Are you ready to visit Panama?
Preparing for Travel
- Get oriented!
Watch these brief, interesting presentations for an introduction to Panama’s history, demographics and culture.
- Items to Remember to bring:
- Two copies of your passport
- Personal Medications (all of your prescription medications, allergy medicine if you have any allergies)
- Mosquito repellent
- Sun block
- Hat and sunglasses
- Bathing suit
- Closed toed shoes
- Weather Conditions in Panama
Panama is a tropical climate and is generally hot and humid. There are two seasons, the dry or summer season, which is from January - April, and the rainy season from May - December. During the rainy season, you can expect a rain shower every day at some point of the day.
- Dress Code
The climate is hot and humid for most of the year. We recommend thin clothing, 100% cotton especially for participants who will be doing service/work projects outside, pants and closed toed shoes to protect from insects and rural conditions. We do not recommend shorts, thin strapped tops or flip-flops.
Professional Dress in Panama is similar to professional dress code in the USA. Business suits and ties are worn by men, business suits and professional dresses are worn by women.
No USA converters needed - Panama typically uses 110 volt electricity, same as the US. Plugs are typically the 2 pronged flat type so US travelers will not typically need a plug adaptor (unless your device requires 3 prongs).
- Access to Phones/Web
If you would like to use your current cellphone in Panama, it must be unlocked and be SIM card compatible:
- Costs of SIM cards- $2
- Phonecards- with data- $15
- Phonecards- with phone & data - $20
- Most smartphones one month $15 plan of data on phone, with this have internet. Can use router for computer.
* We recommend contacting your local service provider prior to departure, to follow their recommendations when traveling abroad, in order to avoid roaming charges. For group programs, organized through the USF Health Panama office- cell phones are loaned for $25- 30 per month to each group leader.
WiFi is available generally in most hotels and tourist centers in Panama City.
WiFi in the rural communities is variable and not reliable. If needed, USB routers are available for $40 to access WiFi.
- Public Transportation
Getting around Panama is relatively easy as the country's road infrastructure is well-maintained compared to many other Central American countries. Travel by road is the most common form of transport, and the road network stretches over 11,000 Km across the country.
The Metro (new subway) and Metrobus routes are available between many major destinations and travelling by bus is inexpensive. Buses from Panama City depart from Albrook Bus Terminal and travel to most areas of the country. You can buy a rechargeable Metro bus pass card for $2.00 – a Metrobus ride costs US $0.25 and the Metro costs US$0.35.
Taxis are plentiful. They are not metered, but there is a list of standard fares that drivers are supposed to charge, measured by zones. The fare for one zone is a minimum of US$1; the maximum fare within the city is US$4. An average ride, crossing a couple of zones, would cost US$1.25 to US$2, plus US$0.25 for each additional passenger. Always agree on a fare before you get into the cab. Taxis can also be rented for US$8 per hour.
The range of accommodation in Panama goes from cheap hostels, frequented by backpackers, to five-star, luxury hotels.
If booking lodging on your own, we recommend you to do your research about the location and read reviews from previous travelers. We recommend using a place that is frequented by travelers to ensure safety.
Eco hostels in Panama may offer a spectacular natural scenery, but often may not come with central A/C and will not include bed sheets, hot water, wi-fi or other amenities. Always check with your lodging center regarding what amenities will be provided.
Panama City is generally safe, however it is important to be cautious while traveling especially as a tourist. There are certain areas that are not recommended to venture in. The best rule of thumb is to stay in busy populated areas where there are lots of tourists and always travel or walk around in a small group or with a partner, never travel alone.
Fun Fact #1
The Panama Canal is the most difficult and largest engineering project ever undertaken. The Canal stretches 80 kilometers and provides passage for nearly 14,000 ocean-going vessels per year.
Fun Fact #2
Panama is the only place in the world where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic. The Panama Canal is the waterway which joins the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Fun Fact #3
The Panama Canal generates fully one-third of Panama’s entire economy.
Fun Fact #4
Panama set many world records in the area of bird watching and fishing, as it is home to more birds than United States and Canada combined. Panama also has the most diversified wildlife of all the countries in Central America, home to North as well as South American species.
Fun Fact #5
Panama City is the only capital city that has a rain forest within the city limits.
Fun Fact #6
Panama elected its first female President, Mireya Moscoso, in 1999. She was the President from 1999 to 2004, representing the Arnulfista Party.
Fun Fact #7
Panama has the second largest registrant for offshore companies, after Hong Kong.
Fun Fact #8
The Panama Railroad was the most expensive railroad ever built, as it cost 8 million dollars and took 5 years to build. More than 12000 people died in the construction of the railroad. At one point of time, the shares of the railroad were the highest priced stock on the New York Stock Exchange, at $295 per share.