Panama is a Central American country which borders with Colombia in the South, and Costa Rica to the north. Panama was part of the Spanish Empire for 300 years, between 1538-1821. This country has still not seen comparable tourism numbers compared to its Central American neighbors. With sandy beaches, forests, jungles and an array of endangered species it is just a matter of time before the tourist boom reaches this country. It has the second largest rain forest in the world outside of the Amazon Basin, and an abundance of tropical plants, animals and birds - some of which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. On the commercial side, Panama has a vital waterway known as the ‘Panama Canal' which generates an essential source of income, and is a major reason for international business migrating to Panama.
It is worth noting that the foreign community is maturing in Panama, due to the Panamanian Government offering tax and price incentives to foreigners. These economic incentives, and a growing real estate market, make Panama a relatively attractive location for retirement. Tourists are primarily from neighboring countries in the region, followed by North Americans. There has also been a steady growth of European visitors to Panama; tourism is accounts for nearly 10% GDP for the country.
Panama Health Care System
Panama has a growing reputation of being a prime tourist destination compared with its fellow Latin American neighbors. Tourists are becoming more aware of the wonders this attractive country has to offer, from the second largest rain forest, golden beaches, friendly local hospitality and fascinating wildlife Panama is pulling in holidaymakers.
The expatriate community is escalating due to the government’s incentive to attract new international residents who can afford to buy property. There has been a steady growth of banks in the hub of Panama taking advantage of this emerging market with a strong sector industry and stable economy. International companies are present in this gateway to the Central American market, employing expatriates to oversee the running of office's in Panama.
The health care system in Panama has mixed reviews, with some criticizing it because it is inefficient and complicated. However, some say the health care is very accessible to the urban and rural public. Generally the cost of health care is cheap for Panamanian nationals compared to developed nations; with prescription medication low as manufacturers price them for the Panamanian market. Foreigners and expatriates living in Panama will be responsible for any payment of medical treatment if they are admitted to a private or public hospital. It is strongly recommended when traveling in Panama you have comprehensive medical cover.
The healthcare system in Panama is both private and public; generally speaking the healthcare available in the capital is regarded as good, with private hospitals seeing an increase in foreigners using the facilities over those medical services available in their home nations. The government in Panama is taking steps to seize advantage of a boom in foreigners seeking treatment by promoting their medical treatment abroad. However, outside the capital the medical care is limited and in some rural parts it is non-existent. Steps by the government, and internationally, have tried to improve the care in the country but no significant advances have been made.
Public hospitals are funded and maintained by two government bodies, the Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud MINSA) and the Social Security System (Caja de Seguro Social CSS). The MINSA receives its funding from the Government via the general budget and CSS is funded from the taxes. Observers believe it is a waste of resources with two government authorities running the healthcare system. In the past the government of Panama has invested large amounts of capital into the healthcare system in cities and large towns. Panamanian lifestyle indicates that urban communities have a high rate of violence, accidents and unhealthily living and as a result the rural healthcare system is not developed to meet the needs of smaller communities.
Physicians in Panama commonly work in the private and public sector, sharing their time between hospitals. Medical students who pass and graduate from medical studies are then required to pass through a 2 year internship in the public sector and in doing so they receive an unrestricted license to practice. The healthcare in private and public hospitals is cheaper compared to that in the USA. However, international governments strongly advise taking out comprehensive medical insurance when entering Panama as a holidaymaker, or an expatriate, as the cost of seeking treatment or emergency transportation to your home country is extremely expensive. Medical care outside Panama City is limited and the country plighted with numerous diseases; it is essential that you obtain health insurance prior to your entry into Panama. The notable health risks in Panama include dengue fever, malaria, bacterial diarrhea, cholera, chagas' disease, rabies and hepatitis A. All these illnesses are common throughout Panama but rural areas are even more exposed to them.
Darien Province has a great deal to offer tourists with vast expanse of jungles, rivers, beaches and mountains. However the medical care is minimal and very limited. In May 2010 there was an outbreak of equine encephalitis in the Darien province in which a young child died leaving others requiring vital medical care. Darien province is in a remote part of the world and difficult to access large areas of the region, any serious medical treatment needs to be conducted in Panama City or Colan resulting in costly transportation to either city.
Foreigners and expatriates living in Panama will be responsible for any payment of medical treatment if they are admitted to a private or public hospital. It is strongly recommend when traveling to Panama you have comprehensive Panama expat health insurance cover.
