Panama - General Info
Voltage: 110 V* (*Panama City 120 V)
Frequency: 60 Hz
LPG / Gas
Local gas (Tropigas & Panagas) is a variable mixture of propane and butane, but works well for most purposes. Be advised that each has its own unique regulator and neither is compatible with US (or other country's) tanks. You CAN get US style tanks filled, but you will need to ask around and it will be alot more expensive (approx. $30 as opposed to $6.40 for local 30# tank). Some cruisers have successfully transferred gas from local tanks to US style tanks with a pigtail-type connection.
For tips about boatyard practices in less developed countries and how to avoid pitfalls see: Getting work done on your boat whilst long distance cruising.
Balboa of 100 centesimos. Balboas are on a par with US$, which circulates as an equivalent currency.
In the San Blas islands, US currency is normally the only money accepted.
International dialing code for Panama is +507.
Cruisers VHF Net - Caribbean side of Panama
Shelter Bay Marina
VHF Channel 77 every morning at 7.30am
Panama City Cruisers Net: Serves the boating community on the Pacific side of Panama inclusive of Panama City, Balboa, Las Brisas, Flamenco and Tobago. Due to congestion and continuous interference on CH74, this Net now hails and meets at 08:00 on CH68. Future frequency changes may be required if congestion grows on CH68.
The Panama Connection Net on SSB 8107 (USB) 8:30 AM is a very helpful net for cruisers transiting the area from the ABC's, Cartagena to Panama.
06 - Balboa Yacht Club and water taxi
10 - La Playita (Amador)
10 - Flamenco Marina
12 & 16 – “Cristobal Signal Station” and "Flamenco Signal Station Balboa" (Panama Canal Authority - call before entering canal areas)
68 – Bocas del Toro working channel & net at 8 AM
69 - Cruiser channel Balboa/Amador
72 - San Blas/Linton working channel
74 –Taboga Island mooring balls
74 - Colon Cruiser channel & Shelter Bay Marina Cruisers Net 7:40 AM (only on Mon & Thurs)
74 - Panama City Cruisers Net 8:00AM (Mon-Sat)
81a - Alternative channel for cruisers nets
7:30 AM (1230 UTC) – 8104 USB - Chris Parker Weather
8:00 AM (1300 UTC) - 7083 LSB - HAM only – C. American Breakfast Club
8:15 AM (1315 UTC) - 6209 USB - South West Caribbean Net
8:30 AM (1330 UTC) - 8107 USB - Panama Connection Net
9:00 AM (1400 UTC) - 8143 USB - Pan Pacific Net
9:00 AM (1400 UTC) – 6209 USB – NW Caribbean Net
Both Cable & Wireless Panama and Telefonica Moviles Panama, S.A. (Movistar) use GSM 850 cell phone frequencies. Use a GSM phone with GSM 850 - either pay roaming charges on your current cell phone service provider or buy a prepaid SIM card in Panama assuming your cell phone is not locked to a specific network
Digicel update December 2014:
Anyone cruising using Digicel should be aware that if you purchase a SIM card in one country, it cannot be topped up in different one, as previously possible. So if you wish to use the sim bought here while cruising in other countries, you should either put on a large enough sum to cover your needs, or set up an account and do it online.
You can top-up Digicel at https://online-top-up.digicelgroup.com/
Another option is to rent a GSM phone from a local company while you are in Panama
Panama City – Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen (PTY)
Located in the eastern part of the city. You will get there faster if you take Corridur Sur expressway. The tolls add up but it is extremely fast. Make sure you are clear with the taxi driver on the fee (are tolls included?) and which way you are going.
Aeropuerto Marcos A. Gelabert (PAC)
Also known as Albrook airport, is located in the western part of the city, known as Albrook. There are daily flights to all parts of Panama, including the San Blas, David, Bocas, Conatadora and other locations.
Note: AIR PANAMA has cancelled flight destination to Corazon de Jesus and El Porvenir (Nov. 2015). These destinations will be reviewed in 2016.
These airlines also have a great economical courier service to remote areas of the country. If you have extra suitcases you can air ship them cheaper than checking them with your flight. Just go to the domestic shipping end of the Albrook airport and ship your heavy stuff. The trip between airports by taxi will take at least 45 minutes or longer depending on traffic (allow 1 ½ hours).
