Panama General Information when travel with EcoCircuitos

Dear Traveler:

On behalf of all us at EcoCircuitos Panama, we wish you a most pleasant experience in Panama. Our goal is to have you enjoy an unforgettable experience in this beautiful and unexplored tropical destination. Here is some important information regarding your forthcoming adventure. Please take a few moments to become familiar with this material.

 Documents:  YOU WILL RECEIVE DOCUMENTS UPON ARRIVAL PANAMA**

Please review them for accuracy and call us if you have any questions.  Hand the vouchers to the hotels and guides each day of services.

What to do after deplaning

Upon arrival at the International Airport, you will need to clear immigration. Remember to have your passport in hand and ready for inspection.  Then, proceed to the luggage claim area, retrieve your bags, and follow the customs officer’s instructions. Upon clearing customs you will exit the restricted area (our greeters and transportation personnel are not allowed inside this area),  you will pass your all your luggage through an x-ray machine.  Then you will proceed to exit the area, once you pass through the exit door you can go either to the right or the left. EcoCircuitos Panama recommends that you go to the right to better locate our staff who will be receiving you with a sign bearing your name with the company’s logo. 

In case you do not locate our staff please approach the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP) tourist information stand, our staff will be close to this area.

You will find a large number of Panamanian families greeting arriving friends and relatives, so please make sure you are on the lookout for your official greeter who will have a sign with your name printed on it and a T-Shirt with our EcoCircuitos logo.  The airport of Panama is an international hub so could be very busy.  Please be patient and if you don´t see our staff, call our emergency number at +507 645-01093 or our office in Panama City:  +507 3151488

 Clothing & Packing

City attire: Even though Panama is generally an informal city, we recommend that men wear pants (jeans or cotton pants are OK), and women skirts, pants or Bermuda-length shorts. For the evening meal, men should wear nice slacks and a cotton shirt (sports jacket is optional).  Women will feel comfortable in a nice, casual evening outfit.  Formal attire is used mainly when conducting business. The highland areas can be cold, and a sweater is recommended.  For the lowland jungle areas light, loose-fitting shirts and long pants are essential.  If you plan to hike in the national parks make sure you bring two pairs of boots or hiking shoes, since one pair can be worn while the other dries from the previous day’s use.  Sunglasses and a hat or cap are essential.  If you are planning to go river rafting, make sure you bring rafting sandals or tennis shoes. If your travel plans call for a visit to one of our all-inclusive beach resorts, resort wear is best; casual is the rule. Don’t forget to bring camera batteries and sun block.

If your travel plans call for a short visit to the national parks and/or island retreats, it is highly recommended that you leave your bulky suitcases at your city hotel and carry an overnight case for these excursions. Flying within Panama has a luggage weight limit of 25 pounds (lbs) per person. If you are taking medication always carry it with you rather than putting it in your suitcase.

About Panama

Panama emerged from the oceans 3 million years ago. The significance of linking the landmasses of the two Americas in biological terms explains the incredible bio-diversity.

 Location

Panama is located between Central and South America.  It covers 75,517 square km (29,208 square miles).  Panama is between 50 and 120 miles wide (89km and 192 km) and is bordered by 1,287.7 km (805 miles) of Caribbean coastline and 1,700.6 km (1,062.8 miles) of Pacific coastline.

 Climate

Panama has a humid, tropical climate. Temperatures are around 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 25-30 degrees Celsius). Nights are always cooler. The average annual rainfall is 1,500 mm along the pacific coast and 2,500 mm on the Caribbean side. The highlands enjoy spring-like climate with cool nights.

 Seasons

In this country of lush rainforests, there are only two seasons: Summer (from December to April), when rain is less frequent, and Winter (from May to  November), when showers are common in the evening with occasional mid-day cloud bursts.  Sunny days are the norm.

Time zone

Panama is on Eastern Standard Time (EST), five hours behind GMT.

Panama Time = GMT-5

 Currency

The Panamanian currency is the US dollar. US coins are used alongside Panamanian coins, which look exactly like American coins except for the imprint.  In Panama all major credit cards are accepted.  In the interior areas of the country, such as San Blas and Bocas del Toro, most transactions are in cash.  ATM machines are available in all cities.

 Electricity

120 volt, 60 cycles in all parts of the republic. US electrical items can be used without adapters.

 Water Quality

Water from the tap is safe to drink in all city hotels.  However, bottled water is recommended for travelers.

 Tipping

10% of the total amount of your meal is appropriate.  It is not necessary to tip taxi drivers; however, bellhops are usually tipped $3.00 per person, tour guides $10 – $25 per person per day, and tour van/bus drivers $5 to $10 per person per day.

