Information before a student internship in Panama

Panama

Panama is a country in Central America, located on the Caribbean Sea to the North and the Pacific Ocean to the West, bordered by Colombia to the Southeast and Costa Rica to the West. It is divided into 10 provinces and 3 autonomous comarks inhabited by indigenous people. There are also two autonomous comarks, which are subordinated to the provincial authorities.

Population

3,753,142 inhabitants in year 2017

Area

75,417 km2 (ranked 116th)

Capital

Panama City

Currency

The local currency is called Balboa which is closely linked to the American Dollar. 1PAB is equal to 1$. Panama does not have its own note of Balboa, instead use US dollar which is a legal form of payment. Currently 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 coins cents are in circulation, which are very similar to US cents (same shape, weight, colour), US coins also can be used. Don’t be surprised while shopping or dining, you might see prices written with both currency symbols ‘B’ or ‘$’.

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Weather

A country which is characterized by a versatile landscape, tropical climate and well-preserved nature. The mountain range divides the country in two climate zones: tropical humid and tropical Pacific which slightly change to temperate. Panamanian climate can be described as one with heavy rainfalls and high temperatures.

In the area of the equator two seasons are noticeable: dry which starts in December and finishes in May and the humid one, from April to December. The level of precipitation is very high, typical for a moist, equatorial climate. The lowest values occurring in the Pacific Ocean region. In the south of the country there is no dry season, but the most intense rainfalls are in the summer period. The Caribbean Coast has lots of storms, the average is 200 storm days per year. Though the region of Panama is not considered as the region regularly subjected by cyclones the violent storms take place there frequently.

If you want to avoid rainy months in Panama City do not travel there in May, July and August, In July the rainfall level is the highest, even reach 444mm. In October the rainfall can even reach 332mm In November and December the average temperature is 25°C and December rains can bring 171mm. Nevertheless, the weather in the capital is always fairly good. Even though while in the humid months rain appears every day, it is short in its duration and you can enjoy the sun for the rest of the day. Due to the hot temperatures in Panama City, which oscillates around 30°C, the sea water is perfect for swimming all year round.

The Pacific coast has hot summers with a humid tropical climate. The Pacific Ocean Coast in Panama has two times less rain than the Caribbean Coast in this country, which is due to the mountains which are crossing the centre of the country. The mountains in this case are a natural wall which stops the rain gathering from the Caribbean Sea.

The best times for going to Panama

If you are interested in cultural events the best time to go is between January and April, when the famous Carnival is being celebrated, especially in Panama City, Penisula Azuero, Playa Vela. In case you would like to observe the wild-life the rainy season may be favorable to see humpbacks, wales or the leatherback turtles who choose beaches. Humid season is also good if you want to avoid crowds which are mainly between in December and mid-April, you can also enjoy the reasonable prices of the hotels.

Tourist Season in Panama:

  • High Season: September, October and November
  • Very high season: January, February, March, April and December
  • Low Season: May-August

Time difference

Panama has only one time zone EST (UTC−5). The time difference with London is 6h and with Central European countries it is a 7h difference.

Phone and Internet

It is possible to use your mobile phone in Panama. From the main phone providers Cable & Wireless, Movistar and Claro you can for example purchase a SIM Card for less than 4 € 42 and easily communicate via WhatsApp, Facetime, Messenger etc. you can easily top up your phone online.

For international calls:

– From the UK to Panama 00 + 507 + city code + number of the correspondent.
– From Panama to the UK: 00 + 44 + number of the correspondent.

The 911 call center provides an ambulance service, however public ambulances might not always be available and with traffic jams and poor road conditions, they might take too long to be of use. There are also private ambulance services people can use: emi or vive.

The Hotspots in Panama which you cannot miss

Discover all the must-see Travel destinations in Panama

Entry Requirements for Panama

Panama allows tourists to stay in the country for 90 days without a VISA. It is sufficient to hold a European Passport which must be valid min. 6 months at the arrival day. Too see if you require a VISA, contact the Embassy of Panama in your country or visit immigration and naturalization office. Tourists who are willing to stay longer than 90 days must apply for a tourist extension called prórroga de turista. In order to be apply for prórroga de turista you need to go to the immigration office. Who is eligible for an extension, however, is also debatable. It’s also a hassle to get an extension. Nevertheless, when entering as a tourist you are not allowed to undertake a paid activity. When immigrating as a tourist without working a Visa you can only do an unpaid internship. For all paid activities/remunerated internships a Visa is mandatory. The Visa must be requested from the Panamanian Embassy in your country prior to your departure.

Warning: In case of entering through the US it is mandatory to have an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). The registration for the Travel Authorization can be made online via their website. The ESTA registration costs 14USD (11€71) and is valid for 2 years. It is recommended to register for the ESTA at least 72h before the departure (Minimum response time). If purchasing the ESTA at the airport through an agency the costs amount to 50 Euros.

Useful contact

British Embassy
Humboldt Tower, 4th Floor
Calle 53, Marbella
Panama City
Panama

Tel: (507) 297 6550
E-mail: panama.consulate@fco.gov.uk

Website: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/british-embassy-panama-city

Local information

Stay tuned about exhibitions, concerts and events, local restaurants and transportation and start feeling like a local in no time through these helpful and free apps: Waze, PTY Cards, Degusta Duolingo, Panama is Culture. For more information about these apps follow this link.

Homesick?

Join Facebook groups of travelers and expats.

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