Getting To Know Panama
Geography and Population
The Republic of Panama occupies a narrow strip of land in Central America, extending between Costa Rica and Colombia. The Panama Canal bisects the isthmus at its narrowest and lowest point, allowing ship traffic from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Panama has a diverse topography, featuring a chain of mountains in the west, moderate hills in the interior, and a low range on the east coast. There are extensive forests in the fertile Caribbean area.
Panama's size is approximately 75,000 km² with an estimated total population of 3,300,000. Its capital is Panama City.
Panama is divided into nine provinces with their respective capitals. Each province is in turn divided into districts, municipalities and administrative units called corregidors. Our Roca Milagro project is near the village of Rovira Arriba, in the district of Dolega, province of Chiriqui. David, the capital of Chiriqui, is less than a thirty minute drive away and the famous town of Boquete is even closer in the opposite direction. The border to Costa Rica is about a thirty minute drive or so from David.
Panama is a constitutional Republic and is safe and stable. There is no standing army. Crime is low and visitors to the country are welcome. Needless to say, as is true anywhere else in the world, boorish behavior is resented. The pace of life is slow and relaxed. The Panamanian people are open and friendly.
Spanish is the official language of Panama but many Panamanians in larger cities speak passable or even excellent English.
Panama has a warm, wet, tropical climate. Unlike countries that are farther from the equator, Panama does not experience seasons marked by dramatic changes in temperature. Instead, Panama's seasons are divided into Wet and Dry.
The Dry Season generally usually begins around mid-December, Strong north-easterly "trade winds" begin to blow and little or no rain may fall for weeks. Daytime air temperatures increase slightly to around 30-31ºC (86-88ºF), but night-time temperatures are a relatively cool and comfortable around 22-23ºC (72-73ºF). Relative humidity drops throughout the season, reaching average values as low as 70%. The Roca Milagro development is at an elevation of 1,500 to 2,000 feet, so temperatures are a bit cooler and more comfortable than at sea level.
The Wet Season usually begins in early May or so. With the arrival of the rain, temperatures cool down a little during the day and the trade winds disappear. Forecasting day-to-day weather in Panama is difficult. There is always a 90% chance that it will be hot and sunny during the Dry Season and hot and humid with about a 40 to 50% chance of afternoon thunderstorms during the Rainy Season. No short-term weather forecast is more accurate than this.
The Panamanian currency is called the Balboa. It is at par with the US Dollar. Panama uses US paper currency but has its own coinage, with the same denominations, shape and size as US coinage. US coins are also accepted everywhere.
Panama's electrical grid covers the entire country; 110-volt AC is found nation-wide. Panama has an excellent telephone and communications system, probably the best in Latin American. There is potable water most everywhere in the country and it is safe to drink directly from the faucet.
Getting from Tocumen International Airport to downtown Panama City by taxi or limo will cost $20 - $24 or so. Make sure the taxi driver quotes you a firm rate before you accept a ride. In Panama City, taxis are inexpensive and almost constantly available. Fares vary according to the number of zones you travel. Going outside the city limits can cost up to US$10.00 but travelling inside the city usually doesn't cost more than a few dollars. Buses to the interior of the country are comfortable, air-conditioned and are very affordable.
Foreign driver’s licenses are valid for up to 90 days. The highway speed limit is 90 km/hr. Gas stations are easy to find on the Pan-American Highway except east from Panama City to the Darien area, towards Colombia.
Panamanians are very casual most of the time but a light suit is worn for business and for visits to government offices. Bring a bathing suit. Sun glasses are a good idea. Sunscreen lotion is essential. Although mosquitoes are not a huge problem in Panama, it is a good idea to bring some repellent if you plan on spending any time in some of the humid jungle areas.
If you visit the highlands of Chiriqui Province, bring a light sweater or jacket since it can be a little cooler in the evening and early morning. Good walking shoes are necessary for your excursions.