Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Panama City, the capital of Panama, is a blend of a very modern city and a Spanish Colonial town separated by a harbor that is the Pacific-side entrance to the Panama Canal. If you look across the water from the colonial to the modern side, it looks very much like the view of Central from Hong Kong’s Typhoon Harbor. You have to pass through Panama City to get to the airport for Bocas del Toro, as the airport serving Panama’s interior is separate from the larger international airport.
One of the trips that tourists go on once they arrive at Port Colón 2000 is to travel by train to Panama City.
Demography of Panama
Most of the population is of mestizo origins, descendants of Indian, African and Spanish heritages, although there is great ethnic diversity.
The population density is evident along the coastal region of the Gulf of Panama, particularly on the Azuero Peninsula, and in the metropolitan areas of Panama City and Colón. A high degree of urban development in recent years has attracted a growing urban population, currently representing 59% of the total country population. The fertility rate is one of the lowest in Central America, with an average of 2.6 children per woman.
3,405,813 (July 2010 est.)
Distribution by age
0-14 years: 28.6% (male 504,726/ female 484,291)
15-64 years: 64.2% (male 1,123,777/ female 1,098,661)
65 years and over: 7.2% (male 115,425/ female 133,582) (2011 est.).
1.435% (2011 est.).
19.43 births /1,000 people (2011 est.).
4.65 deaths/1,000 people (July 2011 est.).
Net migration rate
-0.42 Migrant (s) / 1,000 people (2011 est.).
Distribution by sex
At birth: 1.045 male (s) / female
Uunder 15: 1.04 male (s) / female
15-64 years: 1.02 male (s) / female
65 years and over: 0.87 male (s) / female
Total population: 1.02 male (s) / female (2011 est.).
Panama has a tropical climate. Temperatures are relatively high and vary little throughout the year. The temperatures are usually lower on the Pacific than on the Caribbean coast.
Panama City: Temperatures range from 24° C (75.2° F) to 35° C (95° F).
Highlands: Temperatures are usually lower and more constant, hovering around 23° C (73.4° F).
Beaches: Temperatures are hot, averaging 31° C (87.8° F).
The Republic of Panama is a large isthmus strip with a total area of 75,517 km², and 2,210 km² of surface waters, reaching 78,200 km² of total territory. The country is located in Central America at 7° 11' longitude and 9° 37' north latitude.
Main cities and geographical features of Panama. Panama is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea and to the south by the Pacific Ocean. Panama shares its eastern border with the Republic of Colombia, and is bordered on the west by the Republic of Costa Rica. Borders: 555 km in total, of which 225 km are with Colombia and 330 km with Costa Rica. Costs: 2,490 km It is politically divided into 9 provinces and 5 indigenous regions.
Panama's two coastlines are referred to as the Caribbean coast and the Pacific coast, and less frequently described as the North and South coasts, respectively. To the east is Colombia and Costa Rica is to the west. Due to the location and contours of the country, the directions shown on he compass can be surprising. For example, a trip through the Panama Canal from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean implies travel not east, but to the northwest, and in Panama City the sunset is to the east over the Pacific Ocean.
Pacific coastal waters are extraordinarily low. A depth of 180 meters is reached only once outside the perimeters of either the Gulf Darien or the Gulf of Chiriquí, and wide mud flats extend up to 70 kilometers seaward from the coast. As a result, the tidal range is extreme. There is a variation of about 70 centimeters between high and low tide, and on the Caribbean coast the contrasts are sharp with more than 7 m on the Pacific coast. Approximately 130 miles above the river Tuira the amplitude still exceeds 5 m.
Most of the Panamanian territory consists of lowlands (70%). The majority of Panama's population lives in these warm low-lying lands. This category includes the southern lowlands and plains, the hills and plains of the Central Isthmus, the eastern depressions and the northern plains and lowlands. The remaining 30% of Panama territory is highlands. These lands are composed of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. To this group belong Barú Volcano, the Central mountain range, the Northern Eastern Arch, the Southern Eastern Arch, Southern Massif and Volcanic Chain.
Panama is divided into 9 provinces, 75 districts, 621 municipalitys and the following 5 indigenous reserves: Guna Yala, Ngäbé-Bugle, Emberá-Wounaán, Madungandí y Wargandí.
Bocas del Toro Province. Capital: Bocas del Toro, located on Colón island and divided into 3 districts. The province is constituted by nine main islands. Its land is suitable for growing bananas and cocoa.
Population: 125,461 inhabitants (2010 census ).
Size: 4,643.9 km².
