Panama  is a country in Central America with coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, with Colombia (and South America) to the southeast and Costa Rica (and North America) to the northwest. It's strategically located on the isthmus that forms the land bridge connecting North and South America. It controls the Panama Canal that links the North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean, one of the most important shipping routes in the world.
- Boquete Mountain Highlands (Borders Costa Rica)
- Bocas del Toro Atlantic Coast--Caribbean
- Chiriquí Highlands
- Cocle Pacific Coast
- Colón Atlantic Coast
- Darién Borders Colombia
- Los Santos
- Kuna Yala (San Blas)
- Panama City - Capital (There are three regions of interest, the new city, the old city, and the colonial city)
Ports and harbors
- Bocas Del Toro, Isla Colon - an archipelago protected by coral reefs - restaurants and hotels are set up at sea-level, and its still considered a virgin destination
- Boquete - Valley of the Flowers and habitat of the Resplendent Quetzal (rare and endangered exotic bird)
- Cerro Punta
- El Valle
- Isla Grande
- Pearl Islands (Archipielago de las Perlas)
- San Blas Islands
Panama is known as the "Crossroads of the Americas" due to its privileged position between North and South America. The indigenous meaning of the country's name, "abundance of fish", reflects Panama's reputation as a paradise for water sports enthusiasts and eco-tourists alike. Panama is also known for its highly developed international banking sector, with more than 150 banks from 35 countries establishing local branches, including HSBC, Dresdner Bank and Citi Bank. Panama boasts a large expat community; about 25,000 US citizens live in country. It is worth spending some time reading up on Panama and communicating with locals, expats and fellow travelers alike before arriving in the country. Consider reviewing some yahoo groups for expats such as panamainsider or americansinpanama and following and joining the Central America Forum 
Tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season, called winter or invierno (May to January); short dry season, called summer or verano (January to May)
Be sure to be prepared for rain, especially during the Central American winter (May - December). An umbrella is a good thing to have, and they can be bought cheaply in Panama.
Most areas are quite warm, but a few places, such as Boquete, Cerro Punta and El Valle can get a little chilly at night. You definitely want a heavy rain-proof jacket if you're going to the top of Barú since you will be above 3000m for a little while.
- Natural hazards
- occasional severe storms and forest fires in the remote Darien area. Hurricane-strong winds are only a very small possibility in Panama. Because of its geographic position, it is very unlikely that Panama could be in the path of any hurricane, unlike the other Central American countries.
Interior mostly steep, rugged mountains and dissected, upland plains; coastal areas largely plains and rolling hills
- Highest point
- Volcan Baru, Chiriqui Province 3,475 m
- 3 November 1903 (from Colombia; became independent from Spain 28 November 1821)
- National holiday
- Independence Day, 3 November (1903)
With US backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914.
- 11 October 1972; major reforms adopted 1978, 1983 and 1994
On 7 September 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama by the end of 1999. Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the intervening years. The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining US military bases were turned over to Panama by or on 31 December 1999.
Citizens of many countries, US citizens included, may enter Panama without a visa, but are required to purchase a tourist card on arrival (cost US$5, allows a 90-day stay as of March 2009). The cost is $13 (US) for a visa stamp to enter at Bocas del Toro, when arriving by airplane, as of May 2008. Entry requirements are proof of
- a return ticket out of Panama
- possession of US$500 in cash or travelers' checks
- vaccination for yellow fever--only if coming from a country where yellow fever occurs (includes most of Latin America but not USA).
In practice, border officials may be lax about checking clean-cut travelers coming from the USA or other developed countries.
International flights arrive at Tocumen International Airport (PTY), which lies about 20 miles east of Panama City (from all countries) or David Airport (from Costa Rica only). Panama City's PTY is well connected with the Americas and has non-stop flights to almost 20 countries in the region. Neighbor Colombia is specially well served with daily flights to more than 7 cities, including Bogota, Medellín, Cali and Cartagena.
From Tocumen, you will have to taxi, bus, or rent a car to get to the city. Airport taxis use set rates, and can be shared--the transportation information booth in the lobby will help you make arrangements. There are a couple of hotels near the airport where you can spend the night at relatively high prices (US$60).
If you are short on cash you can catch a bus to the downtown of the city for .25 balboa. Just walk towards the highway and cross the street towards the bus shelter. Make sure you get the bus that says "Via España".
The country has more private airstrips per square mile than any other country in the world, and it is technically feasible for the adventurous private pilot to fly to one of them, either directly or through country hopping through Central America. Many of the remote interior regions of the country are best accessed by private plane, although combinations of hiking and canoing can get you to most places, too. If you are flying a private aircraft into Panama, it is important to verify where you can clear customs and immigration--not all airstrips are equipped to clear you.
