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Panama's beachesThe Republic of Panama has a cosmopolitan capital city, incredible rainforests and some of the best diving, bird watching and marine fishing in the world. Panama is a proud, beatiful and prosperous nation that honors its seven indigenous tribes, respects and tolerates all religions and races without prejudice.

Panama is unique in Central America, with its dollar based economy and stable political situation, sustained by its Free Trade Zone, and international banking. Many Fortune 500 companies are based in the Republic of Panama. All these factors together with the initiative in the tourism sector are encouraging all types of investment in Panama.

The capital, Panama city, is full of contrasts, both big and small. It is a thriving modern metropolis with high safety and low crime rates. It surprises first-time visitors with its downtown area of high-rise towers of offices and luxury condos. The city extends for 6 miles along the Pacific Coast and encompasses the ruins of Panama Viejo, the first establishment of Spaniards in the region, Casco Viejo, the colonial area built after Panama Viejo was destroyed, and the modern city center with its financial district, residential areas, and commercial and entertainment districts. Panama City is one of the mot diverse and cosmopolitan Central American cities. With a wide array of entertainment options and a variety of views including that of the bay of Panama, the Canal, the Bridge of the Americas, and surrounding mountain-side, Panama City offers a unique environment with much to see and enjoy.
Panama City at night
Central Panama City's financial district is home to well over 100 national and international banks. This, the most modern area of the city, features high-rise buildings and venues for sophisticated entertainment. Panama City, as a major business center, boasts numerous luxury hotels designed with the business person and upscale tourist in mind as well as middle range and budget hotels and hostels. In addition to its claim to fame as the center of commerce this area is also the epicenter for entertainment due to its plethora of restaurants, bars, and shops.

General information about Panama

Panamanian Flag
Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica; strategically located on the eastern end of the isthmus forming a land bridge connecting North and South America; controls the Panama Canal that links North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean.

Republic of Panama


total: 78,200 sq km
land: 75,990 sq km
water: 2,210 sq km

Area Comparison: slightly smaller than the US state of South Carolina

Coastline: 2,490 km

Climate: tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)

Population: 3.2 million (July 2006 est.)

Anthem: Himno Nacional, beginning "Alcanzamos por fin la victoria" ("We reach victory at last").

Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, white 10%, Amerindian 6%

Holidays: New Year's Day, 1 January; Martyrs' Day, 9 January; Labor Day, 1 May; National Revolution Day, 11 October; National Anthem Day, 1 November; All Souls' Day, 2 November; Independence from Colombia, 3 November; Flag Day, 4 November; Independence Day (Colón only), 5 November; First Call of Independence, 10 November; Independence from Spain, 28 November; Mother's Day and Immaculate Conception, 8 December; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays are Shrove Tuesday and Good Friday.

Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%

Languages: Spanish (official), English 14%; note - many Panamanians are bilingual

Government: Constitutional democratic republic with 9 provinces and 3 territories* (comarcas); Bocas del Toro, Chiriqui, Cocle, Colon, Darien, Herrera, Los Santos, Panama, Veraguas, and Comarca Kuna Yala*, Comarca Ngabe-Bugle*, Comarca Embera-Woonan*

Panama is a representative democracy with an elected executive composed of a president and 2 vice presidents, an elected 71-member unicameral legislature, and an appointed judiciary. The current president is Martin Torrijos Espino.

Panama has had no military forces since 1989. In 1990 the Government created the Panamanian Public Forces, which consist of the Panamanian National Police (PNP), the National Maritime Service (SMN), the National Air Service (SAN), and the Institutional Protection Service (SPI). In 1994 a constitutional amendment formally prohibited the establishment of a permanent military, although it contains a provision for the temporary formation of a "special police force" to protect the borders in case of a "threat of external aggression." The Judicial Technical Police (PTJ), a semiautonomous body with leadership appointed by the Supreme Court, is a separate branch of law enforcement under the Attorney General's Office, and performs criminal investigations in support of public prosecutors. The Ministry of Government and Justice oversees the PNP, the SMN, and SAN; the Ministry of the Presidency supervises the SPI and the PTJ. Police forces respond to civilian authority.

