Panama

Useful info

Time
Panama Standard Time is 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-5). 

Electricity
Current 120 volts AC, 60Hz.

Money
Panama uses the USD as its currency. The official name for it is the balboa, but it’s exactly the same bill, and in practice people use the terms ‘dólar’ and ‘balboa’interchangeably. Panamanian coins are of the same value, size and metal as US coins, though both are frequently used. Coins include one, five, 10, 25 and 50centavos (or centésimos) – 100 centavos equal one balboa. Most businesses won’t break 50 USD and 100 USD bills, and those that do may require you to present your passport.

Although credit cards are widely accepted at travel agencies, upscale hotels and many restaurants, credit cards can be problematic almost everywhere else. In short, carry enough cash to get you to the next bank or ATM.
Prices in Panama tend to be slightly higher than in other parts of Central America, such as Guatemala and Nicaragua, though they are about on par with Costa Rica.

Tipping
The standard tipping rate in Panama is around 10% of the bill, though in small cafés and more casual places, tipping is not necessary. Taxi drivers do not expect tips.

Weather
Panama is a tropical climate with temperatures typically varying between 26˚ and 33˚C. Panama has basically two seasons, wet and dry. The dry season is considered Panama's summertime, and lasts from January through March. The rainy season, or what is considered Panama's winter, goes from April through December. During the wet season it does not mean that rain lasts nonstop for days, but that almost each day there is some rain.

Health
Panama City has some good private hospitals and clinics but medical facilities outside the capital are limited. Malaria and dengue fever are common to parts of Panama, including in some outlying areas of Panama City.  Dengue fever can occur throughout the year, and there is no vaccine or treatment.  You should take normal precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
Milk is pasteurized and dairy products are safe for consumption. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally considered safe to eat.

Vaccinations against tuberculosis and hepatitis B are sometimes recommended.

Water
Mains water is normally chlorinated and safe. Bottled water is available. Drinking water outside main cities and towns may be contaminated and sterilization is advised.

Security & Safety
While in Panama you are subject to Panamanian laws, not the laws of your home country. Remember that you are legally required to carry ID at all times. We suggest you carry a photocopy of your passport and leave the original in a safe place at your hotel.

Food & Drink
Panama has its own unique and rich cuisine. As a land bridge between two continents Panama is blessed by nature with an unusual variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs that are used in native cooking. Also, as a crossroads of the world, Panama’s cuisine is influenced by its diverse population of Hispanic, native Indian, European, African and even Chinese migrations.

Tortillas are very popular for breakfast, but these are not Mexican style tortillas. In Panama tortillas are half inch thick rounds of corn dough deep fried and usually served with a melting piece of cheese on top and eggs. This is a dish that will stick to your innards all morning.

Hojaldras. Another typical breakfast treat served with eggs are hojaldras. These are “Panamanian donuts”…a flattened piece of dough deep fried and served hot…you sprinkle some sugar on top- delicious! Especially with a cup of fine Panamanian coffee.

Seafood - Panama, which means "abundance of fish," lives up to its name with lots of fresh delicacies from the sea, including pargo (red snapper), corvina (sea bass), langostino (jumbo shrimp), langosta (lobster), calamari, cangrejo (crab), and pulpo (octopus). Traditional Panamanian seafood dishes come four ways: fried, grilled, al ajillo (with a spicy garlic sauce), or a la española (sautéed with tomatoes and onions). Lobster and jumbo shrimp are expensive because of overfishing and dwindling supplies.

Drink
Beer is Panama's most popular alcoholic drink, and there is a wide variety of national brands to sample, such as Balboa, Atlas, Panamá, Soberana and Cristal - all light pale lagers, none of which are particularly outstanding, but all taste divine in a hot, sticky climate.

Panama's most famous drink is seco, a sugar-cane-distilled alcohol produced in Herrera and commonly served with milk and ice. You won't find seco in trendy bars or high-end restaurants; it's consumed mostly in rural communities and cantinas. Also popular in Panama are rum, vodka, and scotch.

Public Holidays
*   1 Jan New Year's Day.
*  9 Jan *National Martyrs' Day.
*  2 Apr Good Friday.
*  1 May Labour Day.
*  15 Aug Old Panama City Day (Panama City only).
*  3 Nov Independence Day (from Colombia).
*  5 Nov Independence Day (Colón City only).
*  10 Nov First Call for Independence from Spain.
*  28 Nov *Independence Day (from Spain).
*  8 Dec Mothers' Day.
*  25 Dec Christmas Day.

Note: For public holidays falling on a Sunday, the following Monday will be observed as a holiday.