Coclé Province. The capital is Penonomé and has 6 districts: Natá, La Pintada, Olá, Aguadulce, Antón and Penonomé.
Population: 233,708 inhabitants (2010 census).
Size: 4,927.4 km ². The land is suitable for agriculture and raising livestock.
Colón Province. Its capital is Colón and is divided into the following five districts: Donoso, Chagres, Colón, Portobelo and Santa Isabel, and also into 91 municipalities. It is considered a commercial city for having a Duty-Free Zone and the Panama Canal.
Population: 241,928 inhabitants (2010 census).
Size: 4,868.4 km².
Chiriquí Province. The capital is David and it is divided into 13 districts and 91 municipalities. The 13 districts are: Alanje, Barú, Boquerón, Boquete, Bugaba, David, Dolega, Gualaca, Remedios, Renacimiento, San Félix, San Lorenzo and Tolé.
Population: 416,873 inhabitants (201 census).
Size: 6,547.7 km².
Darién Province. The capital is La Palma and it is the largest and the least populated province. It has two districts: Chepigana and Pinogana.
Population: 48,378 inhabitants (2010 census).
Size: 11,896.5 km².
Herrera Province. Its capital is Chitré and has 6 districts: Las Minas, Los Pozos, Ocú, Parita, Pesé and Santa María, as well as 44 municipalities.
Population: 109,955 inhabitants (2010 census).
Size: 2,340.7 km².
Los Santos Province. Its capital is Las Tablas, and it has 79 municipalities and 7 districts: Guararé, Las Tablas, Los Santos, Macaracas, Pedasí, Pocrí and Tonosí.
Population: 89,592 inhabitants (census 2010).
Size: 3,804.6 km ².
Panama Province. Its capital is Panama and has 11 districts: Arraiján, Balboa,Capira, Chame, Chepo, San Carlos,San Miguelito, Taboga, La Chorrera, Panamá and Chimán, and 97 municipalitys.
Population: 1,713,070 inhabitants (2010 census).
Size: 11,670.92 km².
Veraguas Province. Its capital is Santiago and has 85 municipalities and 12 districts: Atalaya, Calobre, Cañazas, La Mesa, Las Palmas, Mariato, Montijo, Río de Jesús, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Santiago and Soná.
Population: 226,991 inhabitants (2010 census).
Size: 10,629.6 km².
Guna Yala Indigenous Region. Its capital is El Porvenir.
Population: 33,109 inhabitants (2010 census).
Size: 2,340.7 km².
Emberá-Wounaan Indigenous Region. Its capital is Unión Chocó.
Population: 10,001 inhabitants (2010 census).
Size: 4,383.5 km².
Ngäbe-Bugle Indigenous Region. Its capital is Buadidi.
Population: 156,747 inhabitants ( 2010 census).
Size: 6,968 km²
Panama owns a cultural multiplicity that makes it unique in the region, one of the biggest contributors to this cultural richness is the constant presence of visitors from all parts of the world. The origin of this singular cultural mix is without a doubt the crossroads characteristic of the country. In addition, the intense connection of Panama with the sea makes it very similar to an island of the Caribbean.
Being a point of contact and a crossing site, this small strip of land is considered a true crucible of races. With almost 3 and a half million inhabitants, its population is compounded 67% of mestizos (amerindian with targets) and mulatos (white with black), 14% blacks, 10% whites, amerindian 6% (indigenous) and a 3% of people are from varied ethnic origins. This mixture is particularly rich, because although it comes from cultural origins and very diverse traditions, the mixture has been stimulated by the atmosphere of tolerance and harmony that always has reigned in the territory.
Although the free religious creed is respected, the population of the country mainly professes catholicism, this religion is deeply bound to the traditions and cultural expressions. In the interior of the country, for example, the greatest celebrations are related to diverse saints. These saints are even denominated as the owners of different towns. One of the greatest celebrations relating to cultural and catholic beliefs is the Carnival of Panama. The Carnival is a massive celebration of four days that precedes to the Cuaresma.
La Pollera is the name used in Latin America and Spain for a type of skirt and dress that is characterized by its elaborate decorations. The skirts are made of different materials like cotton or wool, and are often colorfully decorated using various techniques, commonly embroidery and lace with floral designs.
It is believed that the pollera skirt was derived from a Spanish dress in the 16th or 17th century. It was passed down to women in the middle and lower classes as a simpler and easier version in which to do their daily chores or go to their regional celebrations. In many Latin American countries it is currently used as a folk costume. Whereas in some countries it refers to just the skirt portion, in Panama the entire dress is called pollera.
