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The Complete Panama Canal

9 days

Never more than 16 guests OR Travel Privately

Overall Rating
based on 192 Reviews

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Our Distinctive A+R Style

+ So many great experiences await... Transiting the Canal, meeting indigenous villagers in the rainforest, and touring the historic capital are just three.
+ Marvel at the huge ships and freighters as you cruise the Canal all the way from sea to sea.
+ Immerse in history and culture with our expert guide – from Casco Antiguo’s World Heritage architecture to the Colonial forts of Portobelo.
+ Ride the historic Panama Railroad and see the massive new canal that opened in 2016.
+ Learn about America’s involvement with the Canal, from its construction to the vital role our military played in its protection.
+ Venture by dugout canoe to vist an Emberá village – and learn the ways of one of Panama’s most unique indigenous groups.
+ Dine at a traditional countryside restaurant popular with families for its farm-to-table fare.
+ With 8 nights lodging; 17 meals with wine at dinner; comprehensive sightseeing; full Canal transit; rainforest excursions; all transfers; and all gratuities.

Visit 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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Day
1

Upon arrival, you’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to the 5-star Central Hotel in the heart of Panama City’s Old Town. After checking in, the balance of this day is at leisure to relax, enjoy and explore as you wish.

Day
2

History of the Panama Canal

Central Hotel - Panama City, Panama

After breakfast, a full day of guided exploration begins at the Miraflores Locks where you can marvel at the site of ships and freighters entering the Panama Canal. A talk at the Panama Canal Authority delves into the dramatic history of the Canal. Afterwards, you can take some time to peruse exhibits that further explore the past, present and future of this engineering marvel. Then visit Memorial Hill, the only American cemetery in Latin America, and tour the historic Canal Administration Building; opened in 1914, its grand lobby is embellished with impressive murals that vividly tell the story of the Canal’s construction. Your sightseeing ends with a guided stroll along the charming cobblestone streets of Casco Antiguo c. Tracing its history to 1673 and filled with splendid Colonial architecture, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is today one of Panama City’s liveliest districts, home to cafes, bars, restaurants and boutiques. This evening, raise a glass of wine with your fellow travelers and enjoy a congenial welcome dinner.  Meals B+L+D

Day
3

Through the Canal from the Pacific to the Atlantic

Gamboa Rainforest Resort - Canal Zone, Panama

Today’s complete transit of the Panama Canal begins from the Flamenco Marina. Enjoy the skyline view of the capital from the Bay of Panama before passing under the Bridge of the Americas to enter the Canal. Transiting through the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks here on the Pacific side of the Canal will raise our sightseeing vessel nearly 90 feet in three distinct steps. From here, we’ll cruise through the Culebra Cut that was excavated to create this passage through the Continental Divide. Reaching the Atlantic side of the Canal, you’ll descend 85 feet through the Gatun Locks and continue to port where you’ll disembark. Then we’ll take you to the Gamboa Rainforest Reserve where riverview balcony rooms have been reserved for our guests.  Meals B+L

Day
4

After breakfast, you’ll join our expert naturalist for a guided boat excursion on to the calm waters of Gatun Lake. Venturing close to some of Gatun’s many lush and uninhabited islands, you’ll have a chance to learn about this unique eco-system; created during the construction of the Canal, it’s the second largest artificial lake on the planet. With sharp-eyes, this enriching excursion offers a chance to observe some of the region’s indigenous species including exotic tropical birds, crocodiles, caimans, sloths, and families of capuchin, howler and white-face monkeys.
 
Back at Gamboa, you’ll visit the resort’s ecological exhibits. Native orchids, colorful butterflies and rare frogs are among the flora and fauna that you will see and learn about. At the Sloth Sanctuary, you’ll gain insight into the work being done by the Pan American Conservation Association to protect this amazing creature. After your guided touring, the balance of this day is at leisure for you to enjoy the pristine rainforest setting and amenities of our resort.  Meals B

Day
5

Through the Forest to an Emberá Village

Gamboa Rainforest Resort - Canal Zone, Panama

Today’s adventure begins with a scenic one hour drive to the edge of Gatun River where Emberá villagers will meet you with their dugout canoes. Traveling silently up the Gamboa River and deeper into the forest offers a chance to spot herons, egrets and ospreys. With a bit of luck and sharp eyes, you might also see toucans, otters and sloths. Stepping ashore in their village, you’ll have time to explore the community, with your guide on-hand to offer information and insight.
 
