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We're Andre & Lisa, adventurers and experienced budget travelers.

We have over two decades of travel experience and since 2018 have led a full-time nomadic lifestyle.

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Panama is a country on the isthmus linking Central and South America. The Panama Canal, a famous feat of human engineering, cuts through its centre, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to create an essential shipping route. In the capital, Panama City, modern skyscrapers, casinos and nightclubs contrast with colonial buildings in the Casco Viejo district and the rainforest of Natural Metropolitan Park.


The ease of travel and a wide array of experiences make Panama one of the most attractive emerging tourism destinations in the world. In just one week, visitors can enjoy two different oceans, experience the mountains and rainforest, learn about native cultures and take advantage of vibrant urban life. The capital, Panama City, is a modern, sophisticated metropolis that resembles Miami and has established commerce, arts, fashion and dining.

  • Capital: Panama City
  • Currency: US dollar ($, USD; banknotes only) Panamanian Balboa (PAB; coins only)
  • Area: 78,200 km²
  • Population: 4,177 million (2018)
  • Language: Spanish (official), English
  • Religion:Roman Catholic 85% Protestant 15%
  • Electricity: 120V, 60Hz




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Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 


Peak Season

Shoulder Season

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Climate Chart with avergae monthly temperatues and rainfall


Panama has a hot and humid, tropical climate, with a long rainy season from May to December and a short dry season from January to April. Average annual temperature for the country is 27°C and average total rainfall is 1900 mm annually. However, these statistics vary by region and altitude. Although the rainy season in Panama is one of the longest in Central America it can bring welcome relief from the heat and it rarely rains all day. The rain usually comes down hard for a few hours during the afternoons in the rainy season, leaving mornings hot and sunny. The great thing about the rain is that it leaves the country leafy and green. Unlike its northern Central American neighbours which get dried out and brown during the dry season, Panama never loses its fresh green sparkle and it always looks like what it is – a tropical country.


There are some regional differences though. The Azuero Peninsula has a microclimate that makes its interior appear somewhat arid and desert-like on occasion. The Caribbean side of the Continental Divide is also wetter than the Pacific side. A great example of this is that Panama City receives roughly half as much rain each year as Colon. Both cities are on either end of the Canal, Panama City on the Pacific and Colon on the Caribbean - barely 80km apart.


  • December to April - High season on the Pacific coast is also the dry season. Best time to hike or dive.
  • Mid-April to early December - Rainy season means low-season travel rates.
  • August to October - Migrating humpback whales in the Pacific; shoulder season in Bocas.


The beaches in Panama are best enjoyed during the dry season from December to April. It can get really wet from May all the way through to November.




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As one of the richest countries in Central America, costs in Panama are generally a bit higher than most parts of the region. It's comparable to the cost of travel in Costa Rica, another of the more expensive countries in the region. However, if you’re coming to Panama directly from North America or Europe, you’ll still most likely find it very cheap.


Panama is not like somewhere like Nicaragua or Guatemala, where the travel industry is almost entirely geared towards more budget-minded travellers. In Panama, there is the potential to indulge in a bit of luxury every now and then. You will still have to be a bit savvy though, particularly in the capital which is a popular shopping destination so it’d be wise to set aside a separate budget for shopping if that’s on your agenda.


There are plenty of ways to save money in Panama and lower the cost of your trip without sacrificing too much of the quality.

  • Eat at the local food stands – Meals at local food stalls cost US$ 3 US$4. You can get get rice, chicken, beans, and maybe another side plus a drink.
  • Avoid taxis – Taxis are not metered and it's much easier to get ripped off. Rather use Uber where you can and if you have no other option agree on a price in advance.
  • Drink tap water - In most of Panama tap water is perfectly safe to drink. Get a refillable bottle save yourself a few dollars a day. If you're super paranoid get a portable water filter like we use.
  • Drink beer - Cutting alcohol from your travel budget can make a significant effect on your expenses. That said, beer is a reasonably affordable option.
  • Use Airbnb's - Available across most of Panama it's a cheaper option than traditional hotels and it might give you a bit more space as well.
  • Visit in the rainy season - High season is between January and April when the country is drier. If you travel outside this period you will find considerably better value and along the coastal areas bouts of rain is generally brief.



