40 Best Things To Know Before Visiting Panama And Panama Travel Tips For First Timers
We will write about things to know before visiting Panama, Panama travel tips and all the cool facts about Panama for first-timers to seasoned travelers, this post will be your go-to guide to get to know more of Panama and what awaits you from amazing diving, beaches, volcanos, Panama city, nightlife to delicious food to try in Panama.
Read here Panamanian food, vegetarian food in Panama, Panamanian drinks, Panamanian breakfast and what to wear in Panama
Panama Travel Tips And Best Things To Know Before Visiting Panama
1. IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL TO PANAMA?
If you want to know if it is safe traveling or going to Panama, well, it is safe. Although located in Central America, where crime rate is high, Panama is the exception. Crime in Panama City is a very low occurrence if you stick to the usual areas, as well as in the beaches and the interior. I found myself pretty safe traveling to Panama in the tourist areas important things to know before visiting Panama.
2. CASH IS THE KING AND ATM IN PANAMA
Remember Cash is still the king in Panama. Make sure you are bringing cash to remote areas in Panama since sometimes will be hard to find an ATM where you can withdraw cash or it will be hard paying with credit card.
The official Panama’s currency is the US dollar. ATM machines are common in the major cities. Often located in an isolated room, air-conditioned, with glass walls and the fee is usually $3 with the limit of $500 per transaction.
3. VISA FRIENDLY IN PANAMA
One of the things to know before visiting Panama most of the Visitors to Panama get 90 days visa. The citizens of one of eligible countries like Bolivia, Russia and Turkey who do not require a visa for up to 180 days. All visitors must hold a passport valid for 3 months as well.
Check here the list of countries with free visa for Panama!
4. BEST TIME TO VISIT PANAMA
The best time to visit Panama is during the summer dry season from mid-December to mid-April. The Panama Canal Zone has a tropical climate with high humidity year-round. You can also come to Panama in February, March, September and October for the least chance of rain.
Click here to know more about the weather in Panama!
5. HEALTH TRAVEL INSURANCE
Things to know before visiting Panama we recommend always to bring a travel insurance when traveling abroad just in case you have any problems. You can always have food Poisson, fever or any other kind of disease.
Just make sure you are ready since it can be really expensive if you get a big surgery or problem in Panama. You can check ours in this link where you can get covered starting from $40 USD per month.
BOOK YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE
You can read Heymondo Vs Safetwing cheapest travel Insurance. You can get for $135 USD your Heymondo Travel Insurance with Heymondo discount code valid for 90 days. Read our full Heymondo Travel Insurance Review
You can get Safetywing Travel Insurance for Digital Nomads valid for 28 days Safetywing for $50 USD per month with kids until 10 years old included
FACTS ABOUT PANAMA
6. LEARNING SPANISH OR SPEAKING ENGLISH IN PANAMA
Things to know before visiting Panama another learning opportunity in Panama is to learn Spanish. There are a lot of Spanish classes in Panama offering packages with different services and affordable prices. Bocas del Toro is the place with more packages and a few Spanish schools. Most of the touristic areas Panamanian people are speaking English but it will be really useful to learn some basics in Spanish language.
7. PANAMA ISN’T SO CHEAP
If you are thinking Central America and South America is cheap for travel you are right. But Panama is the most expensive beside Costa Rica country in the area. You will have to pay an entrance fee for Natural Parks, around $5 USD for a dish in a local restaurant. We will tell you below accommodation, food budget and general entrance fees and tour prices in Panama.
8. ACCOMMODATION BUDGET IN PANAMA
For accommodation, budget travel in Panama Hostel and dorms can only cost $15 USD a night in Panama, which is a fair amount if you’re on budget travel. They are decent and quite comfortable.
There are also mid-range hotels in Panama up to $50 USD a night if you want a more comfortable place to stay at while exploring Panama. If you prefer luxury will start from $100 USD per night.
Click here to book your accommodation in Panama!
