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. In terms of South and Central American countries, Panama ranks very high in safety. However, there are certain regions of the country that should be avoided. These change from month to month and it is ALWAYS worth your time to check the U.S. Department of State website. 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.

Quick summary:
-Panama-Columbia Border: Drug. Trafficking. Don’t go beyond the end of the Pan-American Highway for any reason ever.
-Darien Province: Colombian terrorist groups come here to play, which means you should not.
-Colon Province: It’s been on a no-fly list for a looonnng time.
-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 extremely careful.

A Word on the San Blas Province (including San Blas Islands): San Blas was on the State Departments “off-limits” list for quite some time but was removed from the list. It used to be that you could only fly there, but there is now a 4×4 road that leads to the ferry. The San Blas islands are gorgeous, remote, and home to a large population of Native Panamanians. The islands technically have their own government and border crossing (it’s only $2.00) from the rest of Panama. Be aware that there are many cargo boats used for drug transport that run between the Zona Libre in Colón and Cartagena, Colombia. Many times cargo boats will run through the one of the 300+ San Blas islands and pick up passengers for a small fee. Getting in one of these boats is obviously a bad idea. If you see something suspicious in the water, do not pick it up. If YOU ARE IN THE COMPANY OF SOMEONE USING DRUGS, you can be ARRESTED. It can take YEARS to see a judge about your case. I’ve read good and bad things about the San Blas Islands, and since it’s no longer on the State Dept. watch list it’s probably relatively safe, just proceed with caution.

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