As you engage with the villagers, you’ll learn first-hand about their cultural traditions, cuisine and language – much of which can be traced to ancestors who migrated from Colombia’s Chocó region in the late 1700’s. Informal presentations will deepen your insight into their daily life, tribal history and enduring ways – from their shamanic rites to dance and music. After lunch with the villagers, you might join a tribal elder for a nature walk to learn about their medicinal use of indigenous rainforest plants. This evening, sit down to an à la carte dinner with wine at the Chagres River View Restaurant.  Meals B+L+D

Day
6

Historic Panama Railroad + Portobelo + Our Pacific Resort

Westin Hotel - Playa Bonita, Panama

Originally constructed in 1855 during the Gold Rush for those seeking a faster route to their potential fortunes, the historic Panama Railroad was the first transcontinental train. Early this morning, you’ll be transferred to the Pacific-side station for this exciting rail journey. Winding your way through the tropical forest alongside the Canal, you’ll catch superb views of the Canal and its ship traffic.
 
Stepping off the train later this morning on the Atlantic side, you’ll visit the Panama Canal Expansion Center. From the Observation Deck 164 feet above ground, you’ll have an enthralling view of the recently-expanded Canal. Opened to traffic in 2016, this new waterway and third set of locks literally doubled the capacity of the Panama Canal, which can now accommodate massive ships up to 1,400 feet long and 180 feet wide. After a Caribbean lunch, you’ll explore Portobelo c, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for its wealth of history and the ruins of Colonial-era fortifications, many with their ancient cannons still in battle-ready position. You’ll also visit the 17th-century Customs House and see the revered Cristo Negro statue which appeared mysteriously in Portobelo in the mid 1600’s. After sightseeing, we’ll take you to our deluxe Pacific beach resort where oceanview rooms have been reserved for A+R guests.  Meals B+L

Day
7

The Many Facets of Panama City

Westin Hotel - Playa Bonita, Panama

A full day of guided exploration begins on the city’s efficient and modern Metro, a great way to experience daily life. Touring the Afro-Antillean Museum, you’ll find well-curated exhibits that tell the story of the nation’s West Indian community, including their historic role in building the Panama Railroad and Canal. Not far away, you’ll also visit El Carmen Church, built in Neo-Gothic style and revered as one of the city’s most beautiful churches. At the BioDiversity Museum, designed by the renowned architect Frank Gehry, you’ll learn how Panama’s vital role as a land bridge between North and South America has impacted biodiversity and human life on both Continents.
 
Then join city residents shopping at the lively fish market and visit with one of the vendors, pausing to sample some ceviche and local beer. For lunch, we’ll take you to a local restaurant where traditional Panamanian dishes are prepared and served with gastronomic flair. The day’s sightseeing ends with a tour through the archaeological ruins at Panama Viejo c. Founded in 1519, this was the earliest European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas. Return to our deluxe Pacific resort in the late afternoon where the evening is free to enjoy and dine as you wish.  Meals B+L

Day
8

A Day in the Countryside

Westin Hotel - Playa Bonita, Panama

Another genuine experience of daily Panamanian life is yours this morning as you step aboard one of the region’s Diablos Rojos – buses that have been custom painted with colorful, often narrative murals. It’s a popular and fun way to get around! Then we’ll take you into the lofty hills of Altos de Campana National Park. Founded in 1966 as Panama’s first national park, it’s only an hour’s drive from the capital; but for all of its natural beauty and appeal, it remains relatively unknown by most travelers and even among some Panamanians. Surrounded by cool rolling mountains that descend to the Pacific Ocean, you’ll travel all the way to one of the Park’s highest points for sweeping views of the Canal Basin and Chame Point with its groves of mangrove forest. Altos de Campana is home to a variety of exotic birds like the orange-bellied trogon and white-tailed hawk, making this Park a great destination for bird watchers.
 
