Is Panama City, Panama Safe To Visit?

If you’re planning a trip to Panama City, you may be wondering if it’s safe.
brown wooden bench near body of water during daytime
Photo by Juan Marin on Unsplash

Editorial Note: Earth Curious contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

If you’re considering travel to Panama, you may be wondering if Panama City is a safe destination. While every city has its share of crime and safety risks, don’t let fear keep you from experiencing all that this vibrant city has to offer. By understanding the safety reputation of Panama City and taking practical precautions while you explore, you can enjoy a safe and memorable trip to Panama.

Understanding Panama City’s Safety Reputation

Before you visit any city, it’s important to know the facts about its safety reputation. Panama City has a lower crime rate than many major cities in neighboring countries, such as Guatemala City or San Salvador. In general, tourists are less likely to be targeted for violence in Panama City than in cities like Paris or London. However, like any major city, there are still risks to be aware of.

Common misconceptions about Panama City

Many travelers assume that Panama City is rife with violent crime, drug trafficking, and gangs. While these are certainly issues in some parts of the city, they’re not as prevalent as many people think. In fact, Panama City’s tourism industry has grown in recent years, thanks in part to its reputation as a safe destination for travelers.

One reason for this misconception may be the city’s location. Panama is a small country that connects Central and South America, and it’s often associated with the drug trade and other illegal activities. However, Panama City itself is a bustling metropolis with a lot to offer visitors.

Another factor that contributes to Panama City’s safety reputation is the government’s efforts to combat crime. The National Police force has implemented a number of programs to reduce crime, including increased patrols in tourist areas and a crackdown on drug trafficking. The government has also invested in security cameras and other technology to help prevent crime.

Comparing Panama City to other Central American cities

When it comes to safety, Panama City stacks up well against other cities in the region. Cities like Tegucigalpa, Honduras or San Pedro Sula, Honduras have much higher levels of crime and violence. Countries like El Salvador and Guatemala also struggle with high levels of drug and gang-related violence. By comparison, Panama City is relatively safe.

One reason for this may be Panama’s economy. The country has a strong banking sector and a growing tourism industry, which has helped to create jobs and reduce poverty. As a result, there is less desperation and fewer people turning to crime as a means of survival.

Of course, it’s still important to take precautions when visiting Panama City. Travelers should be aware of their surroundings and avoid walking alone at night. It’s also a good idea to keep valuables out of sight and to use a hotel safe to store passports and other important documents.

Overall, though, Panama City is a safe and exciting destination that offers a unique blend of culture, history, and natural beauty. Whether you’re interested in exploring the Panama Canal, visiting the city’s museums and art galleries, or simply relaxing on a beautiful beach, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.

General Safety Tips for Travelers

While Panama City is generally considered safe, there are still precautions that travelers should take to stay safe while exploring the city. Panama City is a vibrant and bustling metropolis with a rich cultural heritage and a diverse range of attractions. From the historic Casco Viejo district to the modern skyscrapers of the financial district, there is something for everyone in this dynamic city.

Preparing for your trip

Before you leave for Panama City, it’s a good idea to research the areas of the city you plan to visit and the accommodations you plan to stay in. Panama City is a large city with many different neighborhoods, each with its own unique character. Some areas are more tourist-friendly than others, so it’s important to do your research and choose lodging in safe areas.

When packing for your trip, be sure to include appropriate clothing and footwear for the climate and the activities you plan to do. Panama City is hot and humid year-round, so lightweight, breathable clothing is recommended. If you plan to do a lot of walking or hiking, comfortable shoes are a must.

Keep important documents like your passport and travel insurance in a secure, easy-to-reach location, and make copies of these documents to bring with you. It’s also a good idea to leave copies of your important documents with a trusted friend or family member back home.

Staying safe while exploring Panama City

As you explore Panama City, it’s important to keep your wits about you. Be aware of your surroundings, and avoid isolated areas at night. Stick to well-lit, populated areas, and avoid flashing expensive electronics or large amounts of cash. If you’re traveling alone, consider joining a group tour to explore the city safely.

One of the best ways to stay safe while exploring Panama City is to be aware of the local customs and etiquette. Panamanians are generally friendly and welcoming to tourists, but it’s important to be respectful of their culture and way of life. Learn a few phrases in Spanish, the official language of Panama, and try to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Another way to stay safe is to be mindful of the weather. Panama City is located in a tropical climate, which means that it can rain heavily at times. Be sure to pack a raincoat or umbrella, and be aware of the potential for flash flooding in low-lying areas.

Dealing with emergencies

While you’re in Panama City, be sure to familiarize yourself with the local emergency services in case of any issues or accidents. Keep important phone numbers on hand, such as those for the local police and emergency services. Always travel with a charged phone and keep it on your person while exploring.

In case of a medical emergency, there are several hospitals and clinics in Panama City that cater to tourists. Be sure to have adequate travel insurance that covers medical expenses and emergency evacuation.

By following these general safety tips, you can enjoy all that Panama City has to offer while staying safe and secure.

