Panama Travel Guide

We have a ton of videos coming your way, all covering questions you might have about travel to Panama and Central America. As we create the videos we’ll update them here with links and more supporting information.

Panama is an AMAZING country to explore. We want to help you make the most of your time visiting. By sharing what we’ve learned, we hope you can focus on relaxing and enjoying the amazing adventures that await.

We’ve been to Panama several times, but this was our first time as a family. Throughout our travels, we’ve seen much of Panama but we feel like we’ve only scratched the surface. Although these videos focus on the Pacific Coast nearby Panama City, much of our experience is from visiting places like: Bocas Del Toro, San Blas, Playa Venao, Santa Catalina, El Valle, Panama City, and the areas in between.

Sources to help you prepare for Panama. More detail on each topic in the videos below, be sure to check em’ out.

Traveler's Checklist

Travel.State.gov has great information, especially for US citizens. This link will take you to an overview of the state department’s travel guide. Much of the information is generic, but the next link below will take you to PANAMA specific travel info.

 

Link to US travel website https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/travelers-checklist.html

Panama Specific Travel Info

The link below will take you to the United States’ official Travel.State.Gov site with information specific to Panama travel. This is a great starting point to learn what might apply to your own unique needs while visiting Panama. Be sure to explore the various tabs on the left which will share updated information on things like: immunizations, travel warnings, visa requirements, and more.

LINK to Panama Travel Info

Must Have APPS for Panama

The days of lugging around heavy travel books are long gone (although we still bring our Lonely Planet guides anyways, perhaps we aren’t that young after all??). Check out our video about using your cell phone while visiting Panama.

Once switching our US Sim cards for Panamanian cards within the Claro network, we had killer service. All four bars filled with blazing fast LTE service nearly everywhere we could take our car.

We quickly found great Apps to help us navigate, search, and discover incredible experiences and adventures.

A big shout out to Joey Bonura for creating “26 Apps To Make Your Life Easier In Panama”. This guide helped us and we’re sure it will have value for you as well.

Medical Evacuation Insurance

This is what we use for basic medical evacuation insurance. With an emphasis on BASIC, this may or may not have much value depending on where you travel. US health plans don’t cover you out of the country (check out our video about medical services to see one work-around) but in our experience health care for typical ailments (infections, flu, sprained toe, etc.) was VERY affordable. We paid $15-30 for each doctor visit, roughly $35 for lab work, and most drugs such as antibiotics were between $10-30 per prescription.

Please comment on the video if you have advice for other medical evacuation services.

No affiliation, but here is what we currently have:

Good Sam Travel Assist

Travel Insurance

Here are a few great sources to search & compare travel insurance. For Jesse, 39yo male, living in Florida, and traveling to Panama, several plans ranged from $55 to $80 per week, for a four week trip. Note that your destination, age, trip duration, and where you live will affect the rates provided. Most of these companies have great tools allowing you to plug n your information and get rates instantly.

 

Reviews.com Travel Insurance Options

More Insurance Reviews & Plans

Videos currently available for the Panama Travel Guide. More on the way, subscribe so you don’t miss them!

How EXPENSIVE Is Panama?

This video covers some of the common expenses you’ll likely deal with while visiting & traveling Panama.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Lodging & Rental Costs
  • Groceries & Eating Out
  • International money transfers (wiring money)
  • ATM fees
  • Currency

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

Upcoming videos, all about traveling Panama & Central America. Subscribe to get notifications when new videos are available!

Beginner's Guide to Panama

This video covers many of the basic things you’ll need to know, before your first trip to Panama or Central America.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Phone chargers
  • Immunizations
  • Water Safety
  • Calling Family & Friends
  • Insurance
  • Passports & Visas

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

BEST Travel APPS for Panama

This video covers some great APPS you should consider using while visiting & traveling Panama.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Communication Back Home
  • Translation
  • Transportation
  • Entertainment
  • Outdoor Activities

 

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

 

Z

MUST HAVE Travel Items for Panama

This video shares a handful of the items that we bring on ALL our adventures. Be sure to comment on the video and share what you take traveling!