At a nearby orchid farm, you’ll learn about their cultivation of these delicate plants and sample some of the tropical fruits that are also grown here. For lunch we’ll take you to a popular local fonda; these typical countryside restaurants are known for their fine farm-to-table Panamanian food – and chilled local beer! Back at the Westin resort, you’ll have time to relax or even go for a swim before freshening up for this evening’s Farewell Dinner. Enjoy the fine cuisine of our 5-star resort and toast your fellow travelers with a glass of wine.  Meals B+L+D

Day
9

Adios, Playa Bonita

After breakfast, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your onward flight.  Meals B

Extend Your Trip

Travel on to Costa Rica

5 Day Extension from $1,899

Discover Costa Rica’s natural wonders on our unique post-Panama adventure. We include terrific hotels, all on-tour transportation, and guided expeditions in small congenial groups.

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Day
1

We include your flight to San Jose, Costa Rica

After breakfast, at the Westin Playa Bonita Resort, you’ll be escorted to the airport in Panama City for your included flight to Costa Rica. On arrival in San Jose, a scenic transfer takes you into the heart of the picturesque Central Highlands where you’ll check in to the Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel. A+R guests enjoy Deluxe Casita accommodations with a fireplace, garden porch or terrace, and free high-speed Internet. With our expert naturalist, this evening’s Cloud Forest Night Tour offers a unique opportunity to observe, hear, and learn about the nocturnal side of this mountain eco-system.  Meals B

Day
2

The Cloud Forest by Day + Arenal

The unique and precious biosphere of the mountain cloud forest comprises less than 5% of the world’s remaining forests and woodlands, but its diversity of flora and fauna is remarkable. Setting out after breakfast, this morning’s Cloud Forest Tour will take you into the 2,000-acre Los Angeles Cloud Forest Private Biological Reserve. Designed to complement last night’s expedition, this morning’s expertly guided tour reveals other facets of this amazing eco-system. After the tour, you’ll check out from the hotel for the scenic drive to Arenal. With Costa Rica’s largest network of naturally-flowing hot springs, the 900 lush acres of Tabacon are the backdrop for your 3-night stay at the outstanding Tabacon Grand Thermal Resort & Spa.  Meals B

Day
3

Sights + Flavors of the Countryside

After breakfast, our unique Farm-to-Table Tour offers a rare opportunity to spend time on an organic farm. The experience begins with a sampling of the farm’s fresh tropical fruits and a cup of Costa Rican coffee. After an introduction to the history and operation of the farm, you’ll set out into the fields with our engaging guide to see the large variety of fruits, vegetables and spices that are cultivated here. Depending upon the season, you might be invited to join in the planting or harvesting of the many crops which include peanuts, cacao, turmeric and cinnamon. A tour of the greenhouse and a walk to see the farm’s resident sloth family is followed by a delicious farm-to-table luncheon prepared by the team of local chefs. Back at the Tabacon Resort, your afternoon and evening are free to enjoy the lush landscaped grounds and private geo-thermal springs of our 5-star resort.  Meals B+L

Day
4

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

With the Rio Frio flowing through its heart, the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge is one of the best places in Central America to observe the region’s rich diversity of wildlife, from exotic birds like the large Jabiru stork and cormorants to ocelots, river turtles, crocodiles and tapirs. Spider, Capuchin and howler monkeys can also be spotted. Setting out in a covered motorboat with an expert naturalist, today’s excursion down the Rio Frio is the best way to experience the flora and fauna of this important wetlands eco-system. After lunch, we’ll drive you back to the Tabacon Resort where the rest of your late afternoon and evening are at leisure to enjoy the resort’s amenities and geo-thermal hotsprings.  Meals B+L

Day
5

Depart Costa Rica

After breakfast, we’ll take you back to the airport in San Jose.  Meals B

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About Your Journey… Panama

These videos, articles and podcasts will illuminate the rich variety of sights and sounds to be experienced on our Original Journey to Panama. Drawn from respected independent sources, we’ve curated this multi-media collection to ignite your imagination. Inspiring as they are now on your screen, the things you see and read here will come to life when you travel with our engaging English-speaking Panamanian guides.

 

Our A+R Library

 

About Your Journey... Panama


Many people think of only the Panama Canal when thinking of Panama. Today’s Panama is a proud nation that respects its seven Indian tribes and its Spanish heritage. It is a country yet undiscovered for its beaches, islands, forests, highlands, fauna and flora. Some of the best snorkeling and diving can be found within its boundaries. It embraces its visitors so fervently that it is difficult to leave without feeling you are in on a secret the rest of the traveling world has yet to discover.