Business jet FBO services are available in Panama City (Albrook and Tocumen), David (by apointment), Howard, and Bocas del Toro.
You can drive across at Paso Canoas (Pacific side), but be aware that it is one of the busiest (if not the busiest) and disorganized border crossings in Central America. It is very easy to accidentally drive across the border without realizing it. The various offices at the border are randomly scattered throughout the bordertown, and you can do quite a bit of trekking while finding them, as they don't look distinct from the surrounding buildings in any way. This is one crossing where it is definitely worth your money to hire a tramitator, or helper, to help you through the stations, if you do not speak Spanish.
There are also road crossings at Rio Sereno (Pacific side) and Sixaola/Guabito (Atlantic side). The Rio Sereno crossing sees very little traffic, so make sure all your papers are in order, as police can be very strict.
You will not be allowed to leave the country with your car (i.e. change your mind, abandon the car, and fly home) without getting a stamp on your passport proving that you have paid the proper impuestos (importation taxes) on your vehicle. Expect to be stopped frequently by police, but don't worry, they are usually more curious about seeing a foreign car than interested in a bribe.
If you have car trouble in Panama, you will find dealers with service departments for almost all of the major car manufacturers from the USA (All), Europe (almost all) and Japan (All). Most of them, like in the USA require appointments to service your car. Most of the service personnel in all of the car dealers are manufacturer certify. If you need car repairs and do not want to go to a dealer to save some money or you have an emerency repair, you can find good independent mechanic services/shops in all of the major cities by looking in the yellow pages(paginas amarillas), in addition to towing services. If you need parts for your vehicle, you can find a great number of autoparts stores for all major car manufacturers in the yellow pages (paginas amarillas)too. The use of "shade tree mechanics" and parts from junkyards are the same as in the USA; these options are for do-it-yourself type of persons.
You can't cross from Panama to Colombia by bus--the Darien Gap begins at Yaviza, where the Interamericana runs out.
If you're coming in from Costa Rica, however, things will be a bit easier. There are three possible entry points, the main one being Paso Canoas. Panaline and Ticabus, among others, can get you straight from San Jose, Costa Rica to David or Panama City. The trip from San Jose is quite cheap, but takes about 18 hours. If you want to see things in between, you can also go by local buses, although the trip will take much longer.
If you want to save time yet not pay US$280 or so for a SJO-PTY airplane ticket with COPA or TACA, you could consider taking the bus from San Jose to Changuinola and fly from there to Panama city. That flight takes about one hour and costs US$70 (Jun. 2007). Check the website of Aeroperlas.com for flight schedules.
Keep in mind that Panamanian law requires you to have a return ticket to get into Panama. The border guard may not check, but you never know. A return flight from San Jose, Bogotá or Abu Dhabi won't work. The return ticket has to originate from within Panama. If you run into this problem, you can always buy a return ticket from the bus driver. In general, if you're having a hot-tempered day, it may not be a good day to cross any borders. Some border officials in Central America seem to love being sticklers about their crazy rules if they decide they don't like you.
Many cruise lines have the Panama Canal on their itineraries. You can make tours on Panama City or Colon City and take part in many packages. Recommendation is to take the Panama Canal Railway from Panama to Colon or vice versa. This train goes back since 1855 and it was the first interoceanic train in the American Continent. It has been rebuilt recently and it has very nice carts.
It is possible to arrange for passage on banana boats traveling from Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela, but such passage is recommended only for the truly adventurous, as the boats are often structurally unsound, terribly over-burdened, and are very likely to be smuggling drugs as well.
Small, private sail boats  also provide service between Panama and Colombia, with the most common ports-of-call Portobelo on Panama's Caribbean coast, and Cartagena on Colombia's. Fare can vary from US$200-500+, and the trip can take from three to five days, depending if a visit to the San Blas Islands is included (most captains will include a visit if asked). The trip generally takes 5 days and is currently around $375(March 2009). San Blas is always included for around 3 days, then it's 2 days to Cartagena. The best way to find a boat is to ask around in hostels in Panama City popular with backpackers, such as Hostel Mamallena. Expect to wait several days to find a boat, if at all. Do note that these boats, particularly when Panama-bound, may also often be carrying contraband. Please note that the captains that do this trip with passengers generally wouldn't bother carrying contraband, it's not worth their time nor the risk of losing their boats. This trip has become much more commercial over the last couple of years and is not as dangerous as it is made out by some people.
The easiest and cheapest way to reach Panama by boat from Colombia is by ferry from Turbo to Capurgana (COP$ 49000, daily around 8am) and by small boat from Capurgana to Puerto Obaldia (COP$ 20000). From there by plane to Panama City (USD 85) or by boat to Colon and Carti(san blas islands) (USD neg).
