Traveling in Panama

by : Laurie Cooper

Traveling in Panama is an exciting adventure filled with surprises, sights and sounds in every place. As an industrialized country promoting ecotourism, you can go to places by foot, land, sea, and air. Travelling in Panama is as convenient as modern transportation allows and as exotic as the locales. But first, it is important to know the country, its people, and its culture. So, read and research first so as not commit faux pas during your travels, which can be costly and fatal, too.

Travelling in Panama by land is generally safe as the roads, traffic and transportation systems are maintained in good order. Buses and taxis are numerous and charge relatively cheap fares, ranging from 50¢ to $5 depending on the location and distance. However, driving in Panama City can be demanding due to dense traffic, as is usually the case in urban centers. As in the US, traffic moves on the right and seatbelts are required. Also, flooding during the rainy season can make city streets impassable, in addition to the traffic caused by carnivals and parades especially in the interior portion of Panama. Travelling in Panama also requires good knowledge of conversational Spanish and English to communicate yourself to officers manning roadblocks, and to ask directions to your destination especially in the rural areas. Having an experienced guide and driver with you is a definite advantage. The Pan-American Highway is a real treat for travelers as it is well-maintained, has plenty of gas and rest stops along the way, and is surrounded by lush rainforest. However, as with travelling in any country, personal precautions must be exercised. In addition to asphalt concrete roads, Panama has an extensive rail transport system that carries both cargoes and passengers, and is the first transcontinental railroad in the Americas. It is a sight to behold and a ride to enjoy.

Travelling in Panama via the Panama Canal is an even more impressive ride. Cruise ships cross the Canal from Atlantic to Pacific and vice-versa and encounter amazing sights and sounds on both sides. The rainforest and its wildlife and the locks themselves are spectacular and continue to awe travelers. Boat rides are also available for residents and tourists alike, traversing the archipelago in all shapes and forms. Travelling by air in Panama is no less enjoyable. With 27 public and 41 private airports, two regional airlines - Aeroperlas and AirPanama, and dozens of international flights coming into the country, travelling in Panama is best done by air. And as the Government of Panama's Civil Aviation Authority is assessed as complying with international aviation safety standards, you have the assurance that Panama's air carrier operations are functioning properly.

As with any travel done anywhere in the world, travelling in Panama requires that personal precautions must be taken. Familiarize yourself with the conditions of the area that could affect your health, like altitude, pollution, flora and fauna that could cause allergy and poisoning, required vaccinations, preventive medicines and medical facilities. Safety concerns should include personal safety on the streets, in the hotel, in public transportation, and in public buildings. Also, inquire from your embassies the high-risk areas in the country and plan your itinerary accordingly.

With knowledge of the country and its culture, an adventurous spirit, and a sense of self-preservation, you are good to go to explore Panama. El viajar feliz en Panamá!