There’s some truth to the saying the Panama was ‘born global’. The Panamanians of today come from diverse origins of Spanish descendants, immigrants from China, India, Middle East, North America and Europe as well as 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 pick pocketing, purse snatching rarely happen in the city. However as in any other tourist destination you need to take some precautions to be on the safer side. Avoid travelling at night in the sketchy areas of the city. Travel only in the authorised taxis which are painted in yellow or by taxis that are tied up to your hotel. Do not flaunt expensive items like cameras, wrist watches and jewellery. Avoid carrying large sums of money with you.
Avoid going to the areas such as El Chorillo, San Miguel and Santa Ana. Drug gangs are active in this area and there are incidences of tourists being kidnapped right off the street. Another area to avoid is Colon as it is a shady area with no major tourist attractions.
Take care while crossing the roads, the only way to cross roads is to wait for a break in traffic.
Some of the bills have the tip printed on it, so check while paying. Otherwise generally a 10 percent 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 and is 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 the women. So do plan to take a little effort in your clothing.
Best time to visit Panama City
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, bird watching and hiking. Best months to explore Panama to the fullest are from May to September.
Food and water
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 extremely 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 rainforest 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 in Panama 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 same as in US and Canada that is 110V. All your regular electric appliances will work here.
The currency circulated is US dollar, so travellers do not have to worry about currency exchanges. This is a major convenience while touring in Panama.
Making phone calls from Panama to USA/Canada cost’s as little as 5 cents per minute. It is advisable to buy a $10.00 C &W or Movistar phone card from grocery stores like Farmacia Arrocha or El Rey. You just need to put in the code and can call from any phone. Alternatively to receive calls, you can buy a cheap phone from any mall and use a phone card.
Tour operators are multilingual and can speak in Spanish, English, Portuguese and French. They offer general tourist advice and guidance in cases of pickpocketing or lost passports.