Safety in Panama
One of the questions we were asked the most after we returned was why we chose Panama, and how we determined it was safe. When comparing various central American countries, you’ll find that Panama consistently ranks very high in safety (along with Costa Rica and Belize). However, there are certain regions of the country that should be avoided. These regions change (sometimes from month to month) and it is ALWAYS worth your time to check the U.S. Department of State website if you’re planning on leaving the typical beaten path of the tourist. Their home page is found at this link: State Dept. Website: Panama.
From here, you are able to review passport and visa requirements, safety and security, suggested vaccinations, etc.
-Panama-Columbia Border/Darien Province: Drug. Trafficking. Colombian drug cartels come here to play, which means you should not. Going south of Yaviza (the central American “end” of the Pan-American Highway) is really not the best idea.
-The “Mosquito Gulf”: The “Mosquito Gulf” technically extends along the northern Caribbean coast, but the area the State Department is concerned with extends between Boca de Rio Chiriqui – Cocle del Norte. Frankly, there’s not a great reason that you as a tourist would particularly want to venture there as there are very limited roads, however in the interest of full disclosure I’m listing it.
-Panama City: Panama City is safe to visit but you really need to keep your wits about you. It has one of the highest rates of crime in Panama so you need to be careful. We really enjoyed our time in Panama City, but keep in mind that at this stage in our lives we weren’t novice travelers and knew what and where to avoid.