Republic of Panama with an area of approximately 29,700
sq. Miles (76,900 sq. km.), located between Costa Rica
and Colombia, forms the narrowest and lowest portion
of the Isthmus that links North and South America.
Shaped like an elongated letter "S", which
extends west to east some 420 miles (676 km.), the country
has a width that varies between 31 and 115 miles (50
and 185 km,) and has a coastline of 490 miles (788 km.)
on the Atlantic Ocean and 870 miles (1,400 kin.) on
the Pacific Ocean. The Canal, which joins the Atlantic
and the Pacific Oceans, is about 50 miles (80 km.) long.
Because of the lateral nature of its extension and its
curved contour, directions are often surprising. A transit
of the Canal from the Pacific to the Atlantic involves
traveling not to the East but to the North-West; in
Panama City the sun is seen to rise out of the Pacific.
Panama City is the country's capital and the principal
commercial center. It lies on the Gulf of Panama in
the Pacific Ocean. Colon, the country's second largest
city, is located on the Caribbean Coast. Its economy
is dependent on traffic through the Panama Canal and
on business activity in the Colon Free Trade Zone, the
largest duty-free zone in the Americas.
The diversity that is Panama extends to its picture-perfect
beaches. Bordering the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean,
along the 2857 kilometers (1,786 miles) of coastline,
are myriads of lagoons, bays and countless islands from
which to choose. Whatever your preference there is a
beach for you! From smart resorts to Robinson Crusoe
islands where the only footprints will be your own;
from calm palm-fringed bays to surfers’ paradise; coral
islands and atolls where indigenous people sustain a
very different culture; beaches bordered by lush mangroves
or hidden beaches where the rainforest meets the sea.
The choice is yours.
Panama is the ultimate location for adventurers and
nature lovers. Jungle and rainforest are just a few
minutes from Panama City. Panama's rainforests are home
to about 10,000 different plants and more than 1,000
species of birds.
The unique geographical location of Panama as a land
bridge between two continents has contributed to one
of the most complex ecosystems on earth. Panama is making
an effort to protect its natural resources with 30%
of land set aside for conservation, 25% of this land
is designated as national parks, i.e. approximately
5 million acres. Of the 29 national parks, forest reserves
and wild life refuges, five parks are within two hours
drive of Panama City, and one is within the metropolitan
Airlines serving Panama with regularly scheduled flights:
visitors require a valid passport and an onward/return
Additional requirements vary according to nationality
and are subject to change. You are recommended to check
with a Panamanian Consulate or Embassy or ticketing
agents for airlines that fly to Panama to obtain the
most updated information.
At the time of writing, nationals from the following
countries do NOT REQUIRE any further documentation:
Argentina, Austria, Belgium Costa Rica, El Salvador,
Finland, France, Germany Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary,
Israel, Italy, Luxemburg, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal,
Singapore, Switzerland and UK.
Nationals from the following countries do REQUIRE a
tourist card (US $5) or a tourist visa, available from
Panamanian embassies and consulates, airlines serving
Panama, border crossings, or at the international airport
: Antigua, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda,
Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark,
Granada, Greece, Guyana, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica,
Japan, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand,
San Marino, South Korea, Suriname, Taiwan, Tobago, Trinidad,
Nationals from Chad, Ecuador, Egypt, Philippines, Peru,
Dominican Republic and Thailand require tourist visas
and should contact an embassy or consulate.
If your country is not listed above, contact your nearest
Panamanian Consulate or Embassy or the Panamanian Immigration
office Tel: 507-227-1448 Fax: 507-227-1227
Upon entry, every visitor is given a stamp allowing
him or her to remain in Panama as a tourist for 90 days.
This may be extended by applying to an immigration office
in Panama City, David or Chitre, the only offices that
can issue an extension.
For information regarding Pensionado and other Residence
Visas, 2nd Passports etc. click here
You may enter Panama with 200 cigarettes and 3 bottles
of liquor tax free. If you try to leave Panama with
articles made from endangered species you may be severely
If your stay is confined to Panama City, don't bother
with buses or rental cars. Taxis are available for reasonable
fares. Choose a relatively new car that is in good condition.
The slightly higher fare is more than worth it for reliability
and cold air conditioning. For longer trips or journeys
to remote areas, plan to get a vehicle with four-wheel
drive capability, as you may be driving on rugged terrain.
These vehicles are popular and run out fast, so plan
ahead. Most major towns have car rental agencies, so
renting a car is a relatively easy process. It's important
to bring the rental reservation document that states
the agreed upon rate. Remember, you must be at least
25 years old to rent a car (23 if paid by AMEX). All
major rental car agencies are represented in Panama.
