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Panama Skyscrapers, Sloths & Sand Castles 7 days 6 nights

See three incredible landscapes in one 6-night vacation! From Panama City's old town to white sand beaches on the Pacific Coast, Panama offers visitors a wealth of experiences in a small package.






Day 1: Panama City

Upon arrival, our representative will meet and escort you to the hotel in Panama City.  Relax and prepare for the paradise to come.


Day 2: Panama City and Canal (Breakfast)

A day at leisure or explore this beautiful city on your own pace.

We highly recommend an optional Half day Panama City tour USD$62/personAfter breakfast, the morning tour will begin at the Miraflores locks. Located at the Pacific entrance to the Canal, find yourself unravelling the secrets and histories surrounding the building of the Canal. The Miraflores locks measures to an approximate 80 kilometers long between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. During our visit to this engineering marvel, get the chance to witness the Canal gates of Miraflores Locks. The locks function as water lifts: they raise ships from sea level (the Pacific or the Atlantic) to the level of Gatun Lake (26 meters above seat level); ships then sail the channel through to the Continental Divide. While experiencing this magnificent architectural masterpiece, also get a breathtaking view of the many ships transiting through the 8th wonder of the world. Then, the trip will continue onwards to within the city. Experience the modern and financial district along with the beauty of the colonial city of Panama. Visit the “Causeway”, a leisure paradise with shopping, restaurants and bars that offers spectacular views of the modern city and its skyscrapers. Across the bay, find a great contrast as in the oldest sector of the city, which was founded in 1673, and named the Casco Antiguo. This place has a charming mixture of colonial architecture, cobblestone streets and ethnic diversity. 

Afterwards, be transferred back to the hotel and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.


Day 3: Panama City– Gamboa Rainforest Reserve (Breakfast)

After breakfast., transfer to Gamboa Rainforest Reserve.

after arrival, you can relax and enjoy this amazing resort, or simply sign up and participate in a highly recommended Gamboa Rainforest Combo Pack (Optinal ,USD $131/person) 

This is a tour anyone can do if you eliminate the climb to the Observation tower and only becomes moderately difficult if you choose to climb the 100-foot tower Experience the verdant rainforest of Gamboa from within, ascending some 280 feet from the shadowy forest floor, through the dense undergrowth and up to the sun drenched canopy with its thousand shades of green that are only interrupted by the vibrant colors of flowering trees. Once at the top, you will have the opportunity to climb our observation tower (also accessible for wheelchairs) from where you will have uninterrupted views of the vast rainforest of Soberania National Park while at the same time watch the giant cargo ships maneuver through the Galliard Cut (the narrowest part of the Panama Canal). Once we finish our visit to the Aerial Tram and Natural Exhibits, we will experience an exhilarating 20-minute ride at high speed right through the heart of the Panama Canal. The boat will slow down and enter the labyrinth of jungle-covered islands of Gatun Lake. In this protected area the wildlife is plentiful, and you are likely to encounter capuchin monkeys, 3-toed sloth, howler monkeys, various kinds of toucans and other bird life as well as caimans, crocodiles, turtles and a wealth of butterflies. This is an exceptional place to experience the sights and sounds of the jungle up close. Our trained naturalist guides will ensure that you have an outstanding nature experience by tracing the wildlife as well as educating you about it and its habitat throughout this exceptional jungle and canal adventure.

*For those who upgraded to all inclusive meal plan, your service starts from dinner today*
 


Day 4: Gamboa Rainforest Reserve (Breakfast)

After breakfast, relax and enjoy the facilities of the Eco Reserve. 

You can also sign up and participate in a highly recommended San Blas (Guna Yala) Beach Day USD$202/person.The San Blas Archipelago on the Caribbean coast of Panama has 365 islands and is home to the most famous of Panama's 7 indigenous Indian tribes, the Gunas known for their beautiful Molas. On this fabulous day, you will enjoy the crystal clear waters of San Blas. We leave at approximately 5:00 am in 4x4 cars, and we will travel around 2 hours approx. Until arriving at the port of Carti in San Blas. We will take a motorized boat for about 20 minutes that will take us to Isla Aguja, where we can enjoy the Caribbean Sea. Then we will take a walk through the Natural Pool. You can also have fun and relax.


