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 dry 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 sunblock.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 cloudbursts. Sunny days are the norm.
Panama is on Eastern Standard Time (EST), five hours behind GMT.
Panama Time = GMT-5
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.
But if you come from the Eurozone, you’ll have to exchange currencies. You can exchange foreign currency at the Tocumen International Airport where you will find several currency exchange offices as well as in Panama City.
Debit Card and Credit Cards like Visa, Mastercard, and/or American Express are widely accepted in most places (Travelers’ Checks aren’t!). Moreover, from where you’re from, you’ll be able to extract $500 USD per day from ATMs.
In Panama, the following items cost approximately:
- Breakfast: $10-15
- Lunch: $15-25
- Dinner: $25 or more
- Beer/glass of wine: A beer at the supermarket ($1), a beer at a bar ($2-5), a glass of wine ($10-12)
- Bottle of wine: $20 or more
- Soft drinks: $1 at the supermarket, $2-3 in restaurants
120 volt, 60 cycles in all parts of the republic. US electrical items can be used without adapters.
Water from the tap is safe to drink in all city hotels. However, bottled water is recommended for travelers.
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 per day
- 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
If you are looking for specifics items to purchase before going back home, Panama has a great number of handicrafts and souvenirs for travelers: Mola (square piecework of fabrics made by the Guna Indians in the San Blas Islands of Panama), Ron Abuelo (Panama’s national rum), Woven Embera Bowl Or Mask (woven handmade bowls and masks made by the Embera Indians in Panama. The bowls are made from natural fibers and dyes found in the forest and can take months to make depending on how intricate the weave is), Local Gourmet Coffee (There is some good gourmet coffee that is grown in Panama and it makes a great souvenir to take back home), Panama Hats (which are actually made in Ecuador, not Panama) are actually very famous and in style at the moment.
Local Customs & Culture:
In Panama, the food is very delicious and made with fresh local ingredients and flavors. You can enjoy mainly root vegetables, starchy fruits, livestock (cows and pigs), chicken, beans, and rice. Examples of Panamanians dishes:
For breakfast: Hojaldras (fried simple dough, not sweet), Tortillas de maíz con queso fresco (corn tortilla with bland locally-made white cheese on top), Bollos (corn dough, traditionally rolled in a banana leaf, and boiled), Tamale de maíz (corn dough sometimes with beef or chicken, and vegetables wrapped inside of a banana leaf and steamed).
For lunch and dinner: Arroz con pollo, arroz con guandú (often served at celebrations or holidays; rice with chicken, rice with guandu bean), (corn tortilla with bland locally-made white cheese on top), Patacones (fried green plantain discs), Carne o salchicha guisada (beef strips or hotdog in a tomato sauce served with any of the above), Carimañola (fried meat pie of mashed yucca with meat and/or cheese inside), Typical plate: white rice, lentils / red beans, fried yellow plantain, potato salad, roasted chicken or in sauce / fried whole fish / chopped beefsteak / porkchop in pineapple sauce.
Drinks: Coffee, Seco (local gin), National beers (Panama, Atlas, Balboa), rum (Ron Abuelo), coconut water, smoothies…
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 in 2014.
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 pickpockets 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 at 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.
There are several hospitals in Panama City and excellent medical facilities. For emergencies, there are many good private clinics and hospitals throughout the country, even if the best-equipped hospitals are located in Panama City. Some hospitals of the capital: Hospital Nacional (private hospital), Hospital Santa Fe (private hospital), Punta Pacifico (private hospital), Santo Tomas Hospital (public hospital) …If you go to Veraguas Province, in Santiago de Veraguas, the hospitals are called Regional Hospital Dr. Luis “Chicho” Fabrega or Clinica Hospital San Juan De Dios.
We suggest you carry an international insurance, not provided by EcoCircuitos, S.A.
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 carry your bottle and refill it at the hotels.
In Panama City the coverage is good. You can get easily a local SIM card at any local store or pharmacy and its common for travelers to get one. It’s 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.
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.
An airmail letter from Panama to the 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.
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.
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.
Key phases to know if you travel to Panama:
|Hello, Good morning, Good afternoon||Hola, Buenos días (morning time), Buenas tardes (evening time)|
|How are you?||¿Cómo estás? (to someone you know)
¿Cómo está? (to someone you don’t know or don’t know well)
|I’m fine||Estoy bien|
|My name is||Mi nombre es|
|You’re welcome||De nada|