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Fuerte Amador/Panama City Basics

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Panama City
©2008 Juvntus, under cc-by-sa license

Panama City's island of Fuerte Amador is located on the west side of the city, adjacent to the Pacific Coast entrance to the Panama Canal. You'll actually land at the Flamenco Island Marina on Flamenco Island. This is a high-end area of the city, which is to all appearances a prosperous place of almost 900,000 people. The city is surrounded by a large belt of tropical rainforest.

Panama's dollar-based economy rests primarily on a well-developed services sector that accounts for three-quarters of the country's GDP. Services include operating the Panama Canal, logistics, banking, the Colon Free Zone, insurance, container ports, flagship registry and tourism. In 2009, the GNP per capital was a healthy $11,700.

Panama City has a tropical wet and dry climate, and it almost always feels hot and humid. No matter the season, the daily high and low temperatures remain surprisingly constant throughout the year. Daily highs generally range from the low- to mid-90s F, while the overnight lows range from the mid-60s to 70° F.

Panama Map


First Impressions


As your ship approaches Panama Bay, Panama City looms in the distance like the emerald city of Oz, what with all the skyscrapers that abound in the downtown area. If you're arriving in the evening, the city is even more spectacular with the illumination of the lights of the city.

Your ship will lay anchor in the bay, and your ship's tenders will take you to shore at the Flamenco Island Marina on Flamenco Island, an island that sits adjacent to the Panama Canal. From here, it's just a 10 minute taxi ride to downtown Panama City.

Some people say that Miami is the capital of Latin America. And to an extent, that's true. But Panama City gives Miami a run for the money. With a dollar-based economy, it's a lot cheaper in Panama. Shopping is the national sport here. You won't find too many deals on internationally-branded goods, but domestically-made clothing is cheap, and there are some interesting souvenirs that you can bring back home. The shopping malls here are a great way to both exercise your shopping gene and escape the ever-present heat and humidity.

Panamanians are conservative dressers; men always wear long pants, women wear dresses or slacks, and adults never wear tennis shoes. Most people wear business attire in town, so take that into consideration. If you're wearing shorts and polo shirts, you'll be conspicuous and announcing that you're a gringo.

It's easy to get around Panama City by taxi; they're everywhere. Taxi drivers think that gringos are crazy, because they almost always overpay for a ride. We give you a set of rules on the use of taxis in our On Your Own section; follow those, and you'll be good to go in Panama City.

There's a sense of French influence in parts of Panama City. The city's Casco Viejo neighborhood has a feel of the French tropics in its architecture. Maybe it's because the French set up shop in Panama City and tried for 20 years to build a canal; in the event, they didn't get very far. When the Americans bought out the French canal company, they got it done in 10 years, but they remained in Panama in charge of the Canal Zone for an additional 85 years. No matter. All in all, the locals are friendly and helpful, although only about 15% of them speak English.

One of the last things that you may want to do on your visit to Panama City is have a drink in one of the bars on Flamenco Island. With a nice sea breeze wafting through the open air bars, you'll enjoy your drink as you take in the spectacular skyline of Panama City. Then you'll board your ship's tender and make your way back to your ship.

Bridge of the Americas
©2011 Suizita, under cc-by-sa license

Time Zone


Panama City is on Eastern Time, six hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time during standard time. Panama does not observe daylight savings time.

 

Language


Spanish is universally spoken in Panama City; many of the shopkeepers catering to tourists also speak English.



Currency


Currency

The Balboa is Panama's official currency, with one Balboa equivalent to one US Dollar. In reality, Balboas only exist as coins that are equivalent to their US counterparts.

Banks and ATMs

ATM machines in Panama City can be found at the following locations:

  • HSBC: HSBC has a number of ATMs in Panama City, including at Plaza 5 de Mayo; at the corner of Via Espana and Avenida Aquilino de la Gardia, in the Banking district; at Avenida 2a Sur and Calle 55 Este; on Calle Balboa in Amador, and at the Albrook, Muilticentro and Multiplaza Pacific Malls.