Day 5: Gamboa Rainforest Reserve- Westin Playa Bonita (Breakfast)

After breakfast, transfer to the Westin Playa Bonita Resort and Spa. Golden sands fringed by an emerald ocean, beautiful sunrises and the most stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, The Westin Playa Bonita Resort and Spa provides the perfect setting for a relaxation getaway. The Resort is nestled on a private beach and surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. It also is designed as an enchanted enclave of infinite pools, cascades and exotic gardens with an impressive architecture inspired by a fusion of Mediterranean, Colonial and Panamanian style offering the perfect facilities and services to conveniently enjoy this Paradise. Find the rest of the day at leisure and indulge in the paradisal experience.

*For those who upgraded to all inclusive meal plan, your service starts from snacks at 3pm and dinner today.*


Day 6: Westin Playa Bonita Resort and Spa (Breakfast)

After breakfast,  Relax on the beach or enjoy other resort facilities.

You can also sign up and participate in a highly recommended Embera Indigenous Village USD$106/personThis trip is truly paradise found in its purest form! The enchanting journey takes us deep into the dense jungles of Chagres where the Emberá Indians have lived for centuries. Our adventure begins with a one-hour ride up the river in dugout canoes, the Emberá traditional, hand carved boats. Upon arrival to the village you will be taken back in time as you are immersed in the ancient Embera cultural dances and music that have not changed much since Columbus arrived in the 1500´s. The Indians will invite visitors to explore the area’s abundant variety of birds and wildlife during a trek that takes you through the untouched jungle. During our visit, the Emberas will give you a glimpse into their mystical rituals and amazing knowledge of medicinal plants and other natural remedies. The Embera women are known as one of the world’s finest basket makers, and you will be able to watch them create these beautiful objects made out of palm leaves and dyed with natural dyes. You can also have your body painted with the natural fruit dye called Jagua, used by the Indians for body decorations as well as for its health-giving properties. Before returning back to civilization, the Indians will offer us a traditional meal of fresh fish and plantains and you will have an opportunity to purchase some of their beautiful handicraft.


Day 7: Westin Playa Bonita Resort and Spa- Home (Breakfast)

After breakfast, our representative will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you to the airport where you will depart home.


***All optional tours to be paid locally. 

* Please click on your selected date/ price button to book.

* All Price in USD


Departure Dates price listed are in USD,per person, based on double occupancy.
N/A 2-9 Pax Group (Min.10Pax)
2019/11/14 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2019/11/21 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2019/12/05 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2019/12/12 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/01/02 N/A USD$559.00 USD$459.00
2020/01/16 N/A USD$559.00 USD$459.00
2020/02/20 N/A USD$559.00 USD$459.00
2020/03/05 N/A USD$559.00 USD$459.00
2020/03/26 N/A USD$559.00 USD$459.00
2020/04/09 N/A USD$559.00 USD$459.00
2020/04/16 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/05/07 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/05/14 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/06/04 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/06/18 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/07/09 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/07/16 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/08/06 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/08/20 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/09/03 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/09/17 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/10/15 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/11/12 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/11/19 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/12/03 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
2020/12/10 N/A USD$499.00 USD$399.00
Single Supplements +USD$299

Price Guide

*Land Only Package

*Prices are per person based on twin share accommodation.

*Add on airfare from other cities: available upon request

*No child discount

*Tour prices are subject to change without prior notice. Please check with your travel agent or our website for the latest information.

* Upgrade to all inclusive meal package include 4 dinner and 2 lunch plus all drinks at gamboa rain forest resort and Westin Playa Bonita. This meal plan option starts from dinner at Gamboa (Day 3) and snacks at 3:00pm & dinner on Day 5 at Westin Playa Bonita.


Package Included

• Transfers:

From International Airport to Crowne Plaza Panama
From Crowne Plaza Panama to Gamboa Rainforest Reserve
From Gamboa Resort to Westin PB
From Westin Playa Bonita to International Airport
• 6 nights of accommodation according to itinerary
• Meals as specified in the itinerary.
• Lodging Taxes.
• Information Kit.


Package NOT Included

• International flight tickets and taxes.
• Optional activities.
• Aditionals meals, alcoholic and not-alcoholic drinks.
• Extras in hotels (laundry, phone calls, mini-bar, etc.).
• Gratuities and tips for drivers and guides throughout the round trip $60/person

  • Upgrade to all inclusive meal pakcage option: USD$79/person

    Package Included:

    4 Dinners & 2 Lunch & all drinks



    Day 1.- Arrival

    Meet and greet at the International. Airport. Ground transfer to hotel. Accommodation in Crowne Plaza Panama


    Day 2.- Panama City (Breakfast)

    Accommodation at Crowne Plaza Panama


    Day 3.- Gramboa Rainforest (Breakfast, Dinner)

    Transfer to Gamboa Rainforest Reserve

    Accommodation - all meals and drinks included (starts from dinner today)


    Day 4.- Gamboa Rainforest (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

    Leisure day to enjoy an optional tour s

    Accommodation Gamboa RR


    Day 5.- Westin Playa Bonita (Breakfast, Dinner)

    Transfer from Gamboa to Westin Playa Bonita

    Accommodation in this beach hotel, all inclusive plan starts with snacks at 3pm and dinner today. 


