Although the official language in Panama is Spanish, English is widely spoken and understood in the major cities.
The country enjoys an agreeable tropical climate and an average daytime temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with cooling in the evenings. The average humidity is 70%. The rainy season goes from May to December. Throughout the dry season, trade winds keep the air continuously cool. In the mountains, the average temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Light clothes are recommended. Business clothing is formal. A light jacket for men and a tailored suit or a two-piece pants suit for women is recommended. A wide-brim hat and sun glasses are necessary if you go to the shore or inland.
Panama time is the same as the United States Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
Electricity and Public Services
The current is 110w - 60hz and 220w. Telephone and international cable services in Panama are excellent. There is a direct-dial system to locations inland and all over the world. The country code is 507.
Since 1904, the United States dollar has been the legal currency in Panama. The Balboa, the Panamanian monetary unit, is par valued with the dollar. Prices can be expressed in Balboas (B/.) or in Dollars ($). Traveler cheques and credit cards are widely accepted. The International departure duty is US$20.00, payable in the airport. The hotel tax is 10%. The added tax value to products and services, with the exception of food and medicines is 5%.
More than 150 international banks and their branches operate in Panama. The United States, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Taiwan, Argentina, South Korea, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, China, Spain, France and others are represented here. The banking hours vary, but most of them are open from Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Some banks offer services on Saturday.
United States and Canadian citizens need only a valid passport and tourist card to visit Panama. Tourist cards cost about five dollars and are available both on your arrival in Panama from the immigration authorities and through most airlines. A tourist card gives you an automatic 30-day stay, and is extendable for another 60 days. Travelers from other countries should consult with the Panamanian consulate or embassy in that country to obtain the latest information on entry requirements. When entering the country, you may only bring up to one carton of cigarettes and 3 bottles of liquor. Like other countries, you may be fined and charged for leaving Panama with products made from endangered species.
The national tourist agency Instituto Panameño de Turismo (IPAT) has its headquarters in the Centro Atlapa on Via Israel in Panama City. IPAT also has an information counter located at the airport. In addition, there are many tourist centers dispersed throughout the country. The IPAT offices found throughout Panama are there to answer questions and help visitors explore the country. More than 50 foreign embassies and consulates are located in Panama City.
No vaccines or pills are necessary prior to visiting our country. Remember, the tropical sun can be strong; so it’s wise to take protective sunglasses and sunscreen with you. Although Panama is indeed a tropical country, mosquito control is effective. Exceptions would include hiking and over-nighting in the jungle, in which case you should use protective insect repellant. Panama is the only country in Latin America where you can drink water straight from the tap.
Just as in any foreign destination, it is not advisable to walk around the streets flashing money or valuable belongings. Reports of people being pickpocketed in Panama are rare, but it’s best to assume that pickpockets are around. Just use common sense and your intuition to protect yourself. Remember that the less attention you draw to yourself, the less likely you are to have an unpleasant experience.