islands, archipelagos, and coral reefs. The San Blas Islands in the Caribbean are known for their untouched beauty and indigenous Guna culture, while the Pearl Islands offer tranquil paradise for beach lovers.
Inland, you’ll find dense rainforests filled with an astonishing variety of flora and fauna. The Darien Gap, a vast wilderness located on the border with Colombia, is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. It is home to rare species such as jaguars, tapirs, and harpy eagles.
Furthermore, Panama is blessed with several national parks, such as Soberania National Park and Volcan Baru National Park, where you can hike through lush forests, spot exotic birds, and soak in the natural beauty that surrounds you.
Whether you are seeking adventure in the mountains, relaxation on the beach, or a close encounter with wildlife, Panama’s diverse climate and geography ensure there is always something to suit your interests.
Visa and Entry Requirements
Before traveling to Panama, it’s essential to check the specific visa requirements for your country of citizenship. Panama has a relatively lenient visa policy, allowing citizens from many countries to enter without a visa or with a simple tourist visa upon arrival.
For citizens of the United States, Canada, the European Union, Australia, and many other countries, a tourist visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days. However, it is crucial to have a valid passport with at least six months of validity remaining beyond your planned departure date.
If you intend to stay in Panama for longer than 90 days or for purposes other than tourism, such as work or study, you will need to apply for the appropriate visa in advance. The requirements and application process can vary, so it’s recommended to consult the nearest Panamanian embassy or consulate for up-to-date information.
Upon arrival in Panama, you will need to complete an immigration form and present it, along with your passport, to the immigration officer. It is important to fill out the form accurately and honestly.
Additionally, travelers may be required to provide proof of onward travel, such as a return ticket or itinerary, to demonstrate their intention to leave the country within the permitted time frame. It’s advisable to have a copy of your booking confirmation readily available.
It’s also worth noting that Panama requires a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate if you are arriving from certain countries, particularly those in Africa and South America. Make sure to check the latest health requirements and consult your healthcare provider before traveling.
By ensuring that you meet the necessary visa and entry requirements beforehand, you can start your Panama adventure with peace of mind, knowing that you have all the necessary documentation in order.
Currency and Exchange Rate
The official currency of Panama is the Panamanian Balboa (PAB), which has the same value as the United States Dollar (USD). The two currencies are used interchangeably in the country, with the Balboa being available as coins in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, and the US Dollar in both coins and banknotes.
It’s important to note that while Panama has its own currency, the US Dollar is widely accepted throughout the country. This makes it convenient for travelers, as you can use either currency for your transactions and find ATM machines that dispense both Balboas and US Dollars.
When it comes to exchanging currency, it’s advisable to carry US Dollars with you and exchange them for Balboas as needed. Major hotels, banks, and exchange offices in tourist areas will readily exchange your US Dollars for Balboas at competitive rates. It’s best to avoid exchanging currency at airports, as their rates tend to be less favorable.
Most businesses, especially in tourist areas, accept credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard. However, it’s always a good idea to carry some cash for smaller establishments, markets, and transportation.
As exchange rates can fluctuate, it’s recommended to check the current rates before traveling to ensure you have an idea of the value of your currency against the Balboa and US Dollar.
Keep in mind that Panama is a relatively affordable country compared to its counterparts in the region, offering good value for money. By being mindful of the currency and exchange rates, you can effectively manage your budget and enjoy your time in Panama without any financial worries.
The official language of Panama is Spanish, and it is spoken by the majority of the population. However, due to its history and multiculturalism, you will also find a significant number of people in Panama who speak English, especially in tourist areas, hotels, and restaurants.
If you are not fluent in Spanish, don’t worry! English is widely understood by many Panamanians in the tourism industry. You should be able to communicate effectively in English in hotels, restaurants, and other establishments catering to tourists.
However, it’s always a good idea to learn a few basic Spanish phrases and greetings. The locals appreciate it when you make an effort to speak their language, even if it’s just a simple “hola” (hello) or “gracias” (thank you).
Having a pocket-sized Spanish phrasebook or a language translation app on your phone can also come in handy, especially when venturing to more remote areas where English may not be as prevalent.
Embrace the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and language. Learning a few words of Spanish will not only help you navigate your way around Panama but also enhance your overall experience as you interact with locals and gain a deeper understanding of their customs and traditions.
