Travel Guide Panama Dive into the vibrant heart of Central America with our comprehensive guide, unveiling Panama’s hidden gems and top attractions.
Panama is the fourth largest country in Central America by land area. However, of all the countries on the subcontinent, only Belize has a smaller population.
Despite its relatively small size, Panama is home to many incredible natural wonders and one of the world’s most impressive man-made engineering feats — the Panama Canal.
You’ve probably heard of Panama because of the Panama Canal. But if you’re unsure exactly where it is on the map, we’ve got you covered!
Panama is the country on the S-shaped isthmus connecting Central and South America.
As such a long and narrow country, its Caribbean and Pacific coastlines are only 30 miles (48 km) apart at the narrowest point. This only rises to 115 miles (185 km) at the widest point.
As the base of the Central American subcontinent, Panama is a popular addition to multi-destination trips.
Are you thinking of traveling beyond Panama? Check out our other Central America Travel Guides. These handy resources contain helpful information to help plan an unforgettable adventure.
The answer to questions like “what is the best time of year to visit Panama?” is subjective. Put simply, it depends on what kind of holiday you want.
Generally speaking, however, the best time to visit Panama for most visitors is between January and mid-April.
This is the driest part of the year in what is a tropical country.
The hot, humid, and tropical climate comes with a long rainy season. This lasts from May to December and brings with it anywhere between 250mm and 700mm of rain.
Given its location, Panama’s temperatures don’t vary much. You can expect a steady average of around 86°F (30°C) year-round.
If the rain doesn’t put you off, traveling outside of the dry season comes with numerous benefits. Prices are lower across the board, the tourist trail is less busy, the rainforest is at its most lush, and there are multiple Panamanian festivals and events to enjoy.
Every traveler has their own ideas of what is safe and what isn’t. The influences on this feeling can range from gender to previous personal travel experiences.
With this in mind, we try to give personal advice individually instead of broad generalizations.
As a starting point, though, it’s important to know that the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and the EU all regard Panama as generally safe.
If you’re dwelling on questions like “how safe is Panama for tourists?”, there’s no need to worry.
You only need to take the same precautions here as you would in any other country that isn’t your own.
You can rest assured that most places that attract tourists are safe and welcoming.
For the ultimate peace of mind, we advise planning your trip with plenty of time in hand. This allows you to research all the attractions and locations that interest you, as well as other important aspects such as transportation.
You can also look into the most trusted and highly rated tour companies, like Martsam Travel.
With so much to explore and discover, and with regional differences in climate too, we can’t provide a perfect packing list for Panama.
Panama uses the dollar, so visitors from the US don’t need to exchange any currency.
If you’re traveling from elsewhere, you should either exchange money for dollars in your home country or do so in a bank when you arrive in Panama.
But some of the essential items you must consider bringing on your trip include:
Spanish is the official language of Panama. For this reason, it’s the most widely spoken.
Around 15% of Panamanians also use English, and many of these people are professionals working in the tourist industry.
At Martsam Travel, we also speak English. When you join us on one of our Panama tours, you won’t need to worry about communication.
What you want to see in Panama will depend on your own interests and preferences. Luckily, this amazing country has something for everyone!
This list is a great introduction, but it’s only that – it is far from exhaustive.
With outstanding bird watching, picture-perfect beaches, lush rainforests, turquoise seas, and so much more, you’ll need more than a week to see it all!
Our Classic Panama Tour is ideal for taking in this wonderful country’s many highlights.
Just some of the must-see sites in Panama include:
At the time of writing, a visa waiver program allows visa-free entry into Panama for anyone who holds a valid passport from the US, Canada, the UK, the EU, Canada, Australia, and many more countries.
For most people who qualify, the general tourist visa lasts for a maximum of 90 days. However, visitors from the US and Canada can receive up to 180 days. The final duration granted is at the discretion of your customs agent.
Regardless of nationality, all visitors must have a minimum validity of three to six months on their passports to enter the country.
Panama entry restrictions are relatively strict, so you must also prove you have at least $500, be it cash, travelers’ cheques, or credit card statements, as well as evidence of an exit flight.
The amount of time you want to spend in Panama’s capital city depends on the type of vacation you want.
For example, if you’re visiting to dive into the natural beauty, you probably won’t stick around for too long.
However, the city can act as an excellent base for day trips in the area, allowing you to have a consistent place to return to over several days.
Panama City is a fascinating mix of old and new, so it rewards explorers. It’s a bustling and modern city with areas that date back over 500 years — but more on that below.
Our recommendation here is San Felipe, also known as Casco Viejo. This is Panama City’s Old Town and its beating heart.
This neighborhood is popular for its incredible dining and nightlife scenes. Rooftop bars, cocktail lounges, cobblestone streets, cozy cafes, boutiques, artisan craft stores, historic buildings — there’s nowhere in town quite like Casco Viejo!