You must be planning a trip to Panama or you already booked your flight and accommodation. You also must be wondering what traveling to Panama must be like. How are the people there, what clothes should I wear, what I should and should not bring, how do I survive in a country not my own?!
If these crossed your mind, I invite you to answer your questions. Below are the tips and guide you need before you travel to the ever-diverse Republic of Panama.
Why Go To Panama?
Located on the isthmus (a narrow land with sea on either side of it) connecting North and South America, this small country of Panama is largely known for the Panama Canal. It is also named as the “crossroads of the Americas” because of its location. Panama Canal contributes largely to the economy of the country.
Panama is a country of biodiversity which is evidently seen in the array of views you see within short hours (or even minutes) of travel. Just being in the city of Panama (the country’s capital), would give you an advantageous vantage point of both the tall city buildings on one side and the rainforests on the other side. The country also offers islands with beautiful beaches and in some places in the city, ruins and well-preserved historical streets. This diversity never fails to bring awe to the tourists and pride to the locals.
This country in Central America is included in the Top 5 countries with the highest positive experience according to BBC, reported on April 26, 2019. Panamanians believe in focusing on the good things that happen to them and to look forward with hope in their situation. You can certainly expect to meet one of the happiest people in Panama.
What Should I Bring?
Now that you’re convinced of traveling to Panama, let’s prepare you for it!
As a tourist, you have to bring basic things to survive in a different country from your own.
Panama is a tropical country with a prolonged rainy season (May to January) and a short dry season (January to May), so it’s safe to say that bringing shorts and light beach clothes is a must. Prepare clothes that are easily changed up throughout the day. You can get away with wearing casual clothes while in the city. Also, don’t forget about going to the beach so pack your bikinis, swimwear and comfortable shoes you can wear in wet areas. The people in Panama dress semi-formally for celebrations or certain occasions so you could also consider bringing maybe one nice outfit if you’re going for an event or just want to have dinner somewhere fancy.
The official currency of Panama is the United States Dollar and the local currency is the Panamanian Balboa which has the same value to USD. If you’re traveling from America, you won’t be having problems with exchanging rates. You can use your card if you’re within Panama City but you will need cash for when you’re at the islands or anywhere outside the city so make sure you carry some with you and carry them in smaller bills especially if you’re planning to visit the indigenous tribes or you just want to buy something from the streets.
Socket types A and B are used in Panama with a standard voltage of 110V. You may want to bring a universal adaptor and necessary charging equipment for your devices. Connectivity is not an issue in the city. There are lots of free wifi hotspots in hotels and other establishments.
Wherever you may be, it is always a wise choice to bring with you an identification card of some sort in case you are somewhere that needs one from you.
As I said, Panama has a wide selection of places to visit. The biodiverse nature of the country makes it so special. The highly modernized urban streets downtown could be compared to Miami or New York. Their rainforest is the largest one in the Western Hemisphere outside Amazon Basin. The Embera Tribe by the Charges River is still intact with the same traditions they’ve had in the years Panama had been inhabited. Suburban areas still embracing their colonial periods take pride in their tourism industry. Islands in Northern Panama have clear blue waters perfect for summer vacations.
Here are must-see places for full Panamanian experience:
To have a little context of how important the location of this country is to their economy, you must see how the Panama Canal operates. There is a museum dedicated to the history and evolution of the Panama Canal. One of the largest and lucrative man-made waterways in the world, The Panama Canal gives passage to around 14,500 vessels each year. Approximately 5,600 died to the construction of the wondrous waterway. After 10 years of attempting to expand the Canal, it was finally reconstructed wider in 2016.
Biomuseo or the Biodiversity Museum is located in the Amador Causeway. It is designed by the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry who famously designed the Disney Concert Hall and the Guggenheim Musical Bilbao. Aside from the bizarre yet inviting structure of the Museum, another reason to visit this place is the enlightenment it brings through showcasing the origins and significance of Panama’s geology to the people and to the animals.
There is an area in the city of Panama called the old town (Casco Viejo) that is name as such because of the ruins and cathedrals that represent the three most important colonization periods of Panama- the Spanish era, the French, and the American. All of these periods of time are well portrayed through the old town. The Presidential Palace is also located here.
Outside Panama City, there are also places worth seeing like taking an hour river trip to the tribe of Embera. Home to over a hundred people or just under 30 families, the tribe are continuing to thrive despite the high end living in the city. People of the Embera tribe are the original group of Panamanians. Previously, they survive on the usual agricultural resources available in this rural area, but the tourism in Panama has also positively influenced their source of income.
San Blas Island
As others would say, it is always summer in Panama and the beaches are a constant contributor to the tourism industry. One of the must-see beaches they take pride in is the 365 islands of San Blas.
El Caribe Restaurant
They serve the best Carribean and Costeñan soul food found in the neighborhood of El Cangrejo. They offer lunch and dinner with other fun activities you can catch on Wednesdays (Wednesday Night of Dice), Fridays (live music) and Happy Hours.
Donde Jose is located in Casco Viejo. This 16-seat restaurant offers a 16-course meal and you’ll need at least a month’s reservation ahead. The restaurant’s head chef’s goal is to establish the Panamanian cuisine with their dishes.
With every country you visit, there is a big chance of finding pizza. This restaurant at Coco del Mar area serves a combination of Spanish, Italian and American cuisine. They are vegetarian-friendly with really good reviews for their gluten-free pizza. The cozy and family-friendly ambiance would welcome you at their door.
Hailed as having the best Jamaican dishes, Sista House in Baltimore also serves and sells the best hot sauce in a bottle in town. You may also find the best view in Baltimore from their glass doors.
Found in Calle 67 Este, Helado Keenesmight just be the best ice cream place in Panama. They have a cozy and small space but caters to a huge amount of customers because of their famous vegan ice cream that’s made for anyone with an affinity to sweets and desserts.
Don’t forget to share your Panamanian experience here
and scratch Panama from your bucket list!