Crime Rates in Panama City

Petty theft and pickpocketing

One of the most common safety risks for tourists in Panama City is petty theft. Pickpocketing and other types of theft can happen in crowded areas, on public transportation, or in tourist areas. To avoid becoming a victim, keep your valuables close and avoid carrying large amounts of cash. It’s also a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and to keep a low profile. This means not wearing flashy jewelry or showing off expensive gadgets.

Additionally, it’s important to know that pickpocketing is not always a solo act. Some thieves work in groups, with one person distracting the victim while the other steals their belongings. Be especially cautious in crowded areas such as markets and public transportation stations.

Violent crime statistics

While violent crime is relatively rare in Panama City, it does happen. Be cautious in isolated areas or neighborhoods where you may not be familiar with your surroundings. Avoid confrontations or arguments with locals, and always trust your instincts when it comes to danger. It’s also a good idea to research the areas you plan to visit ahead of time, so you can avoid any high-risk areas.

One way to stay safe is to travel with a group or with a reputable tour guide. This can help deter potential criminals and give you added peace of mind.

Scams targeting tourists

One traveler safety risk to be aware of is scams that target tourists. These can include taxi drivers who overcharge for rides or tour operators who take advantage of travelers’ lack of knowledge. If you’re unsure about a service or attraction, do your research first and ask for recommendations from your hotel or reputable travel guides.

Another common scam is the “friendly local” who offers to show you around or take you to a special attraction. While some locals may genuinely want to help tourists, others may have ulterior motives. Always be cautious when accepting help from strangers, and never give out personal information or payment unless you’re sure it’s legitimate.

Overall, Panama City is a relatively safe destination for tourists, but it’s important to take precautions and be aware of potential risks. By staying alert and informed, you can enjoy your trip without worrying about safety concerns.

Safe Neighborhoods and Areas to Avoid

Top safe neighborhoods for tourists

When it comes to finding safe areas to explore in Panama City, there are a few neighborhoods that are considered safer for tourists. Casco Viejo is a historic district that’s popular with travelers and known for its cultural attractions and colorful colonial buildings. The area is also home to many trendy cafes, bars, and restaurants, making it a great place to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a night out on the town. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront and enjoy stunning views of the city skyline.

El Cangrejo is another popular area, with many restaurants, cafes, and bars that cater to tourists. The neighborhood is known for its vibrant nightlife scene and is a great place to socialize and meet new people. Visitors can also explore the local markets and shops, which offer a variety of unique souvenirs and handmade crafts.

Areas to exercise caution

While Panama City is generally a safe destination, there are still areas of the city that travelers should avoid. Chorillo is a neighborhood known for high levels of crime and violence, and travelers are advised against visiting this area. It’s important to note that this neighborhood is undergoing significant redevelopment, and there are plans to improve safety and security in the area in the coming years.

The Tocumen International Airport can also be a security risk, so keep your belongings close as you navigate this area. Visitors should be aware of their surroundings and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuables.

Tips for navigating the city safely

To stay safe while navigating the city, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. Stick to well-lit areas and avoid traveling alone at night. Use reputable taxi or rideshare services when possible, and be cautious when accepting rides from strangers. When walking, be mindful of your belongings and keep your phone and wallet secure.

It’s also a good idea to research the local customs and culture before your trip. Learning a few key phrases in Spanish can go a long way in communicating with locals and navigating the city more effectively. Above all, trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

Health and Medical Safety

Vaccinations and health precautions

Before you travel to Panama, it’s important to prepare for any health or medical risks you may face. Ensure that you’re up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations and speak to your doctor about any further precautions you may need to take. In addition to the standard recommended vaccinations, such as measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), hepatitis A and B, and typhoid, it’s also recommended that travelers get vaccinated against yellow fever. This is especially important if you plan to visit remote areas in Panama, as yellow fever is prevalent in some parts of the country.

It’s also important to take precautions against mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika and dengue fever. These diseases are spread by mosquitoes that are most active during the day, so be sure to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, use insect repellent, and stay in air-conditioned or screened-in areas when possible.

Food and water safety

To avoid getting sick from contaminated food or water, take precautions like washing your hands frequently, avoiding tap water, and only eating food that’s been cooked thoroughly. It’s also a good idea to avoid raw or undercooked seafood, as well as fruits and vegetables that may have been washed in contaminated water.

If you’re unsure about the safety of a particular food or beverage, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid it. Stick to reputable restaurants and cafes, and avoid street vendors or markets where food may not be prepared in sanitary conditions.

Access to medical care in Panama City

If you do need medical care while in Panama City, rest assured that there are many reputable hospitals and clinics available to tourists. The Hospital Punta Pacífica and Hospital Nacional are two popular choices for foreign visitors. These hospitals offer a wide range of services, including emergency care, surgery, and specialized treatments.

In addition to these hospitals, there are also many private clinics and medical centers throughout the city. These facilities are staffed by highly trained doctors and nurses, many of whom speak English and are familiar with the needs of international patients.

