What makes Panama Unique

Panama is a unique travel destination for several reasons. Here are a few:

  • The Panama Canal: The Panama Canal is an engineering marvel that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Visitors can witness the ships passing through the canal and learn about its history and importance to global trade.
  • Biodiversity: Panama is a small country with a vast array of ecosystems, including rainforests, beaches, mountains, and islands. It has a high level of biodiversity, with over 10,000 plant species, 950 bird species, and 220 species of mammal, making it an excellent destination for ecotourism.
  • Culture: Panama's culture is a unique blend of indigenous, African, and Spanish influences. Visitors can experience traditional dances, music, and cuisine, as well as learn about the country's history and folklore.
  • Adventure activities: Panama offers a range of adventure activities, including surfing, zip-lining, hiking, and snorkelling. Visitors can explore the country's natural beauty while enjoying adrenaline-pumping activities.

Top Highlights in Panama

Gulf of Chiriqui

The Gulf of Chiriqui is a marine reserve located on the Pacific coast of Panama. It's home to numerous islands, pristine beaches, and abundant marine life, making it a great destination for snorkelling and diving.

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Embera Village

The Embera Village is a traditional indigenous community located in the heart of the Chagres National Park. Visitors can learn about the Embera's culture, traditions, and way of life.

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Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of islands located on the Caribbean coast of Panama. It's known for its vibrant Caribbean culture, laid-back atmosphere, and beautiful beaches.

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Boquete is a small town located in the highlands of Panama, famous for its cool climate and stunning natural scenery. It's a great destination for outdoor activities like hiking, bird watching, and coffee plantation tours.

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San Blas Islands

The San Blas Islands are a group of 365 small islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama. They are known for their white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and colourful coral reefs.

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Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo is the historic district of Panama City, with charming colonial architecture, colourful buildings, and cobblestone streets. It's a great place to explore and learn about Panama's history.

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Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is undoubtedly the most famous attraction in Panama. Visitors can see the canal in action and learn about its history at the Miraflores Visitor centre.

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Travel Ideas for Panama

Panoramic Panama

Experience the best of Panama with our exciting 3-week self-drive tour, starting and ending in Panama City. From coast to coast, immerse yourself in lush tropical nature, indigenous culture, and secluded dream beaches. Your journey begins in the vibrant city of Panama City, where you'll explore the fascinating mix of history and modernity. From there, you'll venture into the lush jungle of Gamboa, home to a variety of exotic wildlife, and visit the stunning El Valle volcanic crater. Continuing on to the picturesque villages of Azuero, you'll discover the region's rich cultural heritage and witness traditional crafts being made. You'll also visit the beautiful Isla Iguana, famous for its crystal-clear waters and pristine beaches. In the cool mountain air of Boquete, you'll breathe in the fresh mountain air and explore the region's famous coffee plantations. You'll then head to the Caribbean coast and the breath-taking Bocas del Toro archipelago, where you can relax on the sandy shores of Red Frog Beach and experience the vibrant culture of the region. Finally, you'll return to Panama City and explore the historic Casco Antiguo, a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with stunning colonial architecture and vibrant street life. With so many amazing highlights and experiences, this self-drive tour is the perfect way to discover the best of Panama at your own pace.

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Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Panama depends on the traveller's preferences and the activities they plan to do. Panama has a tropical climate with two main seasons, the dry season (December to April) and the rainy season (May to November). Here are some factors to consider when deciding the best time to visit:

  • Weather: The dry season is generally considered the best time to visit Panama, as the weather is sunny and dry, and there is little chance of rain. However, it is also the busiest and most expensive time to visit.
  • Crowds: The peak tourist season is during the dry season, especially during Christmas and New Year's. Therefore, visitors who prefer to avoid crowds should consider visiting during the rainy season when there are fewer tourists.
  • Activities: The rainy season is an excellent time for activities such as white-water rafting, kayaking, and hiking because the rivers and waterfalls are full, and the vegetation is lush. However, some areas may be inaccessible due to heavy rain and flooding.
  • Wildlife: The dry season is an excellent time for wildlife viewing, especially in the national parks, as the animals tend to congregate around water sources. However, visitors can still see plenty of wildlife during the rainy season, when bird-watching is excellent.

