1. When is the best time to go to Panama?
Travelers can visit Panama any time of the year. Temperatures are hot year round in the lowlands (90s during the day/ 60s at night) and cool in the highlands. Most of Panama has two seasons based on rainfall: a wet season and a dry season. Dry season runs from mid-December to mid-April and is generally considered to be the best time to travel. However, even during the height of the wet season, all day rains are rare. More commonly, travelers will experience brief heavy downpours interspersed with sun. Crowds are smaller during this time and travelers can still participate in most of the same activities. These differences are more pronounced on the southern, Pacific side of Panama. The northern Caribbean side of Panama experiences rain showers year round, with slightly lower rainfall in February/ March and September/ October.
2. What are the accommodations like?
In Panama, we have selected a variety of charming accommodations ranging from tropical garden villas to comfortable city hotels with all of the modern conveniences. In general, we use small, family-run accommodations that are locally owned and characteristic of each area instead of luxury chain resorts. For more information, check out our Panama Lodging
page to view pictures of our standard hotels/ lodges.
3. Do I need a converter/ adapter for the electricity?
Panama typically uses 110 volt electricity, same as the US. However, there are unpredictable variations with some sockets that are 220 volts. Ask the hotel before plugging in your devices. Plugs are typically the 2 pronged flat type so US travelers will not typically need a plug adapter (unless your device requires 3 prongs).
4. Are meals included?
Yes and no. We have tried to balance flexibility and convenience regarding meal options. For this reason, we include meals on any of our tour days when you are traveling off the beaten path where restaurant choices are limited. In the major towns, where there are a wide variety of restaurants, we generally do not include meals, to allow our travelers the flexibility of choosing their own food preferences. Your tour leader or hotel staff can recommend some great restaurant options. Your hotel will also provide a light continental breakfast on these days. Included meals are listed in parenthesis next to the tour itinerary on each tour page. An estimated meal budget can also be found under Personal Budgeting toward the bottom of the itinerary on the tour pages.
5. What type of transportation is used?
Our Panama tours utilize a variety of transportation including private vans/ cars, minibuses, jeep, boat, train, flights, etc. We use a mix of private/ public transportation to provide travelers with the safest and most efficient transportation in each area. Each tour itinerary page has a description of the transportation included on that tour. If you have additional questions, just ask!
6. What type of planes are used on internal flights?
In general, small commuter planes are used on internal flights. These are typically propeller planes with a capacity of 20-40 passengers.
7. What type of food is typical of Panama?
Panama's cuisine is indicative of both its northern and southern neighbors. Travelers can find the rice, beans, tamales, and tortillas common to Central America as well as the ceviche (cold seafood soup) and empanadas (fried corn tortillas filled with meat) of South America. The national dish is sancocho, a spicy stew with chicken and vegetables. Seafood is also plentiful and delicious.
8. Are these trips suitable for kids?
Almost definitely. Transportation times are relatively short and the Panama tours offer a mix of activities to interest most kids including rainforest hikes, watching boats traverse the canal, and free time on the beach. Some tours include whitewater rafting or all day hikes, but alternatives to these activities can be arranged for younger children- ask your trip coordinator for more information!
Our Family Travel Page
has some helpful hints for making the most of your family vacation and also has some minimum age recommendations for each tour. We realize that you know your kids best so we will be happy to answer all of your questions and try to give you the most accurate impression of what to expect. However, please remember that these are adventure tours and flexibility is essential!
To make family tours easier, we often recommend having a private group and guide, though families with well-behaved children are welcome on our group departures as well. We have special private tour rates for families- please ask your trip coordinator if you are interested.
9. What is the typical age range for these tours?
We have had travelers of nearly every age on our Panama tours
. These trips commonly attract multi-generational families as well as young honeymooners or adventurous single travelers. Travelers of any age (except very young children), can likely find a Panama option where they will fit right in.
10. Are these trips a good choice for solo travelers?
Yes and no. Although solo travelers are welcome on any of our tours, our Panama tours often tend to attract families and couples. Ask your trip coordinator for recommended tours and/ or departure dates, as some departures tend to attract more diverse groups than others. If no good options are available for your chosen timeframe, consider a trip to Belize, Costa Rica, or the Amazon. These tours offer similar activities and may have a more diverse group departing during your chosen dates. Solo travelers should also take a look at our exclusive Solo Traveler Departures.
11. Do tour rates include international flights?
Tour rates do not include international flights. We find that it is usually less expensive for travelers to book these separately and this also allows you the flexibility to choose the schedule and routing that is most convenient for you. You are welcome to book these on your own, or we can certainly help you arrange these flights with an airfare consolidator who specializes in Central America flights.
12. How do I get to the hotel from the airport when I arrive?
We can arrange an airport transfer for you or you can take a local taxi. Taxis are usually less expensive, though some travelers prefer the convenience of having someone waiting for them at the airport when they arrive, especially after an exhausting flight. Please let us know your preference!
