Shops usually open Monday to Saturday, from 0900-1730/1800hrs. In popular visitor areas, many shops stay open until later in the evening during high season (October to December) where there is late night shopping until 1900/2000hrs. Many stores open on Sundays, particularly if located inside the malls.
The US Dollar is widely used throughout the entire country as the only paper currency, you might get change (coins) which are the same size for the quarter, dime, and nickel as the U.S. You might want to use it before you leave, to avoid carrying it back to your country of origin.
We strongly recommend you exchange your currency in your country of origin, as you will get much better rates. However at Tocumen International Airport there are Currency Exchange Booths you can use for this purpose. Also you have available ATM machines scattered all over the airport if you need quick cash.
Main stores, hotels and restaurants in Panama will accept the majority of credit cards. It is advisable to carry some US Dollars; for example, many smaller accommodation establishments such as B&Bs are unlikely to accept credit cards; this also applies to other small businesses.
There are no definite rules for tipping. If you feel that you have received good service then you may wish to leave a tip. This is most common in restaurants, where the tip can be up to 10% of the bill, but you should check to see if a service charge has already been included. Tipping in hotels is also at your discretion. Taxi drivers are often given a tip, particularly on longer journeys and if they carry your luggage, with $3.00 to $5.00 normally being sufficient. Our driver’s gratuities are not included, so if you believe you receive an excellent service, the tip amount is at your discretion.
Panama has a tropical maritime climate with a hot, humid, cloudy prolonged rainy season (May to January) and a short dry season (January to May). It is completely outside the hurricane belt and experiences few if any natural disasters. Most of Panama has two seasons: wet (“winter”) and dry (“summer”).
Summer is roughly from December to April. In May, the rains start gradually with frequent showers (most lasting no more than an hour or two). The wet season generally culminates in November with major downpours.
Though some afternoons can be very muggy, hours or days of continuous rain are very rare, especially in Panama City and the Pacific coast area known as the “Arco Seco”, or Dry Arc. Sunscreen, insect repellent, hat, fresh cotton clothing, and a couple of bottles of water are recommended on daily tours.
Like all foreign countries, US Medicare and Canadian provided healthcare is not honored, so additional health insurance is required for all foreign hospitals. Facilities in Panama accept most American health insurance policies although it might be advisable to research travel insurance and insurance provided through Panamanian companies depending on your individual lifestyle.
In Panama City there are five (5) main private hospitals, capable of attending any major emergency including the Johns Hopkins affiliated Punta Pacifica Hospital, which is widely used by expats. There is also the “Hospital Nacional” and “Hospital del Niños”. There is also the public systems managed by the Ministry of Health and the Social Security System which have Healthcare Facilities in every major town.
Restaurants (including those in hotels) in towns usually open 1130-1430 hrs. for lunch and 1800-2400 hrs. for dinner, but in the countryside they are likely to close earlier. Last orders are often taken 45 minutes before closing.
Many restaurants/bistros/cafes and pubs are open all day in cities and larger towns. The standard opening times for pubs are 1100-1430hrs and 1700-2300hrs Monday-Saturday, 1230-1430hrs and 1830-2300hrs on Sunday, but many pubs open all afternoon, while some have a late license, especially at weekends. Most hotels have casinos where liquor is served 24/7/365.
The price of food and drink varies considerably. In a restaurant it is usually more expensive, but you can get business lunches, with a restricted menu, at a very reasonable cost, around $7.00 - $12.00.
For dinner expect to pay from $15.00-$35.00. There are many restaurant guides and apps available to help you make your choice, but you can ask someone at your accommodation that can be able to advise you - local recommendation is best. Pubs are generally cheaper than hotel lounges for alcoholic drinks. When in doubt, order by the name on the tap or ask the person behind the bar for advice.
While there certainly is crime in Panama, it is generally limited to petty theft or to individuals who are involved in crime themselves. There is no problem with drug trafficking in the areas where most hotels are located and where expats reside.
The US State Department has no travel advisory for Panama and claims cities and hamlets in the country “are safer than many American cities.”
The Financial District and Casco Viejo are favorite locations and have a wide offer of hotels where visitors select from; walking is safe to and from these places for short distances of two or three miles.