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If you can deal with the heat (and the rain!) cycling through Panama can easily be managed, with plentiful lodgings within a day's ride. Cycling within larger Panamanian cities – particularly Panama City – is however, not for the faint of heart. Roads tend to be narrow, and vehicles can be driven aggressively. Also, the frequent rains often reduce motorists’ visibility and will affect you bicycle-tire grip. Panama's Interamericana boasts the best quality in Central America, although some sections have a narrow shoulder. Roads in many of the provinces (especially in Veraguas and Colón) are generally in poor shape – so bring lots of spare parts and plan your route carefully.


With a bus you can make it to just about any community in Panama that is reachable by road. Some buses are modern and equipped with air-con, movie screens and reclining seats. These top-end buses generally cruise longer stretches of highway. Most common are smaller Toyota Coaster 'mini-busses', affectionately called chivas. You can make use of these to reach towns on the Península de Azuero and along the Interamericana. Panama City is replacing it's old 'red-devil' school busses with a Metrobus system and riders can obtain swipe cards at Albrook Bus Terminal or main bus stops. Official bus stops are used and the transport is air-conditioned.


Panama City's new transportation system is known as El Metro ( The main line connects Albrook with Vía Transístmica, Vía España and Calidonia. The main terminal is across from Albrook Bus Terminal. Fares are paid with the same card used for the Metrobus system.


The train trip between Panama City and Colón is a scenic option. It’s considered to be one of the greatest railroad rides in the world and offers spectacular rainforest views and vistas of ships passing through the Canal. As much as it is a tourist favourite, locals will use it to go about their regular business.


Taxis are cheap and plentiful, though not all drivers have a good grasp of locations. Before even getting into a taxi, state your destination and settle on a rate. Panamanian taxis don’t have meters, but there are standard fares between neighbourhoods of Panama City. Make sure to ask the staff at your accommodations for typical rates between city sectors - and note that these usually go up after dark.


Panama was the first Central American country where Uber launched, in 2014 and Uber is now a solid part of Panama City’s transport infrastructure. Uber is only available in Panama City and David, although drivers can take you all over the country if desired. A ride from Panama City to David will cost from around $350 for the roughly six-hour journey. Rides inside Panama City will cost from around $2 depending on where you’re going. The ride from Tocumen International Airport to Panama City costs around $14.


With much of Panama made up of mountains and jungle, the best way to travel long distances is by air. There are a number of domestic airlines offering cheap services to airstrips all over the country, from jungle strips in the Darien to desert islands in the San Blas Archipelago.



The principal crossing to Costa Rica is on the Interamericana at Paso Canoas. Guabito on the Caribbean side and Río Sereno in the highlands are less chaotic border posts.


Practically speaking, the best way to get from Panama to Colombia is by flying. You can take a boat but it will take a lot more time and will be more expensive. That said, if you have time 5 days of sailing through the San Blas Islands can be a highlight of your journey. Some sailing vessels will even take bicycles or motorcycles, others will not. Some take them for free, others charge a hefty surcharge. Sadly crossing the Darién Gap by vehicle is not possible and you will have to ship your vehicle from Panama which comes with a hefty price-tag.


  • Archipiélago de Bocas del Toro - While away your days sipping coconuts and snorkelling at laid-back resorts.
  • Boquete - Fue up for highland adventures with local mountain-grown coffee in the town of eternal spring.
  • Panama City - Spend the day admiring the faded glory of the old city, Casco Viejo, then revel till sunrise on Calle Uruguay.
  • Comarca de Guna Yala - Cruise white-sand cays, swim in crystal clear waters and soak up the sunrise on a sailboat.
  • Panama Canal - Lay your eyes on this awe-inspiring, engineering marvel.




Start by imbibing the rush of Panama City. Visit Panamá Viejo, destroyed in a massive pirate raid. Grab a bicycle and pedal along Cinta Costera, the coastal beltway, to Casco Viejo, the cobblestone neighbourhood with plaza cafes and rooftop bars.

Make a perfect day trip to nearby Miraflores Locks to witness mammoth ships squeezing through the canal. At the nearby Parque Nacional Soberanía you can climb a canopy tower to search for toucans and sloths, or kayak Lago Gatún spotting howler monkeys and sunbathing crocodiles.

Next, fly to Bocas del Toro for four days of relaxing Caribbean vibes. Snorkel the aquamarine waters with tropical fish and coral reefs, and explore Isla Colón by quad bike. As alternative, head for Isla Bastimentos, with its thatched resorts and jungle lodges. If you need an injection of culture, take a chocolate tour on the mainland or visit indigenous groups on other islands.