13. How much should I budget for tips?
Tips are not required on any of our tours. However, it is customary in Latin America to offer a small tip for exceptional service. Tipping amounts vary widely, though some travelers report that ~$2-$10/ day for your guide and ~$1-$3/ day for your driver is common. Other travelers opt to bring small gifts from their home to give to service providers along the way.
14. Are there any discounts available?
We offer select trip discounts periodically throughout the year. Check out our Travel Discounts
page for the latest offers and on-going discounts.
15. How far in advance should I book?
You can book your Panama tour at any time and generally the earlier you book, the better. For departures during the dry season, you will usually find better availability if you book at least 2-3 months in advance (4-6 months is recommended for travelers visiting during the busy Christmas/ New Year's holiday or Spring Break). Travelers visiting outside of the busy dry season months can often book last minute, though 2-3 months notice is still recommended to take advantage of the best airfare rates.
We usually recommend that you wait to book your international flights until after your tour is confirmed. The sooner that we arrange your tour, the sooner that you can take advantage of flight deals as they become available.
We are often able to accommodate last minute travelers as well (some even departing in less than one week!!), so give us a call and we will do our best! For last minute bookings, it helps to be flexible and organized. Your first choice tour may not be available for your selected dates, but your trip coordinator can probably recommend some other similar options that would be equally interesting! Many lodges will not hold spaces less than 30 days before departure so for last minute bookings, you may be asked to send your registration form and trip payment in right away to secure your spaces.
16. Are tour dates flexible?
YES. Please contact us if you are not able to travel on the set departure dates listed on-line. Most tours can be arranged on alternative departure dates for a minimum of two travelers as long as lodges/ hotels are available.
17. Can I extend or change my stay?
Check out our Panama Extensions
for ideas. Extra days can also be arranged in most areas if desired. Let us know how you would like to customize your trip and we will do our best to accommodate you.
18. What should I pack?
You will receive a detailed packing list after you book your tour. Bring long sleeves and a fleece/ sweater for cool evenings and plenty of comfortable, breathable clothes for hot days. Good walking shoes and sun protection are also a must. Many trips include whitewater rafting so be sure to bring an extra pair of shoes that you don't mind getting wet!
19. What immunizations are recommended/ required?
No immunizations are currently required for visiting Panama except a yellow fever certificate if you are arriving in Panama after visiting an infected area, such as the Amazon. Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended. A Yellow Fever vaccination is also recommended for travel to certain regions of Panama, though the risk is generally considered to be small. For the most current information, please consult your doctor and/or check out the Center for Disease Control
20. Do I need a visa/passport?
Travelers will all need a passport valid for at least 6 months after they depart. Travelers from the US do not need a visa for stays less than 30 days, but they do need a tourist card. This can be purchased at the airport for approximately $10. Travelers from other nationalities should check with the Panamanian Embassy for visa information. Entry requirements change with surprising frequency. It is each traveler's responsibility to check with the consulate for the most up-to-date visa and passport information.
21. How safe is Panama?
Crime in Panama is moderate, but growing. Pickpocketing is a particular concern for travelers, especially in crowded airports and visitor sites. Be aware of your valuables and avoid carrying large amounts of cash, jewelry or other expensive items. The State Department warns US citizens to stay away from the Columbian border. Check out the US State Department travel advisories for the latest information at: travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html
22. Is the water safe to drink?
The tap water is generally not safe to drink in Panama. Bottled water is readily available at tourist sites, hotels, and restaurants. Don't forget to use bottled water when brushing your teeth as well! Ice is not always made with boiled/ bottled water. Order your beverages without ice ("sin hielo") or ask your tour leader if the ice is safe in a particular restaurant.
23. What is the local currency, exchange rate, etc.?
The local currency is called the balboa and its rate of exchange is tied to the US dollar. Panama does not print paper money, so US dollars are legal tender everywhere. Coins are the same weight and color as US ones.
24. Should I bring cash or Traveler's checks?
Are ATMs available? Can I use credit cards? Most travelers bring a small amount of US cash with them and withdraw from ATMs as they need it along they way. ATMs are readily available in the larger towns and cities. Traveler's checks are fine, but they can be more difficult to exchange and you will usually receive a poorer rate or be charged an additional fee. Credit cards are accepted in the larger restaurants and stores. Although it is helpful to bring a credit card along for emergencies, don't count on using it for most purchases.
25. Can I use my cell phone?
Check with your cell phone provider. Each company is different and they can give you the most up-to-date information.
26. What time zone is Panama?
Panama is five hours behind GMT (same as EST). They do not observe Daylight Savings Time so during these months, April to October, Panama is the same as CST.
27. Is travel insurance recommended?
We work with a company called TravelGuard that provides reasonably priced insurance for trip cancellation, medical expenses, medical evacuation, lost bags, etc. They have two different types of insurance available, depending upon whether or not you will need the cancellation coverage. Check out our Once You're Booked
page for more information.