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Facts & Information

There is much more to Panama than its famous and important Canal. This international crossroad is a great place to live.

Panama has it all—amazing weather, modern urban centres, incredible shopping, white beaches, rivers, lakes, crystal clear waters, mountains, jungles, rainforests, diverse culture and cuisine, and significant commercial investment opportunities. The exotic flora and fauna, international trade and the charming cultural mix make Panama an exceptional, elite and fashionable destination, for tourism and retirement alike.

In September 2005, Panama was rated by “International Living” as the best place in the world to retire. Besides the near perfect weather, stable government, cheap real estate, low cost of living, low crime rate, clean air, relaxed pace of living as well as abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation—everything from golf and tennis to river rafting and diving—a modern, advanced infrastructure gives Panama the edge over traditional retirement places like Mexico or Costa Rica.

Panama has excellent telephone, satellite, and international cable services. High-quality medical care and modern hospitals are available in the metropolitan areas, and the cost of prescription drugs is low.

Low Cost of Living

A dollar goes far in Panama. With the lowest cost of living in all Central and South America, electricity is about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour; water bills are $18 per year; telephone service costs roughly $30 a month; Internet access is $14 a month; and cable TV about $30 a month. A full-time live-in maid costs roughly $150-$250 per month.

Shopper’s Paradise

Panama is a shopper’s paradise. Luxury goods from the world over are available for at least a third the price one would pay elsewhere. Panama City has large picturesque shopping districts like the Via España and Avenida Central (Central Avenue) where one can buy everything from high fashion to beautiful crafts. Local items include leatherware, necklaces made by the Guaymí Indians, needlework, paintings, handcrafted Molas made by the Kuna Indians, carved wooden handicrafts, mahogany bowls, and ceramics. Avenida Central, an open-air, pedestrian-only mall offers a deal on every corner.

The Free Zone

About 45 minutes from Panama City by car is the Colon Free Zone, America’s largest free zone and the world’s second largest after Hong Kong. The Zone occupies over 800 acres. More than 200 companies operate or are represented there generating $11 billion annually. Companies operating in the Colon Free Zone do not require a commercial license. The Free Zone laws create a climate where businesses operate with an absolute minimum of controls. No tax is paid on income derived from export activities within the Free Zone. There are no tariffs and quotas on imports and exports.

The People

The people of Panama are fun, proud, tolerant and eager to please. They are not only friendly, they are welcoming. Though Spanish is the official language many in the service industry speak English.

Panama is an ethnic melting pot and cultural crossroad where civilizations and races have blended to create a charming local culture. Over the last 450 years, different ethnic groups immigrating to the country have created a culture rich in diverse customs. One can find the food and traditions of almost any country.

Throughout Panama native-born Arabs, Jews, Hindus, Americans, Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, Caribbean and more live and work side by side. Additionally, seven indigenous groups still follow the same traditions they have preserved for thousands of years. Among those are the Ngoebe-Buglé villages in Bocas and the 48 Kuna Yala villages on the San Blas Island.

Panama City

Panama City, with its first-rate facilities, is an extraordinary city that offers excellent lifestyle prospects. The city offers world-class restaurants, every imaginable luxury, and hundreds of multi-national businesses.

The city skyline overlooking the Bay of Panama is spectacular with an assortment of banks, insurance companies, hotels, condominiums and apartment buildings. The large cranes dotting the skyline are the best evidence of massive growth and real estate development. The city centre is modern and architecturally diverse.

Panama City has a wide selection of state-of-the-art, reliable medical facilities with American and European trained doctors. Because some hospitals such as the Hospital Nacional are on a par with U.S. hospitals at about 50% of the cost, Panama is carving out a niche in “health tourism”.

Panama City has great night life and is home to one of the world’s largest Carnival celebrations. Forget Rio de Janeiro or New Orleans— Panama City has the second largest Carnival in the world! Work comes to a complete stop during Carnival days and the main streets are filled with parades, floats, masks, costumes and confetti.

Las Tablas Carnival

Rivalling Panama’s Carnival celebrations is Las Tablas. Many consider Las Tablas, with its beautiful Carnival queen and princesses, fireworks, music and general bacchanal, and the traditional high street/low street rivalry for fanciest costumes and most inventive floats, to be the best place in Panama to celebrate Carnival.

