Balboa. The national currency is at parity with the US dollar, and only US banknotes are used. (There are some local coins equivalent to US cents). There are ATMs in most towns where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have to ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts may be limited, and vary from bank to bank. Notes can be obtained from exchange houses and also from banks which will supply advances on a debit or credit card.
When to go
Situated well within the tropics, Panama has a typical tropical climate with high temperatures (30°C) all year round at low altitudes. Temperatures are significantly modified by altitude – higher up it can be very cool at night. Apr-Nov is rainy season, with the Caribbean side receiving more rainfall than the Pacific. There’s a small risk of tropical storms on the Caribbean coast but the country lies outside the main hurricane belt.
GMT -5 hrs.
There are flights via US and European hubs, the journey from London takes around taking around 13 hours.
A visit to neighbouring Central America countries, such as wildlife-rich, slickly organised Costa Rica; and Colombia, with the northern coast of which Panama shares a swashbuckling history.
Carnival, Feb-Mar. Celebrated with much gusto in Panama City, costumed revelry, music and dancing culminate in a big Shrove Tuesday parade.
Semana Santa, Easter. Celebrated throughout Panama with religious processions.
Kuna festivals, San Blas islands. There are several festivals throughout the year, all of which feature dancing, traditional sports and feasts.