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Panama is the most developed country in Central America. In Latin America, only Chile and Argentina were ranked higher in the 2019 Human Development Index. The high living standard is especially visible in the capitol Panama City, but even if you leave the big city for rural areas, you will find roads in often excellent condition and people living in conditions that are far higher compared to other Central American countries.
One source of Panamanian wealth is, you guessed it, the Panama Canal. Being a democracy for more than 30 years, Panama has built the largest financial center in Central America. It certainly has helped that Panama was known as a tax haven for many years and to some extent still is.
Panama is also greatly profiting from being part of the Colón Free Trade Zone, which is the largest free trade zone in the Western Hemisphere.
Panama has a tropical climate and with it comes a large area of tropical rainforest and a large biodiversity. The temperatures rarely exceed 90°F (32°C) for an extended period of time. On top of that, Panama has incredible beaches. Taking all this into account, it is easy understandable that Panama’s tourist industry is constantly growing.
Besides tourism, Panama is also offering generous retirement benefits and has therefore long been a favorite for US, Canadian and European retirees.
Other things to know about Panama:
As a country with a tropical climate, Panama has a dry season and a wet season. The driest months are typically December through April and the wettest months May through November.
Be advised that the rainy season is not a total washout, however. You will often have sunny skies for much of the day but there is a good chance for sudden, short-lived but heavy thunderstorms at around noon or in the early afternoon. Some rural areas may be difficult to reach during the rainy season.
As for the temperatures, the difference between daytime temperatures is higher than between the seasons. Please be advised that, the higher the elevation, the cooler it gets.
Climate in Panama City
Climate in Bocas Town
To fully appreciate the beauty of Panama, one would likely need to spend at least a month in this country. If you have two weeks, then you will be able to see many of the highlights and, if you like it as much as we do, you will probably want to come back to explore the country even more, or just spend more time on your favorite beaches.
Flight to Panama City (PTY)
Day tour: San Blas Islands (Comarca Guna Yala)
Snorkel at Boca del Drago (Starfish Beach)
Flight to Panama City
Snorkeling at Isla Chapera; Playa Cacique
Ferry to Panama City
Flight back home
As you can see, we rented a car in Panama City. In general, driving a rental car in Panama is easy. Roads, even in rural areas, are usually well maintained and most Panamanians are not rude or aggressive drivers. Traffic signs like speed limits are frequent and easy to understand. Outside Panama City there are actually not too many cars on the roads which makes for relaxed driving.
In Panama City, however, driving is very much like in big cities in the US. There are way too many cars on the roads and rush hour traffic is plain awful. Avoid it at all costs. Outside rush hour, driving a car is the best way to get to your destinations in Panama City. Parking can sometimes be difficult to find but we were always able to find a spot even if it meant that we had to walk a few city blocks.
Many people suggest Waze as a GPS. After we had some not-so-good experiences with Waze in Costa Rica, we used google maps for the entire Panama trip and had absolutely no problems. Just make sure to save the road maps to our cell phone in advance so that you don’t need an active internet connection while you are driving.
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