    Day 6.- Westin Playa Bonita (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

    Accommodation in this beach hotel, all inclusive plan.


    Day 7.- Departure (Breakfast)

    Breakfast. Transfer to Tocumen International Airport.

HALF DAY CITY TOUR
Panama City is a vibrant, cosmopolitan and beautiful city, Capital of the Republic of Panama, and located at the Pacific side of the American Continent. Built in 1519 by Pedro Arias Davila, a Spanish Governor, it has been considered as on of the most important cities of the Americas.
During this tour, participants will have the opportunity to visit the most interesting places of the city, like:
Casco Antiguo: Founded in 1673, it is known as the Casco Viejo. This beautiful little area has several attractions that tourist shouldn’t miss and can easily cover in a walking tour of a few hours. A monument to the French entrepreneurs who began the Panama Canal stands at the bayside end of the Casco Viejo.
There is also an adjacent art museum in the converted strong house, known as Las Bovedas, once used for storing gold. Other points of interest are the famed flat arch or Santo Domingo Church, the beautiful gold- plated altar of the San Jose Church, the Panama Canal Museum, the National Theater, the
National Cathedral, the Presidential Palace and other numerous colonial churches and monuments.
Participants will have the opportunity to do a walking tour at the Casco Viejo section, walking by monuments such as the Plaza Bolivar, the San Francisco de Asis Church, Bolivar Palace and the National Theater; “Las Bovedas Promenade”, with one of the most spectacular views of Panama City.
Panama City: The modern side of the City, the Banking District. The flash of skyscrapers in tropical sunlight and a beautiful horizon extends and is found in the turquoise blue water of the Pacific Ocean. The city is an important International Financial Center. We will walk the streets of the modern city; where we will be able to appreciate all the new constructions that are being carried out in the city and places of historical and tourist.

Miraflores Locks/ Panama Canal: This classic experience brings you to the very best that Panama has to offer: The Panama Canal. Participants will be able to witness the magnificent Miraflores Locks and most probably, its operation. An expert canal guide will take us back in time to be part of it. What a wonderful way to experience this magnificent architectural masterpiece and to have a breathtaking view of the 8th wonder of the World. This tour will also include a visit to the Miraflores Locks Exhibits.


GAMBOA RAINFOREST COMBO PACK
This is a tour anyone can do if you eliminate the climb to the
Observation tower and only becomes moderately difficult if you choose to climb the 100-foot tower
Experience the verdant rainforest of Gamboa from within, ascending some 280 feet from the shadowy forest floor, through the dense undergrowth and up to the sun drenched canopy with its thousand shades of green that are only interrupted by the vibrant colors of flowering trees. Once at the top, you will have the opportunity to climb our observation tower (also accessible for wheelchairs) from where you will have uninterrupted views of the vast rainforest of Soberania National Park while at the same time watch the giant cargo ships maneuver through the Galliard Cut (the narrowest part of the Panama Canal).
Once we finish our visit to the Aerial Tram and Natural Exhibits, we will experience an exhilarating 20-minute ride at high speed right through the heart of the Panama Canal. The boat will slow down and enter the labyrinth of jungle-covered islands of Gatun Lake. In this protected area the wildlife is plentiful, and you are likely to encounter capuchin monkeys, 3-toed sloth, howler monkeys, various kinds of toucans and other bird life as well as caimans, crocodiles, turtles and a wealth of butterflies. This is an exceptional place to experience the sights and sounds of the jungle up close. Our trained naturalist guides will ensure that you have an outstanding nature experience by tracing the wildlife as well as educating you about it and its habitat throughout this exceptional jungle and canal adventure.