It is possible to hike across the Darien Gap from Colombia with the help of trained guides, but this route is generally considered one of the most dangerous in the world. A large percentage of attempts have ended with the trekkers dead as victims of Colombian guerrillas or the oppressive jungle environment, which is considered the densest and most difficult to breach in the world. Despite the bravado-filled tales of backpackers who will try to convince you that REAL travellers aren't afraid to cross the Gap, it really is a very dangerous trip and the Panamanian police are not interested in going in to look for you if you get into trouble.
The guidebook "Getting to Know Panama," by Michele Labrut, gives the following advice for surviving in the Darien.
"Do not go naked into the water, some very undesirable protozoans can get into you. Do not drink untreated water. Never stray from the group, you can easily lose your bearings and get lost. If this happens, stay right where you are, do not panic. Shout or scream at intervals.
There are two kinds of buses in Panama. The ones you find on the highway, and "city buses". The highway buses are constantly making journeys from terminals in Panama city to different destinations along the Pan American Highway, and back to the terminal. They're pretty frequent, and the buses will pick you up or drop you off at any point along their route, and most of them are air conditioned. The roughly linear shape of the country makes it ideal for a bus system, so ideal in fact that you don't really need to rent a car to get around most areas. Take a bus to the intersection on the Pan American highway that you want. You can get on a bus any place on the Pan American highway going towards Panama City, but all trips originating from within the city require a ticket. The Grand Terminal in the city is large and modern, and will remind you of an American shopping mall or airport (it actually is a shopping mall, Albrook Mall, too).
If you want to get on a bus, stand by the side of the road, hold you out your arm and make obvious pointing motions toward the ground. If you're on the bus and want to get off, yell "parada!" or tell the driver in advance. You'll get the hang of it pretty quick. The locals are very helpful with tourists on buses, and may offer help.
The highway buses are very cheap, count on a fare of about US$1 per hour traveled, sometimes less. One exception is fares from Tocumen airport, which both buses and taxis charge through the roof for (by Panamanian standards), simply because they can.
City buses are different. They are crowded, decoratively painted school buses, often unairconditioned, with a flat rate of 25 cents to any location in Panama City. They can be fun, but have a reputation for being dangerous, both in driving and the likelihood of encountering criminals. They can be fun to take a couple of times, but once you've done it, best to take a taxi, which won't be that much more expensive anyways. They definitely have a particular style apart from other Central American countries. They look as if a bunch of 60's hippies decided to drive as far south as they could go in school buses, and when they could go no further, they stopped and started a bus company. If you like Salsa Music, you'll be happy as a clam on these buses. Most locals aren't.
If your destination actually happens to lie far off the bus route, or if you just want to be lazy, taxis are also a decent way to get around in Panama. They're not expensive at all, usually US$1.50 per ride within most of the city; and unlike the urban taxis you may be used to, they can take you way out into the country. A taxi ride from Tocumen airport to Panama City, at a minimum of US$20, can easily exceed your taxi fares for the rest of your trip combined. If you share a taxi ride with other passengers going from the airport to the city, your fare per person can be cheaper, at around US$12. You can save quite a bit of money by taking the bus to the Gran Terminal, but even the bus fares will be higher than normal.
Panama is in the south of Central America and can easily be discovered independently. The road system of Panama is in very good condition (for Central and South American standards). You can rent a car and drive it around the country if you are an excellent defensive driver. While travelling by car you can discover attractions which are hardly or even not to reach by public transportation.
Panama City is more difficult to navigate than any big city in the United States, with terrible traffic jams at rush hours, few signs for names of streets, poor street design, and a lack of traffic lights at busy intersections. You must be aggressive about positioning your car to get anywhere, yet highly alert to erratic and irrational behavior by others. Drivers have little respect for or even knowledge of traffic laws, and drivers from North America or Western Europe will be stunned by their recklessness. In the rest of the country, driving is mostly stress-free.
The Pan American Highway is paved for the entire length of the country, and has many roads which branch off to towns off the highway, most of which are paved, and most of the rest are still easily navigable in a sedan. However, road engineering standards are low, so be on the lookout for off camber turns, deep potholes, and sharp turns with no warning. It is highly recommended to drive well informed about your route. Use the detailed information which cochera andina provides on its site when planning your trip and check out road conditions, distances and travel times. On the road, don’t forget to take also a good road map with you. It is important to note that if you are in a traffic accident in Panama, you are required by law to remain with your vehicle until a policeman arrives. In typical Panamanian logic, you are also not allowed to move it to the side of the road, but must stop right where the incident occurred, even if this is the middle of a busy street.
For driving in Panama you need the driver’s licence of your country but to avoid trouble at police controls it is better to have an international driver's licence with you as well. The traffic rules are almost the same as in Europe or the U.S. Road signs are frequent. The speed limits are 40 km/h within cities, 80 km/h outside and 100 km/h on the highways. You will find gas stations all over Panama. A lot of stations are open around the clock. You get gas of three types: unleaded, super and diesel.
