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Travel Guide

Most people in the world have heard of Panama because the Panama Canal, which connects the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean, passes through here. But few have really thought about a vacation in this Central American country. Yet Panama is overshadowed by Costa Rica. And that is a good thing. This way, Panama remains less touristy and the adventure becomes all the greater. In this article we will look at the most important safety tips for traveling in Panama, learn why cash is expensive here, the best way to get from point A to B and most importantly: when is the best time to travel to Panama and when should you definitively not come?

Table of Contents

Airports and flights

There are many airlines that fly to Panama, including Copa Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Spirit Airlines, KLM, Air France and United Airlines. You can choose your airline based on your departure country, budget, preferred routing, and schedule.

Panama has countrywide international airports, Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama City is the main airport for most of the travelers. This is the largest airport in Panama and is located about 20 kilometers from the city center.

Anyway, there is a second international airport, called Panama Pacific International Airport (BLB). This airport is located 15 minutes from downtown Panama City. It is located on the former US Air Force Howard Base. If you fly in or out from here, please make sure to give the right information to your taxi driver.

There are also a few smaller airports in Panama, including Enrique Malek International Airport (DAV) in David, Chiriquí, and Bocas del Toro International Airport (BOC) in Bocas del Toro.

Once you arrive in Panama, you can take a rental car, a campervan like our Morpho Van, a taxi, bus, or Uber to your hotel or other destination.


If you are a citizen of the European Union or United States, you do not need a visa for your vacation in Panama. Citizens of other countries might need a visa to visit Panama. You can apply for a visa online or at the Panamanian embassy or consulate in your home country. US Americans and Canadians do not need a visa to visit Panama for tourism purposes. They can stay in Panama for up to 180 days without a visa. However, they must have a valid passport that is at least 3 months beyond their intended stay in Panama.

Here are other countries that do not need a visa to visit Panama:

  • European Union member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden
  • United Kingdom and Ireland
  • Australia
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Singapore

If you are from a country that does not need a visa to visit Panama, you will still need to present your passport and a round-trip ticket upon arrival. You may also be asked to show proof of financial solvency.

Some flights to Panama have a stopover in the United States of America. Don’t forget to apply for ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) before jumping on a transfer flight. You can find more information about this on all websites for entry into the US.

Best travel time

The best time to visit Panama is during the dry season, which is from December to April. This is when you’ll have the best chance of clear skies and sunny days. The temperatures are also mild in the beginning of the season. However, Panama is a tropical country and there is always a chance of rain, so be prepared for anything. On the other hand is also always a chance of sun during rainy season. Seriously, the rainfalls which most unexperienced travelers expect to find in Panama will be surprised. Our expertise of being 20 years in Central America is the following:

The only thing I know for sure is that no one can predict a weather forecast 100%!

Panama has specially hot month like March and April with temperatures rising to 40 degrees Celsius in some parts. The coolest month is probably October or November but never count on that as climate change is a huge topic here too. If you’re on a budget, you may want to consider traveling during the rainy season, which runs from May to November. The prices will be lower and there will be fewer crowds.

Another angle of view to sort out when to visit Panama is the activity you seek here:

  • Rainforest adventures: The dry season is the best time to visit the rainforests, as the trails will be dry and the visibility will be better.
  • Beach: The Pacific coast has a wet season from May to November, so if you want to go to the beach, you’ll want to visit during the dry season. The Caribbean coast has a shorter wet season, from June to October, so you may have more luck visiting during the rainy season.
  • Wildlife: The dry season is the best time to see wildlife in Panama, as the animals will be more active.
  • Local festivals: Panama has a number of festivals throughout the year, including Carnival, which is celebrated in February.

Has Panama has a Hurricane season?

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to November. Although Panama is not directly impacted by hurricanes, this season frequently coincides with heavy rains, which may cause flash floods and landslides.

In conclusion, I would recommend not to come in November but the rest of the year is good to go!

Security in Panama

Panama is one of the safest countries in all of Latinamerica. The police presence is enormous. Nevertheless, make sure to always park your campervan at guarded hotel parking lots or campgrounds and beaches and never leave valuables in the car. Otherwise, it is safe to walk the streets both in the city and in the countryside in the evening. Some barrios are dangerous, but normally they will not cross your itinerary.

