Travel guide to Panama

Passports
Your passport must be valid for 6 months after your return date and have several blank pages for entry stamps. Soiled, damaged or defaced passports will not be accepted.
Visas
UK and most  EU passport holders do not require a visa for holidays < 90 days, except if arriving by sea. You must have a return or onward ticket and at least $500 in cash or a credit card.
Health
There are no compulsory health requirements, but you should be up to date with your primary courses and boosters. Malaria tablets and yellow fever vacination are recommended if travelling outside Panama City and Santiago. As dengue fever is present, a good insect repellent and anti-histamine are also advised. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. Always check with your doctor at least 8 weeks before travel for any other inoculations recommended (eg Hepatitis A+B, Cholera, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Polio, Meningococcal Meningitis, Rabies and TB.
Currency
Panamanian Balboa - but the US Dollar (USD) is legal tender on 1-for-1 basis. Remember to take small denominations, which are useful for tipping
Language
Spanish
Time Zone
GMT - 5 hours
Travel Tips
To ensure that you have the best possible holiday experience, we ask you to read the following information carefully. If you have any questions, please discuss them with us before you depart. 
 
Hand Luggage – pack essential items for a day or two in your hand luggage, in case your bags go astray and take a few days to catch up with you, especially if you have any tight connecting flights. 
 
Documents – take a copy of your travel insurance policy with you, and leave a copy of your passport with a reliable contact at home, in case the originals are lost or stolen. 
 
Electronic Devices – ensure these are all fully charge before travel, as you may be required to switch them on at airport security. Any device that does not switch on cannot be checked in and must be surrendered. 
 
Mobile Phones – make sure they are set up for international calls and turn off data roaming to avoid nasty bills. 
 
Credit Cards – remember to inform your bank when travelling abroad. Credit cards are widely accepted, but always ensure you have cash when travelling in the countryside as some places may not accept them. 
 
Clothing – pack in layers according to the season, including lightweight but long sleeved shirts and long trousers to protect against mosquitos (safari clothing is ideal for this – at least 2 sets). Take good walking shoes, a day pack, T-shirts, shorts, jeans, sunhat, swimming costume, flip flops, sunglasses and sunscreen. A rain jacket is needed all year round in the rainforests, plus lightweight waterproof trousers in the wet season. Also pack a fleece, as it can be cold at high altitudes. Eye drops can be handy, especially if you wear contact lenses, and sanitising hand cleaner/wet wipes. Take a generous supply of insect repellent to spray on your neck, wrists and ankles and avoid using perfume in the rainforests, as this attracts mosquitos. 
 
Accessories – pack your phone (with charger and a spare battery pack), camera (with spare memory cards and batteries – a 200 mm zoom lens is good for wildlife photography) and binoculars (large 8x40 is best). If you are a keen birder we suggest one pair per person, as it can be frustrating to share. 
 
Plugs – type A and B (2 flat blades, as used in the USA). 
 
Books – pack a good travel guide and a Spanish phrase book. Knowing a few simple greetings will go down well. Also pack a generous supply of English reading material for quiet evenings and when waiting for flights, as these will be hard to come by. 
 
Water – tap water is generally safe to drink but you may prefer to drink bottled water if you have a sensitive digestion. 
 
Food – Panamanian cuisine is very mildly flavoured and based on maize, rice, wheat, plantains, cassva, beef, chicken, pork and excellent seafood. Vegetarians and food allergies are well catered for. 
 
Taxis – in cities use only regulated taxis. 
 
Self-Drive – driving is on the right. It is relatively easy to self-drive in Costa Rica but remember all road signs will be in Spanish and very little English will be understood. Any valid European or American driving license is accepted as long as it has a photograph and signature. It is advisable to hire a sat-nav, as signage can be sparse in rural areas. Pack some CDs as the local radio stations can be a little limited, and always allow some extra time to stop for photographs along the way. 
 
Safety – take all normal precautions in the centre of San Jose, where they may be pickpocketing. Avoid taking out large wads of cash in public view and keep your spare cash in your hotel safe. Elsewhere this is relatively safe country. 
 
Tipping – this is voluntary and should depend on the level of service received. We suggest the local currency equivalent of the following USD per couple, but this can be reduced for longer stays: 
- city guide & driver: $8/$2 per day ($4/$1 for half day) 
- overland guide & driver: $10/$5 per day 
- tipping box for hotel staff $2 per day 
- waiters: 10% if not already added to your bill 
- porters $1 per bag.
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