Panama is located in Central America between 7° and 10° north of the Equator, with Costa Rica to the northwest and Colombia to the southeast. Panama actually runs west to east, with the Caribbean on the north and the Pacific Ocean on the south.
Panama's climate is tropical, with a generally high humidity averaging 70%. Average daytime temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with cooling in the evenings. The rainy season goes from May to December, though this can vary along the Caribbean Coast, particularly in the Bocas del Toro area. Throughout the dry season, trade winds keep the air continuously cool. In the mountains, the average temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Panama is not in the hurricane belt.
Best time to visit Panama City and the Pacific coast area is during the dry season between mid-December and April. Conditions on the Caribbean side can be quite different with a higher rainfall more evenly distributed throughout the year. Residents of highland areas such as Boquete and El Valle consider their areas to have springtime weather year-round.
Depending on your nationality, you may be required to have a valid passport and a visa or a $5.00 tourist card. Tourist cards may be bought at the airline counter at the time of departure.
United States and Canadian citizens need only a valid passport and tourist card to visit Panama. A tourist card gives you an automatic 30-day stay, and is extendable for another 60 days. Travelers from other countries should consult with the Panamanian consulate or embassy in that country to obtain the latest information on entry requirements.
When entering the country, you may only bring up to one carton of cigarettes and 3 bottles of liquor. Like other countries, you may be fined and charged for leaving Panama with products made from endangered species.
The U.S. dollar has been the legal currency in Panama since 1904. Panamanian Currency is the Balboa (B), which equals 100 centavos. Prices can be expressed in Balboas (B/) or in Dollars ($). The Panamanian Balboa is established at the same value as the U.S. dollar. There is no Panamanian paper currency. Instead U.S. dollar denominations are used, as are U.S. coins. Panamanian Balboa coins exist in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos, and in 1 and 10 Balboas.
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 is 5%.
As with any destination, it is not advisable to walk around the streets flashing your money or valuable belongings. Reports of people being pickpocketed in Panama are rare, but it's best to assume that pickpockets are around. Just use common sense and your intuition to protect yourself. Remember that the less attention you draw to yourself, the less likely you are to have an unpleasant experience.
No vaccines or pills are necessary prior to visiting Panama. The tropical sun can be strong, so it's wise to take protective sunglasses and sunscreen with you. Although Panama is a tropical country, mosquito control is effective. Exceptions 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.
Himno Istemño (Isthmian Hymn), with lyrics by Jerónimo de la Ossa and music by Santos A. Jorge, was first sung by Panamanians when the country achieved independence in 1903. In 1925 it became the official national anthem. Listen
Excellent diving on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. Best-known sites are the San Blas and Bocas del Toro archipelagos on the Caribbean side, and Coiba Island and the Archipelago Las Perlas on the Pacific side. Coiba Island National Marine Park has been ranked as one of the world's best diving locations. More
Panama's Indian name means "abundance of fish." The country has over 1500 islands, 1000 miles of coastline and 480 rivers. 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.
Hiking is everywhere. Along mainland and island beaches, by hidden waterfalls and natural pools in the jungle, in the 49 national parks, refuges and reserves, and through small villages throughout the country.
Rivers in Chiriquí Province are excellent for whitewater rafting. They include the Chiriquí (level III) and Chiriquí Viejo (level IV). Close to Panama City, the Mamoni River offers Class II, III and IV rafting. The Chagres River in Chagres National Park is deep in the jungle and offers levels of II and III.
Many excellent, but still largely unknown, surfing beaches. Some of the most popular on the Pacific coast are Santa Catalina, Venado and Río Mar. On the Atlantic in the Bocas del Toro area are Isla Grande, Bluff and Careneros.
Altos del Maria Forum
For everyone interested in living in Altos del Maria and its environs Bocas del Toro Community Forums
Online community to share information about living in the Bocas del Toro islands and adjacent mainland, especially for the expat community (and those thinking about joining that community) Casco Viejo
About life in the area of Panama City founded in 1673 Panama Forum
Primarily for English speaking people who live in or are interested in living in Panama Panama Laws for Expats
Laws and legal issues of interest to expats living in Panama (or those thinking about it) Panbocas
Visiting and living in Bocas del Toro RetireNPanama
For those retired in, or considering retiring to, Panama Viviendo en Boquete/Living in Boquete
For those who are living, or plan to live, in Boquete
The following two forums are also available, but have basically become the marketing arm of a commercial website:
Many international airlines fly into Tocumen International Airport (PTY), just outside of Panama City. They include Mexicana, American, Continental, United, Delta, Alitalia, British Airways, Iberia, Japan Air Lines, KLM, Lufthansa, Sabena, SAS and Varig.
The larger expat communities are in Panama City, Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast, Boquete and Volcan in the highlands in Chiriquí Province, and El Valle in the highlands outside Panama City. Many Americans now living in Panama either stayed after the Canal Zone was turned over to Panama by the U.S., or went back to the States and returned later. Americans who formerly lived in the Canal Zone are referred to as Zonians, or Zonies.