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Travel Bags
  • Phone APPS
  • Electronics
  • Clothing
  • Cameras

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

l

Panama VISA Requirements for US Travelers

For those of you watching the entire series this will be repeat information but we can’t stress how important it is to ensure your meet the Visa requirements before arriving in Panama. Some nationalities must apply for Visas months in advance, others such as US citizens simply show up at the customs desk and smile.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Passport Requirements
  • Proof of funds (solvency)
  • Entry by boat
  • Money limits
  • Customs Declaration form
  • Copies of passports vs. originals

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

Using a US cell phone in Panama (and other countries)

Panama is one of the places our US cellphones (ones with GSM technology) work as good as home. Even better than back home in our case, with 3-4 bars of LTE service almost the entire time in Panama. It wasn’t easy learning how to switch our phones over, take the shortcut and watch this video.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Verizon in Panama
  • Data Limits/ Throttling
  • Locked vs. Unlocked Phones
  • Carriers
  • Cost of Data
  • Connecting with Family Back Home

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

}

When is the BEST TIME to VISIT Panama

Some of the seasons and weather you can expect while visiting Panama.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Pacific Coast & Seasons
  • Caribbean Coast
  • Mountain Regions
  • Summer
  • Winter, in Panama?
  • What can you do during wet season?

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

How NOT to offend people while visiting Panama

This is a primer for understanding Panamanian culture, norms, and how to fit in.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Religion
  • People
  • Culture
  • Personalities
  • What to Expect

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

s

Immunizations and Medical Care in Panama

Few things in this world are more important than our health. In the excitement of jungle hikes, waterfalls, and crashing Pacific surf, it’s easy to forget about the less exciting things like health care. Do yourself a favor and take just a few minutes to watch this and review your own needs before going on your trip of a lifetime.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Diseases in Panama
  • Immunizations
  • Where to get Information
  • Medical Costs
  • What to Expect
  • Our Personal Experiences

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

~

How to Pack Surfboards for TRAVEL

The problem with bringing surfboards on a plane is, well… they’re large pieces of foam & fiberglass. What could possibly go wrong!

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Packing Multiple Boards
  • Cheap Padding
  • Surf Travel Bags
  • Past Experiences
  • How our boards fared this trip
  • Other Personal Experiences

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

~

What are Panama Hotels Like?

While it is possible to stay in a three sided hut, with white sand and turquoise waters steps away, you’d be surprised how similar accommodations are to what we’d expect in the US. Nearly anything is possible in Panama, but here’s a handful of the places we’ve stayed, the rates, and amenities offered.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Amenities
  • Rates
  • Seasonality
  • Tips to Save $$$
  • Pros & Cons of off the beaten track
  • Pros & Cons of popular areas

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

~

Traveling During holidays or Political Events

If your time is short, you don’t want to waste hours or days of your vacation stuck in traffic due to political rallies, holiday traffic, or religious events. We’ve found ourselves in a handful of major international holidays and this time, a presidential election. Here’s how we avoided the crowds and got quality beach time in.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Semana Santa (Easter) in Latin America
  • Elections and how people react
  • The Crowds
  • It’s Not just Your Vacation Anymore
  • Sometimes it’s easier to Fiesta
  • Avoiding popular areas

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

~

Transportation & Road Conditions in Panama & Central America

While Panama is a very modern country, in large part from the billions the Panama Canal brings into the country, it doesn’t have many roads up to US standards. Roads within Panama City are well maintained, but drive thirty minutes and you might be dodging potholes, narrow shoulders, or steep dropoffs.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Transportation Options
  • Common Road Hazards
  • Safety
  • Carseats & Taxis
  • Bus Availability
  • Chicken Bus or the Million Dollar Prevost?