Important Information for Your Travel Plans

Special Travel Tips from our Experts

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Where to Stay

  • Hotels: There are a wide range of hotels in Panama, from budget-friendly options to luxury resorts. Popular hotel chains such as Hilton, Marriott, and InterContinental have properties in Panama City, Bocas del Toro, and other popular destinations.
  • Bed and Breakfasts: Bed and breakfasts are popular in Panama, especially in the mountain towns such as Boquete and El Valle de Anton. Visitors can stay in charming guesthouses or eco-lodges, some of which offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Vacation Rentals: Vacation rentals, such as apartments and villas, are popular in Panama City and beach destinations such as Coronado and Santa Catalina. Visitors can choose from a range of options, from budget-friendly apartments to luxurious beachfront villas.
  • All-Inclusive Resorts: All-inclusive resorts are popular in Panama, especially in beach destinations such as Playa Blanca and Punta Chame. Visitors can enjoy unlimited food and drinks and participate in a range of activities such as water sports and excursions.
  • Eco-Lodges: Eco-lodges are popular in Panama, especially in areas such as Boquete and the San Blas Islands. Visitors can stay in sustainable and environmentally-friendly accommodations and participate in eco-friendly activities such as bird-watching and hiking.

Getting Around

There are several ways to travel around Panama, depending on your budget, time constraints, and travel preferences. Here are some options to consider:

  • Car Rental: Renting a car is a popular option for travellers who want more freedom and flexibility. Rental agencies are available in most major cities and at the airports, and prices are generally reasonable. However, be aware that driving in Panama can be challenging, especially in cities and during rush hour.
  • Private Tours: Private tours are a great way to explore Panama's natural beauty and cultural sites, especially if you have limited time or want a more personalised experience.
  • Taxis: Taxis are widely available and reasonably priced, but make sure to negotiate the fare before getting in.
  • Domestic Flights: If you're travelling to destinations far from Panama City, such as Bocas del Toro or the San Blas Islands, domestic flights are a convenient and efficient option. Several airlines operate domestic flights in Panama, including Air Panama and Copa Airlines.
  • Boat Tours: Boat tours are a popular way to explore Panama's stunning coastline and islands, such as the San Blas Islands and Bocas del Toro.
  • Public transportation: Panama has an extensive public transportation system, including buses, taxis, and the Metro in Panama City. Buses are the most common form of public transportation, and they are relatively cheap and frequent, making them a great option for budget travellers.

Travel Themes Most Common for Panama

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Local Cuisine

Panamanian cuisine is a blend of African, Spanish, and indigenous influences, resulting in a unique and delicious array of flavours. Here are some local foods to try when visiting Panama:

  1. Sancocho: Sancocho is a traditional Panamanian stew made with chicken, yucca, plantains, corn, and other vegetables. It is often served with rice and aji chombo, a spicy sauce made from hot peppers.
  2. Empanadas: Empanadas are a popular snack in Panama, made with a pastry shell filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables. They are often served with a side of chimichurri sauce.
  3. Arroz con Pollo: Arroz con pollo, or chicken with rice, is a staple dish in Panama. It is made with chicken, rice, onions, peppers, and other vegetables, seasoned with saffron, cumin, and other spices.
  4. Ceviche: Ceviche is a popular seafood dish in Panama, made with raw fish marinated in lime juice, onions, peppers, and cilantro. It is often served with tortilla chips or crackers.
  5. Patacones: Patacones are a popular side dish in Panama, made with fried plantains sliced and flattened into patties. They are often served with a side of garlic sauce or black bean dip.
  6. Chicheme: Chicheme is a sweet, refreshing drink made with corn, milk, cinnamon, and sugar. It is often served with a scoop of ice cream on top.

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Festivals & Public Holidays

Panama is a country with a rich culture and diverse history, and there are several festivals and holidays that reflect this. Here are some noteworthy festivals and holidays to consider when planning your trip to Panama:

