Most Popular Facts About Panama

Population: 3,800,644

Capital City: Panama City

Area: 29,120 sq miles. Slightly smaller than South Carolina

Time Zone: GMT-5 (same time as Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Location: Central America

Popular Expat Regions: Panama City; Coronado; Pedasí; Boquete; Bocas del Toro

Property: In Panama, foreigners and Panamanians are given basically the same property rights. Buying property in Panama is similar to the process in the U.S.—so some steps will feel familiar.

Renting: Rental regulations are pretty straightforward in Panama. Your landlord and you, the tenant, have the right to negotiate any rental amount and deposit amount (the latter to be held by the Ministry of Housing or MIVI). Generally, the tenant can break the lease at any time with a month’s written notice. However, some private rental contracts stipulate a penalty for breaking the lease early.

Healthcare: Panama offers high quality care and modern medical centers in major hubs. For example, the Johns Hopkins International-affiliated Punta Pacifica Hospital in Panama City is known as one of the most technologically advanced medical centers in Latin America.

Climate: Unlike North America, Panama doesn’t have four seasons. On the Pacific Coast and in the mountains of Panama you get a wet or “winter” season and a dry “summer” season. Summer begins in December and often lasts through April. The wet season is mild from May through July—typically there’s an hour or two of rain in the afternoon. Sometimes there’s a two-week dry spell in July. Heavy rains tend to fall August through November. On the Caribbean Coast, though there are plenty of sunny days, rain falls at any time of year. (Bocas del Toro tends to be sunniest Jan-March and September-October.) Despite Panama’s warm tropical climate you should bring a light jacket as you may encounter extremely cold air conditioning (usually on buses) and strong breezes (for example, people tend to feel cold on motorboat tours, particularly when wet from swimming).

What to Wear: Although this is a tropical region you might want to bring a sweater because many restaurants and other places are often cold from the air conditioning. As this is a tropical region bring sunscreen and bug repellent. It is not necessary to get shots or vaccines to come to Panama.

Currency: In Panama, the U.S. dollar is the official currency. It is locally referred to as the Balboa, and you’ll see B/. next to prices in supermarkets and shops, instead of the “$” symbol. Though Panama does mint coins (exactly the same dimensions as U.S. coins), the Balboa does not exist in paper bill format. Panama separated from Colombia to become an independent republic in November 1903 and dollarized its economy in 1904.

Financial Information: Major businesses in Panama City accept credit cards (mostly Visa and Mastercard; many places do not accept American Express). You will want to have cash for taxis, souvenir stalls, and the like. Uber and similar ride-share services operate via credit card in Panama City.

Language: Spanish is the official language of Panama. Basic English is taught in all schools and many Panamanians (particularly private school students and white collar executives) are fully bilingual. Several indigenous languages are spoken in Panama, as well, including Ngäbere or Guaymí, Guna or Dulegaya, and Emberá. (Major tribes in Panama have their own reserves which they govern autonomously.)

System of Government: Presidential Republic. There are three branches of government: the Executive branch consists of the president and their appointed cabinet; the Legislative branch, which is a 71-seat Asamblea Naciona (National Assembly); and the Judicial branch, made up of numerous courts of various power and expertise.

Head of State and Government: Presidential Republic. There are three branches of government: the Executive branch consists of the president and his or her appointed cabinet; the Legislative branch or the 71-seat Asamblea Nacional (National Assembly); and the Judicial branch.

Head of State and Government: President Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo (from 1 July 2019). Panama’s president, vice president, and national assembly representatives are elected every five years via a simple majority popular vote. Presidents may not serve consecutive terms.

Telephone Country Code: 507

Emergency numbers: 104, 103, 911 (police, fire, ambulance)

Religion: Christianity is the dominant religion in Panama, with 85% of the population identifying as Catholic. Panama is known as a bastion of religious tolerance, and this is evidenced by synagogues, mosques, and temples (Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i) in different parts of the country.

Life Expectancy at Birth: 78.9 years (male = 75.8 years; female = 81.9 years)

Exports: $15.5 billion

Imports: $21.91 billion

Gross Domestic Product (Purchasing Power Parity): $104.1 billion

GDP per Capita: $25,400

Inflation Rate: 0.9%

Source: CIA The World Factbook