Head over the continental divide to highland Boquete to explore its coffee farms and cloud forests before hitting the expansive beaches of the Pacific coast eventually making your way back to the capital.



This is the core of Panama, the part of the country where most people live, as well as the economic engine that is driving the country into the future. Panama City gleams like a Latin American version of Hong Kong or Dubai while dozens of ships sit in the bay waiting to pass through the Canal. Escape is never far. Day trip to sandy beaches (Pacific or Caribbean), admire the canal, or explore lush rainforests of howler monkeys, toucans and sloths.


A good way to get your bearings around Panama City is with City Sightseeing Panama, whose red double-deckers loop the city. Stops include Multicentro Mall, Calle Uruguay, Casco Viejo and the Amador Causeway. Service is hop on, hop off, so you can explore the sights all you want with hourly pickups.


No visit to Panama City would be complete without taking a day trip to its famous water way – just remember that the Canal Zone is much, much more than just the canal. The rainforest surrounding the canal is easily accessed and one of the best places to view a variety of Central American wildlife. The Canal Zone is home to a number of impressive attractions, especially if you’re into wildlife-watching, hiking and birdwatching. On a day trip from Panama City, you could visit the Miraflores Locks and finish at the Parque Nacional Soberanía and the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center. With prior arrangements, you could also take an organized tour of Isla Barro Colorado, one of the world’s most famous tropical research stations, or an Emberá or Wounaan indigenous village on the shores of the Río Chagres.



Crossing the iconic Bridge of the Americas west across the Pacific entrance to the Canal, you soon rise up into the Valle de Anton, an escape from the heat in an extinct volcano crater. The altitude here is marvellous and an easy getaway from Panama City. Moving back downhill you arrive at the beaches of Coronado, with miles of white sands and surf backed by vacation homes and resorts. To truly see Panama’s heart and soul, this may be the best place to look. Dominated by agriculture, these are friendly provinces of laid-back colonial towns, farms and hillside villages. Founded by the Spanish four centuries ago, traditions live on in original colonial architecture, dazzling festivals and exquisite handicrafts. Highlights include Santa Catalina, one of the best surf destinations in Central America, as well as the scenic mountain towns of Santa Fé and El Valle. The Pedasí coast is an up-and-coming destination for off-the-beaten-track beaches and surf.


The Sunset Coast is the name given to the west side of Península de Azuero facing the Gulfo de Montijo and Pacific Ocean. The sobriquet is accurate for it is the only place in Panama from which you can watch the sun go down from a beach. Here you'll find long, sandy beaches virtually empty of holiday makers, excellent surfing and the chance to see three species of turtles hatching. There are nature walks in the mangroves and Parque Nacional Cerro Hoya is just down the road. The gateway to the Sunset Coast is Santiago, about 60km north of Mariato. Other important settlements include Malena and Torio, 11km and 15km south of Mariato respectively.


Download map waypoints for Panama here: KML / GPX


More location information and points of interest are available in the above map



The western province of Panama is home to some true gems. The high mountains of the Continental Divide provide cool mountain air and rushing rivers and streams. Chiriquí claims to have it all: Panama’s tallest mountains, longest rivers and most fertile valleys. The province is also home to spectacular highland rainforests and the most productive agricultural and cattle-ranching regions in the country. As a result, los chiricanos (natives of Chiriquí) take a particular pride in their province and wave the provincial flag – in every sense – at the slightest opportunity.


It's also a land of immense beauty. On the coast, the pristine Golfo de Chiriquí boasts long sandy beaches and a rich diversity of marine life. The mist-covered mountains near the town of Boquete, a favourite of North American and European retirees, is a good base for adventures such as white-water rafting and hiking the flanks of Panama’s highest point, Volcán Barú (3475m). Boquete is also the center of Panama’s coffee industry, which means that a potent cup of shade-grown arabica is never more than a cafe away. The city of David in the lowlands provides the amenities and services, and also a route to the coast, which has many hidden beaches and beautiful islands to explore.



With its Caribbean islands dotting a shock of blue waters, Bocas del Toro is all that's tropical. This is Panama’s principal tourist draw and it will no doubt provide some of your most memorable experiences. Until recently, the Bocas were more easily accessed from Costa Rica than from Panama. These Caribbean islands are home to some of the best scuba diving and snorkelling anywhere in Central America. Bocas Town, the capital on Isla Colon, is a great, quirky place to hang out in.