The Pan American Highway, also known as Interamerican
Highway, joins Panamanian cities with Costa Rica. At
this time, the Darién jungle continues to be
impenetrable, preventing access by land to Colombia.
A tour by car along the Transisthmic Highway joins Panama
City with Colón. Even the most remote areas of
Panama are accessible by paved secondary roads. The
bus service is good and covers the entire country as
well as the other countries in Central America and Mexico.
Most Panamanians are Roman Catholic. However, due to
the great diversity in the country, there are numerous
churches, temples and synagogues all over the country.
There is freedom of religion in Panama.
Although the official language in Panama is Spanish,
English is widely spoken and understood in the major
The country enjoys an agreeable tropical climate and
an average daytime temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit,
with cooling in the evenings. The average humidity is
70%. The rainy season goes from May to December. Throughout
the dry season, trade winds keep the air continuously
cool. In the mountains, the average temperature is between
50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Light clothes are recommended. Business clothing is
formal. A light jacket for men and a tailored suit or
a two-piece pants suit for women is recommended. A wide-brim
hat and sun glasses are necessary if you go to the shore
Panama's time is five hours behind Greenwich Mean time
(GMT). Thus, Panama is on Eastern Standard time (EST);
it does not have daylight saving time.
Electricity and Public Services
The current is 110w - 60hz and 220w. Telephone and international
cable services in Panama are excellent. There is a direct-dial
system to locations inland and all over the world. Our
country code is 507.
Local calls are 10 cents and the bright blue Cable and
Wireless phone booths are everywhere, although some
take calling cards only.
For international calls your best bet is to bring an
international calling card with you. International calls
made through hotels,like everywhere are very expensive.
A more time consuming option is to go to a Cable and
Wireless office to make an international call or send
a fax. You can also visit one of the numerous internet
cafes that offer Net2Phone international phone calls
for 25 cents a minute.
Renting a cellular phone in Panama is easy, as several
companies offer convenient plans for those visiting
the country. Most companies require a valid passport
and a deposit, which can be paid in cash or with credit
card; for an additional fee insurance is available.
Calls are charged on a "per minute" basis,
and are offered on a daily, weekly and monthly plans,
with international access often available. Each company
might differ in their policies and pricing, thus we
recommend that you act accordingly.
The two major cell phone operators are Bell South and
Cable & Wireless. There is an enormous amount of
competition between the two, so services are quite extensive
reasonably priced. If you wish to purchase a phone several
options are available to you. Both prepaid and one year
contracts are available.
Since 1904, the United States dollar has been the legal
currency in Panama. The Balboa, the Panamanian monetary
unit, is par valued with the dollar. Prices can be expressed
in Balboas (B/.) or in Dollars ($). Traveler cheques
and credit cards are widely accepted. The International
departure duty is US$20.00, payable in the airport.
The hotel tax is 10%. The added tax value to products
and services, with the exception of food and medicines
You can access your American bank account in Panama
City at the ATM machines that have "Cirrus"
or "Plus" sign on them, provided that you
have a personal ID number. Look on the back of your
debit card to see if it has these names. This a quick
and hassle-free way to get cash in increments of up
to $500 a day, depending on the daily limit your card
More than 150 international banks and their branches
operate in Panama. The United States, Brazil, Colombia,
Venezuela, Taiwan, Argentina, South Korea, Japan, Germany,
the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, China, Spain,
France and others are represented here. The banking
hours vary, but most of them are open from Monday to
Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Some banks offer
services on Saturday.
Most private business offices are open from 8:00 a.m.
until 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. It is customary for all offices
and stores to close for the lunch period for at least
one and a half hours. Office hours for government offices
vary and it is advisable to check prior to visiting
any government office.
If a holiday falls on Sunday, it is observed on the
following day. The executive branch is authorized to
designate days of national mourning on which all offices
and commercial businesses are closed.
Health care is both excellent and reasonably priced
in Panama. Many of the country's physicians earn their
degrees in the U.S. and other industrialized countries,
and the state university offers a top quality medical
program. Bilingual doctors are common in all Panama
City hospitals. Water supply is safe to drink with few
exceptions throughout the country.
No vaccines or pills are necessary prior to visiting
our country. Remember, the tropical sun can be strong;
so it’s wise to take protective sunglasses and sunscreen
with you. Although Panama is indeed a tropical country,
mosquito control is effective. Exceptions would include
hiking and over-nighting in the jungle, in which case
you should use protective insect repellant.
