ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS
Travelers to Panama must present a passport valid for at least three months. Travelers entering Panama as tourists will be charged $5.00 for a tourist card when they purchase their travel ticket. As of April, 2010, U.S. tourists are allowed to stay in Panama for 180 days, without extension. A US$40 airport tax (payable only in cash) is charged upon departure but this is sometimes included in the airline ticket fare (check with your carrier).
Travellers from other countries should consult with the Panamanian consulate or embassy in their country to obtain the latest information on entry requirements.
When entering the country you may only bring one carton of cigarettes and three bottles of liquor. Upon departure you may be fined and charged for leaving Panama if found with products made from endangered species.
Panama City has some good private hospitals and clinics but private medical facilities outside the capital city are limited. It’s very important to find out before you travel whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas for emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation? In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip
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. We recommend guests bring insect repellent but should you forget it at home, we have some on hand.
Please check the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and U.S. State Department travel advisories website for updates:
Tap water is safe to drink in Panama City and major cities such as David and Colon. In keeping with our "green approach" and in order to reduce the use of plastics on the islands, we at Islas Secas provide pure filtered drinking water and free biodegradable re-fillable (BPA free) water bottles for our guests.
Panama does not print bank notes, so since 1904 the U.S. dollar has been the legal tender and U.S. coins interchangeable with Panamanian coins of the same denominations, similar sizes and metals are used. The dollar bill is called the Balboa, cents are centavos. Prices are often written with $ sign or B/. before the amount.
Large denomination dollar bills can be difficult to change in Panama, particularly outside Panama City. Even for $50 bills you may be asked to sign a book and give your passport number. $20 bills and lower denominations are the most convenient, but in country areas where prices are low you are advised to carry smaller bills.
Travellers’checks are infrequently received in Panama, particularly those in currencies other than US dollars. American Express Travellers’checks are preferred.
The use of major credit cards such as Visa, American Express and Mastercard is widespread throughout the major cities of Panama, David and Colon.
These are available throughout Panama. Look for signs that show links to Cirrus and Plus in addition to Mastercard etc. Amounts that can be withdrawn vary from bank to bank.
Panama time is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-5 GMT) and one hour ahead of Central American countries. Panama is the same time as USA Eastern Standard Time when US time is not adjusted for daylight savings; during USA daylight savings time, Panama equals US Central time.
Spanish is the official language, however English is spoken and understood in Panama City and most hotels in major cities such as David.
ELECTRICITY AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS
The electric current used in Panama is mainly 110v -60hz and some 220v. The Casitas at Islas Secas are powered by individual solar arrays and are equipped with several 110v power outlets which can provide power for small appliances such as cell phone chargers, camera chargers. Any appliances with higher power consumption such as hair dryers, laptop chargers, video camera chargers, etc. would have to be charged at the Terraza area.
The country code for Panama is 507 and phone numbers are 7 digits long. Cell phone coverage is available throughout most of the country.
There is some cell phone coverage on Islas Secas (depending on your carrier) and we have a land line available with free calls to the U.S. We also offer satellite cable TV in the terraza area where our guests can catch up on the news or watch their favorite team sports. Free Wi-Fi is available in the terraza and each casita.
Panama enjoys a tropical climate and average daily temperatures during the day are in the mid to high 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with slightly cooler temperatures in the evening. The average humidity is about 80%. Mountain areas such as Boquete are cooler and windier. Caribbean side (Bocas del Toro) is more humid and rainy than the Pacific.
Length of day is 12 hours year round because Panama is near the equator. Sunrise is approximately 6:20 a.m. and sunset is approximately 6:20 p.m. year round. Panama never goes on Daily Savings Time as all days are the same length. Panama is also lucky in that it is out of the hurricane belt and therefore never gets hit by hurricanes.
The rainy season is from late May to early December, while the dry season is from late December to early May – nearly exactly the same seasonal weather pattern as South Florida, except for the complete absence of hurricanes. The rainy season does not mean continuous rain. Usually mornings are sunny, with intermittent heavy rain in the afternoon. Continuous overcast and drizzle are not the norm except sometimes in the rainiest months of October and November. Local microclimates vary widely. Annual rainfall in the city of Panama is about the same as Miami at 8 feet per year. The rainiest areas are in the western mountains on the Caribbean. The dry season can be extreme in some areas on the south side of Panama in March and April.
Panama’s seasons are opposite of the US. Winter in Panama is known as summer up north and vice versa. Winter in Panama refers to the rainy season (May-December) and summer in Panama refers to the dry season (December-May). This means that in the cold months of winter time in the north when many people are seeking relief in warmer climates, Panama is having its summer with the highest temperatures of the year.