Passports and Visas
American citizens will need to present a valid passport upon entry into Panama. Passports must be valid for six (6) months after the completion of your stay. It is the traveler’s responsibility to obtain required travel documents (passport, visas and vaccination certificates). No visas are required for American citizens unless you are staying longer than 90 days. Visitors from countries other than the United States should check on their specific entry requirements with the nearest Panamanian consular office.

Now is a good time to assemble and check your travel documents, then keep them together in a safe, accessible area of your home. If you keep your passport in a bank safe deposit, retrieve it now to avoid a last-minute rush, and double-check the expiration date!

Travel to Panama with an Open Mind
Although the eastern shores of Panama are washed by the Caribbean Sea, this remarkably diverse country is not your typical Caribbean destination. Its economic focus on the Canal makes it quite unlike its island neighbors, and most visitors to Panama are attracted by the country’s history and natural diversity rather than just its beaches and resorts. As a result, Panama is not your typical tourist destination. Its citizens are very friendly and welcoming and love sharing their country with Americans, but hotel services are often not what you would find in another resort destination. We’ve selected the hotels on your program for their great location in telling the story of the canal, and they are the best hotels that exist in each area. But they cannot compare to 5-star luxury hotels in other parts of the world.

The pace of life in Panama is slower and the attitudes of its residents and hotel staff are very easy-going. You’ll find service sector employees eager to please – but don’t be surprised if things are done more slowly than you might like, including room service, restaurant waitstaff and housekeeping at the hotels. English will be spoken by the front desk staff, but other employees may be far from fluent.

In short, come to Panama with an open mind, a spirit of adventure and the expectation that things here are not “just like at home.” With this open attitude, the warmth of Panama’s people, the wealth of its historic sites, the thrill of the Canal and the country’s astounding natural diversity are the things you’ll treasure.

Health + Vaccinations
Your personal physician knows your health history and is the best person to consult regarding inoculations, health precautions and other advice for your upcoming journey. We always recommend that your check the Centers for Disease Control’s website www.cdc.gov for any updated recommendations before travel.

Panama requires a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate for travelers coming from or traveling through countries identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO) as having a risk of yellow fever transmission. Currently these nations are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Surname, Trinidad & Tobago, and Venezuela. Please note that this certificate is required for all passengers who have spent 12 or more hours in these countries, even if only in transit at their airports. 

Vaccinations should only be administered by an approved vaccination center that can provide you with a valid International Certificate of Vaccination approved by the World Health Organization. The vaccination should be obtained at least 10 days before departure. Failure to provide a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate or vaccination-exemption certificate on arrival could lead to refusal of entry or quarantine until the traveler’s certificate becomes valid. More information is available from the CDC at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/yellow-fever.

Medical supplies including CPAP machines for sleep apnea can be brought as an additional carry-on with most airlines.  If you are traveling with a CPAP machine, please let Alexander+Roberts know in advance and consider bringing a backup battery in case of inconsistent electricity supply. Distilled water is available in most destinations. Make sure you have all appropriate adaptors, although newer machines have universal power supplies that can adapt to various voltages. Bring extra supplies (especially cushions) and replacement parts as repairing the machine while travelling may not be possible.

If You Face Physical Challenges
Journeys to Panama tend to be active trips. The excursions and activities we include often involve a great deal of walking over uneven terrain, and you assume responsibility for your personal safety. There will be hills to climb and descend, and steps often have no wheelchair access. Even indoor sites like museums and historical buildings may only have steps - no elevators or ramps. Hotels may be limited in the provisions they make for wheelchair access and airports may require steps to board and deplane without jetway access to the gate or terminal.

Mobility issues or physical challenges must be reported to Alexander+Roberts when making your reservation.  We will make reasonable attempts to accommodate special needs, but cannot always provide individual assistance nor can we ensure that local vehicles will be wheelchair-equipped. For these reasons, a qualified companion must accompany guests who need such assistance. 