Panama is the only country in Latin America where you
can drink water straight from the tap.
Panama has the best championship golf courses in all
of Central America. The two most well known golf facilities
in the area are the course at Coronado and the Summit
Golf Resort. Coronado is an 18-hole par 72 course offering
7,092 yards of professional play. This course is especially
beautiful for its fruit trees, including the abundance
of Mango trees, which surround the greens and fairways.
To put it simply, the course is considered a "jewel"
in all of Latin America.
Nestled in the forests of the Panama Canal watershed
lays Summit Golf and Resort. This luxurious complex
includes two courses, the first of which has 18 holes
and the second, designed especially for kids, has 6
holes. Summit Golf and Resort is the only facility of
its kind in Latin America equipped with GPS technology.
This resort also caters to children by offering a family
center, day care and games for all ages. Sounds like
it couldn't get any better? It does. The Summit Golf
and Resort is just a twenty-minute drive from downtown
Restaurants in Panama reflect our cultural diversity
by offering a wide range of cuisines. Whatever you are
in the mood for, you'll have no trouble finding it.
Naturally, seafood is excellent and abundant in Panama.
The most common fish on many menus is also one of the
most delicious: corvina. And you can't talk about Panamanian
cuisine without mentioning ceviche. This traditional
dish consists of raw corvina that is marinated in limejuice,
peppers, and onions and is considered to be a delicious
treat by locals. Whatever your preference in dishes,
Panama offers something to suit everyone's tastes and
Panama City is a paradise for shoppers. Vía España
and Avenida Central offer everything from the latest
in fashion to the most complex computers and crafts
at low prices. The craft stores offer a variety of straw
and wood products, embroideries and paintings, in addition
to the famous molas, hand-made by the Kuna Indians.
Panama is an international free port. You can find jewels,
precious stones, embroidered tablecloths, oriental art,
watches, perfumes, photography and electronic equipment,
electric household products, fine glassware and porcelain
- all at reasonable prices. Most stores are open from
9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday to Saturday. Many of
them open on Sunday and hold numerous special sales
(baratillos) throughout the year. Supermarkets, many
of which are open 24 hours, are modern and well stocked.
There are also large, modern commercial malls with a
vast variety of specialized stores.
In Panama, casinos and other games of chance are operated
both under the government and privately. Profits from
the national lottery go to support hospitals and local
charities. There are a number of popular gambling houses
that can be found in downtown Panama.
Whether is snorkeling or tank diving, the diving enthusiast
is bound to find his appeal in any of the various waters
of Panama. Panama offers both, the lively and colorful
clarity of Caribbean style Atlantic; the vast and mysterious
Pacific Ocean full of large marine species, exactly
where Balboa discovered it; and the jungle encircled
Gatun Lake, bed of the Panama Canal.
The isthmus of Panama, running on an east-west axis,
finds the Atlantic Ocean on its northern shores. Starting
from the west, the first dive site is Bocas del Toro.
The scuba diving in and around Bocas can be enjoyed
throughout the year, with most of the dive spots no
more than one hour boat ride from Bocas town. The water
temperatures is very tropical and constant, so full
or even short wetsuits are not required. Water visability
varies from one dive spot to another, and is always
dependent on weather conditions. The months of September
and October are traditionally the better months, due
primarilly to more suitable climatic conditions. During
this period there is less rain and wind, allowing for
clearer water conditions.
The best beaches for surfing are some 50 miles west
of the city traveling through the Pan American Highway.
Some of the most popular ones on the Pacific Side are
Santa Catalina, Venado and Río Mar. On the Atlantic
the spot are Isla Grande, Bluf and Careneros. You can
surf on both coasts with ranging from 3 to 15 feet.
There are several rivers in Panama that will provide
a white knuckle thrill. The rivers Chiriquí and
Chiriquí Viejo, rated level 3 and 4 respectively,
are excellent for whitewater adventure.
Bajo Mendez Section - Class III & III+; Considered
to be the forgiving river to its counterpart, the Palon,
this section involves big water with plenty of room
for maneuvering. Long wave trains and wild scenery make
this river a perfect starting point for the first-time
Barrigona Section - Class III; Perfect for beginners
and families, this section offers a glimpse of what
whitewater can look and feel like. The Barrigona features
a few exciting class III rapids while the rest of the
stretch is filled with continuously moving water that
will keep you on your toes. A shorter trip, the Barrigona
gives the rafter 2.5 hours of milder rafting and vistas
of Chiriqui's pretty stretches of plains and gentle
CHIRIQUI VIEJO RIVER
Palon Section - Class IV; Perhaps some of the most beautiful
and classic rapids in all of Central America, this section
is only run during the low water months of December
through April. Intrepid first-timers and seasoned rafters
will undoubtedly hail this river as a world class run
with it's non stop rapids, technical maneuvers, deep
canyon gorges and it's spectacular tropical jungle scenery.
