18 issues to know earlier than touring to Panama

Idyllic islands, rolling surf, untamed nature and showstopping wildlife all assist make Panama an irresistible vacation spot.

Sat on the crossroads of the Americas and connecting two oceans, do you know that past its cosmopolitan capital and legendary canal, it’s a biodiversity hotspot? Or that this slim isthmus produces a number of the world’s best – and most costly – espresso?

There’s lots to know on the sensible aspect as effectively. Learn on for our prime ideas for touring to Panama. 

Planning your journey to Panama

Plan forward if you wish to social gathering

Panamanians like to social gathering, and barely per week goes by with out a fiesta, from La Feria de las Flores y del Café in Boquete to the countrywide Carnaval, whose largest and loudest celebrations are in Las Tablas on the Península de Azuero.

There’s additionally Easter, Christmas and New 12 months’s. November’s quite a few independence-related festivals see retailers and places of work closed and locals flocking to the seaside. Lodge costs typically double round public holidays and will be booked out weeks upfront.

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When packing for Panama, carry layers for the excessive altitudes and durable boots for hardcore hikes © Impressed By Maps / Shutterstock

Pack for the local weather

The nation’s tropical local weather means two seasons – scorching and dry from December to April and scorching and moist the remainder of the 12 months. Though the quantity of rain will depend on what coast you’re on, downpours normally come briefly, sharp afternoon bursts earlier than the solar forces you to place your Panama hat again on.

Pack high-factor sunscreen and hot-weather garments, however carry one thing for the icy air-conditioning and excessive altitudes, and durable boots should you’re planning any hardcore hikes.

The perfect time to go to Panama 

What foreign money do you want?

The Panamanian Balboa would be the nation’s official foreign money, however the payments in use are US {dollars}. Costs are listed in $ or B/ however each currencies have the identical worth. Carry small payments for tipping, markets and rural areas, and sufficient money in case the ATM doesn’t work – or there aren’t any ATMs, like within the San Blas Archipelago.

Any COVID-19 well being checks earlier than you arrive? 

Make sure that you’re updated with the beneficial vaccinations earlier than you journey and verify the current COVID-19 rules of entry, together with submitting an Electronic Health Affidavit to your airline earlier than you fly.

You’ll be able to’t attain Colombia by highway

If you happen to’re pondering of road-tripping south to Colombia, assume once more. The notorious Darién Hole – the land hyperlink between Central and South America – is a mash-up of impenetrable jungle, primordial swamps, toxic snakes and doubtful characters, and there’s no highway crossing.  

However should you plan to go north to Costa Rica and past, a number of long-distance bus traces, corresponding to Tica Bus, cowl Central America.

A group of travelers look over tables filled with souvenirs at an outdoor market in Panama City, Panama.
Studying a couple of conversational Spanish phrases will go a good distance throughout a go to to Panama © Chrispictures / Shutterstock

Etiquette in Panama

What language is spoken in Panama? 

English is broadly spoken, particularly in Panama Metropolis and Boquete, however mastering a few basic Spanish phrases will endear you to the locals and assist should you journey away from the vacationer hotspots.

Panama could also be laid again but it surely’s vital to be well mannered. All the time greet folks – buenas is a catch-all time period for hi there – and don’t neglect to say please (por favor) and thanks (gracias). And pay attention out for one-of-a-kind Panamanian phrases, corresponding to que sopa? (what’s up?), buco (lots), and pinta fria (chilly beer).

It is best to keep away from topics involving politics, faith, the Panama Canal and the Panama Papers out of respect to Panamanian residents.   

Be extra tranquil

Panama strikes at a relaxed tempo, together with the cities, so don’t count on lightning-fast responses to requests. As in most of Central America, punctuality is a free idea, and repair in eating places will be leisurely – meals are supposed to be loved and might stretch over a number of hours – so should you skip the strict schedule, no worries.

A information to Panama’s islands 

Don’t strip off within the metropolis

Panamanians costume casually as a rule however are typically a bit formal within the capital. You don’t need to put on fits or excessive heels, however the pale T-shirts, brief shorts and flip-flops that have been tremendous in Bocas del Toro can look misplaced right here. And shirtless males are an absolute no-no.