Panama's National Symbols
The Symbols of the Nation, also known as 'national symbols' are the elements representative of the Republic of Panama. They are recognized not only domestically, but also abroad as synonyms to both Panama and the Panamanian nationality.
The origin of the term comes from Article 6 of the 1941 Panama National Constitution, "The symbols of the Nation are: the anthem, flag and coat of arms." In addition to this declaration, the same Article 6 in a subsequent Panama National Constitution in 1946 amended that: "The symbols of the Nation are: the anthem, flag and coat of arms adopted prior to the year 1941." This suggests that the second version of the flag of Panama, the coat of arms and the national anthem were already officially recognized before that year and ratified in 1941. The Harpy Eagle was declared the National Bird of the Republic of Panama under Law 18 on April 10, 2002.
Panama's economy is one of the most stable in America. The main economic activities are financial, tourism and logistics, which represent 75% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). From 2003 to 2009 the GDP doubled, propelled by high foreign and domestic investment, coupled with the tourism and logistics industries. According to the Bank, the IMF and the UN, the country has the highest per capita income in Central America, which is about $13,090; it is also the largest exporter and importer at the regional level, according to ECLAC. The GDP has enjoyed a sustained growth for more than twenty years in a row (1989). The country is classified in the category of investment grade by these rcredit rating companies: Standard and Poor's, Moody's and Fitch Ratings.Taxes in Panama
According to Act 8 of March 15, 2010, which amended the Fiscal Code, the air, sea and land transportation companies, as well as passengers, shall pay ITBMS tax. In Panama, 7% of ITBMS is charged on public entertainment, events, seminars, conferences, lectures and artistic, professional and sport presentations in general that are not free and whose annual incomes are over $36,000. The importation and sale of alcoholic beverages, as well as hotel or lodging services, jewelry and weapons will pay 10 percent of ITBMS. Tobacco derivatives (such as cigarettes, cigars, and snuff) will pay 15% of ITBMS. Cable TV, microwave, satellite and mobile phones will pay 5% of ITMBS.
Electricity: 110 volts; 60 cycles.
Government and Politics
The Republic of Panama is an independent and sovereign State, located in its own territory, from which individual and social rights are observed and respected, and where the will of the majority is represented by the free right to vote.
The public power emanates from the people and is exercised by three bodies: legislative, executive, and judicial. In their separation they are harmonized, united in cooperation and limited by the classic system of checks and balances.
There are three independent organizations whose responsibilities are clearly defined in the Political Constitution:
• The Comptroller General of the Republic has the obligation to oversee public funds.
• The Electoral Tribunal has to guarantee freedom, honesty and effectiveness of the popular vote.
• The Public Ministry oversees the interests of the State and its municipalities.
Panama's political institutions
The 1972 Political Constitution of Panama, as amended by the Reformatory Acts of 1978 and the Constitutional Act of 1983, presents a unitary, republican, democratic and representative government.
Formed by the president of the Republic and ministers of state. The President shall be elected by direct universal suffrage for a period of five years, and in the same manner the vice president will be elected (Title VI, Chapter 1, Political Constitution of the Republic of Panama).
Responsible for administering constant, free and rapid justice. The judicial branch consists of the Supreme Justice Court, the Courts and Judges established by law under the Political Constitution of the Republic of Panama (Title VII, Chapter 1).
It consists of an organization called the National Assembly of Panama (formerly called Legislative Assembly) and its main activity is issuing laws. The National Assembly shall be formed by Representatives (formerly called legislators) chosen through party candidacy and direct popular vote to serve for a period of 5 years (Title V, Chapter 1, Political Constitution of the Republic of Panama.)
Religion in Panama
Religion in Panama is covered by the Constitution of Panama, which establishes the freedom of worship. Although with some reservations, the government generally respects this right.
The Panamanian government does not collect statistics on religious affiliation of citizens, but various sources estimate that 75 to 85 percent of the population identifies as Roman Catholic and between 15 to 25 percent identify as Evangelical Christian. The Baha'i community in Panama includes 2% of the population, with approximately 60,000 members, including about 10% of the population Ngöbe. One of the seven Bahá'í Houses of Worship in the world is in Panama. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, have about 40,000 members in Panama.
Among the religious groups with lower numbers of followers, we have the Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Anglicanism Episcopalians with between 7,000 and 10,000 members, Islam communities with approximately 10,000 members each, Hindu, Buddhists, and other Christians. The indigenous religions include Ibeorgun of the people Mamatata of the Ngöbe. We can also find isolated pockets of the community Rastafari.