Tipping your guide in Panama

EcoCircuitos recommends the following guidelines for tipping our guides, drivers and staff in Panama:

  • Naturalist guide:  US$15.00 – US$20.00 per person per / day
  • Day tour guide:  US$10.00 per person per day
  • Transfer driver:  US$2.00 per person
  • Tour driver:  US$5.00 per person per day
  • Tour boat driver:  US$5.00 per person per day
  • Hotel bellman:  US$1.00 per person per piece of luggage

International airport bellmen:  US$1.00 per piece of luggage

 Government

Panama is a constitutional democracy.  A president, elected by popular vote for a five-year term leads the executive branch.  He/she is assisted by two elected vice presidents and an appointed cabinet. Current President, Juan Carlos Varela, elected on 2014.

 Safety tips

Panama has no armed forces.  A national police force, including special tourism police personnel, imposes the law.  For your safety and convenience, we recommend that you exercise caution by avoiding carrying large amounts of cash (ATMs are found throughout the country) or wearing expensive jewelry.  Panama is truly a safe country and violent crime rates are low, however, be careful with pick pockets in the downtown areas of Panama City.

Health Tips and Medical Services & Treatment

Panama City has excellent medical facilities, the larger towns have regional hospitals, and rural areas have clinics. Take a look of your immunization records before you go.   No shots are required, we suggest contacting your physician about your specific health needs.   The government of Panama does not require any vaccinations in order to enter the country. Most medicines are widely available in Panama City and at a similar rate to that in most western countries. Most medicines are sold by the same trademark names used in the U.S.  For emergencies, there are many good private clinics and hospitals throughout the country, but the biggest and best equipped are located in Panama City.  We suggest you to carry an international insurance, not provided by EcoCircuitos, S.A.

Water

Panama has some of the cleanest drinking water in Latin America (if not in the world). Water is safe to drink from the faucet but also purified bottled water is sold in most hotels and supermarkets.  We suggest you to carry your bottle and refill it at the hotels.

Communication

Telephone: Calling cards are required to make international calls from the Schoolhouse. You can buy them at any local store of pharmacy. They usually cost several “units” per minute of talking. If it says 100 minutes, it’s probably good for about 15 minutes of international talk time.

At each site, there will be phones nearby. But in some places, the phones are not immediately accessible, so you may only be able to call home every other day at most.

 Postal Service

An airmail letter from Panama to USA weighing 20g or less requires $0.35 postage (25 cents for a postcard) and takes five to 10 days to arrive.  Most post offices in Panama are open from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM weekdays and from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturdays.

 National Holidays

Mourning Day/January 9. Mardi Gras (Carnavales) is celebrated in February. Good Friday and Easter Sunday (varies).  Labor Day/May 1. Father’s Day/June 16. Founding of Panama City/August 15. Independence Day from Colombia/November 3.  Flag Day/November 4. The Uprising of Los Santos/November 10. Independence Day from Spain/November 28. Mother’s Day/December 8. Christmas/December 25. New Years Day/Jan 1.

  Legal Services

In Panama you are presumed guilty until proven innocent.  If you are accused of a serious crime, you will be taken to jail.  If you are jailed, your Embassy may be able to offer assistance.   While in Panama you are subject to Panamanian laws, not the laws of your home country.  Remember that you are legally required to carry ID at all times, we suggest you carry a photocopy of your passport (leave the original in a safe at your hotel).

 Insects and Insect Repellent

Don’t let the thought of bugs get you down. The right kind of protection and common sense can make your trip worry-free.  When entering the jungle or forests, wear lightweight cotton, long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Cover all exposed skin surfaces with insect repellent.

 Exit requirements, Airport Tax and Duty-Free Shopping

There is a $40.00 departure tax (it may increase to $60.00 in 2016) on all passengers of international flights leaving Panama City. This tax is payable at the airline counter or included in the ticket.  An immigration form must be filled out and returned to the immigration officials prior to boarding.  The International Airport in Panama City has excellent duty free shops.

 What to Bring:

  • Two of the most important things to bring to Panama are a pair of BINOCULARS and a guidebook (Birds of Panama or Mammals of the Rainforest).  They are a must for getting a closer look at wildlife and are not available for rent in Panama.  We sell these plates on the Panama Office and if you want can be added to your package cost and included in your welcome kit.  $10.00 each
  • Two liters of water per person.  You will receive a bottle to refill during the day rather than buying multiple plastic water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Casual clothing for city traveling
  • Shirts should be made of cotton or light synthetic materials; long- and short-sleeved
  • Cotton trousers preferable. Light synthetic materials are slower to dry.
  • Hiking shorts
  • Footwear:  Waterproof lightweight hiking boots, river sandals (e.g., Teva-type sandals), tennis shoes/running shoes.  If you do not bring hiking boots, please make sure you bring TWO pairs of tennis shoes.
  • Socks – bring extra pairs in case feet get wet
  • Rain gear – poncho, raincoat
  • Hat with visor for rain and sun protection
  • Plastic water bottle – especially for hikes
  • Flashlight with spare batteries and bulb
  • Camera and film
  • Ziplock plastic bags for spill able toiletries
  • Extra prescription glasses and medications
  • Small day pack or fanny pack for hikes
  • Sweater or jacket (a must for the highlands)
  • Swimwear
  • Collapsible luggage to store extra items left in Panama
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