Remember, even if you do encounter language barriers at times, a warm smile, gestures, and a friendly attitude can go a long way in bridging any communication gap.
Getting around in Panama is relatively easy, thanks to its well-developed transportation infrastructure. Whether you prefer exploring the cities, relaxing on the beaches, or embarking on adventurous journeys into the rainforests, there are various transportation options available to suit your needs.
1. Public Transportation: The most common mode of public transportation in Panama City is the Metro, a modern and efficient subway system that connects different parts of the city. Buses, known as “Diablos Rojos” (Red Devils), are also widely used and provide a more extensive network covering both urban and rural areas.
2. Taxis and Ride-Sharing: Taxis are readily available throughout Panama, especially in urban areas. It’s important to ensure that the taxi has a visible license and meter before getting in. Ride-sharing services like Uber are also available in major cities, providing a convenient and reliable option for transportation.
3. Domestic Flights: If you plan to explore more remote regions of Panama, domestic flights are a popular choice. Several domestic airlines operate flights to destinations such as Bocas del Toro, San Blas Islands, and Chiriqui Highlands, offering breathtaking aerial views and saving you valuable travel time.
4. Car Rental: Renting a car in Panama allows for flexibility and independence in exploring the country. Major car rental companies are available at the international airports and Panama City. However, it’s important to note that traffic in Panama City can be congested, and parking may be limited in some areas.
5. Boats and Ferries: With its extensive coastline and numerous islands, traveling by boat is a common means of transportation in Panama. From ferry services to private boat charters, you can easily access destinations such as the San Blas Islands, Bocas del Toro, and the Pearl Islands.
Before traveling, it’s always a good idea to plan your routes, especially if you have multiple destinations in mind. Consider factors like distance, travel time, and availability of transportation options to make the most efficient use of your time in Panama.
Overall, Panama offers a range of transportation options that cater to various preferences and budgets. Whether you choose public transportation, taxis, or self-driving, getting around Panama is a breeze, allowing you to explore all the wonders this beautiful country has to offer.
When it comes to accommodation in Panama, you’ll find a wide range of options to suit every taste and budget. Whether you’re seeking a luxurious beachfront resort, a cozy boutique hotel, or a budget-friendly hostel, Panama has something for everyone.
Hotels: Panama City offers a plethora of luxury hotels, international chains, and boutique accommodations. Here, you can experience world-class amenities, stunning city views, and excellent service. Beyond the capital, you’ll also find hotels and resorts in popular tourist destinations like Bocas del Toro, Boquete, and Playa Blanca.
Eco-Lodges and Rainforest Retreats: For those seeking a closer connection to nature, Panama has a range of eco-lodges and rainforest retreats. These accommodations allow guests to experience the country’s incredible biodiversity while ensuring minimal impact on the environment.
Hostels and Guesthouses: Budget travelers will be delighted to find a variety of hostels and guesthouses throughout Panama. These options provide affordable accommodations, communal spaces, and opportunities to meet fellow travelers. Hostels are particularly popular in tourist hotspots like Panama City, Bocas del Toro, and Santa Catalina.
Bed and Breakfasts: If you’re looking for a more intimate and personalized experience, consider staying in a bed and breakfast. These cozy establishments offer comfortable rooms and homemade breakfast, often served with a side of warm hospitality and local insights.
Vacation Rentals: Another popular accommodation option in Panama is vacation rentals, especially for families or larger groups. You can find a range of apartments, villas, and beach houses available for short-term or long-term stays. Websites and platforms like Airbnb offer a wide selection across the country.
Regardless of the type of accommodation you choose, it’s recommended to book in advance, particularly during peak tourist seasons, to secure the best rates and availability. It’s also a good idea to read reviews and check the location and amenities offered to ensure they align with your preferences.
Whether you’re seeking luxury, eco-friendly, or budget-friendly options, Panama’s diverse range of accommodation ensures that you’ll find a comfortable place to rest and recharge after a day of exploring the country’s natural wonders and cultural treasures.
Food and Drinks
Panama offers a culinary scene that is as diverse and vibrant as its culture. Influenced by indigenous traditions, African, Spanish, and Caribbean flavors, the country’s cuisine is a delicious blend of exotic ingredients and unique cooking techniques. From traditional dishes to international cuisine, Panama has something to tantalize every taste bud.
One of the staple foods in Panama is rice, which is often served alongside beans, meat, and vegetables. A popular dish is “arroz con pollo,” which is rice cooked with chicken and complemented with a medley of spices. Seafood is also prominent, thanks to Panama’s abundant coastal resources. Don’t miss the opportunity to try “ceviche,” a dish made with marinated raw fish or shrimp, or “pescado a la plancha,” grilled fish seasoned with local spices.
When it comes to street food, Panama has a variety of tantalizing options. Make sure to try the national favorite “empanadas,” which are stuffed pastries filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables. Other popular street foods include “carimañolas” (deep-fried yucca fritters filled with meat), “tostones” (fried plantains), and “raspao” (shaved ice with fruit syrup).
The local markets, known as “mercados,” are excellent places to sample authentic Panamanian cuisine. You’ll find an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, and even some lesser-known delicacies. Don’t forget to try “ceviche de corvina,” a refreshing and tangy ceviche made with corvina, a local fish.
As for beverages, Panama is famous for its “seco,” a sugarcane-based spirit often enjoyed straight or mixed into cocktails. You can also find a variety of locally brewed beers and refreshing tropical fruit juices. Don’t miss the opportunity to try “chicha de nance,” a traditional fermented drink made from the nance fruit.
From trendy international restaurants in Panama City to humble food stalls in local markets, Panama’s culinary scene offers a diverse range of flavors and dining experiences. As you explore the country, be sure to indulge in the delicious cuisine and savor the unique gastronomic offerings that Panama has to offer.
Attractions and Activities
Panama is a country bursting with fascinating attractions and a myriad of activities to suit every traveler’s interests. From natural wonders to cultural landmarks, there is no shortage of experiences to be had in this beautiful Central American destination.
Panama Canal: A visit to Panama wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the iconic Panama Canal. Marvel at the engineering brilliance as you witness massive ships pass through the locks and learn about the history and significance of this incredible feat of human ingenuity.
San Blas Islands: For those seeking paradise-like beaches and a glimpse into indigenous culture, a trip to the San Blas Islands is a must. This archipelago of over 350 islands is home to the Guna Yala people, who have preserved their way of life for centuries. Enjoy stunning turquoise waters, pristine white sand, and the opportunity to learn about the Guna culture.
Bocas del Toro: Located on the Caribbean coast, Bocas del Toro is a tropical paradise known for its vibrant marine life, crystal-clear waters, and laid-back atmosphere. Explore the archipelago’s numerous islands, snorkel or dive in the colorful coral reefs, and encounter fascinating wildlife, including sloths and red poison dart frogs.
Casco Viejo: Step back in time as you wander through the historic district of Panama City, Casco Viejo. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a charming neighborhood with narrow cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and historic landmarks. Visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, explore local museums, and indulge in the neighborhood’s trendy restaurants and lively nightlife.
Boquete: Nestled in the lush highlands of Panama, Boquete is a haven for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. Hike through cloud forests, scale the challenging Barú Volcano, or explore the picturesque coffee plantations. This region is also renowned for its birdwatching, with over 400 species of birds found in the area.
Emberá Indigenous Village: Immerse yourself in the rich indigenous culture of Panama by visiting an Emberá village. Experience traditional music, dance, and handicrafts, and learn about their way of life while surrounded by the beauty of the rainforest.
Gamboa Rainforest: Explore the vast Gamboa Rainforest, located just a short distance from Panama City. Take a boat tour through the Panama Canal’s Gatun Lake, go wildlife spotting for monkeys and toucans, or take a canopy tour and soar above the rainforest canopy.
These are just a few highlights of the many attractions and activities awaiting you in Panama. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a cultural experience, Panama offers an exciting array of options that will leave you with unforgettable memories of your journey.
Like any travel destination, it’s important to prioritize safety precautions while visiting Panama. Following these tips will help ensure a smooth and secure trip:
1. Stay Aware of Your Surroundings: Keep an eye on your belongings and be mindful of your surroundings, particularly in crowded tourist areas or public transportation. Avoid displaying valuable items and be cautious of pickpockets.
2. Use Licensed Taxis and Transportation Options: Opt for licensed taxis or ride-sharing services to ensure your safety and avoid potential scams. If possible, arrange transportation services through your hotel or a reputable company.
3. Avoid Traveling Alone at Night: To minimize risk, it’s best to travel in groups or with a companion, especially during nighttime hours. Stick to well-lit and populated areas, and use trusted transportation methods when out after dark.
4. Secure Your Accommodations: Choose reputable accommodations that prioritize guest safety, such as hotels with security measures in place. Lock your doors and windows when inside your room and use safes provided for storing valuable items.
5. Be Cautious with Street Food and Water Consumption: While street food in Panama can be delicious, exercise caution when choosing vendors and ensure that the food is prepared hygienically. Drink bottled water and avoid consuming tap water or ice from unknown sources.
6. Research and Prepare for Outdoor Activities: If you plan to engage in outdoor activities or hikes, research the area beforehand, and follow safety guidelines. Wear appropriate footwear, use insect repellent, and be aware of any potential wildlife or natural hazards.
7. Respect Local Laws and Customs: Familiarize yourself with the local laws and customs of Panama and adhere to them. This includes dressing modestly in religious or conservative areas and being mindful of cultural sensitivities.
8. Keep Important Documents Secure: Carry only necessary identification and a photocopy of your passport. Leave your original passport and any additional valuables in a secure location, such as a hotel safe.
9. Purchase Travel Insurance: Before your trip, consider purchasing comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical expenses, trip cancellations, and lost or stolen belongings. This provides added peace of mind during your journey.
10. Stay Informed About Current Travel Advisories: Prior to your departure, check for any travel advisories or updates from your home country’s government regarding safety and security in Panama. Stay informed and follow any recommended precautions.
By taking these safety tips into account, you can enjoy a worry-free journey and focus on experiencing the beauty and wonders that Panama has to offer.
Healthcare and Emergency Services
When traveling to Panama, it’s important to be aware of the healthcare facilities and emergency services available to ensure your well-being throughout your trip. Here’s what you need to know:
Healthcare Facilities: Panama has a mix of public and private healthcare facilities. The major cities, such as Panama City and David, have modern hospitals and medical centers that provide a high standard of care. In more remote areas, healthcare facilities may be limited, so it’s advisable to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and evacuation if needed.
Insurance and Medical Expenses: Before your trip, review your travel insurance policy to ensure it covers any potential medical expenses in Panama. It’s recommended to have comprehensive coverage that includes emergency medical treatment, hospital stays, and medical evacuation if necessary. Keep your insurance information handy and know how to contact your insurance provider in case of an emergency.
Pharmacies and Medications: Pharmacies, known as “farmacias,” are readily available throughout Panama, even in smaller towns. If you require prescription medication, make sure you have an ample supply for the duration of your trip. Carry your medications in their original packaging, along with a copy of the prescription. In case you need to purchase medications in Panama, have a list of the generic names as brand names may differ.
Emergency Services: In case of a medical emergency, dial 911, the universal emergency number in Panama, to reach an ambulance or request immediate assistance. The operators usually speak Spanish, so try to have someone assist you if you don’t speak the language. It’s advisable to have a local SIM card or a working mobile phone for easy communication in case of emergencies.
Vaccinations and Health Recommendations: Before traveling to Panama, check with your healthcare provider or a travel clinic regarding recommended vaccinations. Depending on your travel itinerary, certain vaccines such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, and yellow fever may be recommended. It’s also important to protect yourself from mosquitoes by using insect repellent and wearing appropriate clothing, as there may be a risk of diseases like dengue and Zika virus in some areas.
COVID-19 Precautions: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s crucial to stay informed about the current travel restrictions, requirements, and guidelines in Panama. Follow local health authorities’ recommendations, practice good hygiene, wear masks in indoor public spaces, and maintain social distancing to minimize the risk of transmission.
Panama provides reliable healthcare services and emergency response, but being prepared with the necessary insurance coverage and knowledge of local resources will ensure your peace of mind and enable you to receive appropriate care if needed during your stay.
Communication and Internet Access
Staying connected while traveling in Panama is essential for staying in touch with loved ones and accessing important information. Here’s what you need to know about communication and internet access in Panama:
Mobile Networks: Panama has a well-developed mobile network infrastructure, offering reliable coverage in most urban areas and popular tourist destinations. Major mobile carriers include Movistar, Claro, and Digicel. If your phone is unlocked, consider purchasing a local SIM card upon arrival to take advantage of affordable local calling and data rates. Visit the nearest mobile provider store to get a SIM card and a prepaid plan that suits your needs.
Internet Access: Internet access is widely available in Panama, especially in hotels, cafes, and tourist areas. Most accommodations, from budget hostels to luxury resorts, offer complimentary Wi-Fi for guests. Additionally, you can find internet cafes or “cibercafés” in major towns and cities, where you can access the internet for a small fee. Many restaurants and cafes also offer free Wi-Fi for customers.
Communication Apps: If you prefer using your smartphone for communication, popular messaging and calling apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and FaceTime are widely used and work well over Wi-Fi or mobile data. These apps can be especially useful for staying in touch with friends and family internationally without incurring expensive roaming charges.
Postal Services: Panama has a reliable postal service, and you can send mail and packages from post offices located throughout the country. However, international shipping times may vary, so it’s advisable to plan accordingly if you need to send items from Panama.
Language Barrier: While the majority of Panamanians speak Spanish, you’ll find English spoken by many people in the tourism industry, particularly in hotels, restaurants, and popular tourist areas. However, it’s always helpful to have a translation app or pocket-sized phrasebook to assist in communicating with locals who may have limited English proficiency.
Overall, staying connected in Panama is relatively easy, with accessible mobile networks, widespread Wi-Fi availability, and various communication apps at your disposal. Whether you want to share your travel experiences or need to access information online, these resources will help ensure you stay connected throughout your time in Panama.
When visiting Panama, it’s important to be mindful of the cultural norms and customs of the country. Respect for local traditions and etiquette will enhance your experience and show appreciation for the Panamanian culture. Here are some cultural etiquette tips to keep in mind:
Greetings and Politeness: Greeting others is an essential part of Panamanian culture. When meeting someone for the first time, a handshake is the most common form of greeting. It’s customary to address people with their formal titles, such as “Señor” for Mr. and “Señora” for Mrs. Using “Buenos días” (good morning), “Buenas tardes” (good afternoon), and “Buenas noches” (good evening/night) is also appreciated.
Respect for Elders: In Panamanian culture, respect for elders is highly valued. Show deference to elderly individuals by greeting them first, offering your seat if on public transportation, and using polite language and gestures when interacting with them.
Dress Code: Panamanians generally dress conservatively, especially in religious or formal settings. When visiting churches or other religious sites, it’s respectful to cover your shoulders and knees. For casual settings, such as beaches or outdoor activities, comfortable and modest attire is appropriate.
Public Displays of Affection: Panamanians tend to be more conservative when it comes to public displays of affection. It’s advisable to avoid excessive physical contact or intimate gestures in public to respect local sensibilities.
Personal Space and Punctuality: Panamanians value personal space and may prefer to keep a slightly greater distance during conversations. Being punctual is also appreciated, so try to arrive on time for appointments or social gatherings.
Gift Giving: If invited to a Panamanian home, it’s customary to bring a small gift for the host, such as a box of chocolates, flowers, or a souvenir from your home country. When presenting the gift, do so with both hands as a sign of respect.
Photography and Respect for Privacy: Always ask for permission before taking someone’s photograph, especially if they appear in the foreground. Some indigenous communities have strict rules about photography, so it’s essential to respect their wishes and cultural practices.
Language and Communication: Although many Panamanians speak English in tourist areas, making an effort to learn basic Spanish phrases and greetings will be appreciated. Even if your Spanish skills are minimal, using simple phrases like “hola” (hello) and “gracias” (thank you) will go a long way in fostering goodwill and connection with the locals.
Tipping: Tipping is customary in Panama, particularly in establishments where a service charge is not included. It’s customary to leave a 10% to 15% tip for good service in restaurants, bars, and for taxi drivers.
By embracing and respecting the cultural etiquette of Panama, you will not only gain a deeper appreciation for the country but also foster positive interactions with the locals, creating lasting memories of your time in this beautiful destination.
Shopping in Panama offers a delightful blend of traditional crafts, local products, and international brands. Whether you’re searching for unique souvenirs, vibrant textiles, or duty-free bargains, Panama has a variety of shopping experiences to satisfy every shopper’s desires.
Markets: Exploring local markets is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Panama. Visit the Mercado de Artesanías in Panama City, where you’ll find a wide range of traditional handicrafts, including intricate textiles, handmade jewelry, and vibrant Panamanian molas, which are appliqué art pieces made by the indigenous Guna people. The Mercado de Mariscos is another must-visit for seafood lovers, where you can buy fresh fish, ceviche, and even enjoy a delicious seafood meal.
Duty-Free Shopping: Take advantage of Panama’s duty-free status, particularly at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. Here, you’ll find an array of luxury brands, electronics, perfumes, and jewelry at prices lower than many other countries. Remember to keep your receipts and be aware of duty allowances and restrictions in your home country.
Shopping Malls: Panama City boasts an impressive selection of modern shopping malls, offering a mix of international brands, designer boutiques, and local shops. Multiplaza Pacific, Metromall, and Albrook Mall are popular choices, providing an extensive range of fashion, electronics, cosmetics, and specialty stores. You’ll also find a wide range of dining options and entertainment facilities within these malls.
Indigenous Handicrafts: If you’re interested in supporting local artisans and traditional crafts, explore the rural areas of Panama. Visit communities such as Emberá and Guna Yala to purchase intricately woven baskets, ceremonial masks, and other handmade crafts directly from the indigenous artisans themselves.
Panamanian Coffee and Chocolate: Panama is renowned for its high-quality coffee and delicious chocolate. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample and purchase specialty coffee beans, including the famous Geisha variety, known for its rich flavor profiles. You can also find locally-made chocolate bars and treats, often incorporating unique ingredients like tropical fruits or coffee beans.
Antiques and Art Galleries: For art enthusiasts and collectors, Panama City is home to numerous art galleries showcasing contemporary works by local and international artists. Additionally, antique shops in Casco Viejo offer a treasure trove of vintage items, including furniture, jewelry, and unique pieces that reflect the country’s history and cultural heritage.
Remember to exercise caution when purchasing items and be wary of counterfeit products. It’s advisable to shop from reputable establishments and ensure that any souvenirs abide by customs regulations for safe and legal importation.
With its diverse shopping destinations, Panama provides a delightful and rewarding shopping experience. Whether you’re looking for traditional crafts, refined works of art, or great deals on international brands, you’ll find a wealth of options to satisfy your shopping desires.
Tipping in Panama is customary and expected in certain service-oriented establishments. While it may not be as prevalent as in some other countries, leaving a tip is a way to show appreciation for good service. Here are some guidelines to follow when it comes to tipping in Panama:
Restaurants and Cafés: In restaurants, it is customary to leave a tip of 10% to 15% of the total bill. Some upscale establishments may include a service charge, so check the bill to ensure you’re not double-tipping. If the service was exceptional, you may leave a bit more to show your appreciation.
Hotels and Resorts: If you stay in a hotel, it’s customary to leave a tip for the housekeeping staff. A small amount per day, such as a dollar or two, left on the nightstand or in an envelope, is appropriate. If the hotel provides porter services or any additional assistance, a tip of $1 to $2 per bag is usually appreciated.
Taxi Drivers: Tipping taxi drivers is not mandatory but is commonly practiced. It’s customary to round up the fare to the nearest whole dollar or add an additional 5% to 10% of the total fare as a tip. If the driver goes out of their way to provide exceptional service, a slightly higher tip can be given.
Guides and Tour Services: For guided tours or services, it’s customary to offer a tip to the guide or tour operator. The amount can vary depending on the length and quality of the tour, but a general guideline is $5 to $10 per person for half-day tours and $10 to $20 per person for full-day tours.
Other Services: In certain situations, tipping may also be appropriate for services such as hair salons, spa treatments, and bellhops. A tip of 10% is generally acceptable in these situations, but it’s always a good idea to check if a service charge is already included in the bill.
It’s important to note that while tipping is appreciated, it should not be viewed as an obligation. The amount you tip is ultimately discretionary and based on your satisfaction with the service provided. Always consider the quality of the service, local customs, and your budget when determining the appropriate amount to tip.
When leaving a tip, it’s best to hand it directly to the person receiving it to ensure they receive the full amount. If you’re unsure about tipping in a specific situation, observing local customs or asking locals for guidance can help you navigate these situations with ease.
By showing your appreciation through tipping, you contribute to the local economy and help support the individuals who provide you with excellent service during your time in Panama.
Festivals and Events
Panama is a vibrant country with a rich cultural heritage, and its calendar is filled with exciting festivals and events throughout the year. From traditional celebrations to modern music festivals, there’s always something happening in Panama to captivate visitors and locals alike. Here are a few notable festivals and events in Panama:
Carnival: Carnival is one of the most anticipated and lively celebrations in Panama. Taking place in the four days leading up to Ash Wednesday, Carnival is a riot of colors, music, dancing, and exuberant parades. The capital city of Panama City and the town of Las Tablas are particularly known for their elaborate Carnival celebrations.
Independence Day: Every November 3rd, Panama celebrates its independence from Colombia with patriotic fervor. Festivities include parades, live music performances, fireworks, and traditional dances. The largest celebrations can be witnessed in Panama City, where the streets come alive with national pride.
Diablos y Congos Festival: Held in Portobelo in the province of Colon on October 21st, this festival is a unique blend of African and Spanish traditions. It showcases vibrant dances, music, and colorful masks worn by participants portraying historical characters. The festival is a captivating display of cultural heritage and historical significance.
Boquete Flower and Coffee Festival: Boquete, known for its stunning flower blooms and exceptional coffee, hosts an annual Flower and Coffee Festival in January. The event features spectacular flower displays, coffee tasting sessions, parades, live music, art exhibitions, and traditional dances. It’s a celebration of the region’s natural beauty and thriving agricultural industry.
International Jazz Festival of Panama: A must-attend event for music enthusiasts, the International Jazz Festival of Panama attracts renowned local and international jazz artists. Held every January, the festival features live performances, jam sessions, workshops, and masterclasses. Music lovers gather to celebrate the beauty of jazz and enjoy a vibrant atmosphere.
Religious Festivals: Throughout the year, Panama also celebrates religious festivals, such as the Feast of the Black Christ in Portobelo and the Feast of the Holy Nazarene in La Villa de Los Santos. These vibrant processions and religious events showcase the deep Catholic traditions and cultural practices that have been passed down through generations.
These are just a few examples of the diverse range of festivals and events that take place in Panama. The country’s rich cultural heritage and warm hospitality ensure that attending these celebrations will not only provide an unforgettable experience but also offer a deeper understanding of Panama’s customs and traditions.
Panama is a captivating country that offers a wealth of experiences for travelers. From its stunning natural landscapes and rich cultural heritage to its vibrant festivals and warm hospitality, Panama has something to enchant every visitor. Whether you’re exploring the awe-inspiring Panama Canal, lounging on pristine beaches, or immersing yourself in the vibrant culture of its cities, Panama has a myriad of attractions and activities to cater to all interests.
By familiarizing yourself with the essential information provided in this Panama cheat sheet, you can make the most of your visit and ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. From understanding the country’s climate and geography to navigating visa requirements and transportation options, these insights will help you plan your trip effectively.
Additionally, being aware of cultural etiquette and practicing respectful behavior will enhance your interactions with locals and deepen your appreciation for Panama’s diverse traditions. Whether it’s greeting others with a warm smile, sampling traditional cuisine, or supporting local artisans, embracing the cultural intricacies of Panama will create meaningful connections and lasting memories.
While traveling, prioritizing safety and health is paramount. By following safety tips, being vigilant of your surroundings, and taking necessary precautions, you can ensure a secure and worry-free journey. It’s also essential to have appropriate travel insurance and familiarize yourself with healthcare facilities and emergency services available in the country.
Lastly, don’t forget to immerse yourself in the vibrant festivals and events that Panama has to offer. From colorful Carnival celebrations to traditional religious processions and lively jazz festivals, these cultural events provide a glimpse into the country’s rich heritage and offer unforgettable experiences.
Whether you’re exploring the lush rainforests, marveling at the engineering marvels of the Panama Canal, or lounging on breathtaking beaches, Panama promises a journey filled with adventure, discovery, and awe-inspiring beauty. So pack your bags, embrace the spirit of adventure, and get ready to create unforgettable memories in this diverse and captivating country.