Incredible Weather

The weather cannot get much better than in Panama. Panama’s beautifully pleasant tropical climate has an average temperature of about 27°C (80°F) with only a few degrees variation between seasons.

And because of the varied landscape found in Panama, there are places that are spring-like all year round as well—the mountainous region of Chiriqui, for instance. The higher elevations in the interior have a mild average temperature of about 19°C (66°F). What’s more, Panama does not experience destructive hurricanes or earthquakes like Panama’s Central American neighbours.

Water and Wildlife

Besides a stable, predictable climate, Panama’s geographic location is responsible for its great diversity of life. The country offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the wonders of nature, and to find the perfect spot to kick back and relax while being soothed by a pleasant trade wind or witness to a dynamic sunset. And everything is within minutes from it's metropolitan centres.

Panama is paradise for those who love wildlife and water. Panama has the highest ratio of coastline compared to land area of any Latin American country. Its gorgeous beaches, islands and waterways offer a rich variety of safe and exciting opportunities for swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, surfing and windsurfing, sea kayaking, deep-sea fishing and river rafting.

Some favourite beaches are La Cabaña Beach on Colón Island and Boca del Drago Beach in Bocas del Toro Province. Other beautiful popular beaches are Cermeño, Gorgona, Coronado, Punta Barco, Las Lajas, El Palmar, Río Mar and Santa Catalina beaches in Veraguas Province.

Panama has 14 national parks, over a dozen forest reserves, 10 wildlife refuges, hundreds of islands and miles of protected coral reefs. About 29 percent of Panama’s land area is protected.

Unique Ecosystems

Strategically located between two oceans and two continents, Panama boasts unique ecosystems nurture unparalleled flora and fauna with natural and environmental riches found nowhere else in the world. More species of birds live in Panama than in all of North America and Canada combined, and migratory birds and turtles stop there as well. In all, Panama is host to almost 1,000 species of birds, 220 mammals and 354 reptiles and amphibians.

On the easternmost side of the Pacific coast, shrimp, other crustaceans and mollusks spend the initial stages of their development in the shelter of Gulf of Panama mangroves. The American alligator and the leatherback turtle, the largest living turtle species, which can grow up to 2 metres (6 ft) in length and weigh over 630 kilograms (1,400 lbs) swim offshore. Also on the Pacific side, thousands of sea turtles lay eggs at the Isla Caña national reserve between August and November.

Diverse marine species and corals inhabit the Atlantic coast as well. An outstanding example is the massive Bocas del Toro archipelago at the entrance to Chiriquí Lagoon on the Caribbean Sea, where many species of marine and terrestrial life, such as sea turtle and manatee, are protected in the clear blue waters, coral reefs and beaches. The archipelago has nine islands, 51 keys and over 200 islets and is a popular place for scuba diving, snorkelling, and ecotourism.


Quick Facts

Motto: Pro Mundi Beneficio (For the benefit of the world)
Government Type: Constitutional democracy
Currency: balboa (PAB); US dollar (USD)
National Flower: Peristeria elata; Dove Orchid or Holy Ghost Orchid
National Bird: Harpy Eagle

Telephones - main lines in use: 440,100 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 1.352 million (2005)
International country code - 507
Infrastructure: 1 coaxial submarine cable; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); connected to the Central American Microwave System

Television broadcast stations: 38 (including repeaters) (1998)
Internet country code: .pa
Internet hosts: 7,149 (2006)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 6 (2000)
Internet users: 300,000 (2005)

Airports: 117 (2006)
Railways: 355 km
Roadways: 11,643 km
Waterways: 800 km (includes 82 km Panama Canal) (2005)
Ports and terminals: Balboa, Colon, Cristobal


    • January 1 New Year's
    • January 9 Martyr's Day (impasse with U.S. over Panama Canal, the 1964 riots)
    • Moving Date Tuesday Carnival
    • Moving Date Good Friday
    • May 1 Labour Day
    • November 3 Independence Day (from Columbia, 1903)
    • November 4 Flay Day
    • November 10 First Call for Independence from Spain
    • November 28 Emancipation (from Spain, 1821)
    • December 8 Mother's Day
    • December 25 Christmas

Useful Links

Republica de Panamá: General information and statistics on Panama
CIA World Factbook: General information and statistics on Panama