Panamá operates on the Central Time Zone.
Daylight Saving time does not apply in Panamá.
The telephone country code is 507.
Panama’s electric voltage is 120, 60 cycle. Adapters are available in local shops.
Panamá utilizes the metric system, a bit of a hybrid yet, with some of the Imperial system tossed in. To sustain the status quo.
You’ll soon note that speed, distance, temperature are in metric.
Food, weight, volume (ie. gasoline) are in liters and kilograms (food).
To convert C° to F° add 15 and multiply by 2; liters to imperial gallons multiply by .22 ; liters to U.S. gallons multiply by .26; kilometers to miles multiply by .62 ; kilograms to pounds multiply by 2.2. Or better yet, make an attempt to pick up the metric measures.
Cell phones are everywhere. Public phones have almost disappeared. But if you locate one, the rate starts at 10 cents a minute to regular lines; 35 cents a minute to cellular phones Pre-paid cards for your Panamá cell phone are available, and save money. Follow instructions in English on the back of your card for international calls. More than one company offers pre-paid cards, so you need to use the right phone card code number. In an emergency dial 911. Call police at 104, Fire 103.
PASSPORTS AND VISAS, CUSTOMS, HEALTH, ANIMALS
A valid passport, one that is not expiring within 6 months, is required to enter Panamá by air, sea, or land. A visa is not required of residents of most developed countries.
You can bring $2,000 worth of merchandise into Panamá, free of duty and tax, on every visit to Panamá. Be sure to declare if you are bringing more than $10,000 U.S. cash or negotiable instruments. Panamá’s jails are grotesque, and the legal system almost non-functional.
Vaccinations are generally not required, except it is probably prudent to have had those for Hepatitis A, B, C and yellow fever. Unless you are heading into the Darien jungle, there is no need for malaria precautions.
Boquete River Inn is ‘pet-friendly.’ Both United and Copa airlines have a pet travel plan PetSafe. Entry into Panamá is subject to a $120 fee. Domestic quarantine, (where you take your pet home with you) is normal, with the name of a local veterinarian usually used as reference re a quarantine ‘supervisor.’
GENERAL HEALTH CONDITIONS
Panamá City, Chitre, Santiago, David, Boquete, like most parts of Panamá, present no real health risks for visitors. But you’ll have to ignore the piles of garbage It’s a cultural thing… they have none! Tap water is good. Restaurants and eating-places are generally clean, and by law must maintain a high standard of food preparation.
Smog, on rare occasions, is a problem in Panamá City. But there, the most obvious contamination is noise. Exposure to the sun can be a problem for those who are fair-skinned.
Panamá’s public medical system is mediocre at best. Superior service is offered at private hospitals, but you pay. In Chiriqui province, Hospital Chiriqui and Hospital Mae Lewis are private hospitals. Dental service is first class and, compared to first world countries, much less expensive.
The U.S dollar is the currency in Panamá; locally referred to as the ‘Balboa.’ Forget travelers’ checks. Cash is still the way of many businesses in Panamá, although credit cards are widely accepted in the larger hotels and stores. ATM machines are everywhere.
Coins, used interchangeably, are both Panamánian and American. A recently introduced $1 coin is gaining favor.
There are two seasons in Panamá… wet and dry. Being so close to the equator (8.9 degrees north), daylight varies just an hour over the year. Light appears at 6 a.m. in the ‘winter,’ 7 a.m. in the ‘summer.’
No daylight savings time here. ‘Summer’ season generally runs from December till April… ‘winter’ is May till November. In Boquete, daytime temperatures average around 27 Celsius (80F); 16 Celsius (62F) overnight. The higher temperatures and humidity are along both coasts.
Spanish is the official language. In Panamá City, you won’t be far away from an English speaker. Learning English is a priority here with many ready to practice their English with you. Traditional languages are the first spoken in the Comarcas (reservations), with most having some knowledge of Spanish, as well.
Unfortunately, no museum currently exists in Chiriqui province. In David a $250,000 renovation is in the planning stages at the former Museo José de Obaldia.
LOCATION AND POLITICAL SET-UP
Chiriqui is the western-most province of Panamá, and its capital, David is a busy place… the main distribution center for the some
200,000 that live here. Governors of each province are not elected, but appointed by the President, and generally charged with ensuring that the Presidents’ will and wishes are carried out.
Elections are held every five years. By constitution, a President can hold office for one term only. Elected provincial/state governments are non-existent, It’s a small country of some 4 million, and most operations (ie. road construction and maintenance, water supplies) are mandated, and handled at the national level. Although to note, that local autonomy has recently been granted cities and towns.
Mayors have much more authority than those in developed countries.
Municipalities tend to garbage collection, as well as the issuing of license plates. The real opposition remains the newspapers, although of late a handful of civic organizations have begun to appear and publicly make their points. La Prensa and La Estrella de Panamá continue to investigate corruption and related issues.
Stores are generally open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. and 7 days a week.
Some supermarkets operate on a 24-hour basis. A few stores continue to close on Wednesday afternoon, although this tradition is disappearing.
A 7% retail sales tax is charged on most purchases. With the standard work week at 44 hours, a number of stores and most businesses are closed on Sunday.
A decent Boquete website is available at www.boquete.ning.com featuring local news and reviews. Emanating from nearby David, is www.chiriquichatter.org, a variety of posts and and one reasonable man’s point-of-view. Current news in Panamá in English, is available at www.thepanamánews.com
HISTORY – GEOGRAPHY
Boquete was founded April 11th, 1911.
In Spanish, the word ‘Boquete’ means a gap or opening. It was precisely this gap in the Continental Divide that provided travelers, in the 1850’s, a more northerly short cut through the mountains to the Pacific, en route to the goldfields around San Francisco.
Some of those first explorers returned to settle here. They include the Swiss, Yugoslavs, Swedish, Germans and North Americans. More are moving in, with Boquete’s population, spread over some 500 sq. km., now pushing 23,000.
Volcanic soil predominates the area, having once emanated from the now dormant, Volcan Baru. Otherwise, the highlands around Boquete comprise colluvial and sedimentary soil.
Our nearby indigenous people, the Ngäbe-Buglé, or Guaymies, live in their nearby Comarca, in the hills around Boquete. To this point, largely uneducated, they supply the low-cost labor required by local coffee farms and plantations.
Two rivers run through Boquete; the Rio Cochea, and the Rio Caldera; which flows through the town center. Their waters provide sustenance for an abundance of oranges, grapefruit and other local fruits and flowers, including the ubiquitous novia (impatiens), lily, hibiscus, orchids, carnations and sunflowers, among others.