Additionally, please contact Alexander and Roberts in advance if you are planning to bring a wheelchair or motorized scooter on your trip.  Also know that you will be responsible for handling this equipment including loading it onto busses, airplanes, cars, trains and into your hotel room unless otherwise arranged with our guides prior to your departure.  Please be prepared to provide the make and model of your motorized scooter well in advance in order to determine if the itinerary on which you are traveling, can accommodate your needs.  Certain inclusions in your itinerary may not be possible to access via wheelchair or scooter, and many of our small group journeys will not be able to accommodate wheelchair/ scooter requirements.

A Word about Hotels
As in other parts of the world, check-in time for most hotels is around 3:00PM and check-out time is typically 11AM. Should you arrive early to find that your room is not yet ready, the hotel will likely be more than happy to store your luggage securely for a few hours. That leaves you unencumbered to explore a bit at your own pace - or to relax with a cup of tea or coffee either in the lobby or at a nearby cafe.

Similarly, if you have a late departure flight, hotels will store your luggage after you’ve checked-out, leaving you free to explore and relax until it’s time to go to the airport. Depending upon how busy they are, hotels may allow you to occupy your room for another hour or two without charge; check with the front desk to determine if this is possible for your day of departure.

If early check-in or late check-out is required, advance arrangements can usually be confirmed for the cost of an additional night. Please notify us or your travel agent if you wish to confirm either.

Climate
Panama enjoys a tropical maritime climate, with a hot, humid and cloudy prolonged rainy season (May to January) and a short dry season (January to May). Panama has a narrow land mass which means temperature is easily affected by the conditions across both of the oceans.

Panama City (Pacific-side)
Temperatures range between 70 degrees in the evening to 90 degrees during the day year-round. Very little rain falls here during the dry season, but the weather can be hot and steamy in the lowlands, especially during the rainy season. But it won’t rain nonstop – rain in Panama, as elsewhere in the tropics, tends to come in sudden short downpours that freshen the air, and are followed by sunshine. 

Bocas del Toro (Caribbean-side)
The Caribbean side of the country experiences more rain than the Pacific coast, even during the dry season. However, it tends to rain less in February-March and September-October than it does the rest of the year.

David District (the highlands)
The mountainous region of Panama has a more tropical climate, so cool, misty showers are common during the rainy season. After all, you can’t have rainforests without rain and cloud forests without clouds! The temperatures in the highlands tend to be milder, with average highs around 70 degrees and dropping to around 50 degrees in the evening.  

Money Matters
Panama has two official currencies, the Balboa (B, PAB) and the US dollar. The balboa is tied to the US dollar and has traded at a fixed exchange rate of 1:1 since its introduction more than a century ago. Panama has not issued its own paper notes, relying instead on US dollars. In practice people use the terms ‘dólar’ and ‘balboa’ interchangeably. Prices appear with either a $ or a B. Panama has minted its own coins that are of the same value, size and metal as US coins, though both are frequently used.
Traveler’s checks can be difficult to exchange for currency and are rarely accepted as payment. 

Throughout Panama, ATMs are readily available except in the most isolated places – look for the red ‘sistema clave’ sign. ATMs accept cards on most networks (Plus, Cirrus, MasterCard, Visa, Amex), though a charge is usually levied depending on your issuing bank. The amount that can be withdrawn at one time varies from bank to bank, though it is usually around $500.

Credit cards (Visa, Master Card and American Express) are widely accepted at upscale hotels and many restaurants nationwide, but they can be problematic almost everywhere else in Panama. In short, carry enough cash to get you to the next bank or ATM. We recommend that before you travel you inform both your bank and your credit card company which countries you will be visiting. It is also a good idea to inquire about fees for transactions abroad.

Tipping
For your on-tour convenience throughout Latin America, we have included all gratuities except for your Trip Leaders or guides. This includes drivers, baggage porters and restaurant staff for all included meals; certainly, if any of these services are exceptional and go above-and-beyond, then feel free to tip an additional discretionary amount.

Thanks to special arrangements on The Complete Panama Canal itinerary, we include all gratuities including those for your Trip Leaders and guides.

Should you extend your stay to other destinations where tips are not included for your guides, many of our guests find it helpful to have some guidelines. In that spirit, we recommend tipping them $10 to $15 per person, per day.  Please remember that these gratuities are always at your discretion. They are appreciated as recognition for excellent service, but whether you tip, and how much, is entirely up to you.