Local airlines serve many airports in Panama. Aeroperlas and Air Panama being the two local companies. Flights leave Panama City from Marcos Gelabert Airport in Albrook.
Booking private aircraft charters are available through online and local companies.
It is advisable to check the tail number of any aircraft chartered in Panama. All registered aircraft authorized for public charter work (air taxi) will have a letters after their numeric tail number (e.g. HP000TD). This signifies the aircraft is insured for charter work and is subjected to more inspections and increased maintenance requirements.
- Spanish (official), English 14%
note: many Panamanians bilingual
If you cross the border from Costa Rica into Panama, you will notice a large change in the dialect. True to its Caribbean orientation, Panamanian Spanish sounds much closer to Puerto Rican than Tico or Nicaraguan Spanish. For students of Mexican or European Spanish, it may take a little getting used to. The biggest thing you will notice is that half of the S's go missing, specifically at the end of words or before other consonants. You will hear nosotroh ehtamoh instead of nosotros estamos. Also some of the d's and r's go missing. While you're in Panama, see if you can find where they hid all their consonants.
This dialect is most pronounced in the country [aka. interior]. It can be funny when you talk to locals there, but try to avoid using this "country Spanish" when you´re in the city. Most city people view it as an uneducated dialect, and will give you funny looks if you drop your S's.
If you're from the United States, avoid referring to yourself as "American." Panamanians consider themselves American too (Central Americans) although they never refer to each other as Americans. While you may have been taught in school to refer to yourself as American "estadounidense," the most common catch-all for US and Canadian citizens is "Norteamericano/a." Alternatively, "Estados Unidos" for "United States" is easily understood, as is "US" or "USA".
There is some debate over the use of "norteamericano/a." "Americans" actually living in Panama never hear a Panamanian refer to themselves as American. Nor do they ever hear a Canadian referring to themselves as an "American."
Visitors may be very confused by the Panamanian sense of humor, which finds great hilarity in all forms of slapstick, and often doesn't get irony at all.
Panama has a lot more indigenous culture than some neighboring countries. In Kuna Yala you will hear the native Kuna language spoken. In the Ngöbe-Buglé Comarca, as well as in Chiriqui or Bocas del Toro, you might hear the native Ngöbe-Buglé (Guaymí) language, although the Ngöbe and the Buglé are very quiet around foreigners. If you ask directions from one of them, you will probably just get a hand or lips pointed wordlessly in the right direction.
Much of the Caribbean Coast of Panama was settled by Jamaicans. More recently, the descendants of those settlers seem to be speaking more Spanish, but a lot of them still speak English, albeit a very Caribbean variety, called Guari Guari.
Until only a few years ago, the canal was controlled by the USA. The US has given the canal back to Panama, but many people in Panama City and other areas near the canal still speak English as a second language.
Panama is home to the hemisphere's largest free trade zone, the Colon Free Zone . There are also a number of large, American-style malls, such as Multicentro , Albrook Mall , and Multiplaza Pacific . However, prices vary widely from mall to mall - Albrook is quite cheap, while Multiplaza is home to designer boutiques and very high prices. Generally Panama is a good place to buy consumer electronics, clothing and cosmetics.
Traditional Panamanian crafts can be found most cheaply at artesania markets. In Panama City, the best are found at the market in Balboa, with the Panama Viejo market coming in as a close second. Panama's best-known craft is the mola, intricate reverse-applique handwork made by the Kuna. Molas can be bought at either of these craft markets, or from vendors on the seawall in Casco Viejo. Other Panamanian crafts include carved tagua nuts, cocobolo carvings of animals, and woven palm-fiber baskets. There is a smaller craft market in El Valle, which specializes in soapstone carvings and other central Panamanian crafts.
Panama uses the Balboa and the US Dollar as its currencies. The balboa is equivalent to the US dollar and has exactly the same value, but in reality the Balboas only exist as coins that are equivalent to the US coins. There are no 1, 5, 10, 20, or 100 Balboa bills because the US Dollar bills are used freely in Panama in that role. If you're traveling on US Dollars, which is a very good idea in Central America, it will be very easy to pay with US dollars in Panama. The US Dollars may be called Balboas as a denomination, but the US Dollar has been the official currency since 1904.
If you're from the US, one oddity about Panama will be change. Panama mints its own coins in the same weights and sizes as US coinage, but with Panamanian stampings. Because a legal treaty (1904) between US and Panama the Panamanian coinage is completely interchangeable with standard US coinage in Panama. You may get a handful of change back with a conquistador on the quarter and an Indian on one of your pennies, but Lincoln on the other penny and Roosevelt on the dime. Panama also still mints half dollars. You may hear these half dollars called pesos, so don't think you've accidentally ended up in Mexico. Some Panama's coins are made by the US Mint.
