Panama is a country located in the extreme southeast of Central America whose official language is Spanish. The tourism sector represents a large part of the country's economy, with tourists coming mainly from the United States, Europe, Canada, Central, and South America. When mentioning where is Panama, for many, only its famous channel will come to mind. Others may have heard that it is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. And some may have heard of its paradisiacal beaches. To all this, we must add colonial cities, tasty gastronomy, and the presence of seven different indigenous groups in its territory. You will see that there is much to see in Panama; in fact, it is an emerging destination that has long remained in the shadow of its neighbours Costa Rica and Colombia. From its 2,500 km of coasts in the Caribbean and the Pacific and its national parks to its rich culture, this country is much more than a famous canal, and it is worth to travel to Panama.
Every traveller needs to know about this country and should add it to their agenda. There are many things to know before going to Panama about its beaches, culture, cities, etc. Moreover, many people ask about where is Panama and is it safe to travel to Panama. Others are interested in the best time to travel to Panama and where to travel in Panama. Having considered these, I have written 10 most important and interesting things to know before going to Panama.
1. Where is Panama and how to travel there?
Panama is the only place in the world where you can see a sunrise over the Pacific Ocean and a sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. Hence, the Panama Canal is so important, as it is a construction that has been cutting the distances between two oceans for more than a century. The best way to enter the country is by air, Panama city has three international airports.
2. The capital of Panama
It is a surprising city with a skyline made up of modern skyscrapers that are reflected in the ocean. Panama City is perfect for going shopping, eating, or having drinks or staying in luxurious hotels of worldwide chains. In restaurants like Intimo, Maito, Riesen or Donde Jose, the most delicious foods and desserts are made in the hands of some of the most talented chefs. With local ingredients and a lot of passion and creativity, Panamanian cuisine is a compelling reason to visit the country. Shopping centres are one of the main attractions of Panama City. The public transport system in Panama is very simple and inexpensive. In addition to the taxis, there is the well-known "Chivas" and of course, the internationally known taxi services. However, the most common way to get around Panama City is by using the Metro.
3. Is it safe to travel to Panama?
If you are wondering about is it safe to travel to Panama, it is safe to travel around the country. Perhaps the most crowded areas are in Panama City and the city of Colon, where can be a little bit dangerous. In Panama City, an area where you should not go is El Chorrillo. It is next to the Old Town. Besides these, before coming to the country, you need to deal with vaccinations. Make sure if it is necessary to apply the vaccines. Also, it is very important to note that it is the traveller's absolute responsibility to have all health requirements. It is always good to get travel insurance.
4. Where to travel in Panama?
If you are passionate about colonial architecture, you will be impressed after walking through the streets of Panama City. Be sure to visit the Church of the Golden Altar, the ruins of the 17th-century convent, and other historical monuments. In terms of nature, the country has the greatest biodiversity; only the Pacific Ocean of Panama has 80 different species of coral. When travelling to Panama, you can enjoy nature in each of its corners. The archipelago of Bocas del Toro is one of the essential places to visit. Paradisiac beaches with incredible crystalline waters await you on its islands, a favourite destination for divers as well as for those looking for sandy beaches and idyllic coves in which to get lost.
5. Where to travel in Panama City?
Without a doubt, the Panama Canal is the greatest tourist attraction of the city, besides that the offices of the Mossak-Fonseca company are examples of modern architecture. Casco is the best place to visit in the city. There are many places to see from historic churches, such as La Catedral; wonderful hotels like Tantalus or American Trade Hotel; restaurants like Las Clementinas; coffee shops like UNIDO. Being more than 500 years old, it is better to go to the old town, whose streets, places and mythical sites are full of history. As soon as you start walking, you will realize why it is undoubtedly one of the essentials to visit in Panama City. Do not miss a quiet walk through its narrow streets.
6. What is the best time to travel to Panama?
The best time to travel to Panama is the dry season, from December to April. Although the temperatures are higher and the weather muggier during the rainy season, you can travel at any time of the year. When choosing the clothing to pack, you should take into account that being a tropical country, the climate usually is hot, with lots of suns and sea breeze. Although the natural climate is hot in residential areas and even in shopping centres, they are characterized by being very cold due to the use of air conditioners, so it is worth taking at least one jacket.
7. The Panama Canal
Visiting this impressive work of engineering admires its visitors. This 82-kilometer century-old waterway connects the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. This if not a cliche. There is no doubt that visiting the Panama Canal is a must when visiting the country. With its recent expansion, history has been revived, and the visitor centre reopened where you know everything you have ever wondered about the canal. The channel is a safe investment and a "holy place" for the Panamains that generates a lot of income for this country.
8. Where to stay while you travel to Panama?
Panama has all kinds of accommodation for all budgets. Yes, the country is indeed a little more expensive than the surrounding countries, but in terms of quality-price, the truth is that it does not have many drawbacks. You can stay at one of the internationally known hotel chains both in the capital and other touristic reasons, or rent an apartment from locals. So depending on your possibilities and what time you want to spend, you will not have great problems finding a place that suits you. Also, if you are going to travel during high tourist seasons, such as Christmas, Easter or the Holiday of November 2 (and the next three days), it is recommended to book in advance, since everything is usually fill in.
9. Interesting things to know before going to Panama
The capital of Panama has three international airports that share the city's air traffic. Take a good look at your flight reservations because perhaps you enter the country through one and leave through another.
You will not see a developed city with fewer supermarkets to buy food than Panama City. The day you have to do the shopping is done for a good season because going to the supermarket is like going on an excursion.
The land border between Panama and Colombia does not exist. It is a pure jungle without a border crossing. Going from one country to another must be done by plane or boat. It is common knowledge that Panama does not want to create that border to protect itself from threats from Colombia, but for diplomatic reasons, this speech cannot be the official one. The Panamanian version is that the jungle is so lush and with so much biodiversity that you cannot make the border. It is curious that the same people who were able to cross an entire country in a canal to make an interoceanic passage of mega-ships do not see it possible to make a highway for cars through a forest.
10. Currency and prices
The only bills that circulate in the country are US dollars, but if we talk about coins, the Balboas (the historical currency of Panama) are kept alive in people's pockets. To avoid confusion, the exchange rate of the balboa with the dollar has been implemented the same. Remember, when travelling, Panama is one of the popular places to do shopping, especially since the dollar is the national currency. When you arrive at the airport, observe and write down the prices of the items that interest you in the Free Zone; If you cannot find a better offer in the city's shopping centres, you can buy them when you return.