Even with the high standard of health care in cities it is strongly advised that comprehensive health insurance is taken out before leaving for Panama because eventualities such as emergency evacuation are extremely costly.
If you are looking for peace-of-mind knowing that medical costs will be covered in case of an accident or illness for yourself and your family a medical insurance plan will be the optimal solution for you. Panama expat health insurance plans can be tailor-made to give you flexibility, meet your individual needs and can include benefits such as travel, maternity, dental and many other conditions. Should you require further information on Panama, medical insurance or receive a free consultation please do not hesitate to call one of our expert advisors
Panama is the southernmost country of Central America, with the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Neighboring countries are Colombia to the southeast and Costa Rica to the northwest. Panama has a variety of beaches, mountains and rain forests for holidaymakers to experience.
Traveling to a new country can be daunting and because of this it is important to have some background information of your destination. See below a general outline of Panama.
Please be advised that the information contained in this page is subject to change without prior warning or knowledge and as such you should consult an expert for more accurate information
Official Name: Republic of Panama is the official for this Latin American Country, commonly known as Panama.
Capital: The capital of Panama is Panama City, located in the west of the country and placed at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal
Location: Panama’s neighbors are Colombia to the south and Costa Rica to the north, with the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the South.
Size: The total land area of Panama is 75,420 square kilometers and ranks 117th globally; the country is only 2054 square Kilometers, smaller than Serbia and just ahead of Sierra Leone, with a land area of 71,740 square Kilometers.
Climate: Panama has a tropical maritime climate, making it hot, humid and cloudy. The country experiences a rainy season from May to January, with the Darien Province area occasionally being impacted hard. From January to May when the season is dry.
Population: Panama has an estimated population of 3,410,676 ranking it globally at 133rd. The country has a population growth rate of 1.463% ranking 85th globally.
Life expectancy: The average life expectancy at birth for citizens of Panama is 77.61 years, ranking 55th globally. Females have a longer average life span at 80.5 years, while males average 74.85 years from birth.
Prevalence of HIV/AIDS: The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Panama is about 1%, placing it 53rd globally. This means that around 20,000 people in the country are living with the disease. Senegal is also experiencing a 1% prevalent HIV/AIDS ratio.
Major illness: Potential health risks in Panama include dengue fever, malaria, bacterial diarrhea, cholera, chagas’ disease, rabies and hepatitis A. All these illnesses are common in Panama but rural areas are more exposed.
Ethnic Groups: Panama mainly comprises of mestizo (mixed Amerindian and Caucasian) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, Caucasian 10% and Amerindian at 6%.
Languages: The official language of Panama is Spanish while 14% of the population speaks English. Many Panamanians are bilingual.
Religion: The major religions in Panama are Roman Catholic at 85% of the population and Protestant at 15%.
Government: Panama is a constitutional democracy, whereby the President of Panama is both Head of State and Head of Government. The President and Vice President are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a 5 year term, they are not eligible for re-election; they both need to sit out 2 terms (10 years) before being allowed to run for the position again. After the United States invasion ended the dictatorship, Panama has seen four successful completed transfers of power between opposing political parties.
Military: Panama has no regular military force; the country has the Panamanian National Police (PNP), National Air-Navel Service (SENAN), and National Border Services who take responsibility for protection of the public. The military was abolished in 1990 by the then President ENDARA.
Economy: Panama is considered a country whose economy is stable with a sustainable growth rate based on the service sector highly entwined with international trade. Panama is a developing nation and an emerging market. The Panama Canal expansion is expected to be completed in 2014 and it is anticipated it will boost the Latin American economy. The Panama Government have invested approximately 25% of the national GDP costing $5.3billion with the aim of increasing the vessels transporting goods across the globe. With the economy strongly focused on the service sector it is an international business hub with prominent banks, insurance, shipping and commerce based in the country. In recent years Panama was able to decrease its unemployment level from 12% to 6%. However, it is reported that the country has a shortage of skilled workers. In 2006 Panama and the US agreed a free trade agreement with the aim to boost the economy.
GDP: Panama has a purchasing power parity of US $40.32 billion, ranking at 96th in the world. The country has a 2.4% growth rate which ranks 75th globally.
Panama Travel Tips
When traveling to various destinations overseas it is useful to observe laws and customs that can be very different to those in your home country. The Panamanian legal system differs from western countries with notable cultural differences. Panama is a beautiful Central American, country however there are a few noteworthy safety tips to be aware of before starting your journey.