Incidentally, if you run short on change in the United States, Panamanian coins work in parking meters, payphones, vending machines, etc.
You can typically use a credit card at all hotels in the capital, as well as medium-sized regional cities (David, Las Tablas, Colon, Santiago, Bocas del Toro, etc.). Restaurants, grocery stores, and department stores in major cities will also usually take credit, or even debit cards. However, outside the capital using your card could be difficult.
US ATM cards worked in Panama up through the first part of this year, but some banks' cards are no longer functioning. Though Panamanian ATMs function on the Cirrus/Plus system, they may not take cards with the Interlink symbol. Make sure you're carrying a lot of cash (especially small bills) and understand how to take cash advances out on your credit card. Traveller's checks are not widely used.
Many businesses do not accept US$50 or US$100 bills at all. Most of those that do will ask for your passport and store your data/serial numbers of your notes in a special book. The reason is that many US$50 and US$100 bills have been counterfeited.
There are 75 banks in Panama . Opening hours vary widely from bank to bank. On weekdays, all banks are open until at least 3 p.m., and some until 7 p.m. On Saturdays many banks are open until noon, and some branches located in shopping centers are also open on Sundays.
If Panamanian food has to be summed up in one word, that word would be culantro, which is a local plant that tastes like cilantro, except that it has a much stronger flavor. But there are a variety of restaurants to choose from. If you are looking for spicy, there is indian, or restaurants that serve "picante de la casa", which will probably blow smoke through your ears. There are Arabic restaurants, Italian, Chinese, Mexican... whatever you're in the mood for.
If you get tired of eating beans or gallo pinto in the rest of Central America, you might want to head towards Panama. Since Panama has a little more Caribbean influence than other Central American countries, you'll see a lot more plaintain than beans here.
Typical Panamanian cuisine is served cafeteria-style with all of the food pre-cooked and pre-prepared in trays behind a glass barrier. A typical plate can range from $1.25 up to 5.00, depending on the restaurant, including your choice of meat: mondongo (beef intestines), fried or baked chicken, pork, beef and sometimes fried fish; rice, beans, salad: cabbage, carrot & mayonnaise; beet salad; green salad; potato or macaroni salad; and patacones (fried green plantains). The Panamanians also enjoy their "chichas" (fruit, water & sugar), of which there is always a selection, ranging from tamarindo, maracuya(passionfruit), mango, papaya, jugo de cana(sugar cane juice), or agua de pipa(juice from young green coconuts).
If you like your food picante, Panama may not be the place for you. They definitely have several hot sauces, but most brands range from weak to really weak. Instead, look for homemade ones which are for the most part as hot as any Mexican or Caribbean sauce. You will really impress Panamanians when you down their fieriest stuff without flinching.
As with other parts of Central America, the favorite meat seems to be chicken, although it doesn't seem quite as ubiquitous as it does in Costa Rica.
The food of Bocas del Toro is even more Caribbean than the rest of Panama. Many of the dishes contain coconut, unlike in the more Latin parts of Panama.
You can get excellent food really cheap if you look around. The equivalent of a 5-star meal with drinks can be US$8-30 in some places.
National beers are produced (Balboa, Atlas, Soberana, Warsteiner, Panamá), but don't measure up to a good import. Balboa is probably the best of the domestic brands, however, Atlas is the most commonly purchased; many women favor Soberana. Beer can cost as low as .30/cents per 12 oz. can in a supermarket or anywhere from $ .50 in a local town bar up to $2.50 in upscale bars.
Music is definitely one of the highlights of Panama. Salsa music seems to permeate everything in the Latin parts of the country. Reggaeton originated in Panama and is also very popular and is known by the name Plena. There are over 100 radio stations in Panama broadcasting online, some in English . In Bocas del Toro, you will hear a lot of Reggae with Spanish lyrics. Check out the summer music festival in Las Tablas.
How the Panamanians love their "fiestas"! They know how to let loose and have a genuinely good time, dancing, conversing, drinking.
Carnaval is the main celebration in the country, it is held 40 days before the Christian Holy Week, running through the weekend and ending on Ash Wednesday (February 21-24 in 2009). The largest celebration being held in the province of Azuero, in the town of Las Tablas, where two streets compete with separate queens, activities, parades and musical performances.
The party begins on Friday with a presentation, parade and crowning of the queens, a fireworks show; with drinking in the streets legal, the party begins and doesn't stop until 5am.
Every carnival day has a theme: Friday is the Opening, Saturday is International Day, Sunday is Pollera day, Monday is costume day, Tuesday is the Queens day and on Wednesday is the "entierro de la sardina"(the sardine burial) before 5am.