  • Carnaval: Carnaval is the biggest and most popular festival in Panama, celebrated in February or March before the beginning of Lent. It is a four-day celebration that includes parades, music, dancing, and street parties. The most famous Carnival celebrations take place in Las Tablas, a town in the Azuero Peninsula.
  • Independence Day: Panama celebrates its Independence Day on November 3rd, commemorating its separation from Colombia in 1903. The day is marked by parades, cultural events, and fireworks displays throughout the country.
  • Pollera Day: The pollera is a traditional Panamanian dress worn by women, and Pollera Day is celebrated on July 22nd to honour this cultural icon. The day is marked by parades, exhibitions, and cultural events, with many women wearing their most beautiful polleras.
  • Corpus Christi: Corpus Christi is a religious holiday celebrated throughout Panama, usually in June. The celebration includes processions, music, and dance, and it is a colourful and lively event.
  • National Day of the Golden Pollera: This festival celebrates the traditional dress of the Kuna people, an indigenous group that lives in the San Blas Islands. The festival takes place on August 26th and includes parades, music, and cultural exhibitions.
  • Festival of the Black Christ: The Festival of the Black Christ is a religious celebration held in Portobelo, a town on the Caribbean coast of Panama. The festival takes place in October and includes processions, religious ceremonies, and cultural events.

When to Start Planning your Trip

Currency & Payment

The official currency of Panama is the Panamanian balboa (PAB), which has the same value as the US dollar (USD). In practice, both the balboa and US dollar are used interchangeably in Panama, with the US dollar being the more commonly used currency for everyday transactions.

In Panama, cash is king, and it is recommended to carry cash with you for most transactions, especially in smaller towns or rural areas. ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas, and they dispense both US dollars and Panamanian balboas. Credit and debit cards are also accepted at most major hotels, restaurants, and shops, but it's always a good idea to check in advance.

When using credit or debit cards, make sure to notify your bank before travelling to Panama to avoid any issues with card usage. It's also recommended to keep an eye on your card transactions to avoid any fraudulent activity.


Panama is generally a safe destination for tourists, and most visits to the country are trouble-free. However, like any destination, visitors should be aware of potential risks and take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety. Here are some things to bear in mind regarding the security situation in Panama:

  • Street crime: Street crime, such as theft and pickpocketing, can occur in Panama City, especially in tourist areas. Visitors should keep their belongings close to them and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or expensive jewellery.
  • Scams: Tourists may encounter scams, such as fake tour operators, taxi scams, or credit card fraud. Visitors should research reputable tour operators, only use licensed taxis, and keep an eye on their credit card statements.
  • Natural hazards: Panama is prone to natural hazards, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods. Visitors should monitor weather reports and be prepared for emergencies.
  • Remote areas: Travellers should exercise caution when travelling to remote areas, especially near the border with Colombia, where drug trafficking and smuggling are prevalent.
  • Political protests: Political protests and demonstrations can occur in Panama City and other urban areas. Visitors should avoid large gatherings, monitor local media, and follow the advice of local authorities.

Visa & Immigration Rules

EU citizens can visit Panama as tourists for up to 180 days without a visa. However, there are a few entry requirements that must be met:

  1. Passport: EU citizens must have a valid passport that is not expiring within the next six months.
  2. Return or onward ticket: Visitors must have a return or onward ticket to show that they are not planning to stay in Panama indefinitely.
  3. Proof of sufficient funds: Visitors may be asked to show evidence of sufficient funds to support themselves during their stay in Panama.
  4. Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate: If you are travelling from a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission, you may need to show a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
  5. COVID-19 requirements: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors may also be required to provide proof of a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours of departure, and may be subject to health screenings upon arrival.

It's always a good idea to check the latest entry requirements before travelling to Panama, as they may change depending on the situation. EU citizens can check the Embassy of Panama website or contact the embassy directly for the latest information.

Health & Hygiene

Panama has a good healthcare system, but it's always a good idea for tourists to take some precautions to stay healthy during their trip. Here are some important health considerations for tourists visiting Panama:

  • Vaccinations: The CDC recommends that travellers to Panama be up to date on routine vaccinations, such as measles, mumps, rubella, and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis. Additionally, travellers may need vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, yellow fever, and typhoid, depending on their itinerary and activities. Consult with a travel health specialist or your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to discuss any necessary vaccinations.
  • Mosquito-borne illnesses: Mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever, chikungunya, and Zika virus, are present in Panama. Travellers should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites, such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers, using insect repellent, and sleeping in air-conditioned or well-screened rooms.
  • Food and water safety: Tap water in Panama is generally safe to drink, but it's recommended to stick to bottled or filtered water to avoid stomach issues. Additionally, travellers should be cautious about the food they consume and avoid street food that may not be prepared hygienically.
  • Medical facilities: Panama has good medical facilities, especially in major cities like Panama City. However, medical care can be expensive for tourists, so it's recommended to have travel insurance that includes medical coverage.

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