THE SPANISH LANGUAGE
is the second most spoken language in the world due to the number of speakers who claim it as their native tongue (after Mandarin Chinese). It is spoken as a first and second language amongst 450 and 500 million people. It is the third most spoken language as a first or second language after Mandarin Chinese and English combined, and is the mother tongue to 400 million people worldwide... Read more
PANAM┴ Country Profile
Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on an isthmus, some categorize it as a transcontinental nation connecting the north and south part of America. It borders Costa Rica to the north-west, Colombia to the south-east, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. It is an international business center and is also a transit country. In Central America, it is the second most industrialized country, behind El Salvador, Panama is also the 3rd largest economy in Central America, after Guatemala and Costa Rica and has the largest expenditure on resource consumption, making the country the largest consumer in Central America.
.: Panama City
.: Total 75,517 km▓ (118th)
29,157 sq mi
.: Water (%) 2.9
.: From Spain 28 November 1821
.: From Colombia 3 November 1903
.: Dec 2006 estimate 3,320,000 (133rd)
.: May 2000 census 2,839,177
.: Density 43/km▓ (156th) 111/sq mi
Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is the southern most country of Central America. Situated on an isthmus, some categorise it as a transcontinental nation connecting the north and south part of America. It borders Costa Rica, Colombia, the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean to the south. It is an international business centre and is also a transit country. In Central America, it is the second most industrialised country, behind El Salvador and has the 3rd largest economy in Central America, after Guatemala and Costa Rica. Panama has the largest expenditure on resource consumption, making the country the largest consumer in Central America.
The one large thing that the country of Panama is lacking is a sufficient number of tourists.
It is hard to think of a single country on the planet that has much to offer visitors, yet few people actually come to visit. It has incredible natural beauty, a modern infrastructure, good roads, clean water, year-round warm weather, a peaceful atmosphere, and a rich history. Panama has long been known as ÔÇťthe crossroads of the world,ÔÇŁ which accounts for its international sophistication and ethnically mixed population. Living in this country are eight different groups of indigenous people, some of whom still live as they did thousands of years ago.
PEOPLE AND CULTURE PANAMA
Ethnically, the majority of the population is mestizo (mixed Spanish and Indian) or mixed Spanish, Indian, Chinese, and West Indian. Chinese, Middle Eastern, Swiss, Yugoslav and North American immigrants have also added to this diverse cultural mix due to Panama's unique location and history as a crossroads of the world. The majority of the population lives in urban areas, with more than half the population living in the Panama City-Colon metropolitan corridor. The indigenous population of Panama comprises approximately 8 percent of the population and is composed of 7 distinct groups which are the Kuna, Embera, Waounan, Ngobe, Bugle, Nassau, and Terribe people. Each of the 9 Panama Provinces has a rich and varied folklore and cultural traditions which are expressed through its dances, cultural dress, music and cuisine. Traditional crafts include the colorful Mola, Tagua nut carvings, Wounaan and Embera woven baskets, balsa and cocobolo wood carvings, and pottery. The sale of native crafts to tourists has increased and helps to support the needs of the villages and native people.
GEOGRAPHY AND ENVIRONMENT PANAMA
Panama's tropical environment supports an abundance of plants. Forests dominate, interrupted in places by grasslands, scrub, and crops. Although nearly 40 percent of Panama is still wooded, deforestation is a continuing threat to the rain-drenched woodlands. Tree cover has been reduced by more than 50 percent since the 1940s. Subsistence farming, widely practiced from the northeastern jungles to the southwestern grasslands, consists largely of corn, bean, and tuber plots. Mangrove swamps occur along parts of both coasts, with banana plantations occupying deltas near Costa Rica. In many places, a multi-canopied rain forest abuts the swamp on one side of the country and extends to the lower reaches of slopes in the other.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE PANAMA
In Panama, days are hot and nights are much cooler. Temperatures range from 32 ┬░C during the daytime to 21 ┬░C in the evening almost daily, year-round. Humidity is always high at about 80 percent with the rainy season taking place between October and November. The best months to visit Panama are mid-December and late March when the weather is delightful with less rain. Temperatures vary according to the geography. Up at higher elevations where the climate is less tropical, temperatures are much cooler. In mountain areas the average annual temperature ranges from 10┬║C to 19┬║C (50-66┬║F) at various mountain elevations. Panama is a country affected by numerous climatic conditions, all of which has helped create favorable conditions in which to enjoy outdoor touristic activities. Whether you are interested in sun bathing, diving, hiking, or bird watching, Panama's climate provides ample opportunity to enjoy them all.
The Panamanian currency is the balboa, fixed at parity with the United States dollar. In practice, however, the country is dollarized; Panama mints its own coinage but uses US dollars for all its paper currency. Panama was the first of the three countries in Latin America to have
dollarized their economies, later followed by Ecuador and El Salvador.
Cash is generally the safest bet, and ATMs are readily available, except in the most isolated places. Look for the red 'sistema clave' signs to find an ATM. They accept debit cards or credit cards on most networks (Plus, Cirrus, MasterCard, Visa, Amex). Be aware though that most Panamanian banks charge a US$3.00 fee for every ATM transaction, and the amount that can be withdrawn at one time varies from bank to bank. Some have a US$200.00 limit, others a US$500.00 limit.
Credit cards are widely accepted at travel agencies, upscale hotels and many restaurants, but can be problematic almost everywhere else. In short, carry enough cash to get you to the next bank or ATM. There are several places where it is essential to show up with cash. Among tourist destinations, the following places have no banks, and it is a long way to the nearest ATM: Santa Catalina, Santa F├ę, Boca Brava, Isla Contadora, Isla Grande and Portobelo. Very few businesses on Bocas del Toro accept credit cards. Find out if your hotel does before you go to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
The standard tipping rate in Panama is around 10% of the bill; in small caf├ęs and more casual places, tipping is not necessary. Taxi drivers do not expect tips.
The only bank that exchanges foreign currency is the Banco Nacional de Panam├í counter at Tocumen International Airport. Once you have left the airport, the only place to change foreign currency for dollars is a casa de cambio (exchange house). There is one in Panama City but few elsewhere. In most of Central America, US dollars are the only currency exchanged.