Sabo Section - Class III; Lush and verdant forest borders
along this lower section of the Chiriqui Viejo River.
Big rapids dominate the first half of the Sabo section
while the second half levels out to allow participants
a chance to enjoy the surrounding wildlife and scenery.
Feast your eyesCormorants, Kingfishers and Iguanas abound!
Panama offers three world-class areas for deep-sea fishing:
Bahía Piña and the Pearl and Coiba archipelagos.
Bahía Piña holds more world fishing records
than any other place in the world. These three areas
offer shipboard and beachfront lodging with either full
or half-day trips. In addition, a number of the local
hotels often organize deep-sea fishing expeditions.
This is a wonderful opportunity to sail about and enjoy
the open sea, while learning about the various fish
native to the Atlantic or Pacific.
The Presidente Jose A. Remón Racetrack in Juan
Díaz is conveniently open on Thursdays, Saturdays,
Sundays, and holidays. In Panama, no earnings from games
of chance are subject to taxation.
Panama offers magnificent bird watching.The total number
of bird species found in Panama, about 950, is surprisingly
large, especially when you consider the relatively small
surface of the country. Some 150 of these are neotropical
migrants that only occur in the country from September
till April. It is not rare to see more than twenty different
migrant warblers and vireos on a good morning on spring
or fall migration, and that added to fifty or sixty
resident species. Due to the country's location between
two continents and its narrow girth, more species of
birds inhabit Panama than anywhere else in Central America.
In this country, many North and South American birds
are represented, both native and migratory. The famous
resplendent quetzal, the three-wattled bellbird, the
harpy eagle and the king vulture are just a few of the
many species that flourish here.
A number of organizations and companies, like the Panama
Audubon Society, can help assist in planning your bird
watching expedition and maximize your chances of seeing
the greatest number of bird species. But all you really
need to do to see birds in Panama is grab a set of binoculars
and head for a trail.
Carnival, the annual celebration before Lent, is perhaps
the most widely attended of Panamanian festivals and
certainly the most widely recognized internationally.
Is a 4-day celebration, which starts on Saturday, and
ends on Tuesday. Dates change every year. Carnival Sunday
is seven weeks before Easter Sunday.
There's much more to Carnival than the Parades, though.
Street Carnival is loads of fun, free, and it happens
all over the country. You are more than welcome to watch
and to participate.
Each town in Panama has its parades during the morning
in Carnival, called "Culecos" or "Mojaderas"
and during the night. They consist of a car with the
Street Queen and her princesses, followed by an orchestra
marching along a pre-determined route, followed by hordes
of enthusiastic dancers dressed in typical dresses or
customes (during the night), bathing suits (during the
morning), or simple clothes. The performance of the
queens is legendary.
La Amistad International Park
Location: Chiriqui and Bocas del Toro provinces, northwest
Area: 207,000 hectares (511,290 acres)
Distance from Panama City: 480km
Nearest accommodation: Cerro Punta
A cooperative effort between Panama and Costa Rica,
this huge national park contains 12 life zones and protects
an enormous diversity of flora and fauna.
Bastimentos Island Marine National Park
Location: Bocas del Toro Province, northwest
Area: 13,226 hectares (32,668 acres)
Distance from Panama City: a one-hour flight or about
a day by road and ferry
Accommodation: Hotels on the islands of Colon, Almirante
Protecting the coastal and marine ecosystems of the
Bocas del Toro archipeligo, this park featues pristine
white sand beaches and great snorkeling and diving on
its coral reefs. Three species of marine turtles nest
on the beaches and the waters are home to manatees,
lobsters and more than 200 species of tropical fish.
Soberania National Park
Location: Panama and Colon provinces, central
Areas: 22,104 hectares (54, 596 acres)
Distance from Panama City: 25km
Accommodation: Panama City
Located in the watershed of the Panama Canal, this is
one of the country's most accessible forest areas. It
has several hiking trails and a fantastic variety of
plant, animal and bird life. One of the trails includes
a section of the old Las Cruces Trail used by the Spanish
mule trains taking goods between Panama City and Nombre
Chagres National Park
Location: Panama and Colon provinces, central
Area: 129,000 hectares (318,630 acres)
Distance from Panama City: 40km
Fort San Lorenzo, Colon
King Phillip II ordered the fortress to be built in
1595, which is located on the Chagres River commanding
a view of the mouth of the river and miles out to sea.
