Panama

Home to one of the world's most exceptional modern engineering marvels, Panama invokes historic nostalgia. Yet there's more to this Central American nation than the mighty Panama Canal, and travellers lucky enough to end up in Panama will be delightfully surprised by the uncrowded beaches, sensational surf breaks, magical rainforests and splendid colonial towns. It's high time the world's wanderers added Panama to their adventure agendas.

Panama Tours & Travel

All our Panama trips

Panama Unveiled

10 days from
USD $2,065
CAD $2,130
AUD $2,090
EUR €1,525
GBP £1,210
NZD $2,325
ZAR R20,890
CHF FR1,845

Travel through Costa Rica and Panama and enjoy the stunning natural attractions for which these two countries are known.

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Articles on Panama

From Russia with love: eight reasons you should celebrate the New Year in Russia

Posted on Mon, 24 Nov 2014 by Intrepid Admin

We love Russia. We love New Year. We love spending New Year in Russia. Here's why.

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What happens when a group tour skeptic goes on a tour?

Posted on Mon, 24 Nov 2014 by Torre DeRoche

A seasoned adventurer gives group travel a try for the first time. What happened next?

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Soup is for life, not just for lunch: five Asian soups that will change the way you feel about soup

Posted on Fri, 21 Nov 2014 by Eliza Eliott

Everyone knows soup is a great lunch option, but it's often overlooked for dinner. This article hopes to change that.

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Seven essential things to do on any Chilean adventure

Posted on Fri, 21 Nov 2014 by Lia Mitchell

This blog was originally going to be titled, '7 Cheap Chile Adventures Only a Hitchhiker-Insider on Your Intrepid Staff Could Tell You About', but we thought that might be a bit much.

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About Panama

At a glance

Trips Available: 2
Capital city: Panama City (population 450,000)
Population: 3.4 million
Language: Spanish
Currency: USD
Time zone: (GMT-05:00) Bogota, Lima, Quito, Rio Branco
Electricity: Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin) Type B (American 3-pin)
Dialing code: +507

Best time to visit Panama

Most of Panama revels in a tropical climate with year-round high temperatures and humidity. Travellers tend to visit during the dry season from around mid-December to mid-April, as the wet season (from May to November) usually results in sudden, frequent downpours mixed with bursts of sunshine. As with most other countries, the weather is cooler at high altitudes and much warmer in the lowlands.

Panama weather chart

Geography and environment

Colourful Toucan viewing his surrounding from above, in Panama rainforest
Bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Panama shares land borders with Colombia and Costa Rica. With a typical tropical climate and environment, Panama has an abundance of rainforest, jungle, mangroves, islands, beaches and natural harbours. With around 500 rivers flowing through Panama, this Central American land - full of biodiversity - also has mountain ranges that dramatically cut through the mainland. Though many of Panama's mountains have volcanic origins, most are considered dormant and pose no threat to residents.

Top Picks

Top 5 Brilliant Beach Spots of Panama

1. Starfish Beach

This small beach in the stunning Bocas del Toro area is named for the hundreds of vibrant starfish that live here year round. A walk along the peaceful shore will reveal colonies of huge orange and red starfish lurking quietly beneath the water.

2. Zapatillas Cays

Another of Bocas del Toro's beauties, these two postcard-worthy islands are home to seriously stunning beaches with crystalline water, powdery white sand and coral reefs teeming with turtles and fish.

3. Isla Coiba

This rugged, Pacific coast nature reserve is rich in an incredible range of species, making it a wonderful place for divers and snorkellers out to spot a host of creatures. Marlin, swordfish, groupers, rays, sharks and eels can all be found within the coral reefs surrounding the area, and the clear water only makes spying them all the easier.

4. Playa Chiquita

This rough and remote wonder located on the Caribbean Coast is one of Panama's best kept secrets. Its isolated location means it's a little difficult to get to, but the tranquillity, space and natural beauty make the journey worthwhile. Don't expect beach bars and boutiques - just long stretches of sand with few people in sight. Beach bliss!

5. Isla Grande

This laidback Caribbean island offers an authentic slice of Caribbean life for those wishing to escape the more frequented tourist spots. Featuring beaches speckled with leaves and palm fronds, and small shacks selling fruity cocktails and fresh beers, this haven hand delivers relaxation Caribbean-style.

FAQs on Panama

PANAMA:
Australia: Yes - on arrival
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Yes - on arrival
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Yes - on arrival
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Yes - on arrival

The cost of a tourist card on arrival varies by nationality.
Tipping (although not mandatory) is considered polite in Panama. Tip 10-15% in restaurants and cafes, and leave a small amount of money for porters, guides and taxi drivers.
Travellers will be able to access the internet at cyber cafes and hotels in Panama's large cities and tourist areas. Access to the internet is generally less common in rural and remote areas.
Mobile phone coverage is generally good in Panama's major cities, but may be less reliable in remote or rural areas. Ensure global roaming is activated before leaving home if you wish to use your mobile phone.
Panama has a combination of modern, flushable toilets (found in cities) and more modest squat toilets (found in rural areas), so prepare to encounter both while travelling in Panama.
Bottle of soft drink = 1 PAB
Bottle of local beer = 1.50-2 PAB
Snack at a market = 2-3 PAB
Lunch at a café = 5-7 PAB
Three-course dinner at a restaurant = 20 PAB
Tap water is considered safe to drink in Panama unless marked otherwise.
Major credit cards will be accepted by large hotels, shops and restaurants in the cities of Panama, but less so in rural and less developed areas. Be sure to carry other modes of payment just to be sure.
Panama's major cities and tourist-orientated towns have ATMs readily available. It's advisable, however, to withdraw cash before leaving the city as ATMs may not always be available in regional areas.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: [site:intrepid_insurance_link]
Jan 1 New Year's Day
Jan 9 National Martyrs' Day
Mar 29 Good Friday
May 1 Labour Day
Aug 15 Old Panama City Day (Panama City only)
Nov 3 Independence Day (from Colombia)
Nov 5 Independence Day (Colon City only)
Nov 10 First Call for Independence from Spain
Dec 2 Independence Day (from Spain)
Dec 8 Mother's Day
Dec 25 Christmas Day

Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/Panama/public-holidays

Health and Safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:

From Australia?

Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/

From US?

Go to: http://travel.state.gov/

From UK?

Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/

Responsible Travel

Panama Travel Tips

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Top responsible travel tips for Panama

1. Be considerate of Panama’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.

2. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water.

3. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.

4. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!

5. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.

6. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.

7. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.

8. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.

Further reading

Recommended reading

Title Author
Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914David McCullough
Panama FeverMatthew Parker
The Captain and the EnemyGraham Greene
Panama: A NovelCarlos Ledson Miller
The Tailor of PanamaJohn Le Carre