The archipelago consists of six densely forested islands, scores of uninhabited islets and the Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos, Panama’s oldest marine park. The long-time base of Chiquita Banana, the mainland boasts the Parque Internacional La Amistad, shared with Costa Rica. It's also home to diverse wildlife such as the elusive jaguar, traditional Ngöbe-Buglé settlements, and the Naso, one of few remaining American tribes with its own monarch.



With an edgy reputation more true crime than travel, Colón rarely makes travel wish lists, but there is more to this Caribbean province than its downtrodden capital. Think pristine beaches and lowland rainforests, colonial splendours and modern engineering marvels. Portobelo, with its growing music and art scene, shows the best of vibrant Congo culture, while the luxury train between Panama City and Colón remains one of the greatest rail journeys in the Americas. With its colonial grandeur crumbling and its neighbourhoods marginalized, Colón is the city that Panama forgot, in spite of vigorous development meant to court Caribbean cruise ships where the last whiff of prosperity was seen during the construction of the Panama Canal. On the city's edge, the Zona Libre (Free Zone) was created in 1948. Generating billions in annual commerce, little benefit seems to trickle down to locals. From close up, it's an island of materialism floating in a sea of unemployment and poverty.



A tropical archipelago with one island for every day of the year. With white sand and waving palms, these Caribbean islands cheat no one’s version of paradise. The Comarca is home to the Guna, the first group in Latin America to gain indigenous autonomy. Though they have had contact with Europeans since Columbus sailed these waters in 1502, clan identity is paramount, and many make tenacious efforts to preserve a traditional way of life.

In 2009 the road to Cartí was completed, making the region more accessible than ever and opening up options for day trips. Still off the beaten track, this narrow, 226km-long strip on the Caribbean coast stretches from the Golfo de San Blás to the Colombian border.

Community islands are acre-sized cays packed with bamboo huts, livestock and people. Visitors often prefer the more remote outer islands with few inhabitants. Most areas require landing fees. When visiting the Comarca de Guna Yala, consider how your visit may affect the community and be aware of your surroundings and remain sensitive about your impact.



One of the world’s richest biomes is the 5760-sq-km Parque Nacional Darién, where the primeval meets the present with scenery nearly unaltered from one million years ago. Even today in the Darién, the Emberá and Wounaan people maintain many of their traditional practices and retain generations-old knowledge of the rainforest. If you want to sit in dugout canoes and travel down jungle rivers with indigenous tribesmen, then this is the place to do it. In a stroke of irony, much of the Darién has remained untouched because of its volatile reputation.


The road to Yaviza – the most accessible part of the province – has scenes of habitat destruction. Cruising the waterways and hiking trails are the only ways to explore the slow-paced interior Darién and the Pacific coast, where Emberá, Wounaan and African-Darienita cultures coexist. The region's issues are complex. Police checkpoints are frequent because of narcotrafficking. The greatest hazard in the Darién is the difficult environment. Trails, when they exist at all, are often poorly defined and are never marked. Many large rivers that form the backbone of the Darién transportation network create their own hazards. Any help at all, let alone medical help, is very far away. If you get lost, you are done for. To minimize these risks, it’s recommended that you explore the Darién either as part of an organized tour or with the help of a qualified guide. The Darién is not for everyone, but with careful planning and the right destinations, it offers opportunities for intrepid travellers to discover something truly wild.


Rice and beans are a staple in Panama and are usually served with patacones (fried plantains), a small cabbage salad and meat. Seafood is abundant and includes shrimp, Caribbean king crab, octopus, lobster and corvina (sea bass). Along the Caribbean coast you’ll also find a West Indian influence to the dishes, such as coconut rice and coconut bread, or seafood mixed with coconut milk. More adventurous palates shouldn't miss pulpo al carbón (grilled octopus). Fresh tropical juices and coconut water (known as pipa) are sold on the street.

Where to eat:

Budget eateries like cafeterías (simple eateries), panaderías (bakeries), stands and market stalls sell a range of filling dishes and set meals from US$ 3 - US$ 6.


Don't miss:

  • Panama’s national dish is sancocho (chicken and vegetable stew).

  • Ropa vieja (literally ‘old clothes’), a spicy shredded beef combination served over rice, is also common.

