Panamá City Local Customs

  • Pollera de Baila
    Pollera de Baila
    by bilgeez
  • Carnaval float in Las Tablas 2007
    Carnaval float in Las Tablas 2007
    by bilgeez
  • Pollera de Jovena
    Pollera de Jovena
    by bilgeez

Most Recent Local Customs in Panamá City

  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Litter, litter, everywhere

    by Dabs Written Apr 3, 2012

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Panama City and most of the places we visited were covered in litter, you'd go out into the jungle and the amount of litter is amazing, along the roads there are piles of trash. One of our guides explained to us that in some areas trash collection is free and in some areas you have to pay for it. Contrary to what you'd think, the areas with free trash collection were the ones that had the most litter, he said that since it was free Panamanians put no value on the service and didn't use it but those people that had to pay did put their garbage in the trash because they did have to pay.

    Was this review helpful?

  • mikey_e's Profile Photo

    Kuna Culture

    by mikey_e Written Aug 25, 2010

    Panama has several indigenous groups and, like in Guatemala and other Central American nations, these groups preserve their language and culture, in the face of the Spanish language and a globalized culture. In Panamá, the two main groups are the Kuna, who live on the Caribbean coast, and the Emberá, who live in the Darién region and towards the Colombian border. The Kuna are often the most visible indigenous group in the capital, as the women still wear traditional costume (which includes a lot of orange, bangles, and colourful print dresses). They frequently sell their traditional handicrafts in areas that are tourist hotspots, showing the colourful quilts and masks that are characteristic of indigenous cultures of Panamá. The Kuna actually have their own Republic that is associated with Panamá, although this distinction is not generally recognized internationally. Despite the fact that those Kuna who live in the city can still be heard speaking their native language, the characteristics of the culture are gradually being lost in urban centres, as the young look to assimilate into the cosmopolitan culture of the capital.

    Kuna Women in the downtown area Kuna woman and her daughter in Casco Antiguo Kuna along Las B��vedas Kuna crafts for display in Casco Antiguo
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • bilgeez's Profile Photo

    Panamanian Beers

    by bilgeez Updated Jul 11, 2009

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    OK, I´m a beer connosuer, I have to check out the local brews wherever I go. Panamainian beers were unknown to me before I moved here. I have found them to be a pleasant surprise.
    They have an award winning beer now, Cerveza Panama was given a gold medal at the International Brewers Contest in 2008. It is my prefered local beer, but the others are also very drinkable and perfect for the climate, a real treat on a hot day! I love to sit on my patio nearly every evening, and listen to the forest and look at the stars with a local beer.
    The locals generally get one of the five local beers; Atlas, Balboa, Cristal, Panama, or Soberana.
    The first two are from Cervezaria National and Atlas is the most popular, sort of the Budweiser of Panama, but not really the best tasting, in my humble opinion. Balboa is better tasting, but not as good as the latter two. Panama is made by Cervezaria de Panama in Chiriqui. My wife tells me the brewmaster is German, and this beer is definetely a German-style Lager. It is the best tasting to me, and the one I prefer to drink. I didn´t try it at first because I read that it wasn´t that good, but now that I tried it, I think the person who judged this beer as substandard was all wet! Soberana, is also good, it is my second favorite of the locals. It is a nice, light beer and is great for a hot day! Cristal is a pilsner that is also made by Cervezaria de Panama, that is a decent pilsner, but not as good as Cerveza Panama.
    I hope if you like beer and visit Panama, that you will try the local beers. For one thing, they are cheap. A returnable bottle is 35-40 cents, plus ten cent deposit. But they are only 9.5 ounces. They sell 12 ounce cans for about 55 cents, each, usually they are a little cheaper in the larger super markets than the local "Supermercados", which are convenience stores. Except in Panama City, the beers are sold loose on the shelf in bottles or just in returnable plastic cases, or loose or only in six-packs in cans; but now you can get blister-wrapped 12-packs of Atlas and Balboa. They only tend to come in the 9.5 oz bottles or 12 oz. cans. I have gotten 12 oz bottles of Soberana and Balboa in restaurants, however, I have not seen that size in the stores except for one liquor store in Panama City. That may be a limited thing.
    Well, not all Panamanians are as depicted in the attached photo, but Panama is third in per capita beer consumption in Latin America, behind Mexico and Venezuela. They are also in the top ten in the world. Panamanians do love their Atlas beer! Also brewed here by license or because the brewery is owned by the parent company; Budweiser, and Guiness Stout.

    Borracho tambien! Panamas two favorite things! Cervezas Panamenas
    Related to:
    • Study Abroad
    • Budget Travel
    • Beer Tasting

    Was this review helpful?