  • BAC: Regional bank BAC has a number of ATMs in Panama City, including at the Stanford Hotel, across from the 5 de Mayo Plaza; at the Continental Hotel; and on Avenida Aquilino de la Guardia, one block from the Pan American Highway.

  • Caja de Ahorros: This local bank has a number of ATMs in Panama City, including on Calle Balboa in Amador; and on the Pan American Highway and Avenida Central.

See our Fuerte Amador/Panama City ATM map for the locations of the above ATMs.

Using US Dollars in Panama City

You'll be using US dollars in your explorations of Panama.

fx rates

Weather


Panama City has a tropical wet and dry climate, and it almost always feels hot and humid. Like other cities in the tropics, Panama City's climate is bi-seasonal, with both a Dry Season, which lasts from January through April, and the Rainy Season, which lasts from May through December.

No matter the season, the daily high and low temperatures remain surprisingly constant throughout the year. Daily highs generally range from the low- to mid-90s F, while the overnight lows range from the mid-60s to 70° F.

In general, rainfall is much heavier on the Caribbean than on the Pacific side of the continental divide. The annual average in Panama City is little more than half of that in Colon.

Although rainy-season thunderstorms are common, the country is outside the hurricane belt.


Panama City Average Temperatures

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg High - F 92 94 95 96 94 93 93 93 91 91 91 92
Avg High - C 33 34 35 35 35 34 34 34 33 33 33 33
Avg Low - F 65 65 65 67 70 70 70 70 70 69 69 67
Avg Low - C 19 18 18 20 21 21 21 21 21 21 20 19

Panama City Average Precipitation

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg, Inches 1.2 0.4 0.5 2.5 8.9 9.3 6.6 8.7 10.0 13.0 9.9 4.1
Avg, mm 29 10 13 65 225 235 169 220 254 331 252 105
Days w/ rain 3 1 1 5 15 16 14 15 17 20 16 8

Orchid

Keeping In Touch


Internet Cafes & Wi-Fi Access

Panama City is a regional hub for telecommunications traffic, and the internet speeds in the city are very high. Cyber Cafes are plentiful in Panama City, as are sites with Wi-Fi. The following is a list of Internet Cafes in Panama City:

  • Cyber @ljan, on Via Espana in front of the Hotel Continental, in the Banking District. Open Monday through Saturday, 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. They have 15 computers available, along with a printer and scanner. Use charges are $2 per hour. Phone: (507) 264-9864.

  • Coffee Net, on Calle 56 Este, in the Banking District. This cyber cafe offers internet access along with delicious coffee. Open daily from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.

  • Internet y Copias, on Via Espana, in front of the entrance to Ulacit. Open 9:00 am to past 10:00 pm. They've got 20 computers, a printer and scanner. Use charges are $1.50 per hour. Phone: (507) 224-3462.

  • YMCA Business Center (Asociacion Cristiana de Jovenes), on Calle Balboa, in Amador. They've got internet access and other services available. Phone: (507) 262-9638

  • Wyndham Garden Hotel, on Calle 58 Este Obario, offers free Wi-Fi in all of their public areas, as well as a 24-hour business center. Phone: (507) 212-5700

  • Country Inns & Suites, Avenida Amador Ave and Avenida Pelicano, in Amador. They've got free Wi-Fi Internet access in all public areas, as well as wired internet access in their business center. Phone: (507) 211-4500.

See our Fuerte Amador/Panama City Internet Cafes & Wi-Fi Hotspot Map for the locations of the above internet access points.

Cellular Phone & Data Services

Travelers with American cell phones and wireless devices should be aware that their carriers will add a variety of international roaming charges when their phones or data devices are used in Colombia. Check with your carrier for the precise details. Roaming charges for calls back home and data are really expensive in Panama.

Verizon

Cell service: Verizon users must use a quad-band GSM phone when calling from Panama City.
Data services: Through its partners, Verizon offers 3G coverage in Panama City when using a UMTS-capable device with an active SIM card and global plan.
See details on Verizon's cell and data services pricing and coverage maps.