Panama City has always been an accessible shopping paradise where you can choose the price of the product you want. What's more, imagine the most sophisticated and exclusive article from the most distant country, and you will find it here.
Panama's currency is called the Balboa (PAB). One Balboa is the equivalent of 100 cents. There are no paper bills in Panama; all local currency is in coins, in denominations of PAB1 and 10, and in 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents. American dollars were first accepted as currency in 1904 and are still used today, along with the local currency of Balboas.
The shopping hours vary, but most stores, warehouses and shopping malls are open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Some even stay open until 10:00 pm from Monday to Sunday.
Credit cards are an accepted form of payment in all cases, including Visa, American Express, Master Card and Dinner Club. The U.S. dollar, in free circulation and joint legal tender with the national currency, is also always accepted.
However, the city's clubs and bars are governed by the famed "Carrot Law," which stipulates that all businesses that sell liquor must close their doors by 2:00 am.
The waiters at the best restaurants in Panama City and in resort cities will expect to receive a 10% tip. Tipping is not required in small cafes and more casual places, though it is always appreciated. The bell hoppers are tipped a minimum of 50 cents per suitcase.
Health and Medical Emergencies
If an emergency occurs or you need health care during your visit to our country, the following.
Major hospitals and clinics operate emergency rooms and provide medical services nationwide:
San Fernando Hospital Clinic
Address: Vía España, Panama City
San Fernando Coronado Clinic, Coronado (beach area)
We are open Sunday through Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 pm, and 24 hours on Saturday.
Punta Pacifica Hospital
Address: Boulevard Pacífica and Vía Daríen
Paitilla Medical Center
Ave. Balboa and 53rd Street
Emergency: 507-207-8110 / 207-8136 306-3310
Address: Ave. Cuba, between 38th and 39th Streets
América Doctor's Office
Address: Vía España, Carrasquilla
San Judas Tadeo Doctor's Office
Address: Villa Lucre, Vía Domingo Díaz
Santa Fe Hospital
Address: Avenue Frangipani and Simón Bolívar, Panama City, República de Panamá
Numbers to Call in Case of an Emergency in Panama
Números de Urgencia
Fire Station 103
Civil Protection *335
Social Security 503-2532
Red Cross *455
Public Medical Emergencies
Santo Tomás 507-5600
Tocumen International 238-2700
Marcos A. Gelabert (Albrook) 501-9272
Yellow Pages Phone Directory
|Western Metropolitan Police Station (Chorrera)||253-3333|
|Western Metropolitan Police Station - Bethania||511-9373|
|Western Metropolitan Police Station - San Francisco||511-9399|
|Western Metropolitan Police Station - Parque Lefevre||511-9409|
|Eastern Metropolitan Police Station - Tocumen||295-1020|
|Eastern Metropolitan Police Station - Don Bosco||511-9460|
|Northern Metropolitan Police Station - Alcalde Díaz||268-7489|
|Eastern Panama Police Station - Chepo||296-8629|
|San Miguelito Police Station||234-1415|
|Canal Area Police Station||317-9142-3179150|
|Colón Police Station||475-7033|
|Veraguas Police Station||9982119|
|Herrera Police Station||910-1139|
|Coclé Police Station||997-8451-9978496|
|Darién Police Station||299-6338|
|Los Santos Police Station||994-8874|
|Bocas del Toro Police Station||758-8279|
|Chiriquí Police Station||7303728-7304797|
Banking Areas and ATMs
Panama's banking system has over 1,150 ATMs, with the majority located in the metropolitan area and the rest found in supermarkets and malls throughout the provinces.
There are over 20,000 terminals located in the sale centers of various products, which gives the visitor the possibility of making transactions with the utmost confidence upon purchasing items.
The Clave system has an international connection with the VISA and MasterCard networks through more than one million ATMs worldwide in approximately 200 countries.
NATIONWIDE ATM FINDER
An online database can be used to search for banking centers and find an ATM location, whether in the metropolitan area or in the country's interior provinces, for greater ease when making a transaction.
The advantages of our country's current banking center include:
Services offered by the banking centers:
- Exchange of currency and precious metals
- Customs and banking guarantees
- Reimbursement of Letters of Credit issued by other banks
- Discounts on promissory notes and bills on the short term
- Syndication of loans, banking terms
- Investment portfolio management, purchase and sale of bonds, stocks and mutual funds
Banks with the widest coverage of ATMs
St. Georges Bank
Cirrus and Plus Systems
These systems are clearly marked on the ATMs and allow you to perform transactions such as withdrawals and balance inquiries, since they are affiliated with this network.