9. FOOD BUDGET TRAVEL IN PANAMA
For food budget travel in Panama if you in local stands, a meal can cost up to $5 USD. It can consists of rice, chicken, beans, and maybe another side plus a drink. You can also find cheap cafes and sandwich shops around for cheaper options of $5-$6 USD a meal. Beer is usually $1 USD during hostel happy hours while mixed drinks costs $2 USD.
10. TOURS AND ENTRANCE FEES IN PANAMA
There are a lot of attractions and scenic places to see in Panama. Some are free, but there are fees on most of them. In Panama Canal, entrance fee differs locals, visitors/tourists or students. Locals will only pay $3 USD while tourists should pay $15 USD and students are $10 USD.
San Blas day tour is quite expensive at $115 USD inclusive of transportation, lunch and island hopping for a couple of days. Of course this is a worthy activity! For a cheaper and quicker way to explore Panama, you can avail the Hop-on, Hop-off sightseeing bus where you’ll be sitting on a top deck bus going around the city for $18 USD.
11. WIFI AND INTERNET IN PANAMA
Internet in Panama works great in big cities like Panama City and in Bocas del Toro. You can access free WiFi at hostels and hotels and there are lots of restaurants that are offering free WiFi. We advise that you get a sim card in Panama if you need to catch up with some work online.
You can get two different sim cards companies in Panama if you travel as a couple since the coverage can change depending on the company that you choose. It will be challenging to find Wi-Fi while traveling in a few small cities, mountains and will be hard to get great connections.
SIM CARD AT PANAMA AIRPORT
I wouldn’t recommend you to buy a sim card at Panama airport. If you wish comfort you can buy eSim online and if you aren’t in a hurry just go around phone shops in the city and compare prices to buy the cheapest sim card in Panama. Panama sim card for tourist and best Panama eSim
You can find the cheapest Panama eSim with Airalo Panama eSim prepaid for $9 USD with 1 GB data valid for 7 days and for $18 USD with 3 GB data valid for 30 days. (USING DISCOUNT CODE GAMINTRAVELER 10%).
Holafly Panama eSim for $44 USD if you use our code GAMINTRAVELER coming with 6 GB data valid for 15 days. Ubigi Panama eSim for $14 USD with 1 GB data valid for 30 days and for $38 USD with 3 GB data valid for 30 days. (USING DISCOUNT CODE GAMINTRAVELER 10%).
12. ADAPTER IN PANAMA
In our Panama travel tips you should know they use the American adapter. A few places make it possible to fit your European adapter in the plug. If you are coming from European countries, we recommend you to bring an American adapter to be able to charge everywhere.
13. LOCAL TRANSPORTATION IN PANAMA
Local transportation in Panama is not expensive. There are historical train between Panama City and Colón that runs parallel to the canal. There is metrobus that can get you around the Panama city and its outskirts. You can go around Panama by bus and minivan for short distances near the cities.
There are also taxis and Uber in Panama for a more convenient and comfortable ride in the cities. Panamanian taxis don’t have meters but there are standard fares between Panama City’s neighborhoods. Taxis are relatively cheap and easiest mode of transportation especially for tourists in the cities.
14. NIGHTLIFE IN PANAMA
Nightlife in Panama is awesome and it’s great in Panama City and Bocas del Toro. Panamanian people love to party. That’s why you’ll see lots of bars, clubs and restaurants. The best place for nightlife in Panama can be Bocas del Toro. You can always go for a drink at night in any beach destination or town in Panama.
15. TAP WATER IS SAFE IN PANAMA
Tap water is safe in Panama. It’s a concerned always for tourists when traveling to South America or Central America about the tap water. In this case you can feel safe with tap water in Panama in most of the areas. You can always buy water everywhere you will find supermarkets or small shops in Panama.
16. SLOTHS IN PANAMA
You will find Sloths in Panama. But don’t you think you will find them everywhere. In Panama the sloths are in Isla Escudo de Veraguas which is located at the North. Sloths need to live in the mangrove forest. Especially if you are going with a local guide will be easy to see them.
17. PANAMA COFFEE
Things to know before visiting Panama that produces coffee in Boquete area especially. Most of the coffee production in Panama is Arabic 80% and 20% Robusta. Panama Geisha beans are nowadays the most expensive coffee in the world. You can take Geisha Coffee and you can decide if is the best coffee in the world for you.
