Return to Central America
Descending to Colon, Gatun Locks, Panama Canal
Gatun Locks, Panama Canal

Panama is officially known as the Republic of Panama.  The country joins North and South America, but many people are surprised to find that the country runs east / west.  Costa Rica forms its border to the west and Colombia to the east.  Panama became part of Gran Colombia in the early 1800s and then succeeded in 1902 when it allowed the United States to build the Panama Canal.  Today the canal is one of its main sources of revenue.  Panama has a population of just over 3 million.  Panama City is the capital and largest city.  Spanish is the official language.


A tourist visa is not required for most nationalities provided that you are staying less than 6 months.  Proof of exiting travel arrangements may also be required at your point of entry.  The Embassy of Panama in Canada has summaries of visa requirements or check your specific country at VisaHQ.  For a list of exempt countries, visit Project Visa.


The official currency of Panama is the Balboa.  The exchange rate is set exactly equal to the US dollar.  The US dollar is commonly used throughout the country and change is often given in US dollars even if payment is originally made in Balboas.  Major credit cards are widely accepted.


The dry season in Panama is December to April.  This is also the summer vacation period for locals and the time of year when schools are not in session.  In the Green Season, from May to November, there are daily rainfalls.  Rainfall can exceed 16 feet per year in some locations in Panama.  The prevailing winds flow to the west and north into the Caribbean, so Panama is not subject to hurricanes.  The country never goes on Dailylight Savings Time and because it is near the equator, the days are always 12 hours long.  The equatorial location means that temperatures do not vary throughout the year.  Expect average highs of around 95 F (34 C) and average lows of 70 F (20 C) in any month.