From Cruisers Network Online - If flying from Panama to Quito, be sure to go armed with copies of your Panama cruising permit and boat documentation, as you will not be allowed to return to Panama without it.
Panama City - The Gran Terminal de Transportes is located adjacent to the Albrook Mall. Bus travel is very economical with numerous and frequent bus service between cities. Within Panama City taxis are better and very economical. Find out the rate before you hire a taxi as like everywhere there are sometimes higher prices for tourists.
Cruisers rent cars in Colon, Panama City and David. Rental cars can not be taken across the border into Costa Rica. The new 4 lane interstate is open between Colon (Sabinitas) and Panama City. In general the roads throughout Panama are good. You can get a better rate if you reserve a car online. You can also rent a GPS with digitized road maps.
Colon – Hertz (442-3272) and Budget (441-2126) are located at Colon 2000.
Panama City – Budget (Tocumen Airport PTY - 263-8777), Hertz (PTY - 301-2611), Dollar (270-0355), Thrifty (204-9555), National (PTY – 265-2222), Avis (PTY – 278-9444), Barriga Rent A Car (PTY – 269-0056), Arrendadora Economica (Nuevo Reparto El Carmen & Calle 50 – (229-5257), and Continental Rent a Car (213-0177).
The Panama Canal Railway (317-6070) www.panarail.com
Runs one roundtrip per day between Panama City and Colon. From Panama City the train leaves at 7:15 AM from the station which is located in the Albrook area. The train leaves Colon at 5:15 PM. The train ride is about one hour, in modern coaches, air-conditioning and modeled after the railway first built in 1855. To be recommended.
Getting to the San Blas from Panama City
This is easily done by taxi/car. There are lots of companies that do 4wd trips to Carti and they usually can also arrange a small boat from there to take you out to the Islands.
Fire – Dial 103
Ambulance – Dial 103
Police – Dial 104
Directory assistance – Dial 102
IMRAY AND ADLARD COLES PILOT BOOKS are available at a discounted price for Noonsite.com users via World Cruising Club
The Panama Cruising Guide, 5th Edition, by Eric Bauhaus is still the best and most up to date Cruising Guide covering Panama including the Panama Canal.
The Panama Cruising Guide
By Eric Bauhaus
Publisher: Eric Bauhaus; 5th edition (2014)
Considered one of the best Guides covering Panama, this Edition replaces the 4th Edition from 2009. Comprehensive cruising guide for both the Panama Canal and San Blas and Las Perlas. There is also a useful overview of Panama’s coastlines, both in the Caribbean and Pacific. The book contains detailed sketch plans of all ports and popular anchorages as well as aerial photos, as well as tips on local etiquette, fishing, provisioning and land transportation. Good section on transiting the canal.
Explore Central America - Part 2
Continually updated guides available in PDF, EPUB, MOBI. Go to www.svsarana.com
The most comprehensive guides ever written about cruising the Pacific coast of Central America from Mexico to the Panama Canal. In a two part set, these books provide over 325 GPS waypoints, over 112 charts and city maps, detailed weather descriptions, forecasting information and surfing locations. These books highlight dozens of anchorages not in other books and tons of local information that sailors care about. Many GPS waypoints, charts and city maps, detailed weather descriptions, forecasting information and surfing locations. It also highlights dozens of anchorages not in other books and much local information that sailors care about Also included are detailed procedures for clearing into and out of the Central American countries as well as Ecuador, the Galapagos and Mexico.
The Pacific Crossing Guide
By Kitty Van Hagen
3rd Edition October 2016
See The Pacific Crossing Guide 3rd Edition
A Thinking Mans Guide to Voyages South - the Many Facets of Caribbean Cruising
Author: Frank Virgintino
Published by Lulu: June 2011
ISBN 978 1 105 62982-2
Available at Kindle as well as all other EPub bookstores
2nd Edition now available as Free download at www.freecruisingguides.com
See Noonsite reviews here
2nd edition includes expanded section on the options to leave the North American Coast as well as addition work in "Quandrant N". Figures have been enhanced for greater clarity and index with active table of contents included.