EMBERA INDIGENOUS VILLAGE
This trip is truly paradise found in its purest form! The enchanting journey takes us deep into the dense jungles of Chagres where the Emberá Indians have lived for centuries. Our adventure begins with a one-hour ride up the river in dugout canoes, the Emberá traditional, hand carved boats.
Upon arrival to the village you will be taken back in time as you are immersed in the ancient Embera cultural dances and music that have not changed much since Columbus arrived in the 1500´s. The Indians will invite visitors to explore the area’s abundant variety of birds and wildlife during a trek that takes you through the untouched jungle. During our visit, the Emberas will give you a glimpse into their mystical rituals and amazing knowledge of medicinal plants and other natural remedies. The Embera women are known as one of the world’s finest basket makers, and you will be able to watch them create these beautiful objects made out of palm leaves and dyed with natural dyes. You can also have your body painted with the natural fruit dye called Jagua, used by the Indians for body decorations as well as for its health-giving properties. Before returning back to civilization, the Indians will offer us a traditional meal of fresh
fish and plantains and you will have an opportunity to purchase some of their
beautiful handicraft.
SAN BLAS (GUNA YALA) BEACH DAY
The San Blas Archipelago on the Caribbean coast of Panama has 365 islands and is home to the most famous of Panama's 7 indigenous Indian tribes, the Gunas known for their beautiful Molas.
On this fabulous day, you will enjoy the crystal clear waters of San Blas. We leave at approximately 5:00 am in 4x4 cars, and we will travel around 2 hours approx. Until arriving at the port of Carti in San Blas. We will take a motorized boat for about 20 minutes that will take us to Isla Aguja, where we can enjoy the Caribbean Sea. Then we will take a walk through the Natural Pool. You can also have fun and relax.
Note:
* Children under 9 must be accompanied by an adult
* This tour does not include the payment of tax to the indigenous region with a value of 20.00 dollars p/p


Weather in Panama

For the most part, the days are as long as the nights; throughout the entire year the sunset/sunrise times vary by only half and hour. The sun rises around 6-6:30 AM and sets around 6-6:30 PM. The temperatures in Panama largely depend on where you are. In the lowlands, temperatures range from about 32˚C (90˚F) during the day to around 21˚C (70˚F) at night. It’s much cooler in the highlands, where the average daily temperature is around 20˚C (68˚F), although it can reach as low as 10˚C (50˚F) at higher elevations.

Panama has a rainy and a dry season. The dry season lasts from mid-December through mid-April. If you want to go hiking or be outside for most of the day, this is the best time to go. Scuba divers should also take note, as water visibility is best during this time of year. Some parts of the country can get rain during this season (mainly along the Caribbean coast), but most of Panama is sunny and dry for this entire 5-month period.

The rainy season generally lasts from mid-April to mid-December. During this season it’s typical for rain to come in large bursts in the afternoon or early evening, leaving the morning and night clear. This being the case, visits during the rainy season are not completely saturated—there is still a great deal you can do during the day, and many travelers even enjoy taking a break during an afternoon downpour.

The rains are typically heaviest near the end of the season, from October through the beginning of December. The Caribbean side of Panama is generally far wetter than the Pacific side. The humidity is high throughout the year for most of the country, but during the rainy season it can reach nearly 100 percent. However, even the heaviest of Panama's rains generally will not prevent you from reaching the country anytime of year.


Food and Drink in Panama

The people and culture of a country can't help but be reflected in their cuisine, and this is especially true of Panama — a country always ready to serve heaping platefuls of hearty meals to friends and family. Rice and beans are served alongside nearly everything, but are prepared in a variety of ways using different spices and herbs. They are healthy and hearty and a staple of the Panamanian diet.

Panama has excellent seafood. One of the most common types, corvina, is also one of the best. Corvina is a type of sea bass that’s usually served a la plancha (grilled) or as ceviche (raw and marinated in lime juice). Ceviche of all types – including octopus and shrimp – is very common in Panama. Other seafood includes red snapper (pargo rojo), crab (cangrejo), shrimp (camarones), squid (calamares), octopus (pulpo), and lobster (langosta).

The meat in Panama typically comes in form of bistec (steak), carne asado (roast meat), pollo (chicken), puerco(pork), or ropa vieja (literally, “old clothes”), which is spicy, shredded beef served over rice. And nearly all Panamanians have a fondness for sancocho, a hearty and spicy stew that’s usually made with chicken and vegetables.

Vegetarians and vegans should have no problem with Panamanian cuisine. Although meat is featured prominently in most meals, rice and beans are staples and can be ordered nearly everywhere. Fruit is also plentiful and includes tropical varieties such as pineapples, papayas, mangoes, melons, and passion fruit. Vegetarians and vegans should note, however, that meatless Panamanian meals can still contain meat products — the soups may be made from a meat stock, and plantains or yuca may be fried in lard.