Picturesque bayside village features the ruins of five
Spanish forts, a restored treasure house and the burial
place of Sir Francis Drake.
What to see in Panama City
Casco Viejo, Panama City
Historic district that features wide brick streets and
a range of architectural styles that reflects the city's
Summit Gardens, Panama City
Featuring a small zoo and paved trails, this tropical
botanical garden features Panama's national bird, the
Soberania National Park, Panama City
Located 15 miles from downtown Panama City, this scenic
park features two hiking paths called el Charco in Gamboa
and Pipeline Road, both known for excellent birding
and wildlife viewing.
Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador), Panama City
Located at the southern entrance of the Panama Canal
and stretching nearly three kilometers into the Pacific
Ocean, this popular causeway features many tourist-related
venues and activities including hotels, restaurants,
and jogging and biking trails.
Gatun Lake, Panama City
After Lake Mead, this is the world's largest man-made
lake that forms the central part of the Panama Canal.
Panama Canal, Panama City
Though it was built 90 years ago, the Panama Canal remains
one of mankind's most impressive feats of engineering.
It took 30 years and cost the lives of some 25,000 workers
to dig 25 miles of channel, build three massive locks,
and dam up the Chagres River. Today, ships make over
14,000 transits through the 51-mile network of locks
and lakes. Tolls, based on a boat's measurements and
cargo volume, must be paid in cash. (A cruise liner
set the record in 2003, paying nearly $218,000.) The
canal is a major source of income for Panama—during
its last fiscal year it posted revenue of $800 million.
Canal aficionados can take a Panama Jones cruise that
makes the full passage from Panama City to Colón
over ten long hours. Along the way, the boat passes
by jungle islands inhabited by gregarious monkeys and
through all three locks, as well as the famous Gaillard
Cut, the nine-mile section of the canal that was dug
through the highest elevations. If you prefer a quick
thril, a chartered helicopter from a company called
Helipan Corporation ($650 per hour for up to four people;
507-315-0452). The hourlong flight gives you a stunning
heart-in-your-mouth overview of the parade of ships
and the jungle corridor that lies between the Caribbean
and the Pacific.
Panama Interoceanic Canal Museum, Panama City
Opened in 1997, this history museum chronicles the planning,
construction and present-day operation of Panama's landmark
Metropolitan National Park, Panama City
Located within the limits of Panama City, this protected
tropical forest is the site where the Smithsonian Institute
carries out scientific research on the ecology of the
forest canopy. Here you can walk through marked paths,
surrounded by orchids and cedar trees and see more than
200 different species of birds, mammals and reptiles.
Bridge of the Americas, Panama City
Spanning the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal, this
5,007-foot-long arch bridge connects both North and
South America and serves as an important part of the
Panama Canal Railway, Panama City
This tour on the newly restored Panama Canal Railway,
the western hemisphere's first transcontinental railroad,
follows the east bank of the canal that offers excellent
views of the waterway and rainforests along its shoreline.
Avenida Central, Panama City
Six-block-long pedestrian mall that is lined with shops
Vasco Nunez de Balboa Park, Panama City
Paying tribute to Spanish adventurer Vasco Núñez
de Balboa, this scenic park features a statue that depicts
the explorer holding a Spanish flag in one hand and
a sword in the other.
Monkey Island, Panama City
Located in Lake Gatun, this island gets its name for
the white-faced monkeys that inhabit it.
Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitan), Panama
Built between 1688 and 1796, this is a magnificent example
of the religious colonial architecture of Panama.
Limon Bay, Panama City
Located at the north end of the Panama Canal, this 4.5-mile-long
and 2.5-mile-wide bay is protected by rough seas by
breakwaters at its entrance.
San Jose Church, Panama City
Built soon after the first Spanish settlement in the
16th century, this small church features the famous
Golden Altar (Altar de Oro), which is made entirely
of pure gold.
Embera Indian Village, Panama City
Visitors to the authentic village of Parara Puru have
the opportunity to learn about the culture and society
of the Embera Indians.
The Old City (Casco Viejo), Panama City
This charming old community’s churches, pedestrian walkways
and historical plazas and palaces make it a must-see
on any tour.