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

~

Renting a Car in Panama

Renting a car internationally is often a necessary evil. Public transport is very affordable in Panama, but it doesn’t always fit our needs. Renting a beach house, down a long private road, in a small community left us with few options. We share why we gave up on taxis to spend hundreds more renting our own car, and considerations for your own trip planning.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Transportation Options
  • Taxis – Pros & Cons
  • Safety
  • Rental Agencies
  • Private Rentals
  • Flat tires & getting your rental car towed by crooked cops

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

~

Family Friendly Things To Do in El Valle De Anton

El Valle De Anton (The Anton Valley) is one of many mountain towns throughout Panama. Some of these tips are specific to El Valle, but there are adventures to be had anywhere you go in Panama with the right sense of adventure.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Zoo Animals
  • Square Trees
  • ATV Tours
  • Waterfall Hikes
  • Butterfly Garden
  • Great Food Options

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

~

Epic Mountain Hike in Panama

There are TONS of mountains to climb or hike in Panama. We snagged a babysitter (grandma was visiting), and joined our friends to hike up Cerro Chame. With only a couple thousand feet of elevation gain we didn’t expect much for views, but boy were we wrong! Nearby Panama City and Playa Coronado, this is an easy spot to access.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Where is Cerro Chame?
  • Getting There
  • Safety
  • Hiking Gear
  • Camera Gear
  • Summiting & Stopping to Enjoy Panama

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

~

Surprise Wildlife Encounters in Panama

Many people visit Panama for the vast array of wildlife found throughout the country. Be careful what you ask for! We survived to share our stories but several different occasions we had visitors in, on, or around our house. The worst of the unwanted guests were only mosquitoes, and the rest of them were pretty interesting.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Crabs
  • Bats
  • Iguanas
  • Monkeys
  • Birds
  • Tide Pools

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

~

Finding the Freshest AND Cheapest Seafood in Panama

Plenty of markets and grocery stores sell locally caught fish, but how do you know its freshness, was it frozen? Speaking little Spanish, we couldn’t communicate these things clearly. What we could do however, was to meet the fishermen at the beach while surfing in the morning. Most fishermen fish all night, and return with their fresh catch each morning so long as the sea isn’t too rough. Here’s how we cut out the middle man, got the freshest fish possible, and likely supported a local family with fairer prices.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Eating Like a King
  • Fishes of Panama
  • Prawns & Lobster
  • Filet Mignon
  • Supporting Local Fishermen
  • Sustainability

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

~

Getting Amazing DEALS in Panama Markets

Panama is known for hand crafted items, and any market you visit will have plenty on display. Try searching the definition for Panama, and one result will likely be “hat”. Whether you’re shopping for a “Panama Hat” or other handcrafts, Jenny shares what she found in the markets we visited, and how she got some killer deals on all sorts of great items.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Panama Hat
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • Sunday Market
  • Bargaining
  • Supporting Local Artisans
  • Avoiding Forest Products

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

~

Exploring Panama WITHOUT a Guide

Straight roads are uncommon in Panama. That’s because Panama is comprised of hills, mountains, rivers, and everything wild and winding. Exploring can sound dangerous, but with the right tools and planning, Panama is a great place to explore whether by car or by foot. Here’s how we discovered some hidden gems, without a guide.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Navigation Apps
  • Cell Service
  • Apps that work without cell service
  • Safety
  • Secret Spots
  • When to Hire a Professional

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.

~

Perfect, Empty Waves in Panama & How to Avoid Crowds

Like many East Coasters, we don’t get to surf good waves very often. Sometimes a big northern storm or a hurricane will send swell to Florida, but rarely as good or as big as the beaches in Panama. We share why every surfer should venture off on an international surf trip, and also how we continually enjoyed uncrowded waves.

Some of the topics covered in this video are:

  • Panama Waves
  • Pacific vs. Cafribbean
  • Seasons
  • Land of Plenty
  • Tides are EVERYTHING
  • Bigger Then You Think

And other general info about some of our experiences while living in Panama.