When you’re out enjoying meals and activities that are not part of your A+R itinerary, here are tipping guidelines in accordance with local practices:

•    Upscale restaurants: A service charge of 5% to 15% is typically already included on the bill. If you have any questions, just ask the restaurant staff.
•    Spa Services: Add 10% to 15 %.
•    Taxis: Tips are not expected by taxi drivers but most people round up their fare to the nearest note.

For any gratuities, we suggest you tip in the local currency. But if you only have US Dollars, they will be graciously accepted.

About Electricity
Electric current is 110V at 60 Hz, more or less the same as the US, with most outlets supporting two or three flat-pin plugs. However, some sockets provide 220 volts so ask the hotel before plugging in your devices. An adapter plug and a converter may be necessary to charge your electronic devices, and are usually available from the front desk. For more information on plugs and sockets, review the information at:  www.iec.ch/worldplugs/map.htm.

Internet and Phone calls
If you plan to bring your cell phone when you travel, please check with your carrier to ensure that your plan covers international calls and/or mobile data from the countries you will visit on your trip and whether there may be money saving plans available from your carrier that can be arranged in advance. Alternatively, local prepaid SIM cards for your phone are usually available at the airport where you arrive and can be used to tap into local service providers. Wi-fi is available at many hotels either complimentary or for a fee. Waiting until you have Wi-Fi access allows you to use email and other applications without using mobile data. Check with the front desk upon check in regarding access details.

If you need to place an international call from your hotel room, please check first with the Front Desk about their rates. Hotels often contract with outside vendors to provide direct-dial service for overseas calls – and the rates can be unexpectedly high!

The dialing code for Panama is +507; you’ll need to prefix the local number with this dialing code when calling from outside of Panama.

Is the Water Safe to Drink?
Tap water is safe to drink throughout Panama. The government agency in charge of water treatment regularly checks the drinking water to ensure compliance with its standards. If you have any doubts, drink bottled water.

Meal Time!
Panamanian cuisine is a unique mix of African, Spanish and Native American techniques, dishes and ingredients, reflecting its diverse population. Since Panama is a land bridge between two continents, it has a large variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs. Typical Panamanian cuisine is mildly flavored, without the pungency of some of Panama’s Latin American and Caribbean neighbors.  Common ingredients are maize, rice, wheat, flour, plantains, yucca, beef, chicken, pork and seafood. Visitors to Panama City never have to travel far for a good meal of chicken sancocho (a stew with lots of vegetables), or seafood sautéed Creole-style (a la criolla) with tomatoes and onions. Outside the city, though, even in touristy areas, the pickings can be slim. In places like Bocas del Toro and Boquete, the best bet is to eat at one of the higher-end hotels.

About Panama’s National Parks
Panama is home to some of the world's most incredible biodiversity, and the country has been very proactive in protecting it. Nearly 30 percent of Panama is preserved in national parks or other refuges. In total, there are 14 Panama national parks, and around 16 wildlife preserves. Well-developed nature trail systems give easy access to every habitat in all but the most remote areas. For the most fulfilling experience in the forest, it is important to go with an experienced naturalist guide. The uninitiated can be overwhelmed by such all-pervasive greenness. A naturalist will explain the complex inter-relationships of species in the forest, spot well-camouflaged creatures, and maybe even point out the track of those ever-elusive jungle cats.

Of Panama’s 940 bird species (the largest number in Central America), visitors usually spot the big or colorful birds such as hawks, ducks, toucans, raptors and tanagers, plus the noisy parrots and macaws. During certain times of the year, Panama’s national bird, the harpy eagle, and the elusive emerald-green quetzal, may also be spotted.

No trip to Panama would be complete without at least one monkey sighting. Home to five distinct species of primates, Panama offers the opportunity for one of the world's most gratifying wildlife-viewing experiences. Just listen for the deep guttural call of a howler or the rustling of leaves overhead – telltale signs that monkeys are in your vicinity.

Peccaries, agoutis, armadillos, sloths and bats are the most commonly seen mammals. Also, frequently found are butterflies, frogs, toads, salamanders, crocodiles and iguanas.  

A Few Words of Caution
While hiking through the forests of Panama, please exercise caution. Do not pick up insects of unknown species as they may be poisonous. Do not pick flora as many leaves can also be poisonous. Do not go poking under rocks or fallen branches. Snake bites are rare, but you can decrease the odds of being bitten even further by taking simple precautions. If you encounter a snake, stay calm, do not make any sudden movements and do not try to handle it. Avoid swimming in major rivers unless accompanied by your guide.