Panama is generally considered to be a safe country. The most dangerous areas are typically located in the capital city of Panama City, as well as in the border areas with Colombia and Costa Rica. Don’t carry large sums of cash or valuables with you here. If you feel unsafe, don’t hesitate to ask for help from a local.

Gang violence: There are a number of gangs operating in Panama, and they are responsible for a significant amount of crime, including murder, robbery, and extortion. Panama is a major transit point for drug trafficking, and this activity has led to an increase in violence in some areas.

A threat which can be visible to many tourists in Panama is the history of political instability itself, and this has led to some violence in the past. Protests of students, blocked streets and even the Panamericana led in the past to many problems.


Panama is not a cheap tourist destination, especially compared to Asian or Eastern European standards. Prices are also higher than in many other parts of Central America and have adjusted to the high level in Costa Rica.

Food is generally inexpensive. Most restaurants throughout the country serve comida corriente (prepared meals) for $3 to $5. For those who prefer more sophisticated cuisine, which is mostly based on us cuisine, prices at the better establishments range from $10 to $20. Please don’t forget to tip if you like. 10% is recommended if the service was ok. In many restaurants a suggestion for a tip will be presented already with the bill. For Europeans, this way of asking for a tip takes a bit of getting used to, if not unpleasant. But other countries, other customs.

For hotels, the range varies widely. Cheap accommodations cost between $40 and $60. Mid-range hotels cost between $60 and $120, while the better hotels may well cost $400 or more per night.

Banks and ATMs

There are several ways to get money in Panama, all of which are a bit disreputable and make tourists uncomfortable. The banks in Panama are unfortunately not very tourist-friendly and sometimes charge extreme fees for cash withdrawals from ATMs. Therefore, we recommend the use of credit cards or Apple Pay.

Although credit cards are accepted nearly everywhere, it is always a good idea to carry some cash for small purchases or emergencies. In the countryside and in smaller towns there are sometimes no card readers or ATMs. You should always withdraw cash in dollars and preferably the maximum amount of US$250 per withdrawal with foreign cards. Why? Panama is one of the countries which likes to get rid of cash and therefore charge foreign transaction fees associated with using your card at an ATM in Panama. The maximum amount you can pick up at the ATM in Panama is currently $250. A whopping fee of up to $7 is known to us.

The use of debit or credit cards to withdraw cash from an ATM is convenient but expensive to get money in Panama.

Exchange your currency for Panamanian balboas or US$ might be a good way too. You can exchange your currency at banks, casas de cambio (currency exchange offices), and some hotels. However, the exchange rate may not be as good as what you would get at an ATM.

An alternative is a money transfer service such as Western Union. There are a number of money transfer services that allow you to send money to Panama. These services typically charge a fee, but the exchange rate is often better than what you would get at an ATM or currency exchange office.


Although many people in Panama speak English, it is a good idea to learn some Spanish before your trip. This will make it easier for you to communicate with the Panamanians and get lots of good advices from them. Google Translate or DeepL and other translation services will also help you.

Spanish is the official and primary language of the Latin American country of Panama. Although 90% of the nation is speaking Castilian Spanish, English is widely spoken in the Caribbean and in the main cities. Due to the huge communities of Chinese people, Germans and other expats, you will find many different languages in Panama. Apart from those, the locals also speak indigenous languages such as Guaymí, or Ngäbere, Embera, Hakka and Buglere.

Crossing borders

If you fly out off Panama the most common airport is Tocumen, close to Panama City. Arrive at the airport early. It is important to arrive at the airport early, especially if you are flying during peak seasons. This will give you plenty of time to check in, go through security, and find your gate. Tocumen now has 2 terminals. Copa, KLM and some other airline fly out from terminal 2 while all others leave from terminal 1. There is a shuttle bus connecting both terminals.

If you cross the border to Costa Rica by land you have three options:

  1. Sixaola-Guabito (open daily 7am to 5pm)
  2. Paso Canoas (open 6am to 10pm Mon-Fri, 6am to 8pm Sat & Sun)
  3. Rio Sereno-San Vito (open daily 8am to 4pm)

An adventurous way to leave Panama to Colombia is via boat. There are dozens of companies who offer the trip between Panama City and Cartagena or Panama City to Capurgang in Colombia through Carti, the San Blas Islands and La Miel.

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