Discovering Panama

The Republic of Panama is a Central American country. Stretching over some 75,640 km2, it stands between Colombia and Costa Rica with the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Being a thin strip of land between two seas, it is technically known as an “isthmus”, and you will see the Spanish version, istmo, occasionally used in website and company names.

The capital, Panama City, is referred to within the country as simply Panama. The city's abbreviation is Pty (P being the first letter of the full name and ty the last two.)

Electricity, water supply and the internet are reliable, with occasional short blips.


In 2017, Panama had a population of just over 4 million with a high concentration of expatriates in certain regions. The country's official language is Spanish. English is also spoken in some businesses and hotels, but life is easier with at least an elementary knowledge of Spanish. There is a wide mix of ethnicities, including a significant Native American population.

Most Panamanians are accustomed to having foreigners wandering around and are friendly and helpful. However, most don't speak English or any language other than Spanish, so the onus is on the foreigner to try to learn some Spanish. Making an attempt is always well received, even if you're not very good, and if all else fails, they will direct you to someone who may be able to help.

Panama's economy

Panama has one of Central America's strongest economies. The most successful industries include gold and copper mining, and finance, with a somewhat checkered history in that area, which the country has vowed to address in the wake of the Panama Papers controversy. The Panama Canal is a huge source of revenue and employment.

The currency is the balboa, which is linked to the US dollar at the rate of 1/1, so one balboa is the same as one dollar and US dollar bills are accepted as standard. Shops, restaurants, hotels etc. often display their prices as dollars and the locals will often speak to you in English and talk in terms of dollars.


Panama is a parliamentary republic. All of the country's citizens who are more than 18 years old are eligible to vote. Since the end of the Noriega dictatorship in 1989, Panama has enjoyed relative political stability.

Panama's climate

Panama has a tropical climate with uniform temperatures. The temperature rarely exceeds 32°C during the dry season, varying between a minimum of 24°C in the morning and a maximum of 30°C in the afternoon. Temperatures are lower on the Caribbean side and near the hills, causing snow formations in the Cordillera de Talamanca region.

Seasons are not clearly marked, but the rainy season usually lasts approximately from April to December.