Bugs and bug bites will probably be your biggest annoyance. To avoid being bitten:

•    wear long sleeves or specially treated clothing
•    use insect repellent with a high percentage of the active ingredient (DEET, Picaridin, OLE, PMD or IR3535) which typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection
•    avoid products that combine sunscreen with repellent

Almost all encounters with noxious insects and plants can be avoided by watching where you walk and sit, and by not touching insects, plants, and other things you don’t recognize! Tuck your pants into your socks and use a good insect repellent all over – including on your shoes and ankles, the tops of your collar and your sleeve cuffs. And always follow your tour guide’s instructions to the letter! Leave valuables at home and avoid using perfumes, after-shave or other scents that will attract insects.

What are Business Hours?
Panama operates on US Eastern Time, the same as New York and Miami. Businesses operate between 8:00AM and 5:00PM but generally close for an hour during the long main mid-day meal which is so characteristic of Central America. Most businesses are only open 8:00AM to 12 noon on Saturdays; most are closed on Sundays. Most banks are open from 8:30AM to 3:00PM Monday to Saturday. 

Conversing with the Locals
Spanish is the official language of Panama, but English is a common second language. Please contact the front desk staff should you have any difficulty being understood by other hotel staff. Some of the indigenous people speak their own language and may not speak either English or Spanish. Menus in restaurants are usually available in English for travelers. Even with language difficulties, people are very friendly and will generally go out of their way to help you.

Know the Customs + Traditions
All of Latin America operates at a slower pace than North America. Be prepared for the mañana mentality and be patient. Be aware also that people stand closer together when talking than is generally the case in North America. There is often body contact of arms, shoulders and hands. Avoid backing away as this could be taken as an insult.

Never ask someone to turn down the music or lower the volume at a party even it is late at night. This is considered rude. Never ask someone not to smoke, even in areas not designated for smoking (It’s better just to move to a new location). Also, seek permission before taking a photograph of anyone since many superstitions still go along with photography in South America.

Important Information for Air Travel within Panama
If your trip involves flights within Panama (to San Blas, Bocas del Toro, Boquete, etc.), you are limited to one checked bag up to 30 lbs and one carry-on item up to 9 lbs. We strongly recommend that you take an overnight bag packed with what you will need according to the number of nights you will be in these areas and leave the rest safely stored at our office in Panama City. Please ask for this service when you are met upon arrival in Panama. 

A Note about Traveling with Minors
Panama currently requires documentary evidence of a relationship between minors traveling with an adult. Parents traveling alone with a minor must carry a notarized letter from the absent parent authorizing the trip, regardless of whether the parent is married or divorced. Never-married parents, parents whose spouse has died, and parents who have been granted sole legal custody of children are encouraged to carry notarized proof of their status, including death certificate where appropriate. Grandparents traveling with grandchildren and adults traveling with children who are not their own should carry letters of authorization from both parents of the children. It is wise to also carry the child’s birth certificate with the original seal. Please visit the state department’s website travel.state.gov if you plan to travel with a minor

A Few Words about Safety + Security
Traveling abroad is no different than visiting a new city in the United States: use common sense precautions to safeguard your person and your possessions at all times. Remember to wash your hands frequently and use hand-sanitizer.
•    Do not go out and about with your passport unless specifically instructed to do so by your local guides.
•    Keep your extra cash and passport in the in-room safe of your hotel. In the few instances where they are not available, then store these items in the safety deposit box at the front desk.
•    Always make a copy of your passport, credit cards and e-tickets and keep them separate from the originals so that they can be more readily replaced if lost or stolen. Leave extra copies with someone at home who you can reach while traveling. Or consider scanning these documents and emailing them to an address that you can access while abroad.
•    If you don’t already own one, consider investing in a money belt that can be concealed under your clothing. This is a good place to keep the cash and credit cards that you need for personal expenses while sightseeing, shopping and touring.
•    Do not display large amounts of cash in public. Carry your purse with the strap across your chest, not dangling from your shoulder or arm.

These measures will save you countless time and trouble should your credit cards, airline tickets or passport be lost or stolen. 



 

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