Panama City has all kinds of restaurants and many different types of food. Outside the city, however, country fare takes over and the menu is similar wherever you go. The exception to the rule is the Caribbean, where the food tends to be spicier and made with coconut milk. Average Panamanian restaurants are known as fondas, hole-in-the-wall places that serve plates of hot, readily made food. Cafeteria settings are also common, and allow you to pick and choose what you want. This kind of meal can cost as little as US$4.

An abundance of tropical fruit translates into an abundance of tropical juice, and it isn’t hard to find fresh, flavorful juice throughout Panama. It’s common for fresh fruit juice to be mixed with sugar and milk or water. Known as a chicha, this type of juice includes flavors such as piña (pineapple), fresa (strawberry), sandía(watermelon), mango (mango), melón (melon), and Tamarindo (tamarind). Another national non-alcoholic drink is chicheme, a concoction of milk, sweet corn, vanilla and cinnamon. Coffee is found throughout the country and is quite good. In some places — including Panama CityBoquete, and Bocas del Toro — you can find espresso and cappuccinos.

Panama’s national alcoholic drink is seco. Seco is distilled from sugarcane and is most popular in rural areas, where it’s often mixed with milk. Beer is, however, without a doubt the most popular alcoholic beverage. There are four local brands — Balboa, Atlas, Soberana and Panamá — as well as a number of Mexican and American brews on hand. The national beers are similar to pilsners or lagers and are fairly inexpensive; imported beer tends to be more costly. Wine in Panama is generally of poor quality and is not widely consumed. Most of it comes from Chile, Spain, Argentina and the US. Nicer bars and restaurants, however, are beginning to stock higher-quality wines.

 

Health and Safety in Panama

Food & Water

During your trip to Panama, you can eat sans worry. It's safe to enjoy the local fruits and vegetables this country grows, which means you'll be okay indulging in the tropical fruits, squashes, and lentils which prosper in the Panamanian climate.

As for the water, the Panama Canal Company ensures that Panamanian water remains safe to drink. So, whether you need a quick glass from the tap, or were hoping to sample a delicious looking fruit drink or popsicle (ice lolly), you'll be perfectly fine. The one time you may need to be careful is when you're outside of mainland Panama's developed cities. If you find yourself in Bocas del Toro or an undeveloped island, err on the side of caution and drink bottled water.

Beach Safety

If you're heading to Panama for the beaches, then be aware that what makes for Panama does not always make for excellent swimming. If you are hoping to swim in the ocean, we have some tips for you, such as sticking to tourist-friendly areas. Also, be mindful that you often swim at your own risk in Panama—the beaches don't have lifeguards.

Insects & Snakes

Because of Panama's tropical climate, insects are somewhat prevalent, but don't let this deter you from visiting this amazing country. One of the easiest ways to avoid illness is to protect yourself from insect bites. This is especially important if you’ll be spending time in rural areas. Use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and sleep in screened-in rooms. This should keep you bug free.

Mosquitos are not a significant issue, especially in urban Panama, but whether you are in the city or the jungle you may encounter them. Which is why we offer several tips on how you can stay mosquito free throughout your adventures in Panama.

Panama has a diverse range of wildlife, which is part of the fun of visiting this country, but that does mean you will occasionally have to take extra precautions. When it comes to snakes, there is a low chance that you will encounter them. However, we do have some tips to keep you safe from snakes in the event that you're planning some excursions in the wilderness. Don't worry, it's very basic advice to keep you from surprising them or stepping on them.

Vaccinations

Before your trip, visit a travel doctor for any necessary vaccinations or antimalarial medication. Antimalarial medication needs to be started at least a week before traveling, so plan in advance. For the most up-to-date information on health conditions in Panama, visit the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website.

The type of vaccinations you may want will largely depend on where you plan to go. Travelers staying within Panama City and the Panama Canal area won’t need much, while those planning on trekking through the jungle will want more extensive protection. Note that vaccinations can change, so it’s best to check out the current requirements through the CDC or with a doctor.

Visitors to Panama should have their routine immunizations up-to-date, including tetanus-diphtheria and measles-mumps-rubella. The CDC also recommends travelers be vaccinated against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and typhoid fever. Those who plan to spend time in rural areas should be vaccinated against rabies and yellow fever, and may want to take an antimalarial medication. Travelers coming from an area where yellow fever is endemic – including tropical South America and sub-Saharan Africa – should have proof of yellow-fever vaccination.