It’s important to note that medical care in Panama can be expensive, especially for non-residents. Be sure to check with your insurance provider before traveling to ensure that you’re covered for any medical expenses you may incur while abroad.

Natural Disasters and Weather-Related Safety

Traveling to Panama City is an exciting adventure, but it’s important to be aware of the risks posed by natural disasters and extreme weather conditions. While these events are rare, it’s always better to be prepared for the unexpected.

Hurricane and Tropical Storm Risks

The rainy season in Panama City typically runs from May to November, and during this time, hurricanes and tropical storms can cause flooding, landslides, and other dangers. If you’re planning a trip during this season, it’s important to stay informed of weather alerts and take necessary precautions if a storm is approaching.

Some tips for staying safe during a hurricane or tropical storm include:

  • Stock up on food, water, and other essential supplies before the storm hits
  • Secure your home or hotel by boarding up windows and doors
  • Move to higher ground if you’re in a low-lying area
  • Avoid driving through flooded areas, as the water may be deeper than it appears
  • Stay indoors during the storm and avoid going outside until local officials give the all-clear

Earthquake and Volcanic Activity

Panama City is also at risk for seismic activity and volcanic eruptions. While these events are rare, it’s still a good idea to plan ahead in case of an emergency.

Some tips for staying safe during an earthquake or volcanic eruption include:

  • Know how to evacuate your hotel or other accommodations
  • Have a plan for communicating with loved ones if communication lines are disrupted
  • Stay away from windows and other objects that could fall or shatter
  • If you’re indoors during an earthquake, take cover under a table or other sturdy object until the shaking stops
  • Follow the instructions of local officials and emergency services

Tips for Staying Safe During Extreme Weather

Whether you’re dealing with a hurricane, earthquake, or other extreme weather event, it’s important to stay safe by following the instructions of local officials and emergency services.

Some additional tips for staying safe during extreme weather include:

  • Avoid flooded areas and move to higher ground if necessary
  • Stay indoors during the storm and avoid going outside until local officials give the all-clear
  • Keep a battery-powered radio and extra batteries on hand to stay informed of weather updates and emergency alerts
  • If you’re driving, slow down and use caution on wet or slippery roads
  • Make sure your phone is fully charged and have a backup power source, such as a portable charger, in case of a power outage

By taking these precautions and staying informed, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to Panama City, no matter what kind of weather you encounter.

Transportation Safety in Panama City

Public transportation safety

While Panama City does have a public transportation system, it can be overcrowded and sometimes unsafe. Be cautious when using buses or other public transportation, and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or wearing flashy jewelry or watches. Consider using a reputable taxi service instead.

It’s important to note that pickpocketing and theft are common occurrences on public transportation in Panama City. Keep your belongings close to you at all times and be aware of your surroundings. If you’re traveling with a group, make sure to keep an eye on each other and watch out for any suspicious behavior.

Another safety concern with public transportation in Panama City is the risk of accidents. Many of the buses are old and poorly maintained, and drivers may not always follow traffic laws. If possible, try to avoid traveling during rush hour when buses are most crowded and accidents are more likely to occur.

Taxi and rideshare safety

If you’re planning to use taxi or rideshare services in Panama City, only use reputable services like Uber or Cabify. Avoid unmarked taxis or drivers who seem shady or aggressive. When getting into a taxi, make sure that the driver knows where you’re going and agrees to the fare in advance.

It’s also a good idea to share your ride details with a friend or family member, especially if you’re traveling alone. This can provide an extra layer of safety and ensure that someone knows where you are in case of an emergency.

In addition, be aware that some taxi drivers in Panama City may try to overcharge tourists. Make sure to agree on a price before getting into the taxi and be prepared to negotiate if necessary.

Driving in Panama City

If you plan to drive in Panama City, be aware that traffic can be heavy and chaotic. Stick to well-lit, populated areas, and avoid driving alone at night. Be aware of local driving laws and customs, and avoid confrontations with other drivers.

It’s also important to note that many of the roads in Panama City are poorly maintained and may have potholes or other hazards. This can make driving more challenging, especially for those who are not used to the area.

If you’re renting a car in Panama City, make sure to inspect it thoroughly before driving off the lot. Take note of any existing damage and make sure that all lights, brakes, and other important features are working properly.

Overall, while driving in Panama City can be a convenient way to get around, it’s important to take precautions and be aware of potential hazards.

Final Thoughts on Panama City Safety

Weighing the risks and rewards

Ultimately, whether you decide to visit Panama City depends on your own personal comfort level with travel risks. While there are certainly safety risks to be aware of, there are also many rewards to exploring this vibrant and fascinating city. By taking practical precautions and staying informed, you can enjoy a safe and memorable trip to Panama City.

Personal experiences from travelers

Many travelers report having positive experiences while visiting Panama City. With its diverse cultural attractions, bustling nightlife, and natural beauty, it’s no wonder that more and more tourists are flocking to this Central American destination.

Making the most of your Panama City visit

To make the most of your trip to Panama City, plan ahead and make sure you’re well-prepared for any safety risks you may face. Be open to new experiences and take advantage of all that this city has to offer.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts