Panama is a large isthmus with a total area of 75,517 km2. It is located at the east end of Central America and has borders with Costa Rica on the west and Colombia on the east. The north coast is on the Caribbean Sea and the south on the Pacific Ocean. This location keeps Panama safe from hurricanes that affect most other countries in the Caribbean, however rainfall is abundant.
Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time (EST), GMT – 5
All foreign citizens need a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date of entry. Visitors must also be able to prove that they have at least US$500 —via a bank statement, credit card or equivalent, and it is required to have a return or onward ticket out of the country.
Immigration requirements vary depending on your nationality, but most international visitors can stay in Panama for 90-180 days without applying for a visa. As the regulations are continuously updated, please consult exact details with the Panamanian Embassy or Consulate in your country.
We recommend that you take out travel insurance to cover theft, loss and medical problems. Be sure to read the fine print, as some policies specifically exclude dangerous activities such as scuba diving and even trekking. If you have to claim later, make sure you keep all documentation and check that the policy covers ambulances or an emergency flight home.
Excellent health care is available in Panama City and major cities throughout the country, though it becomes limited the farther away you are from the larger towns.
Tap water in Panama City is safe to drink, as is the water in most other parts of the country. However, you may want to consider buying or purifying your own water in the provinces of Bocas del Toro, Darién and in Guna Yala (San Blas) or in some very small, remote towns.
It is not a requirement to get the yellow fever, typhoid or meningitis vaccines to enter Panama. We recommend that you are up to date with all your routine (or ‘childhood’) vaccines. For specific considerations that may apply to your trip, please consult your family doctor. Long-sleeved clothing and insect repellents will provide adequate protection against disease-transmitting mosquitoes in forested areas.
Panama is located just north of the Equator, so the climate is mostly tropical (sunny and warm with high humidity all year round) while in the highlands, it is cooler. The rainy season is from May to mid-December in Panama City, and throughout the year in the areas having an equatorial climate. We’re located outside of the hurricane belt, however during the cyclone season (June to November), the country can be affected by storm spurs.
The dress code, generally speaking, is casual street wear. We recommend light cotton clothing as well as a jacket or sweater for cooler evenings and for air-conditioned hotels, a raincoat or umbrella in the rainy season. Sturdy shoes, sun, mosquito and rain protection are recommended for tours and excursions. When hiking or on the coasts, you should wear sunscreen with a high SPF, a large sun hat and sunglasses and remember to stay hydrated.
For the cooler highlands, bring clothes for spring and autumn, a T-shirt for the day, and a sweater, sweatshirt or jacket for the evening, a raincoat or umbrella in the rainy season. For higher altitudes, bring warm clothes, a jacket, and hiking boots.
The local time throughout all of Panama is Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5). Sunrise is roughly around 6:30 a.m. and sunset around 6:30 p.m.
The official national language spoken in Panama is Spanish. English is used in the business, banking and tourism communities and for centuries we have welcomed immigrants from numerous regions of the world who sometimes speak their native language. Indigenous languages are also spoken by that part of the population.
The official currency is the Panamanian Balboa (1.00 PAB = 1.00 USD). The balboa exists only in the form of coins as Panama does not print banknotes. US currency is used throughout the entire country so it’s not necessary to exchange money into balboas. For other currencies, banks and exchange offices exchange money.
Please note that in smaller stores, they may not take bills greater than $20, so it’s advisable to carry smaller denominations. All major credit cards are accepted in most businesses in Panama City but be sure to ask your local bank for specific considerations before traveling to a foreign country. Outside of the major cities, you are usually dependent on cash. You can withdraw cash from ATMs which can be found throughout the country in most cities and towns, with a few exceptions.
Tips are customary in Panama for many service providers such as bellboys, tour guides, drivers, housekeeping, waiters, etc. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip. Please keep in mind that tipping is totally voluntary.
In Panama, the electrical current is 110 volt/60Hz. If this is not compatible with electrical plugs and chargers in your country, you will need to bring an adapter.
Panama is a tropical destination which means that you will need sun protection. On the other hand rainstorms can come without warning, depending on the season and area. We recommend our visitors to bring:
- Insect repellent
- Light clothes
- Sweater with long sleeves for evenings and highlands
- Rain coat or poncho
- Broad brimmed hat
- Prescribed drugs
- Plug adapter to Japanese socket
If the trip includes nature and night expeditions:
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Hiking or good walking shoes