Many discos and bars fill the Capital City. The area known as "Calle Uruguay" has probably a dozen or so nice discos and bars within a 2 block radius, and is the best place for partying. Great spot for "bar hopping". There are also very nice discos and bars on the "Causeway" or "El Amador".
- Guru: the newest and biggest club. Located on "Calle Uruguay". Hotspot in town. (Early 2008)
- Mystik: located right next to Guru. Used to be the hotspot in town.
- The Gallery / Blue Room: replaced Liquid and is still one of the more popular clubs.
- Buzz: like Gallery, it is located outside of the "Calle Uruguay" area. Now(March 2009) called "The Roof".
Older Clubs (Some of these have been replaced, or closed.)
Panama's Local Eventguide (English + Spanish)
- Green Bay Panama Apartments, Edificio Green Bay. Avenida Principal Costa del Este(Costa del Este Panama, Panama), ☎ (507) 8322480, . checkin: From 11.00 am to 2.00 am; checkout: 11.00 am. The apartments are located on the 11th floor of the tower of Green Bay project in Costa del Este, a restricted access community of 4 residencial buildings, which offers a lifestyle comparable to Florida or California neighboroughs, with big social areas, balconies, and beautiful panoramic views over the city, the mountains and the ocean. This unique lifestyle will allow you the opportunity of enjoying a selected community where biking or walking on Paseo del Mar boulevard safely, at anytime. Costa del Este is the only real estate project in Panama developed following a modern masterplan, and is the most succesfull. The environment made of residencial communities, offices, banks, shopping centers, industrial areas and public gardens has been carefully planned and developed following modern town-planning criterias. This allows to enjoy big public spaces, safe sidewalks, quiet streets, and a wide seaside walk planned for the delight of the residents. All of this without renouncing to the comforts of the city: Costa del Este is very well linked to the centre and the business area, 10 minutes by car crossing the Corredor Sur bridge, and 15 minutes from the Tocumen Internacional Airport."30 $ per person per night. (9.01278,-79.477243)
- ZULYS BACKPACKERS HOSTEL, Ricardo Arias, ☎ 2692665, . checkin: 11 am; checkout: 11 am. (507) 2692665 $10, is located right in the heart of Panama City, in the El Cangrejo/Banking district! Within walking distance you will find discotheques, bars, clubs, restaurants, shops, a students travel agency (STA TRAVEL) cinemas, coin laundry services (75 cents) and Busstops (25 cent within city limits-all directions).ZULY´S offers 6 PRIVATE ROOMS with SHARED BATHROOM and several DORMITORIES (6 BEDS), fully equipped self-catering kitchen, free internet, free coffee, a cozy common room and a nice garden with barbeque area. Apart from that they offer tours to San Blas Islands and information on boats to Cartagena/ Colombia. For how to get there check their website www.zulysbackpackers.com! $10.
- Country Inn & Suites Panama Canal(Country Inn & Suites Panama Canal), Amador Ave. & , Pelicano Ave. , Panama City Panama 8001, ☎ (507) 211-4500, . checkin: 3:00 pm; checkout: 12:00 noon. The Country Inn & Suites Panama Canal is located at the entrance of the Panama Canal, close to Panama business and leisure attractions, shopping malls . $125. (8 degrees 56' 29,79 degrees 33 22')
- Panama Marriott Hotel, Calle 52 y Ricardo Arias Reservations: + 507 2 109100  The preferred hotel in Panama city for business or leisure travel. The hotel offers upscale accommodations, a brand new meetings facility, on-site restaurants, Casino and many other amenities and services.
- Courtyard By Marriott Panama Real Hotel, . New hotel in the Multiplaza Pacific Mall.
- Mamallena Backpackers hostel, . New hostel, good beds, has just moved to a large, old colonial style house. Absolutely worth visiting, lovely people, homey atmosphere. Pretty well located and when they've finished building they'll have a bunch of private rooms and a great garden. Great information on boats to Colombia and visiting the San Blas islands as well as other locations around Panama. It has that mix between a "party" and chill out hostel.
- The Balboa Inn, . A new Bed & breakfast in Balboa, just outside downtown. Nice rooms, beautiful garden, very safe neighborhood and pretty ideal location, with busstop around the corner. Close to Casco Viejo and Amador Causeway. And, a real breakfast.
- Mondo Taitu Hostel, One of the most famous hostels along the Central America backpacker's route. The place is always lively, offers an amazing happy hour, and is an excellent place to meet other travelers.
- Casco Viejo  in the old quarter or historic district of Casco Antiguo, offering luxury apartments for the night or week, fully furnished in Panama City, Panama.
- Riande Continental Hotel  Located in the financial and business district for business or leisure travelers.