Many visitors to Panama will not need to take antimalarial drugs, especially if their trip is limited to Panama City and the Canal Zone. The risk of contracting the disease is greatest in the Darién and the Cormarca de Guna Yala (San Blas Islands). Some of the most rural parts of the Bocas del Toro and Veraguas provinces also pose some risk. Still, unless you plan on spending tons of time outdoors or sleeping in rooms without screened windows, you may be fine without medication. As always, it’s best to consult your doctor to discuss your options.

Doctors, Clinics, and Hospitals

Panama has excellent doctors and medical facilities. Many of the nation’s doctors were trained in the U.S. and speak English. The best facilities are in the larger cities, most notably Panama City and David, but there are health centers, clinics, and rural hospitals throughout the rest of the country.

Pharmacies are abundant and well stocked with all kinds of prescription and non-prescription medicines; they also sell condoms and birth control. Serious medical issues should be treated in Panama City.

If you encounter an emergency, call 911 or get to the nearest hospital. For non-medical emergencies or assistance, consult our article "What Should I Do In Case Of An Emergency In Panama?"

Crime

It's natural to worry about crime and safety when visiting a new city, let alone a new country, but Panama is one of the safest nations you can visit in Central America when it comes to crime and safety. In general, Panama is very safe. Its citizens tend to be friendly with travelers and violent crime against tourists is unusual.

However, as tourism takes off in Panama, it’s possible that nonviolent crime, theft, and scams will increase. Some travelers have reported thefts from hotel rooms or had belongings stolen while swimming on the beach. This is definitely not the norm, but it’s good to exercise some degree of caution while traveling. If your hotel has an in-room safe, use it. Don’t bring too many valuables with you while carousing the city or napping on the beach. Act sensibly and you’ll be fine.

There are a few areas that tourists are advised to avoid. Colón, along the Caribbean coast, is one of them. Extreme poverty has made this historic city dangerous, and it’s better to skip it. Some of the poorer parts of Panama City are also best avoided, including the neighborhoods of El Chorillo and Curundu. Casco Viejo is patrolled by tourist police and is generally pretty safe, but it’s good to be alert while strolling the streets at night.

Lastly, there parts of the Darién that should be steered clear of—most are near the border with Colombia, where guerillas and paramilitaries sometimes roam. These areas can, however, change rapidly. It’s best to check with experienced guides or border police before even thinking of traveling here. The U.S. State Department’s travel warnings and Consular Information Sheet is also an important source of information, although it’s not always accurate. It can be found at the State Department's website.

 

Money in Panama

Panama’s official currency is the balboa. The rate of exchange for the balboa has always been tied to the US dollar—one dollar equals one balboa. Panama does not, however, print its own paper currency and instead uses the US dollar as legal tender. Panamanian coins come in 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50-cent pieces. They are the same size, color, and weight as U.S. coins and both are used frequently. While shopping or eating out, you may see prices with either a “$” or a “B/” before them, corresponding the dollars or balboas. They mean the same thing and have the same value.

 

The similarities between the United States of America and Panama do not end at currency exchange. Panama's government is very similar to that of the United States, being a constitutional democracy consisting of a President and Vice President. Though the Panamanian economy is not extremely diverse, it is enjoying healthy growth.

A portrait of the Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa is found on the heads of most coins, while the tails is always the shield of Panama. Only the one-cent piece has someone else—it’s Urracá, an indigenous chief who fought historical battles with the conquistadors.

Practical Matters

The following information will help you know what to expect while budgeting, buying or bargaining in Panama.

Costs

Panama is not an expensive country, especially by North American or European standards. Prices can be slightly higher than other parts of Central America, but are usually cheaper than Costa Rica.

Food is generally inexpensive. Most restaurants throughout the country serve comida corriente (set meals) for $3 to $5, although nicer establishments can be in the $10 to $20 range. Buses and taxis are also fairly cheap and only cost a few dollars.

Hotels are reasonably priced. Budget accommodations tend to cost between $15 and $25. Midrange accommodations run $50-$100, while the best hotels are priced between $100-$200 a night. Double rooms often aren’t much more expensive than single rooms. Sharing a room can significantly lower the cost of travel.

Banks and ATMs

You might want to use cash when traveling in smaller towns and for day-to-day dealings such as food and tours and activities. There are banks located throughout the country that are open Monday through Saturday. During the workweek, banks are usually open from 8 AM to 3 PM, although they tend to have shorter hours on Saturday. ATMs are equally available and are definitely the easiest way to get cash – just look for the red signs that say Sistema Clave. ATMs generally accept most types of credit and debit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Cirrus, Plus) and will charge a service fee, usually around $5. The amount that you can withdrawal at one time depends on the bank, though it’s typically around $500.

