Questions & Answers
What is the best way to travel to Panama?
From Europe the Aeropuerto International de Tocumen (Panama City) is directly approached by many European airlines and also serves as a hub for international connections. In addition, there are 26 other commercial airports in the country, which are only served from the American continent or used for national connections. The most important are in David and Bocas del Toro.
By land you can enter from Costa Rica (Panamericana direction David or Caribbean coast direction Bocas del Toro). Motorhome owners who want to travel from South America on the Panamericana via Colombia load their motorhome onto a ferry to Panama, as the Panamericana is interrupted between Colombia and Panama.
Do I need a visa to enter Panama?
Persons from the most europiean countries do not need a visa to enter the country. The passport must be valid for at least six months. If you arrive from a yellow fever area (e.g. Brazil), a vaccination certificate is required.
Rental car yes or no?
The road network is well developed compared to other Latin American countries. However, since Panamanians also use their car for 100 metres, there are regular traffic jams in and around Panama City on weekdays in the mornings and afternoons. You drive right like in Europe, and also the other rules correspond as far as possible to our system. All speed limits are given in km/h (highway 100, highway 80, city 40). In Panama City there are two toll roads (coredor del norte and coredor del sur), which can be excluded with your navigation system.
Rental cars are available from $40 per day, even if the advertising prices are between $4 and $9. In addition, however, there are still taxes and insurances, so that one ends up with the mentioned $40. The inclusion of a breakdown service (below 2.- $ per day) is highly recommended, then a tyre change at 32°C is also covered. By using google-maps or the local app WAZE (real-time warnings of police and traffic jams), you are also able to report your current location in the event of a breakdown. The police are very polite towards tourists and sometimes ignore small transgressions.
Topic shopping paradise: What is worth it?
Panama is a shopping paradise and attracts millions of shopping tourists year by year. You get shoes and clothes at C&A prices and far below, but a hundredfold selection. Also electronic devices are bought gladly in Panama. In supermarkets and shopping centres there are ATMs. There is no closing time law. The opening hours are typically American, i.e. until late at night or even 24 hours a day. Fresh fruit and vegetables are available at the local farmers' markets. If you only have 2-3 days for shopping, then use one of the huge shopping malls with several hundred shops or the free trade zone in Colon.
How is the food in Panama?
Good hot food is available for 3 - 4 dollars in self-service restaurants. And warm food is already eaten in the morning. Apart from the international restaurants, where you can get your usual pizza, steak or fine sushi at international prices, the following food is typical for Panama: For breakfast there are sausages, beef and eggs with deep-fried banana slices or yucca or cornmeal dumplings. For lunch you can have chicken, beef, fish or seafood together with rice or mashed potatoes and salad. Ceviche, a cocktail of marinated fish or pulp with pepper and onions, is offered as a speciality at every corner. Very tasty are the chicken soups with yucca and other vegetables as well as fish with coconut rice. Of course there are also all kinds of fast food chains thanks to decades of American influence.
In the simple restaurants, chilled water is served free of charge. It is tap water treated with chlorine, which you can drink without hesitation. More tasty, however, are the fruit juices ("chichas"), which are prepared daily fresh. Beer is also very common here. Rum is still produced locally, while a large selection of wine is imported.
Do I need a travel adapter?
The voltage is 110 Volt. Your mobile phone charger, travel hair dryer and shavers can handle this voltage. At the same time, however, a socket adapter is necessary. Approximately 60% of the country's electricity production comes from hydropower.
Which currency should I take with me?
The official national currency is the BALBOA, which is 1 : 1 linked to the US dollar and from 1 Balboa is only traded in dollar notes. So there is only coinage in Balboa, otherwise only US dollar notes.
If you are travelling to Panama, it is best to take cash in dollar notes with you, as the exchange of euro or Swiss franc is associated with exchange losses. Cash withdrawals with credit or debit cards should always be made in US dollars, as long as the ATM gives you a choice. This will allow you to use the cheaper exchange rates of your house bank.
What to do if you have health problems?
Trivial cases can be well covered by pharmacy advice and medication. It is interesting to note that tablets are also sold as single items. If a doctor prescribes a certain dosage, e.g. for one week, the tablets are counted and calculated accordingly.
If a hospital stay is necessary, choose one of the private hospitals that offer medical care at the highest level of the US, e.g. Punta Pacifica in Panama City (address: Pacific Boulevard and Via Darién, telephone 204-8184, www.hospitalpuntapacifica.com). Of course, a cost recovery from your foreign (travel) insurance must be obtained.
Other emergencies / urgent need for cash?
Keep the most important emergency and policy numbers with you (travel insurance, consulate of your home country, blocking number of credit card company). Remember to scan all passports and documents at home and send them to your email or cloud, to which access is guaranteed worldwide. Lightning transfers from your home country to Panama work easiest via Western Union.
When is the best time to travel to Panama?
Panama can be travelled all year round as it is outside the hurricane core zones. There is only a difference between the rainy season and the dry season. From November to April it hardly rains. From May to August there are one or two showers during the day, on the Riviera Pacifica it is less frequent. The rain can also be a welcome refreshment due to the warm temperatures. In September and October the rain can delay the travel plans a bit, because a bus or ferry connection can be cancelled.
What is the time difference to Europe?
Meanwhile it is scientifically proven that the half-yearly change between summer and winter time does not benefit anyone, but rather harms the health. The EU has now decided to reverse this nonsense. Panama belongs to the countries with a stable time, so that the time difference to the European summer time is 7 hours and to the European winter time 6 hours.
There is no time difference to Colombia and 1 hour to neighbouring Costa Rica.
How do I travel in the country?
Panama City is the central traffic hub. From here, large intercity buses run at short intervals via Penómone and Santiago to David or Bocas del Toro. From the larger cities, normal buses or minibuses usually depart every half hour to the provinces. Finally, every village can be reached by public transport. Standing places are forbidden by law, therefore - except in Panama City - a seat is always guaranteed. The prices are moderate. For 15,- dollars you come from east to west.
The capital also has a modern METRO. The train frequency is between 3 and 5 minutes, depending on the time of day. The route network is currently being expanded.
There are also ferries and boat connections to the islands. For example, every half hour from the mainland to the islands of Bocas del Toro, or from Panama City to Isla Taboga.
If you want to get from Panama City to David or Bocas del Toro faster, take the plane. Air Panama offers several flights a day.
Taxis are like sand at the sea and they are also cheap. Usually they attract attention with a short touch of the horn. Taximeters are not usual, but fixed prices for city routes or one inquires and agrees upon the price. In Panama City, the UBER driver service works excellently. The advantages: Always responsible drivers and new well maintained cars.
Hitchhiking is unknown in Panama. Firstly, almost every Panamanian has a car and secondly, the public transport network is cheap and well developed.
Which clothes are recommended?
Airy summer clothes are the be-all and end-all for temperatures around 30°C. However, you should also plan sweaters and jackets as well as good footwear if you travel to the mountain regions.
IMPORTANT: During appointments with the authorities and banks, your clothing will be strictly observed. As a man, long trousers and closed shoes are mandatory, preferably a short sleeve shirt. As a woman, you also choose a well-groomed, appropriate dress style for these appointments.