Panama is an exciting mix of diverse cultural influences. It is located in the middle of America and forms the link between North and South America through its natural land bridge. Its strategic location and lush landscape, which includes both jungle and sun-kissed sandy beaches, ensure Panama’s internationally significant role. An important trade route has passed through the country for 500 years, first under the Spanish, then as part of independent Greater Colombia, then modern Colombia and in the 20th century as an independent nation. However, the zone around the Panama Canal, completed in 1914, became an American protectorate. In 1977, the United States agreed to return control of the area to Panama by 1999. In the 1980s, Panama’s top military chief, dictator Manuel Noriega, ruled the country. It was extremely unpopular in Washington and was forcibly removed by military intervention under US President George Bush. Today, Panama has found itself and is ready for ambitious new projects, including the expansion of the Panama Canal. See other countries in North America on constructmaterials.
Arriving by plane
Lufthansa (LH) offers non-stop flights between Frankfurt/M. and Panama City. COPA Airlines (CM), Panama’s national airline, flies from Frankfurt/M. in cooperation with United (UA) via Chicago to Panama City; Tickets for these flights are also available through Lufthansa (LH). Condor (DE) connects Frankfurt/M. in cooperation with COPA Airlines (CM) via Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) with Panama City. Austrian Airlines (OS) flies in cooperation with COPA Airlines (CM) from Vienna to Panama City via Washington. In cooperation with American Airlines (AA), Swiss (LX) offers flights from Zurich via Miami to Panama City. Lufthansa (LH) also flies from Zurich via Frankfurt/M. to Panama City. Non-stop flights from European airports to Panama City include KLM (KL) from Amsterdam, Air France (AF) from Paris, and Iberia (IB) and Air Europa (UX) from Madrid. Air Europa (UX) offers feeder flights to Madrid from Frankfurt/M., Munich, Düsseldorf and Zurich, among others. Eurowings Discover (4Y) flies from Frankfurt/M. to Panama City.
Frankfurt/M. – Panama City: 11 hrs 30 mins (non-stop); Vienna – Panama City: 14 hrs 20 mins (with stopover); Zurich – Panama City: 14 hours 5 minutes (with stopover).
An airport tax of approximately €35 (US$40) is levied on all passengers departing from Panama; however, this is often already included in the ticket price.
Arrival by car
From Costa Rica you can reach Panama on the Panamericana via Paso Canoas. The border crossing is open daily (usually between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.). Long-distance bus: Tica Bus connects Panama with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. Tolls: Some sections of the freeway around Panama City are subject to tolls; the toll is collected electronically there. Motorways that cross the country are toll-free. Documents: The national driver’s license is sufficient for stays of up to 90 days. Nevertheless, it is advisable to also carry the international driver’s license with you.
Arrival by train
There are no international rail connections to Panama.
Arrival by ship
The Panama Canal is the most important transport connection between the Atlantic and the Pacific. The main ports of Panama, each located at the ends of the Panama Canal, are Cristobal and Balboa. Other ports include Fort Amador and the Colon Cruise Port. Numerous cruise, passenger and cargo ships call at the major ports.
Note on arrival by ship
When entering or leaving the country with a yacht, catamaran or other type of boat, a fee of approx. 150 € must be paid and a number of special regulations must be observed, which can be obtained from the responsible migration authority at the port of arrival in Panama.
Cunard, Phoenix, Hapag Lloyd Cruises and Transocean call at Panama on their world cruises departing from Hamburg and Bremerhaven. Cruise lines such as MSC, Costa, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Princess Cruises depart from European ports with stopovers in Panama, among others.
Traveling by plane
Serving domestic air travel in the country, Air Panama connects Panama City, including from Marcos A. Gelabert (PAC) Regional Airport in Panama-Paitilla, to numerous locations around the country, such as Bocas del Toro, David and Darién, as well as to various islands in the comarca of Guna Yala and of the Pearl Islands. Helicopter tours can be booked through Helipan.
Traveling by car/bus
Panama’s road network is approximately 11,600 km long, of which approximately 4,000 km are paved. The main connecting roads in the north-south direction are the Transístmica, which runs from Panama City to Colón. The Panamericana runs in a west-east direction from the Costa Rican border across Panama and ends about 100 km before the Colombian border. There are no road connections to Colombia. Tolls: Some sections of the freeway around Panama City are subject to tolls; the toll is collected electronically there. The other roads in the country are toll-free. Petrol stations: There are enough petrol stations along the main connecting roads. In rural areas, travelers should always make use of the fueling options that are available.
Right-hand traffic/left-hand traffic
Condition of the roads
The roads in Panama are well developed for the conditions in the region. The main routes are asphalted and passable. However, the rest of the road network consists mainly of sand and gravel roads, which often flood in heavy rain and can then only be used with four-wheel drive vehicles at best.
Panama has highways (Panamericana, Transístmica) and a network of mainly unpaved country roads connecting the various towns.
Rental cars are available in cities and at airports. Drivers must be at least 21 years old (may vary depending on vehicle category) and have held their driving license for at least 1 year. Drivers under the age of 25 often pay a young driver fee on site.
If possible, travelers should avoid hailing taxis on the street, instead ordering them at the airport or hotels.
Bikes and scooters can be rented in cities like Panama City, David or Boquete. However, you should be extremely careful when cycling.
Panama has a well-developed bus network that serves almost all places. In larger cities there are bus stations, in smaller towns and rural areas buses can be stopped by hand signals. The cheap tickets for intercity buses are available in advance at the bus station.
Traffic regulations: – seat belts are compulsory; – Helmets are compulsory for motorcyclists. Speed limits: – urban: 30 km/h; – extra-urban: 80 km/h.
The ADAC foreign emergency call offers ADAC members and holders of ADAC foreign health and accident insurance comprehensive assistance in the event of vehicle breakdowns, traffic accidents, loss of documents and money, and medical emergencies. The emergency number is available around the clock; in case of vehicle damage: Tel. +49 (0)89 22 22 22, in case of illness: +49 (0)89 76 76 76. There is no roadside assistance in Panama. When driving a rental car, the first thing to do in the event of breakdowns or accidents is to contact the rental car company.
The national driver’s license is sufficient for stays of up to 90 days. Nevertheless, it is advisable to also carry the international driver’s license with you.
Traveling in the city
Panama City has an extensive bus and minibus network as well as a subway, the Metro de Panama. Buses generally run between 5am and 10pm. The fare is usually paid when boarding and as appropriate as possible, since the drivers often have no change. The most convenient means of transportation are taxis. Travelers should agree on the fare in advance.
Locally on the way by train
Passenger trains of the Panama Canal Railway Company connect Colón with Panama City on a route of approx. 77 kilometers (journey time: approx. 1 hour).
Traveling by ship
Ferries operate between Panama City and various Panamanian islands. Among other things, Sea Las Perlas connects Panama City daily with Contadora Island (journey time: 1 hour 30 minutes). Taboga Express speedboats run daily between Panama City and Taboga (journey time: 30 minutes).