Changing Money

If you’re coming from the United States, you won’t need to exchange money—the dollar is legal tender in Panamanian currency. Changing other foreign currencies can be difficult in Panama. You can exchange money at the Banco Nacional de Panamá in the airport. However, outside of the airport the only place you can exchange foreign currency is at a casa de cambio (exchange house). These can be difficult to find outside of Panama City.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are often accepted in the cities, especially at nicer hotels, restaurants and stores. Smaller hotels and restaurants, however, will generally only take cash, as will taxis. The farther one gets from a city, the more difficult it is to use a credit card. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted credit cards, although other cards can often be used in upscale establishments.

There are some parts of Panama where it’s impossible to use credit cards, including the Comarca de Guna Yala(the San Blas Islands) and other remote areas. It’s important to bring cash to these places and to have small bills, as larger denominations are hard to break. Some of these destinations won’t have banks or ATMs either.

Traveler's Checks

Travelers checks are rarely accepted by businesses in Panama. Banks put a 45-day hold on the checks before the merchants' account is credited, so most businesses prefer to keep things simple and not accept them. Travelers checks can be cashed at some banks, although many banks will only cash American Express checks. The banks that do accept travelers’ checks will often charge an exchange fee—usually it’s around 1 percent of the check.

In general, travelers’ checks are more of hassle than they are worth. ATMs are accessible throughout Panama and are by far the simplest way to get money.

Taxes and Tipping

A ten percent tourism tax is added to the price of hotel rooms. There is also a 5 percent sales tax on all non-food items and an airport departure tax of $40, although this is generally included in the price of a flight.

In most restaurants it’s typical to tip ten percent. Those who perform services – such as porters or private drivers – should also be tipped, although the amount can vary. Generally, anywhere between $0.25 and $1 is fine. You may also want to tip guides in more rural areas. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped.

Bargaining

Bargaining over prices is not widely practiced in Panama. You may be able to get a slight discount (descuento) on some items, including handicrafts, but it generally won’t be much. There can be a price reduction for buying more than one item, especially if you’re not buying retail. Ask whoever is selling the product if they’ll cut you a deal for buying two or more items.

 

Panama Entry Requirements

Panamanian entry requirements can be difficult to pin down. Government officials may say something different from the government website, and some rules seem to be in constant flux. That said, the website for Panama’s immigration and naturalization office usually has the most up-to-date information. Before you travel to Panama, check it for visa and other entry requirements.

It’s not difficult for tourists to enter Panama, especially those coming on flights from North America or Australia. All foreign nationals need a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date of entry. Tourists must also be able to prove that they have at least US$500—a bank statement, travelers checks, or a credit card usually works. Finally, all travelers entering Panama must have a return or onward ticket out of the country.

Visas

Panama divides tourists into two groups – those that need a tourist visa, and those that only need a passport.

Citizens of the following countries only need a passport to enter Panama: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United States. It is important to note, however, that this list can change. Check with your home embassy for the current requirements before traveling.

There are two types of visas for Panama, “stamped visas” and “authorized visas.”

The so-called “stamped visas” let some travelers enter Panama several times throughout the year. This type of visa is only available through a Panamanian embassy or consulate, and the Panamanian authorities decide the length of the stay, which is usually 30 days per visit. Anyone who is eligible to visit Panama on a tourist card can apply for a stamped visa instead, although citizens of some countries are required to have a stamped visa. These countries include the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Georgia, Peru, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. As with other things in Panamanian officialdom, this list is subject to change.

Citizens of some countries are required to have an “authorized visa,” the most restrictive type of tourist visa. Like the stamped visa, this kind is only available through a Panamanian consulate or embassy. The officials will choose to either approve to decline the visa application, and will determine the length of stay. The majority of countries on this list are in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, or eastern Europe. These include Bangladesh, Cuba, Haiti, India, Pakistan, China, and South Africa, although the list is subject to change. The requirements can vary by consulate, so it’s a good idea to check with one before beginning the application process. It’s recommended to begin the application process at least a month before the start of travel.

Applicants for “authorized visas” will need to present the following documents:

·         A completed application form

·         A valid passport

·         A copy of the passport (including the pages that show entry and exit stamps)

·         A letter from a local Panamanian sponsor. The sponsor must also present a recent bank statement and utility bill. This letter can come from a Panamanian guide company or tour operator.

·         A copy of your ID or residence card from your home country

·         A copy of your most recent Panama visa, if applicable

·         Two passport-size photographs

Some consulates will require you to have proof of a round-trip as well. Considering this, it’s recommended to have a refundable ticket in case the application is declined.