Just remember that the bank will immediately charge a fee or commission to the card as a percentage of every transaction that takes place.
The main advantage is that you can withdraw cash directly from your personal debit cards and use them wherever you travel. You can also keep track of your funds and avoid standing in lines to get cash.
The Cirrus network has more than a million ATMs located in over 210 countries.
Across the nation, banks in Panama commonly situate their ATMs behind supermarket chains, which can be found in the majority of the provinces, as well as in malls and shopping plazas. In addition, most of the banks are represented with an office in the provinces.
The following link shows a global ATM locator for MasterCard.
Pasaporte y visa
Licencia de Conducir: los visitantes pueden manejar hasta 90 días con licencia extranjera.
Media and Mobile Network
Panama has numerous forms of media that keep citizens and visitors up to date with the latest information.
We have newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television stations and online media, which are increasingly popular today. Web pages are the new face of media that provide all the digital and up-to-date content that you seek daily. By simply typing the website address or link, you will be able to learn, download, discover, purchase, register, sell or virtually visit destinations of interest.
The National Government of the Republic of Panama provides online access to everyone through their project called INTERNET FOR ALL. The National Internet Network for All puts Panama on the vanguard in Latin America. This project is one of the pillars and the model to implement free WiFi systems of wireless internet access.
The 328 free connection points across Panama can be located at the following page:
This network can be accessed at the following places:
INFORMATION ON MOBILE DEVICES
You can activate programs, buy accessories and request technical support at the numerous stores nationwide that offer customer service centers for mobile network providers.
The following providers have kiosks within the major supermarket chains in Panama to sell phone devices.
Recharge your call credit with Prepaid and Data services at the same supermarkets, or at many smaller grocery stores, general stores and shops.
If you are interested in mobile services:
Travelers may be interested in activating the roaming service, which is offered by most providers and allows you to use your phone line without having to change the number you have designated in your country.
You can make phone calls, receive calls, send and receive text messages and operate other functions by using the application already installed on your device.
Simply activate the WiFi icon.
Each operator charges a fee for using this feature when the user is abroad, based on their plan or coverage.
Passport and Visa
Drivers license: Visitors may drive with international licenses for 90 days during their visit.
When entering the country, you must show the following documents to the Inspector of the National Office of Immigration and Naturalization:• Passport with visa, valid for at least 6 months (if necessary)
If your country does not appear on this list, you can obtain a tourist visa in the Panamanian consulate in your country. In case you need a tourist card to enter Panama, you may purchase one for $5.00 from the airline when you check-in your luggage. If it is not sold there, one can be purchased from the Immigration Authority upon arrival at the national airport .
The tourist card is valid for 30 days. If you choose to stay longer, request an extension 7 days prior to the expiration of the first 30 days at the migration office. For more information visit: www.migracion.gob.pa
In order to be able to drive in Panama, just like anywhere else in the world, a license is required. To obtain your license, you must attend 36 hours of theory classes and 20 hours of driving supervised by an agent (regardless of age or experience in other countries). This is the procedure for immigrants who wish to stay longer than 3 months in Panama.
If your stay will be shorter, the driver's license from your country of origin is sufficient. As specified in article 110 of Traffic Regulations: Foreigners who enter the Republic of Panama as tourists cannot obtain a driving license or permit, and may only drive with a valid license from their country of origin for a period of ninety ( 90) days; if the visit is extended, they are still not allowed to obtain a driving license or permit.
Depending on the type of license (if for the first time, a duplicate, etc), the procedures slightly vary, but in general, a foreigner planning to live in Panama for an indefinite time should follow these steps:Requirements - First time foreigner on temporary stay with license (only eligible for categories a, b, c, d)
1. Certify the license at the embassy or consulate of the country where the license was issued. For example, if the license is Venezuelan, the document should be brought to the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
2. Certify (apostille) the document at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama, located in Plaza. The cost is $2 dollars in tax stamps.
3. Present original and copy of current migration card.
4. Present original and copy of valid passport.
5. Present original and copy of valid foreign license.
6. Present blood type, assessed in laboratories approved by the Transit and Land Transport Authority (A.T.T.T.), if the foreign license does not indicate the blood type.
7. Take visual and auditory tests in the office where the driver's license is being requested.
8. Be in good standing with the A.T.T.T.
9. Pay B /. 40.00 in cash (including visual and auditory validation).
Payment is made in the A.T.T.T. branches located in Sertracen, where the license is processed. Cost $40 dollars for the license and accompanying tests.
If over 70 years old, you should bring a certificate of physical and mental health issued by a geriatric or internal medicine physician.
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