18. Caribbean Vs Pacific Coast in Panama
Caribbean Vs Pacific Coast in Panama. If you go to the Pacific Coast you will find way less tourists than the Caribbean. Places like Gulf of Chiriqui are great to visit and Bocas del Toro in the Caribbean is mazing and obviously is full of tourists. I would recommend visit both of them if you have the choice.
19. UBER VS TAXI IN PANAMA
Uber vs Taxis in Panama. In my opinion Uber is a better option to use in Panama since you will have a fixed price and you will be avoiding to get that price. There is no overcharge until your final destination. You will find Uber in Panama City the capital. Sometimes taxi drivers in Panama overcharge and can be so challenging to close the exact price.
20. TRAVEL OFF SEASON IN PANAMA
Travel Off season in Panama is the best idea. Since you will avoid the crowds and the prices will go down in the most touristic areas. I would recommend you the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy season great options. You can get occasional rains but it will be easier and more comfortable to travel around Panama.
21. BORDER CROSSINGS IN PANAMA
Not Easy border crossing in Panama if you are coming from Colombia. You will find the Darien Gap where you will have to order permits and hire a guide. You can also do in a sailor boat as I did 5 days traveling around San Blas Islands in Panama and getting to Cartagena in Colombia. Prices are high for both of them even if you take a plan from Panama will be expensive!
Easy border crossing in Panama if you are planning to visit the neighbor countries like Costa Rica in the North.
22. PANAMA IS SO DIVERSE
Panama is so diverse since you can walk around Panama City center with beautiful streets old town but also modern business areas with skyscrapers. If you love beaches you must visit San Blas Island and Bocas del Toro. If you love adventure makes sure you go to Boquete area where you can hike to many places around.
FACTS ABOUT PANAMA FOOD
23. Ropa Vieja
Ropa Vieja it means Old Clothes in English. Ropa Vieja is made of shredded beef with spices, paprika, onion and garlic. Ropa Vieja is usually served like most of the dishes in Panama with rice and fried plantains. Prices are around $5-6 USD in a local restaurant.
Sancocho is a Panamanian traditional soup made with chicken, beef, tomatoes, yellow onions, yuca and corn. Sancocho is usually served for lunch or dinner. Prices are around $5-6 USD in a local restaurant.
Ceviche is served in all parts of Latin America. The raw fish is marinated in lime for 12 hours, so it is no longer so raw. Ceviche usually spends on shrimp, lobster, lemon, cilantro, tomatoes, and plenty of seafood. Panamanian cuisine serves ceviche usually for lunch and dinner as one of the most popular food in Panama. Prices are around $6-7 USD.
Empanadas is my favorite street food in Panama. You can find fried empanadas salty with meat, cheese, beans, potato, chicken or fish. There are also sweet empanadas with butter and dulce de leche so delicious too! Prices are around $1 USD.
27. TRY FRESH TROPICAL FRUITS IN PANAMA
Panama has a lot of tropical fruits like bananas, watermelon, guavas, mangoes, papayas and coconuts. You will find a fresh coconut while staying in the beach anytime in Panama with the street sellers for $3 USD. Also you can get a fruit shake or smoothie anytime for $3-5 USD in Panama at the beach.
Guacho is a typical dish in Panama cuisine made with rice, vegetables, calamari, shrimp, mussels and octopus. If you like seafood you will love it Guacho de Mariscos is a stew and you can have for lunch or dinner.
Tamales in Panama as other country to visit in any Latin American. Tamales is a simple dish wrapped in banana leaf, with steam corn dough filled with meat, cheese or vegetables. You can eat as snack or for breakfast. Prices are around $2 USD.
30. FRUIT JUICES IN PANAMA
You must try fruit juices in Panama. You will find them everywhere as street food. Prices are around $1-2 USD for a small glass depending on the flavors. Lulo with citrus flavor, Guanabana creamy flavor and one of the most popular. Tomate de arbol means tomato tree and more options. Just try all of them and choose your favorite one!