Arrival Airports

Most visitors get to Panama by air. Panama’s main international airport is the Tocumen International Airport(Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen), which is 25 kilometers (15 mi) east of Panama City. The airport recently underwent a multimillion-dollar expansion that has made it pleasant, modern and easy to navigate. It has good restaurants and a nice scattering of stores for shopping. Its airport code is PTY.

There is a domestic terminal that may be increasingly used by international travelers to make direct connections to destinations in western Panama. Some flights, however, do require travelers to make a land transfer from the Tocumen International Airport to the country’s main domestic airport at Albrook, some 31 kilometers (19 mi) away.

The Tocumen International Airport has a branch of Panama’s national bank (Banco Nacional de Panamá) as well as several ATMS. There is also a Cable and Wireless office that sells phone cards and has internet, fax, and long-distance calling services.

The airport of David in western Panama is in the process of expanding its runway and may soon have international flights. However, as of 2013, few international flights were stopping here. This airport’s official name is Aeropuerto Internacional de David “Enrique Malek,” and its code is DAV.

Finally, a few flights run between Costa Rica and Isla Colón in Bocas del Toro. Its airport code is BOC.

Border Crossings

There are three border crossings between Panama and Costa Rica via road: at Paso Canoa along the Pacific side, Sixaola-Guabito on the Caribbean side, and at Río Sereno in the highlands. Paso Canoas is along the Interamericana and is the most common crossing. The Sixaola-Guabito crossing is generally used by travelers coming to and from Bocas del Toro. The Río Sereno crossing is used infrequently and sometimes does not allow foreigners to cross.

There are no roads linking Panama and Colombia. The Interamericana ends at the town of Yaviza in eastern Panama, some 80 km (50 mi) from the border—it is here that the infamous Darién Gap begins. Flying is undoubtedly the safest and easiest way to travel between Panama and Colombia.

When crossing a border, be prepared to show immigration officials both an onward ticket out of Panama and proof of having at least US$500. Oftentimes these are not asked for, but it’s good to have them handy anyway.

The borders are open every day and are generally easier to get through during regular business hours. Travelers will have to walk across the border, and those that are traveling on bus are often expected to hand-carry their luggage to the other side. It usually takes about an hour to cross.

Extended Stays

The length of time that one can stay in Panama is not straightforward. Tourists can generally always stay for at least 30 days; 90 days tends to be the limit, although this can be flexible depending on the immigration official you talk when you enter the country. If you think you will want to stay longer than 30 days, let the official know and hope that he or she agrees. If they do approve, they will write the length of your stay on the entry stamp.

 

When to Visit Panama

Panama has a rainy and dry season. The dry season lasts from mid-December to mid-April, and the rainy season lasts from mid-April to mid-December, but the country is lovely any time of year. The dry season is the equivalent of summer in Panama, and as such is the high season for tourism. This is the best time to lounge on beaches or go hiking in the mountains. Hotel prices and airfares, however, are generally higher than the rest of the year.

Your Panamanian adventure begins with reaching your destination. Assuming you're an international traveler outside of Latin America, you'll likely find it easiest to fly into Panama. However, once you arrive, you'll have plenty of options for navigating the country by land, sea, and air. Keep in mind that once you step off of your plane, you'll have to meet the country's entry requirements. Unhelpfully, the most up-to-date information about entry requirements can vary, but in general, many tourists will need little more than a passport and proof of $500 USD in their bank account. For exhaustive information, we recommend reading our entry requirements article.

Like most countries, Panama's weather is influenced by its geography. The 'best time to visit' is largely a matter of what you want to do and where you want to go throughout your holiday. During the rainy season, storms tend to come and go relatively quickly. Most days start with sun, see rain during the afternoon, and clear up at night. The earlier months of the rainy season tend to be less wet than the later months, when storms can last longer and make it difficult to go on hikes or drive along country roads.

Some parts of the country see scatterings of rain throughout the year. These include the western highlands, the islands of Bocas del Toro, and much of the Caribbean coast. The best time to visit Bocas is in February-March and September-October. The islands of Guna Yala, which are spread along the eastern Caribbean coast, are considered best in late February-March. Be sure to pay attention to where you're going in relation to the time of year, because you may need to pack for several different regions or activities.

One other thing to bear in mind is Carnival, Panama’s largest holiday. This annual festival takes place on the four days leading up to Ash Wednesday and is biggest on the Azuero Peninsula and in Panama City. Aside from Carnival, there are a number of national holidays and festivals throughout November.




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