ATT Wireless

Cell service: AT&T's GSM service in Panama City is provided by Claro, Digicel and Cable & Wireless.
Data services: AT&T offers EDGE service in Panama City through its partners (see above).
See details on AT&T's cell and data services coverage maps.

Sprint

Cell service: Sprint's users must use a quad-band GSM phone when calling from Panama City.
Data services: Through its partners Claro and Digicel, Sprint offers 2G GPRS coverage in Panama City when using a UMTS-capable device with an active SIM card and global plan.
See details on Sprint's cell and data services coverage maps.

T Mobile

Cell service: T-Mobile's GSM service in Panama City is provided by Claro, Telefonica and Cable & Wireless.
Data services: T-Mobile offers 2G service in Panama City through the above partners.
See details on T-Mobile's cell and data services pricing.

Kindle Connectivity

In Panama City, you can download your Kindle 3G data through AT&T's Whispernet 3G coverage in the city.

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Samsung Galaxy S III

Local Holidays & Festivals in Panama


Look for the following local festivals, holidays and events taking place in Panama City in 2014:

  • Ano Nuevo (New Year's Day), January 1. National holiday celebrated with dances and fiestas.

  • Dia de los Martires (Martyr's Day), January 13. A national holiday holiday that commemorates the people who died during the January 9, 1964 riots over sovereignty of the Panama Canal Zone.

  • Carnaval Monday (Shrove Monday), March 3. Bank holiday prior to the celebration of Carnaval on Tuesday the 4th.

  • Carnaval (Mardis Gras), March 4. Panama City's Carnaval is a big deal. The party actually begins on the 9th, and culminates on Tuesday the 4th. While all of Panama gets into the Carnaval mood, the biggest party is held in Panama City.

  • Maundy Thursday, April 17. A bank holiday.

  • Good Friday, April 18. Both a religious and secular holiday in Panama.

  • Primero de Mayo (Labor Day), May 1. A national holiday.

  • Separacion de Panama de Colombia (Separation or Independence Day), November 3. Commemorates Panama's separation from Colombia in 1903 with the writing of the Acta de Independencia del Istmo, declaring what was then a province of Colombia to be an independent and sovereign nation called The Republic of Panama.

  • Flag Day, November 4. A government and bank holiday, commemorating the unfurling of the new Panamanian flag, which was designed while plans to become a nation were still secret.

  • Commemoracion Patriotica en la Ciudad de Colon (Colon Day), November 5. Celebrates the day in 1903 that Panamanian officials bribed Colombian forces stationed in Colon not to fight Panama's separation from Colombia.

  • Primer Grito de Independencia de la Villa de los Santos (Los Santos Uprising Day), November 10. A national holiday celebrating the uprising that took place in the town of Santos, in which the people called for separation from Spain.

  • Independencia de Panama de Espana (Independence Day), December 1. Panamanians celebrate the country's official independence from Spain in 1821.

  • Dia de la Madre (Mother's Day), December 8. Mothers Day in Panama is a big deal; it's a holiday during which many people have the day off from work, banks and government are shut down and the retailers prepare for the Christmas shopping rush.

  • Navidad (Christmas Day), December 25. A public and religious holiday celebrating the birth of Christ.
La Pollera Dancer

Fuerte Amador Cruise Port Schedules


Fuerte Amador (Panama City) is a boutique port of call; ships arrive here before or after their Panama Canal transits. As a rule, the cruise lines visit Fuerte Amador from late October through April.

In 2014, Fuerte Amador is slated to host 12,000 passengers sailing on 7 ships, down 48% and 53%, respectively, from 2013. For further information, see our Fuerte Amador Cruise Ship Schedule - 2014.

Howler monkey

Cruise Lines Making Port in Fuerte Amador


The following cruise lines will make port in Fuerte Amador/Panama City in 2014:

Princess Holland America
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