Captain's Guide to Transiting the Panama Canal in a small Vessel
By David W. Wilson
Published by Cruising Guide Publications (2nd Edn with updates to 2005)
Available from www.amnautical.com/products
The Panama Guide
By Nancy Schwalbe Zydler and Tom Zydler
Publisher: Seaworthy Publications - 2nd Edition (2001)
Available from www.Amazon.com
Still the most comprehensive guide written about the extraordinarily beautiful waters of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Panama. It contains vital information for planning waterborne adventures along these facinating shores. With 187 detailed chartlets this guide travels through the 365 islands of San Blas, explores the protected bays of Bocas del Toro, the green shores of the Las Perlas achipelago, the intriguing rivers leading into the tropical forests as well as the spectacular Panama Canal. This book includes explicit piloting instructions, GPS waypoints, lists of navigational aids, local services, customs regulations and recommendations for on shore activities. A full-colour section featuring Tom Zydler's photography depicts the splendour and panorama of cruising in Panama.
Living in Panama
By Sandra T. Snyder
Publisher: TanToes, S.A.; 2nd edition (March 28, 2007)
ISBN 13: 978-9962001560
Most authoritative day-to-day guide to life in Panama. Available in bookstores in Panama or on line at: www.livinginpanama.net
The Panama Cruisers Information Guide
Find it at the Cruisers_Network_Online Yahoo Group. You'll need a Yahoo account to access the guide and forum. Meant to help cruisers get a start with basic boating needs in Panama, to include Colon, Linton, San Blas, Bocas/David and Panama City. From Agents to Watermaker Supplies, this guide has a lot to offer.
Cruising Ports: The Central American Route
By Pat Rains
Published by Point Loma Publishing (New 6.5 edition - June 2013)
See www.MexicoBoating.com for further details.
This book covers Pacific Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Pacific Panama) plus Mexico’s Gulf Coast to Veracruz, then NW Yucatan, NW Cuba, Yucatan Channel, Belize, Rio Dulce, Honduras and the Bay Islands, the Western Caribbean islands & banks, Panama’s Caribbean cruising grounds. This book culminates in Panama Canal Transit.
Colombia to Rio Dulce Cruising Guide
Authors: Amaia Agirre & Frank Virgintino (May 2016)
Available free at http://freecruisingguides.com/colombia-rio-dulce
Covers the coast of Colombia, The San Blas Islands, the off lying islands of Colombia (San Andres and Providencia), the Moskito coast, the Cape at Gracias a Dios and the Hobbies, the islands of Honduras and finally the Rio Dulce River (Guatemala).
Panama City Anchorages
By MY Domino who spent a year in Panama
Tourist website for the Republic of Panama.
Panama Canal Authorities
Line Handlers - seeking or volunteering
Transiting the Panama Canal
An interesting Bluewater Cruising article by a catamaran that transited in October 2016.
A look inside the Panama Canal
On their third transit, cruisers John Lewis and Shawn Maxey on the Tayana 37 Pilothouse cutter Active Transport got a VIP tour of the workings of the Miraflores Locks. Published by Ocean Navigator.
See Noonsite's Routing/Pacific Crossing page for other useful reports and links.
February 2017: Porvenir immigration and port captain offices re-opening plus entry stamp details added, as reported by Shelter Bay Marina.
November 2016: Panama City Central Immigration Office confirmed that new visa rules in effect - all old visa information removed.
November 2016: Customs section updated with help from Karsten Staffeldt.
November 2016: Posting of new visa rules as informed by Shelter Bay Marina Management. Old information still remains until we receive official confirmation that these visa rules are in place.
January 2016: Formalities checked by Karsten Staffeldt.
November 2015: Domestic Clearance rules updated by Karsten Staffeldt.
June 2015: Publications checked
February 2015: Customs checked.
January 2015: Clearance and Immigration updated with details of Flamenco Immigration branch office now issuing visas, care of SY Moon Dancer.
November 2014: New Domestic Clearance rules confirmed by Karsten Staffeldt.
June 2014: Publications checked and udpated.
July 2013: Balboa Immigration Branch Offices info. from Kay Langley of SY Frangipani and confirmed by Karsten Staffeldt.
April 2013: Clearance updates from Graham Keating of SY Maunie of Ardwall
April 2013: Fees updated with information from Latitude 38 passed on by Michael Bennett of SV Fan.
January 2013: Bringing in boat spares update from Cruisers Network Online.
Noonsite welcomes information and updates especially regarding clearance, customs and immigration procedures from cruisers visiting this country.
PleaseE-mail noonsitewith any new information, updates or corrections. Even just a short email confirming that the current data is accurate would be most helpful.