- Trinidad Spa & Lodge  is a small inn with approximately 20 rooms, and spa services. Located along the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor with a lot birds, butterflies, deer and typical fauna. Rooms have private baths, cold and hot water, spa or other meals, spa, massage therapy, aromatherapy, Finnish and Turkish bath, local herbal treatments. Hiking, trekking, mule riding, guided eco tours. Day guests are welcome to use the spa services.
- HostelTrail - Latin American Hostel Network(Panama Hostel Guide), . This UK project offers free information about accommodation and tourism in Panama - with up-to-date information on accommodation, security and transportation between cities and towns.
- B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical Panama, . checkin: 2 pm; checkout: 11 am. The only Bed and Breakfast Inn on Taboga Island. A great escape from the city. Newly built, clean, and comfortable; has wonderful ocean views and is close to the rainforest. A relaxed, stress free environment. Just an 8 minute walk to the beach. Delicious fresh fish prepared in the local style by their experienced private Chef, complete with fresh coconut rice (using hand squeezed coconut milk). Relax on your vacation at B&B Cerrito Tropical. Day Packages under the Ranchito del Cerrito available also. Directions: Take the 1 hr. ferry from Amador Causeway in Panama City, we will meet you at the ferry dock. Alternatively head left along the main waterfront street, pass the park and Hotel Chu, look for the sign on the next street up to the right. Phone: 507-6489-0074 Web site: Cerrito Tropical Panama From $65.
- Bambu Hostel, Calle Virgincita, San Mateo Abajo, David Panama(from supermarket '99' on 'Sur F' head towards Panam highway at Santo Rosa Sugar Factory go left keep walking till small supermarket and take a right it is 4th house on the left you will see the large 'Bambu Hostel' sign from the end of the street), ☎ (507) 730-2961, . checkin: Noon; checkout: Noon. We are a Backpackers resort with a deluxe in-ground pool and Mayan-Style rancho bar and landscaped garden. Located in a quiet neighborhood in the San Mateo District of David-City, Panama. We welcome Backpackers and International Travelers from all corners of the world. Gregg Lapkin, seasoned traveler and hostel owner will personally greet you and make you feel at home. David is a travel crossroads ideally situated 45 minutes from the Costa Rican border town of Paso Canoas. $8.
- Boquete Mountain Casitas, Boquete, Chiriqui(From David drive 30 minutes to the Center of Boquete. Casitas are on various private estates in the mountains of Boquete), ☎ 507-6613-1472, . checkin: 2:00 pm; checkout: 12:00. Boquete Mountain Casitas are located on private estates in the mountains of Boquete. Some are walking distance to the beautiful village of Boquete. Others are small houses in the middle of acres of Organic Coffee Farms. Fully equipped kitchens, crisp fresh linens; privacy and luxury surround you.
- Hotel Bocas Del Toro, . Offering a unique blend of simple elegance and historical ambiance of Caribbean exotic wood craftsmanship with the sparkling sea beneath. Nicely appointed with wood and nautical furnishings the 11 room boutique hotel offers the concept of comfort with 400-thread count cotton sheets, WI-FI , Flat Screen cable TV, air conditioning, telephones, coffee makers, ocean and town balcony views, ocean kayak rentals and in-room massage. The hotel is located in the town of Bocas del Toro, on Colon Island. (507) 757-9771.
- Panamas Hostels(Listing of all Panamanian hostels), . The most up to date listing of all hostels in Panama. Check here to see whats on offer and where you want to stay.
- The Quetzal Trail
- Zip Line Canopy Adventures
- Horseback Riding • Paseo A Caballo,
- Caldera Hot Springs • Pozos Termales de Caldera
- Wildlife Safari • Expedicion de Vida Salvage
- Specialty Coffee Tours • Aventura de Café Grande
- Canal Adventures
- Gamboa Rainforest
- Rainforest Monkey Adventures,
- Fortuna Dam and Smithsonian Institute,
- Rock Climbing
- Scuba Diving In Coiba National Park,
- Panama Canal Tour,
- San Blas Panama Resort,
- Panama Audio Tours,
- El Valle Panama,
- Panama Canal Helicopter Tours,
- Embera Tour Near Panama City,
- Sailing Charters in the San Blas islands,
Panama offers many universities and high schools that are bi-lingual and world class. There's a project ongoing called City of Knowledge , that consists on several educational programmes in the old installations of a former US military base (Clayton), including a Spanish language school . There is also a school at Justo Arosemena who teaches mainly to German speaking people, but it might be worth a glance at the UDI-Universidad del Istmo 
There's also a Florida State University branch , as many other alternatives.
Most of Panama is very safe. People in rural areas are generally extremely friendly and very helpful. If you want to visit Latin America, but are paranoid about security, Panama might be a good place to cut your teeth.
