Small group escorted tours to Panama. Places of interest for like minded travellers who are curious.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Efficient express bus services go to most towns from Panama city. Most of these regular services have air-conditioning but are otherwise often in poor condition.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, Environment, & Weather
Panama is bordering both the Caribbean Sean and the Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica. covers a total area of 75,417 square kilometres and has a coastline of 2,490 kilometres.
The climate in Panama is tropical with high temperatures and humidity and not much seasonal variations.
World heritage sites
There are 5 sites in Panama listed on the World Heritage List. You can view the listed properties here: (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/pa). Panama’s listed properties include:
Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo and Historic District of Panama. Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo. Coiba National Park and its Special Zone of Marine Protection
Festivals & Events
Carnival de Las Tablas is the most famous cultural even in Panama, which takes place every year in March. Traditional folk songs and dances are performed and creates a lively and colourful celebration, which symbolizes harmony and togetherness.
The most important cultural event in Panama is the Fiestas Patrias which celebrates the country’s separation from Colombia in 1903 as well as the nation’s Flag Day, making it a particularly patriotic event.
The Panama Jazz Festival is a one of the most important Jazz festivals in the world. It takes place in Panama City every January.
Panama History: The Conquest, The Spanish Colony, The War Years, The Society and Its Environment, Ethnic Groups, The Economy, Government
by Uzo Marvin
Modern Panama: From Occupation to Crossroads of the Americas
by Michael L. Conniff and Gene E. Bigler
The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
by David McCullough
Eating & Drinking
Panama cuisine is influenced by its diverse population. In Panama City, you will find something from every corner of the world, including French, Japanese, Italian, Thai, Middle Eastern, and Chinese food. In regional areas, traditional Panamanian cuisine is a mix of Afro-Caribbean, indigenous, and Spanish cooking influences incorporating a variety of tropical fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Most Panamanian restaurants are casual — diners, beachfront cafes, and roadside fondas (food stands). Panamanian cuisine is based around coconut rice (rice made with coconut milk) and beans, and fried green plantains called patacones. A lot of Panamanian food is fried. Even breakfast is a selection of fried meats and breads. Panamanian food is neither spicy nor heavily seasoned; in fact, salt is often the only seasoning used in many staple dishes. Panama’s most famous drink is seco, a sugar-cane-distilled alcohol produced in Herrera and commonly served with milk and ice. Beer is Panama’s most popular alcoholic drink, and there is a wide variety of national brands – all light pale lagers. Panama is known for its high-quality coffee.
Health & Safety
As of writing, smartraveller.gov.au advises travellers to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling through Panama. Crime is a significant problem in some of Panama’s major cities, so keep your valaubles close and pay attention to your personal security.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. The electricity supply in Panama runs at 110V and 60Hz. Panama uses the Type A and Type B electric plug types, so make sure you have the right travel adaptor with you.
The Panama Canal
Panama has a single time zone, Eastern Standard Time (UTC-5). Daylight savings are not observed in Panama.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services. Tipping is appreciated in Panama, with small tips for hotel staff, tour guides, and servers in upscale restaurants. In restaurants, a tip of around 10% is customary.
Wifi should be freely accessible in most hotels, cafes and restaurants in urban areas, though connection speeds can vary, particularly in more isolated areas.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Panama. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Panama
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although some locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of balboa in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Before departing on your trip, contact your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.