Raspao are snow cones is a perfect refreshment in a tropical country like Panama. Raspao is a street food in Panama served in a glass with shave ice, with syrup and condensed milk. Prices is around $1 USD.
Festivals in Panama
32. SEMANA SANTA
Holy Week (Semana Santa) is celebrated in Nicaragua same way like other countries in Central and South America. Same religion by Spanish speakers countries with the commemoration of Jesus death and resurrection. It´s great to see processions around the cities and small towns in Panama.
33. Bocas Del Toro Sea Fair
Bocas Del Toro Sea Fair is celebrated on mid September. Bocas Del Toro Sea Fair is a 4 day event to celebrate the fishing traditions in Bocas del Toro. You will see music, traditional dances, local markets and of course seafood everywhere.
34. Carnival in Panama
The Carnival in Panama is comparable to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Festival. If you’re looking for places to visit in Panama, you might want to stop by Panama City. The Carnival is celebrated 40 days before Holy Week in Panama. Friday is the opening and Wednesday is the last day with the Sardine Burial.
More Panama Travel Tips And Best Things To Know Before Visiting Panama
Places To Visit in Panama
35. Panama City
Panama City has a few things to offer starting from visiting Casco Viejo which is Old Town. You will see a beautiful place to walk around full of people with bars and local restaurants. There are a few churches around. And in Panama City you can also visit the modern part with skyscrapers.
36. Canal De Panama
Canal de Panama is just a few minutes by bus from Panama City or you can go by taxi if you prefer more comfort is only 20-30 minutes depending on the traffic. There is an entrance fee of $15 USD for tourists and you will have a guided tour explaining about the history and current situation of Canal de Panama one of the most important places for transportation over the world.
37. San Blas Islands
San Blas Islands I visited them in a sailing boat on the way to Colombia. Prices are expensive but they are os beautiful and you can visit the Kuna Yala which is the population living around San Blas. You can do activities like snorkeling and kayaking apart from relaxing in this amazing paradise. I would recommend you to spend 1-2 days at least. Prices are around $100-200 USD.
Boquete is a small town and a quiet area with really nice weather. Boquete is becoming the favorite place for tourist who decide to stay longer in Panama. There are a few activities to do like hiking, rafting and zip lining if you like adventure. Apart from these activities you can learn about coffee and chocolate in Panama in Boquete.
39. Hiking Baru Volcano
Hiking Baru Volcano is one of the best things to do in Panama when staying in Boquete. It will take long time to reach to go the top and go down around 14-15 hours so you need to be ready for this. You can go with a guide easy to find them in hostels in Boquete or joining a tour.
The entrance fee to hike Baru Volcano is $5 USD. And to get to Baru Volcano you can go by taxi from Boquete, the taxi fare is around $20 USD and if you shared a taxi will be around $5-7 USD.
40. Los Cangilones River
Los Cangilones River is a canyon where you can do cliff jumping and swimming near David area between Boquete and Bocas del Toro in the map. There is no entrance fee at Los Cangilones River and it will be a fun activity to try in Costa Rica. There are also waterfalls around the area for swimming.
Hope you liked our Panama travel tips. Let us know if we missed things to know before visiting Panama and facts about Panama in the comments below.
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Thursday 28th of April 2022
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Saturday 19th of February 2022
This is a great overview - it's often hard to find websites that give distinctive and useful information. Very helpful link to the SIM card option; different museums; fabulous section on the food. Bravo! ...and I have a question. With Independence Day(s) and related holidays apparently all together from November 1 to 5, would that be a good time to visit? I'm a photographer, so it seems like a chance to get some unique shots... but I'm wondering if museums and tours take a holiday then, or if they would still be functioning? (obviously some exceptions, I'm sure) Any information as to yes or no about the tourist-type things being open would be appreciated. Thanks!
Saturday 19th of February 2022
Hey Martha, thanks for the feedback!
I'm sure on those dates everything will be busy and better you book everything in advance. Im not sure about the schedule of the museums if they will open but I don't think that they will be closed for a week. For sure it will be a great opportunity to take great photos, meet people and enjoy Panama in those dates :)
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