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Panama Travel Tips and Information

The Panama Canal dominates any travel tips for this Central American country because the canal attracts so many cruise visitors.

Panama photo
Three of the most popular destinations in Panama are Colon, Bocas del Toro and Panama City

Panama also is unique because there are three ways of visiting it by cruise -- a western Caribbean cruise that stops at Colon, a Pacific coast cruise that stops at Panama City and a Panama Canal cruise that goes from one side of the country to the other.

Our own visit via a Caribbean cruise took us to an excursion to the canal locks and Gatun Lake for some kayaking.


The canal itself of course is the biggest attraction in the country Anyone taking a Caribbean cruise will see the Gatun Locks, which lead into Lake Gatun. Visitors taking a Pacific cruise will see the Miraflores Locks, which are located near Panama City.

Lake Gatun is a major attraction on the Caribbean side because of kayaking, fishing, Monkey Island and other things to do. Panama City is the major attraction on the Pacific side because of its historical attractions.


Panama’s climate is cooler on the Caribbean side than the Pacific side. Average high temperatures on the Caribbean side hover in the upper 80s to near 90 degrees Fahrenheit most months. On the Pacific side, temperatures exceed 90 degrees most months.

Rainfall is much heavier on the Caribbean side than the Pacific side. Rain is heaviest in the fall months and lightest in winter.

The rainy season runs from May to January.

Tourism / When to Go

Because of the rainy season, the best time to visit Panama is in the early months of the year especially for anyone taking a canal cruise.

Anyone taking a Caribbean or Pacific coast cruise that includes stops other than Panama might be lucky enough to avoid rain during their visit.

Currency / Tipping

The economy is dollar-based and U.S. dollars are widely accepted.

Plan to tip 10 percent in restaurants if the service is acceptable. Taxi drivers do not expect tips.

Culture / Geography

The largest ethnic group is mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white). Spanish is the official language, but English speakers are common.

The interior is rugged and mountainous. The country is slightly smaller than South Carolina.

Passports / Embassy

Anyone returning to the United States with require proof of citizenship. It is highly recommended by the U.S. State Department that U.S. citizens visiting Panama have a passport in case of problems while in the country.

The U.S. Embassy in Panama is located at Edificio 783, Avenida Demetrio Basilio Lakas, Clayton, Panama City (tel: 507-317-5000).

More Information


Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Travel Tips   

June 21, 2012

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