Please be advised that the information contained on this page is not fully comprehensive and may be liable to change without prior warning; as such you should consult a travel expert or your local embassy prior to departing on your journey
You are advised that Panama has experienced earthquakes in recent years, the most recent of which struck on 23rd January 2010 in the west of the country at a magnitude of 5.5. A major earthquake struck the north of Panama in July 2009, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale. Fortunately no major damage was reported.
The threat of terrorism is low in Panama. However, international governments warn all tourists and expatriates that there is a general global risk of terrorism and terrorists may target popular tourist legal issues.
Embassies and Consulates report that the majority of visitors have a trouble-free stay. However, assistance has been required from Consulates ranging from assisting with replacement passports, travel documents and legal issues.
You are advised that many flights in and out of Panama are via the USA and the United States require passengers to have a machine-readable passport or valid US non-immigration visa.
It is advised that tourists should not carry large amounts of money and valuables in public, and where possible deposit them in the hotel safe.
Be diligent when using ATM cash machines in public areas as there have been reports of people being attacked after making withdrawals.
Hot spots for pickpockets are bus stations and on buses. It is recommend you stay vigilant and keep your valuables closely guarded.
Panama City, Colon, and others, have been experiencing heightened levels of armed robberies. Panama on the whole has also seen an increase in robberies, murders and assaults.
There are areas in Panama City where extreme caution and vigilance is required. These include main shopping areas of Caledonia and Casco Viejo where mugging is known to have occurred.
There are certain areas across the country which have high unemployment, drug use and street crime, notably Panama Viejo (Panama ruins), the Madden Dam area and the city of Colon. Local police advise tourists and expatriates to be aware and vigilant when visiting these areas.
You are advised to call a reputable taxi firm for a pick up, rather than flagging one down on the street. Many street taxis are not monitored and this can lead to a safety risk.
Criminal gangs have been known to commit burglaries using ruses such as door-to-door sales to enter a victim’s property by gaining their trust. The criminal will then proceed to gather information on the resident enabling them to find out when the home will be vacated and the consequence of this is their property is broken into. If you have any doubts about visitors contact the police.
Political demonstrations occasionally occur in Panama City, with the majority in the vicinity of Panama University, known as the Transisthmica. Most of the demonstrations are peaceful but may cause traffic jams and block roads. In the past demonstrations by construction workers and students have turned violent. Monitoring the media and avoiding demonstrations is recommended.
The province of Darien is a restricted area; known for its extreme terrain, jungles, rivers and mountains making much of it impassable. Contact Embassies in advance for details regarding the Darien province and expedition companies, to ensure police protection is included in your organized tour.
Panama shares a border with Colombia in the south. This is regarded as particularly dangerous, with political and criminal violence known to spill over into Panama. Colombian guerrillas and other armed groups make regular incursions into Panama, and foreign nationals and Panamanian citizens have been victims of kidnapping, murder and violent crimes. The notable danger areas are Punta Carreto in the Comarca de San Blas area on the Atlantic coast, through to Yayiza in the eastern Darien province through to Punta Pina on the Pacific Coast .
Panama has a good road system except in Darien Province where very few roads are paved. The maintenance of roads is sporadic and drivers are warned to be cautious when driving as unseen potholes and unfinished repairs are common.
Motor insurance is not compulsory and driving is of a poor standard. Drink driving is not strictly enforced and road accidents are frequent. If involved in an accident you are required by law not to move the vehicles until the traffic police (Transito) have inspected the incident. You are required to wear a seatbelt in the front seat, and children under five must travel in the back in fitted child seats.
The Pacific and Caribbean coasts are known for their strong currents and undertows. Be careful if you are swimming in the sea as warning signs are rare and incidents of drowning occur frequently. The Bay of Panama is polluted with untreated sewage and industrial waste, therefore no bathing is permitted, or encouraged.
Involvement in drugs of any kind in Panama is dealt with strongly, even small possession can lead to imprisonment (up to 15 years). The judicial system is slow and the Panamanian prisons are harsh, compared to those in America and European countries. If traveling with someone who is arrested by police for taking or possession of drugs, it gives the police sufficient grounds to arrest you too. The time frame to see a judge from the time of your arrest may take up to 12-24 months.
Panama City and Colan have good standards of private hospitals and clinics; however outside the capital and in rural areas the facilities are limited.
You are recommended to obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance policy before traveling. You should check any exclusion and ensure that your policy covers you for all the activities you may want to undertake.