However, as with most countries, there are a few spots that warrant some caution. Most of the city of Colon is considered dangerous, and some neighborhoods in Panama City are a bit sketchy, in particular El Chorrillo, Curundu and El Marañón, poor and crime-ridden areas. The old colonial quarter, Casco Viejo (also called San Felipe) has a lingering bad reputation among travellers and some Panamanians, but is gentrifying rapidly. During the daytime, San Felipe is perfectly safe for foreigners. At night, the main streets and plazas, as well as the district of bars and restaurants toward the point, are also safe, but visitors should exercise caution as they move north along Avenida Central towards Chorillo.
Telephone and Internet
Panama has one of the most advanced telecommunications systems in Latin America. this is due to the fact that most major submarine fiber cables cross the Panama Canal, either by land or water. Calls to the USA and Europe are between 4 and 10 cents a minute. The best way to make international calls from Panama is to buy prepaid telephone cards that are sold at every corner. The most popular is the TeleChip card. These cards work from everywhere and they even work from the USA, Mexico, Europe, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia etc.
Panama's country code is 507. All cellular numbers start with the number 6 and have 8 digits. Land line phone numbers have 7 digits.
Yellow fever vaccination is recommended for all visitors over 9 months of age travelling to the provinces of Darien, Kunayala (San Blas) and Panama, excluding the Canal Zone. Most countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination before permitting travellers to enter from Panama.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control  state that risk of malaria exists in rural areas of Bocas del Toro, Darién, and San Blas provinces; no risk in Panama City or in the former Canal Zone. NB: Chloroquine is no longer effective for San Blas Province.
Dengue fever is endemic, particularly in the province of Darien.
Tap water is safe in virtually all cities and towns, with the exception of Bocas del Toro, where bottled water is recommended.
Female travellers should be aware that the moisture and heat of the tropics can encourage yeast infections. 3-day and 5-day treatment courses are available in pharmacies, but must be purchased from the pharmacist.
There are many hospitals that can give tourists first class attention. Many can take international insurance policies, though your insurance company may require you to pre-pay and submit a claim form. Verify with your company prior to travel what the requirements are for filing a foreign claim, as you will not typically be provided with a detailed receipt (one that includes diagnosis and treatment codes) unless you ask for it. Here are some of the best ones in Panama City:
- Hospital Nacional  - State-of-the-art private hospital located on Avenida Cuba, between street 38 and 39, Tel. 207-8100.
- Clinica Hospital San Fernando
- Hospital Paitilla is a well-equipped hospital where Panama's wealthy upper class traditionally have gotten there medical services.
- Punta Pacifica Hospital  is a newly-opened hospital near Multiplaza Mall and is now managed by Johns Hopkins International. It is attracting some doctors away from Paitilla.
- Hospital Santo Tomas is considered by many emergency doctors and medical professionals to be the best for trauma care due to the volume of their trauma patients. Much like Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Santo Tomas medical teams see many types of trauma each day and are well equiped to handle these cases. Once a patient is triaged, they can be moved to a private facility.
Farmacia Arrocha, a drugstore chain, has branches throughout the country. Gran Morrison department stores also often operate pharmacies.
The new 911 system is now operational for medical emgergencies only. Most coverage is in and around Panama City. However, during major holidays or national festivals, 911 units are stationed around the country especially in Las Tablas, David, Chitre, and Santiago.
Medical evacuation flights are not as organized as in the EU, Canada, and the US. Until a dedicated helicopter emergency service is operatonal, the only choice for fast evacuation from the interior is to charter either a small plane capable of holding a litter or by helicopter. Charges are billed to a credit card or paid in cash. Contact charter aircraft companies for a quotation. Typically, a flight on a small twin-engined plane from David to Panama City will cost $1,500. Helicopters are significantly more.
Evacuation flights out of the country are normally provided by air ambulance services from Miami and range from $18,000 to over $30,000 depending on the patient's medical needs.
Travelers with a prior medical condition, or who are at risk, should check their insurance coverage for these flights. Do not assume that a credit card's travel insurance will cover the cost. Many only cover up to $1,000.
What to Wear
Panamanians appear to care about their appearance, versus what you might see in your average American town, in tourist areas. Don't try to dress to 'fit in', just be yourself.
That being said, there is no need to wear a suit everywhere, either. Just dress conservatively and nice. For men, a clean pair of jeans and ironed collared shirt will do nicely for most excursions, you could dress more casually or more formally depending on the situation. Shorts are considered extremely casual wear suitable only for the beach, although this attitude has begun to change in some areas. Also, the longer Bermuda shorts made of nice fabrics are viewed as appropriate in many places.
Think nice, neat, and clean, and you will already be showing a great deal of respect for locals.
If you are making a side trip to Boquete, especially during the rainy season (April thru November) please dress in layers, bring a light rain jacket, and waterproof hiking boots.
This page was last edited at 02:26, on 25 March 2009 by Ian Sergeant. Based on work by J-P Keskinen and Felipe Aguel, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.