GDP: US$8.8 billion

GDP per head: US$3200

Annual growth: 2.1%

Inflation: 1.3%

Major industries: Banking, construction, petroleum refining, brewing, tourism, cement and other construction materials, sugar milling, shipping, ecommerce and agriculture.

Major trading partners: USA, EU, Central America & Caribbean, Japan.

Economic Overview: Panama's dollarised economy rests primarily on a well-developed services sector that accounts for three-fourths of GDP. Services include operating the Panama Canal, banking, the Colon Free Zone, insurance, container ports, flagship registry, and tourism. A slump in the Colon Free Zone and agricultural exports, the global slowdown, and the withdrawal of US military forces held back economic growth in 2000-03; growth picked up in 2004 and 2005 led by export-oriented services and a construction boom stimulated by tax incentives. The government has implemented tax reforms, as well as social security reforms, and backs regional trade agreements and development of tourism.

Time: GMT/UTC -5 hours

Weights & measures: Metric

Security: Panama is a safe country, but as with any country in the world, it is not advisable to walk around the streets flashing your money or valuable belongings. Reports of people being pick pocketing in Panama are rare, but it's best to assume that pickpockets are around. Just use common sense and your intuition to protect yourself. Remember that the less attention you draw to yourself, the less likely you are to have an unpleasant experience.

Health / Water: No vaccines or pills are necessary prior to visiting Panama. The tropical sun can be strong; so it's wise to take protective sunglasses and sunscreen with you. Although Panama is indeed a tropical country, mosquito control is effective. Panama is the only country in Latin America where you can drink water straight from the tap. Although Panama City has very good hospitals and clinics, medical facilities outside of the capital are limited.

Visas: Every visitor needs a valid passport and an onward ticket to enter Panama, but further requirements vary from country to country and occasionally change. UK, Germany and Switzerland citizens and many other nationalities need only a passport, while people from Japan, New Zealand, USA, Venezuela and more need a tourist visa or tourist card as well. Contact an embassy or consulate for current details. Click here for more information on visas for Panama.

Variable - either 110V or 220V

A brief history of Panama

Early in its history, Panama was densely populated by indigenous peoples—among them, the Cuevas and Cocole tribes. In 1501 the Isthmus of Panama was first discovered for Europeans by Rodrigo de Bastidas and Vasco Nuñez de Balboa. In 1510, Balboa established the first successful colony and became governor of the region. With this arrival of the Spaniards came the violence and disease which were to prove fatal to much of Panama’s indigenous population.
In 1513, Balboa led an expedition, in Panama, that discovered the Pacific, showing to all the value of Panama’s narrow geographical shape. The proximity of oceans and the narrowness of the isthmus soon became utilized to transfer the wealth of the Inca Empire back to Spain. The wealth uncovered by the Spaniards soon attracted pirates like Sir Francis Drake and Sir Henry Morgan—and in the 1700s, Panama’s Caribbean coast was plagued by pirate strongholds, forcing shippers to instead sail around Cape Horn to the already-thriving Peru.

In 1821 Panama broke with Spain and joined a union of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador - named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When the latter dissolved in 1830, Panama remained part of Colombia. With US backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the US between 1904 and 1914. On 7 September 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama by the end of 1999. Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the intervening years.

In December of 1989 it was declared that dictator Manuel Noriega’s Panama and the USA were in a state of war, and after the death of a U.S. marine, the USA attacked Panama City with extreme military force, thus removing Noriega from power. In 1994, President Ernesto Perez Balladares began a swift economic reform plan set to fight corruption and drug trafficking. In the resulting years Panama has re-emerged as a stable, democratic republic. The executive branch of the Government is composed of a President and two Vice-Presidents, democratically elected for a five year term by direct vote. By December 1999 the entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining US military bases had been returned to Panamanian control.

For more information about Panama we recommend:
The World Factbook

We have provided links to other web sites because we believe that they provide helpful and accurate information, however Multipanama is not responsible for the material displayed on these sites, nor guarantees their accuracy.

View of Punta Paitilla, Punta Pacifica and Balboa Avenue in the city of Panama
View of Punta Paitilla, Punta Pacifica and Balboa Avenue in the city of Panama, photo taken 23 of march 2006