How To Stay Safe In Panama: Tips for Tourists and Expats

Panama is more than just a country that links North and South America. It’s a lively place with a mix of cultures and a growing economy. Panama City, the capital, is famous for its impressive buildings and skyline. But Panama also has other wonderful places like beautiful beaches and lush rainforests. These features attract many kinds of people, from tourists to those looking to move and live there long-term.

People often say that Panama is a safe and stable country, especially when compared to some of its neighbors. This is true, but it’s always good to be cautious. This article aims to help you understand how to stay safe while you are in Panama. We will cover a range of safety topics. These will include how to protect yourself from small crimes and what health precautions to take. The goal is to help you, whether you’re visiting for a short vacation or thinking about moving to Panama for a longer period. We want you to have a safe and enjoyable experience in this wonderful country.

  1. Navigating Transportation Safely
  2. Ensuring Food and Water Safety
  3. Mitigating Natural Risks
  4. Respect for Local Customs and Laws
  5. Be Prepared for Emergencies
  6. Conclusion


Navigating Transportation Safely

Navigating through Panama is generally simple, whether you’re exploring the bustling areas of Panama City or the more tranquil countryside. One popular way to move around, especially in Panama City, is by using the metro system. It’s convenient and is often considered safe. However, it’s important to be on high alert during busy hours, like the morning and evening commute. These are the times when the metro gets packed and the risks of petty crimes such as pickpocketing go up.

Another way to travel, particularly if you’re out late, is by taxi or through well-known ride-sharing apps like Uber. These services are convenient because they offer door-to-door service, reducing the amount of time you spend walking on the streets. This can be a safer choice, especially after dark when there might be more risks. To make your ride as safe as possible, it’s wise to choose reputable taxi companies or trusted ride-sharing apps, as these options often offer an extra layer of security.

For those who enjoy the freedom of driving, rental cars are widely available and offer a lot of flexibility. If you decide to rent a car, it’s highly recommended to opt for full insurance coverage. Roads in Panama can vary a lot in quality, so it’s better to be fully covered in case of any unexpected incidents. Also, if you need to park your car, especially for a long period or overnight, try to choose locations that are well-lit and have some kind of security measures.  Following these guidelines can help ensure that your time in Panama is both safe and enjoyable.

Ensuring Food and Water Safety

One of the great pleasures of spending time in Panama is immersing yourself in the country’s rich culinary landscape, which blends indigenous flavors with international influences. However, like anywhere else in the world, food safety should remain a top priority to ensure a fulfilling experience. When choosing restaurants, it’s always a good idea to seek out establishments that come recommended either by locals who are familiar with the area or through trustworthy online reviews. These vetted options are more likely to maintain high standards of food safety and hygiene.

Street food is an integral part of Panama’s culinary culture, offering a wide array of local dishes that you won’t want to miss. However, caution is advised. Always opt for vendors who cook food to order right in front of you, as this minimizes the time food sits out and reduces the risk of bacterial growth. Also, observe the vendor’s general cleanliness or how they handle the food in general, as these can be good indicators of their overall hygiene practices.

As for hydration, tap water in urban areas, particularly Panama City, is generally considered safe for consumption. However, when traveling through rural regions or smaller towns, it’s prudent to switch to bottled water. The chance of getting sick from water can be higher in places where the water isn’t treated well or might be dirty. If you can’t find bottled water, you can make tap water safer by boiling it. You can also use water-cleaning tablets to help avoid getting sick.

Mitigating Natural Risks

Panama’s beautiful landscapes range from coasts to mountains, but they also come with some natural risks. If you visit between May and November, be aware that it’s the rainy season. This can lead to floods and landslides, especially in hilly or mountainous areas. Always check weather forecasts and local advice before you go exploring. While hurricanes and tropical storms are less common in Panama than in other Central American countries, they can still happen. So, it’s smart to keep an eye on weather updates if you’re near the coast.

North Bear Creek road and bridge under water

Furthermore, the country’s lush landscapes are home to a rich variety of wildlife. While this adds to the allure of the natural environment, it also presents its own set of challenges. Some animals, such as certain species of snakes and insects, can be dangerous. Therefore, educating yourself on local fauna is important, particularly if you plan on hiking or spending extensive time in nature reserves. Always consult local guides or park rangers for expert advice on how to stay safe while enjoying Panama’s natural beauty. By taking these precautions, you can more fully engage with Panama’s extraordinary landscapes while minimizing risks.

Respect for Local Customs and Laws

Panama boasts a rich and complex cultural tapestry influenced by Indigenous, Spanish, African, and other international heritages. As a visitor or expatriate, it’s crucial to show respect for this diversity by being mindful of your behavior and attire. Dressing appropriately is particularly important when visiting religious or culturally significant sites like churches, temples, or museums; modest attire is often appreciated and may even be required. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with local laws and customs is also key to a respectful and trouble-free experience. It’s important to note that something considered acceptable or legal in your home country might not be viewed the same way in Panama. In Panama, it’s crucial to follow the law because the consequences can be severe. For example, if you’re caught with illegal drugs, you could end up in jail for a long time. It’s not just drug laws; other offenses like, disrespecting local customs, or even littering in nature reserves can get you in serious trouble too. Following the rules isn’t just about being polite. It’s also an important part of staying safe and making the most out of your trip to Panama.


Be Prepared for Emergencies

Being prepared for emergencies is a vital aspect of ensuring your safety while in Panama. It’s good to have a list of emergency contacts when you’re in Panama. This list should have phone numbers for the local police and fire department. It should also include contact information for the closest embassy and good hospitals near where you’re staying.

Also, make sure your health insurance is up-to-date and covers any activities you plan to do, like zip-lining or snorkeling. On the topic of personal safety gear, when packing for your trip, it’s wise to include items that could prove invaluable in certain scenarios. When you’re packing for your trip, don’t forget safety essentials. A first-aid kit is a must, and water purification tablets are good to have if you’re visiting less developed areas. Personal safety devices like an alarm or a whistle can also be beneficial, particularly if you’ll be exploring isolated locations. While all of these precautions might seem a bit much, they are actually straightforward ways to significantly enhance your overall safety, giving you peace of mind as you fully engage with the diverse experiences Panama has to offer.


Panama is a lively and inviting destination that has a variety of experiences for both short-term tourists and those considering a long-term stay. While it’s generally seen as a safe and stable country, it’s still crucial to be proactive about your own safety. Being vigilant, aware of your surroundings, and respectful of local customs and laws will go a long way in ensuring a pleasant stay. By taking these measures, you’re not only contributing to your own well-being but also engaging respectfully and responsibly with the local community. In today’s interconnected world, a wealth of resources exists to help bolster your preparations. Online platforms, including travel forums and apps like TripAdvisor, offer invaluable insights into lodging and dining options. Similarly, websites such as the U.S. Department of State’s travel advisories offer up-to-date safety information specific to Panama. Leveraging these resources can help ensure that your experience in Panama is as enriching as it is secure. So, armed with these tips and an array of digital resources, you’re well-equipped to fully experience and contribute to the vibrant life that Panama has to offer, all while maintaining your safety and peace of mind.

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