  • Breakfast staples and snacks are tortillas de maíz (thick, fried cornmeal cakes) and hojaldras (deep-fried mass of dough served hot and covered with sugar).

  • For lunch, simple comida corriente is an inexpensive set meal of beef, chicken or fish served with rice, black beans, fried plantain, chopped cabbage and maybe an egg or an avocado.

  • Specialties include carimañola, a yucca roll filled with chopped meat then deep-fried.

  • The most common snack is the empanada (turnover filled with ground meat and fried).

  • Tamales (cornmeal with a few spices and chicken or pork, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled) are another favourite.

  • In Panama City you’ll often see vendors pushing carts and selling raspados, cones filled with shaved ice topped with fruit syrup and sweetened condensed milk.


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For your first visit to Panama, choosing the right base is essential to experiencing the country's diverse culture, stunning natural beauty, and historical landmarks. Here's a breakdown of top areas and accommodations:

Where To Stay In Panama City:

Panama City, the capital, offers a mix of modernity and history, with attractions like the Panama Canal, Casco Viejo (Old Town), and vibrant nightlife.

  • Budget Accommodation: Consider staying at Luna's Castle Hostel for affordable dorm beds and a lively atmosphere in Casco Viejo.

  • Mid-range Accommodation: The American Trade Hotel provides comfortable rooms with a historic ambiance and easy access to Panama City's attractions.

  • Luxury Accommodation: Opt for the luxurious ambiance of The Bristol Panama, featuring upscale rooms, fine dining, and a rooftop pool with city views.

Best Value Tip: Visit during the shoulder seasons (April-May, September-October) for mild weather and better accommodation rates.

Where To Stay In Bocas del Toro:

Bocas del Toro is a tropical paradise known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and surfing.

  • Budget Accommodation: Stay at Bocas Bound for affordable rooms and a beachfront location on Isla Colón.

  • Mid-range Accommodation: Selina Bocas del Toro offers comfortable accommodations with a laid-back vibe and easy access to the island's attractions.

  • Luxury Accommodation: Opt for the luxurious ambiance of Red Frog Beach Island Resort & Spa, featuring upscale villas, a spa, and a private beach.

Best Value Tip: Book accommodation during the off-peak season (September-October) for lower rates and fewer tourists.

Where To Stay In Boquete:

Boquete is a charming mountain town nestled in the highlands, offering cooler temperatures, lush landscapes, and outdoor activities like hiking and birdwatching.

  • Budget Accommodation: Consider staying at Hostal Boquete for affordable rooms and a central location near the town center.

  • Mid-range Accommodation: The Riverside Inn provides comfortable accommodations with mountain views and easy access to Boquete's coffee farms and hiking trails.

  • Luxury Accommodation: Opt for the luxurious ambiance of The Panamonte Inn & Spa, featuring upscale rooms, gourmet dining, and a full-service spa.

Best Value Tip: Visit during the green season (May-October) for lower accommodation rates and blooming landscapes.

By choosing a base in Panama City, Bocas del Toro, or Boquete, you'll have access to Panama's diverse attractions while enjoying a range of accommodation options to suit your budget and preferences. Consider visiting during the optimal seasons for each location to maximize your travel experience while getting the best value for your stay.

For hassle-free bookings, use platforms like for competitive rates or Holiday Swap for unique homes worldwide. Ensure to book in advance, especially during peak seasons, and align your preferences with nearby activities such as surfing, snorkeling, or cultural exploration.






Let iVisa take the pain out of travel planning and assist you with Electronic visas, Travel Authorizations, Visas on Arrival, and even Paper Visas. They can also help with Health Declarations and Embassy Registrations. If you're from the US, they also provide a One-Stop Shop to renew your Passport securely and error-free.

Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. These are our favorite flight search engines. They index other travel websites and airlines across the globe to easily find you the best deal.

ACCOMMODATION is our number one resource for researching and booking accommodation. In addition to, we have found to consistently returns the cheapest rates in Southeast Asia. For longer stays, find unique homes worldwide on Holiday Swap, the most affordable travel platform that allows you to book homes anytime, anywhere in only a few clicks.

TRANSPORT is a leader in online car rental bookings; we compare car rental deals from many companies so that you can choose which is best for your trip. 12Go connects the world door-to-door, from transfers to flights, under the same user-friendly ticket.

Travel insurance can protect you against unexpected illness, injury, theft, and cancellations.


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