Panama Travel Advice
// Useful Tips for Traveling in Panama
Erosion: Don't be tempted to create a new track or take a shortcut. Stay on the existing trail when possible even if it's muddy or there's room to walk alongside.
Responsible Travel: Do not remove any objects, plants or animal products from nature.
A Relaxed Snorkeler is less threatening and less of a target. When the aquatic wildlife realizes you are not a threat, they resume their normal routine, allowing you to experience their world.
Make a Difference: Choose your travel provider on the basis of their eco principles and practices.
Falling Coconuts: When walking under palm trees watch your head from falling coconuts, they can cause a serious injury.
Lost in the Rainforest: To the untrained eye the rainforest can be perceived as a big blur of green, making it an easy place to get lost. Never enter a trail in the rainforest without an experienced local guide.
Walking Pedestrians don't have the right of way when crossing the streets, at least not in the minds of car drivers, even on painted crosswalks you have to be very careful as most drivers are not used to people throwing in front of their cars.
Driving: If thinking of driving in Panama be aware that there is a significant shortage of road sings. Because of the lack of road signs and proper illumination, driving at night should be avoided whenever possible.
Slow Lines for Domestic Flights: you need to be at the airport one hour before departure. It is very important to comply with this requirement because lines tend to be very slow.
White Water Rafting: Prior to your expedition your guide will give you a tutorial, be sure to pay attention. One of the most common errors that rafters make is to paddle in the wrong direction.
Poison dart frogs can't inject venom as their venom is in the skin, however if you grab one and you have a cut in your hand you can be in trouble.
Room Noise: If you are a light sleeper you might need ear plugs at some point. It could be because of the neighbor's dog barking in the middle of the night, or the roosters waking everybody up early in the morning.
Foreign Owned Hotels: After a few nights in Panama you might start to wonder, where are the Panamanians? Like in most third world countries, deficient levels of education and limited access to information have steer locals away from developing an entrepreneurial spirit and therefore benefit from the natural wonders surrounding them. Instead, it has been the visiting foreigners detecting a need and an opportunity to open a business.
Panamanian: When in Panama do as the Panamanians do... try the local food. "Sancocho" is a very tasty chicken soup, "Comida Corriente" is served at informal places and it translates to meal of the day, it usually includes rice and beans with chicken, beef or pork. Other things to try are "Carimanola", "Yuca Frita", "Patacones", and "Pescado Frito". Our version of the corn "tortilla" is different than what most people are used to, it's thicker, like a hockey puck.
Drink the local alcohol called "Seco" and it's made from sugar cane. People mix it with milk or fruit juices. There are several brands of local beer, the one that sells the most is "Atlas".
Tipping 10% is the norm. Some restaurants include the tip on their total. Your bill should include the amount consumed, a 5% service tax, and either the 10% tip (servicio) or a space for you to include this.
Weather in Panama
Panama's tourist season is during the dry season from mid-December to mid-April. This is true for the Pacific slope, but the Caribbean side can get rain throughout the year.
Panama's high tourist season corresponds with its Pacific-side dry season, from mid-December to mid-April. During these months, there is relatively little rain in Panama City.
The best time to visit Panama really depends on what you plan to do. If you intend to spend most of your time on the Pacific side, you might want to visit in January-June, when there's generally little rain and the weather is pleasant. Bear in mind, however, that hotel prices and airfares are generally higher from mid-December to mid-April.
If you'll be doing any serious hiking, the dry season is the most comfortable time to do it.
For planning purposes, be aware that Panama's mountains can get cold at night, be sure to bring warm clothing.
If you'll be spending most of your holiday surfing, bear in mind that swells are fairly constant in the Pacific year-round, though offshore winds from December to mid-April can add a few meters to curl. However, Caribbean swells are a bit more fickle, and are usually dependent on weather patterns in the region.
Other outdoor pursuits are also weather dependent. Rafting is at its best is Chiriquí Province from May to December when the rivers are running high, while diving is best from December to mid-April when the dry season lends better visibility.
For more information about current events in Panama visit the Panama Guide.