Affirm the fare earlier than taking a cab

Panama’s yellow licensed taxis generally is a wallet-friendly method to get round, however don’t neglect to barter a fare earlier than you set off. Taxis aren’t metered, official charges are normally ignored and vacationers are routinely overcharged; ask an area for an thought of the associated fee upfront.

Uber is a greater guess, accessible in Panama Metropolis (though drivers are sometimes prepared to go cross-country), together with UberEnglish for non-Spanish audio system and UberAssist for folks with mobility points. Lyft can be accessible.

The perfect 10 seashores in Panama 

When must you tip, and the way a lot?

Suggestions aren’t obligatory, however they’re welcome. In pricier eating places, if it’s not already been snuck on to your invoice, depart a ten% gratuity. Taxi drivers don’t count on a tip, however you’ll be able to spherical up the fare, and if somebody helps you together with your baggage, give them round $1 to $2.

Respect smoke-free zones

Smoking is prohibited in all indoor public areas, resort rooms, workplaces, public transport, out of doors eating areas and sports activities venues. You’ll be able to face a tremendous should you’re caught smoking in a non-designated space. The identical goes for vaping, and it’s unlawful to import and promote e-cigarettes.

The view of the street of Casco Viejo (Old City)
Panama is likely one of the most secure nations in Central America, but it surely all the time pays to take a couple of precautions © Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Photographs

Well being and security in Panama

Deliver repellent to keep away from mosquito bites 

Not solely are mosquito bites itchy, they will additionally unfold illnesses corresponding to dengue fever, so use a heavyweight bug spray, particularly should you’re heading to the jungle.

If you happen to want emergency medical help, dial 911 for an ambulance. Panama Metropolis has good hospitals and clinics, however services are extra restricted outdoors the capital; be sure you have enough journey insurance coverage.

Can I drink the water?

With a combo of warmth and humidity, it’s vital to maintain hydrated, notably should you plan to get energetic. Faucet water is generally secure to drink, particularly in cities, however should you’re going off the overwhelmed observe, keep away from plastic air pollution and spend money on a water-filter bottle such because the LifeStraw Go, which you’ll be able to refill from any water supply.

Find out how to keep secure within the metropolis

Panama is likely one of the most secure nations in Central America, but it surely all the time pays to take a couple of precautions.

Pickpocketing is widespread in crowded areas of Panama Metropolis, together with bus stations, markets and buying areas, so preserve your valuables secure.

As in any massive metropolis, keep away from poorly lit streets or wandering round dodgy neighborhoods alone after darkish. Keep away from carrying all of your bank cards without delay, or wads of money, and should you want an ATM, attempt to use one inside a financial institution throughout the day.

Report a criminal offense by dialing 511 9260 (the Vacationer Police in Panama Metropolis) or 104 (Nationwide Police), and preserve the variety of your embassy helpful.

Casco Viejo is likely one of the prime 10 experiences in Panama Metropolis

Control the climate  

Earlier than you make the leap on Panama’s two coastlines, verify for robust currents or riptides. Inland, heavy rains may cause flash flooding and landslides – October and November are normally the wettest months – so verify the climate forecast and observe native recommendation earlier than hitting the mountaineering trails with out a information.

A sloth hangs in a tree in a forested area in Panama
Take pleasure in Panama’s wildlife at a distance © Parkol / Getty Photographs

Be cautious when interacting with wildlife

Whereas the chance is low, preserve your eye out for venomous snakes, such because the fearsome fer-de-lance, whereas trekking alongside jungle trails, and keep away from swimming in rivers until they’re crocodile-free.

All the time carry your ID

International guests are requested to hold their passport always, and the police generally verify, but it surely’s safer to hold a photocopy or photograph of the opening pages and entry stamp and depart the true factor someplace safe.

Avoid medication

Panama takes its drug legal guidelines very significantly. Getting caught with a small quantity of unlawful medication, and even being with somebody who’s utilizing medication or has them of their possession, is grounds for arrest and might result in a heavy tremendous or a harsh jail sentence.