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Panama

FAQ

Is Panama safe?
Yes - Panama is one of the safest countries in the world. In graph by the Pinkerton Intelligence Agency published in Newsweek magazine, in which countries all over the world were rated for tourist safety, Panama merited the most desirable category for tourist safety - the same category as the United States. Those of us who are foreigners (including this author) know first-hand how safe Panama is compared to just about anywhere.
In my experience Panama is safer than Costa Rica and along with Chile and Uruguay among the safest countries in Latin America. The purse snatchings and pick-pocketing common in other places are almost unheard of. As for all foreign travel, when going abroad it is advisable not to carry large sums of money, keep a photo copy of your passport with you, (not the real thing) and keep flashy jewelry or watches etc. hidden. Like anywhere, there are poor areas of town that it is inadvisable to walk around in especially at night.
One area in Panama has a State Department warning - this is a remote part of Darien province that borders with Columbia where tourists do not go. You will find that only journalists and missionaries venture there.

I don't speak Spanish. Will that be a problem in Panama?
Most Panamanians speak some English and many speak it fluently, especially those that cater to tourists. Remember, for 85 years, up to 50,000 Americans lived in the middle of Panama in the former Canal Zone. Furthermore, Panama is traditionally an international business crossroads. Panamanians are accustomed to working side by side with foreigners and English has become a second language.

When is the best time to visit?
Tourism in Panama is a year-around activity. The temperature never varies and the sun shines everyday, all year long.
However, there are two "seasons" in Panama and some people prefer to come in the "dry season" from mid-December through May when it doesn't rain. Some recreational activities are better in the dry season, for example Caribbean diving and particular kinds of sport fishing and bird watching. In the so called "rainy season" or "green season" from June until December, most days there is a one to two hour tropical rain storm in the late afternoon. This is a regular occurrence and most activities can be planned around it. Many hotels also offer special "green season" rates.

Do I need a visa to visit Panama?
Citizens of most countries including the USA and Western Europe do not need a visa. Tourists from some countries including the US need only purchase a $5 tourist card from their airline, at the ticket counter on the day of departure for Panama. A tourist card gives you an automatic 30 day stay in Panama and is extendible for another 60 days. Citizens of most other countries need only their passport.
If your children are traveling with one parent only, Panama, like many countries, requires a notarized letter of permission from the other parent.
The following countries can enter Panama without a visa: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and Uruguay.
The following countries can purchase a tourist card from their airline or upon arrival (it costs $5 and is valid for 30 days): America, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Curacao, Ecuador, Granada, Greece, Guyana, Jamaica, Japan, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & Grenadines, Samoa Occidental, San Cristobal & Nevis, San Marino, San Tome & Principe, South Korea, Surinam, Sweden, Taiwan, Tobago, Trinidad, The United States of America, the Vatican City, and Venezuela.

How are the prices in Panama?
The tourism industry in Panama is just developing and so prices are reasonable and some of the most competive anywhere. Then again, with a few exceptions, Panama is not the place for "bargain basement" beach vacation offerings like Cancun. Panama is the "affordable exotic destination", meaning it offers exotic, unique and off-the-beaten-path kind of experiences without the tourist hordes. If you are a backpacker on a shoe-string budget , buy Lonely Planet Panama and you will do just fine.

Can I drink the water? Are there any health concerns?
Panama is the only country in Latin America where you can drink the tap water. The "Montezumas Revenge" that is so common in the rest of Latin America is almost unheard of in Panama. Sanitary conditions are just very good. There are not any special health concerns, nor shots or pills that are necessary unless you are going to hike in the Darien jungles or other remote areas.

What sort of souvenirs and gifts can I find?
Panama has the greatest variety of indigenous-made souvenirs of any country outside Mexico. Panamanians have an innate sense of beauty that shows in their handicrafts. ‘Molas", intricate hand-sewn tapestries of the Kuna Indians, are the most popular souvenirs - you can buy little girls dresses, women’s clothes and handbags decorated with molas. Native jewelry, Panama hats, fine woven baskets from the rainforest palms and natural dyes, tropical wood carvings and pre-Colombian and Spanish Colonial style jewelry are some of the other most popular items.

What is the electrical voltage? Can I use my electrical appliances?
Yes - all your appliances will work here. The voltage is the same as the United States and Canada: 110V.

Why choose Panama over other Latin American and Caribbean destinations?
Panama has...
  • The most accessible exotic nature in the world - the "hyper-diverse" Panama Canal Rainforest is 30 minutes from Panama City.
  • Beautiful beaches along 1000 miles on coast on both oceans and on fifteen hundred islands with hardly a soul in sight.
  • Seven living native cultures with their own unique legends and traditions.
  • Forty-eight fascinating historical monuments.
  • 954 bird species in vast National Parks
  • A fun, sophisticated and safe capital city.
  • An exciting night life with casinos, discotheques, superb restaurants and coffee houses

What kind of clothes and other items should I bring?
In general, for the tropical climate, light colored, loose fitting cotton clothes are the most comfortable. Do bring neat clothes. Panamanians don’t appreciate grunge. Panamanians themselves, especially the women of Panama City, are beautifully groomed. Panama City is a dress-up place, but as a tourist you’ll be excused from the dress code provided you are dressed neatly. The highlands can be cold in the night so a warm sweater or light jacket is necessary. If you plan to hike, bring long pants, boots, a hat and insect repellant. For everyone else a good sunscreen, sunglasses and binoculars is necessary.

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