There's some truth to the saying Panama was 'born global'. The Panamanians of today come from diverse origins of Spanish descendants, immigrants from China, India, the Middle East, North America and Europe, and blacks brought for building the canal. This has resulted in a vibrant and exotic culture in Panama.
Panama City is a safe city with a very low percentage of crime. The usual worries like pickpocketing, purse snatching rarely happen in the city. However, as in any other tourist destination, you need to take precautions to be on the safer side. Avoid travelling at night in sketchy areas.
Travel only in the authorised taxis painted in yellow or by taxis tied up to your hotel. Do not flaunt expensive items like cameras, wristwatches and jewellery. Avoid carrying large sums of money.
Avoid going to the areas such as El Chorillo, San Miguel and Santa Ana. Drug gangs are active in these areas, and tourists are kidnapped right off the street. Another area to avoid is Colon, a shady area with no major tourist attractions.
Take care while crossing the roads; the only way to cross the roads is to wait for a break in traffic.
Some of the bills have the tip printed on them, so check while paying. Otherwise, generally, a 10% tip is the norm. It is not mandatory to pay a tip to taxi drivers; however, it would be much welcomed.
As Panama City has been a hub for international business for decades, English is the second language spoken most frequently. Most Panamanians speak English, and quite a number of them speak fluently. So even if you do not speak Spanish, it will not be a major hurdle while touring the city.
For the tropical climate, loose-fitting cotton clothes in light colours are the best. Hats, sunglasses, sunscreens are essential. Boots, hat, long pants, and insect repellent is essential if you plan to go hiking. Carry a warm sweater or light jacket as it can be a bit chilly in the evenings. Panamanians take pride in their appearance and are well-groomed, especially women. So do plan to make a little effort in your clothing.
The weather in Panama is generally good throughout the year. Panama has two seasons, the dry season from December to May and the green season or the so-called rainy season from June to December. So the sun shines in the country throughout the year. October and November are the rainiest months and can restrict activities like scuba diving, birdwatching and hiking. The best months to explore Panama to the fullest are from Jan to April.
Panama has excellent sanitary conditions, and water can be consumed directly from the taps. The traveller's diarrhoea that is found in other parts of Latin America is rare in Panama. Food is up to the standards and is prepared in highly hygienic conditions.
No extra vaccines or flu shots are required when visiting Panama. Panama is a tropical country, so one might expect mosquitoes to be a nuisance here. However, mosquito control is quite effective in the region. Mosquito repellents would only be required when you are in the forest after dusk, hiking or staying overnight in the jungle.
Most of the doctors in Panama are US-trained due to their long association with the US. The doctors are on par with US standards.
Hospital Nacional in the city has a wing especially for tourists and is equipped with a multilingual staff. Facilities and services are up to the mark, and most of the insurance policies are accepted here.
The voltage in Panama is the same as in the US and Canada that is 110V.
The currency circulated in the US dollar, so travellers do not have to worry about currency exchanges.