  • bilgeez's Profile Photo

    Salsa Music

    by bilgeez Updated May 2, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Salsa is very popular in Panama, and among the most popular artists are the siblings Samy and Sandra Sandoval. They are like gods here. Sandra had a baby in February and they had hourly updates on the local TV stations when she was in labor! They also had a two-hour TV special on her pregnancy during this time!
    When we were in Chitré for New Years, the Sandovals filmed a music video for Carnival at that time. We went to watch them film the video, which everyone was invited to, so they could have as many people there as possible to give it a Carnival atmosphere. Which wasn´t a problem as New Year´s Eve is like Carnival in Panama, anyway, with parades and floats and queens, etc.
    The Sandovals have a very pop formula for their songs. Samy plays the accordion and Sandra sings. Most are love ballads or songs about relationships.

    Samy y Sandra Sandoval
    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • Study Abroad

    Was this review helpful?

  • bilgeez's Profile Photo

    Polleras

    by bilgeez Updated May 2, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The local native costume for women is the pollera. The pollera is worn at any festive occasion and all festive occasions here have a contest for a queen, who invariably wears a pollera for the occasion. Polleras are inticrately beaded and embroidered with floral designs on them. They can cost thousands of dollars. The traditional jewelry and pearl head pieces that go with them are also very costly and are handed down from generation to generation in a family. Some people rent out their polleras, jewelry and head pieces to other women to wear in paegants and fiestas, because there are so many fiestas and paegents throughout the year, they can make a good living at renting these items out. If someone who holds these items dies without a will, you can be sure the surviving family members will fight over who gets them!

    Bella chica Polleras and Panamainian Dress Mas Polleras Pollera de Baila Pollera de Jovena Bella chica Pollera de Baila Pollera de Jovena
    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • bilgeez's Profile Photo

    Other Panamanian Traditional Dress

    by bilgeez Updated Mar 24, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Besides polleras Panamanians have other traditional garb they wear for fiestas, or other special occasions, sometimes every day. It's not unusual to see men, especially, wearing guayabara shirts to work. They are cool, and dressy at the same time. They usually are light solid pastel colored or white, with plaits and embroidered strips on the front and back of the shirt. Very handsome looking, but a pain to iron, believe me! They also have a similar shirt that has thin blue and white stripes, multicolored buttons and a placate front with a skirted waist. These shirts are typically worn by folklorico dancers and by men on their wedding day. Men may also wear a purse or pouch with a long cord over the shoulder, cross-chest. Many men in Panama wear the sombrero montuno, it is a brimmed hat made of grass fiber that is woven in a pattern. Some of the fibers are dyed to enhance the pattern of the hat. Panama hats are not really Panamanian, they were invented in Ecuador, but like the so-called Panama hats, the finer the weave and lighter the color, the more costly the hat. Montunos cost anywhere from $10-over $200 depending on the quality of the fibers and the design of the weave.
    In a traditional Panamanian wedding, the groom rides to pick up the bride on a horse, which they both ride to the church. The groom wears a striped shirt, as described above and a montuno with black pants and shoes. The bride wears a white camisa (blouse), printed skirt, and sandals. The groom carries an umbrella to hold over the bride to protect her from the sun or rain (depending on the time of year).
    Camposinos (farmers) generally wear light-colored cloth clothes with fringes and the montuno. They also carry a pouch or purse with a cord over-the-shoulder and cross-chest. Sometimes they wear headbands as well.
    One sees men wear traditional clothing more than women. The native, Kuna Yala, Ngobe Bugle women usually wear traditional clothes more than the Latinas.

    Well-dressed camposino dog If it weren't for Jimmy Carter... I'm gettin' married in the morning...! Salsa dancers Camposino tipico
    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • bilgeez's Profile Photo

    Panamanian Food

    by bilgeez Updated Mar 17, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Panamanians eat as much rice as many Asian cultures, which means, nearly every meal. They have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every type of restaurant that serves Panamanian dished serves rice with them.
    Usually Panamanians make rice with shredded chicken or guangou, a type of bean.
    The Panamanians also love sancocho, which is a chicken soup that is made with chicken stock broth and vegtables, usually; carrot, ñamé, celery, and cilantro, with a chicken leg thrown in. One gets a side dish of rice with it (of course). To eat it traditionally, one takes a spoonful of rice and carefully lets the broth flow onto the spoon, soaking the rice. One picks up the chicken drumstick and uses the hands.
    Panama has many types of exotic fruits and vegtables. Veggies include, ñamé and yucca, which are used like potatoes. Usually ñamé is used in soups, especially sancocho, and made into dumplings. Yucca is usually fried like french fries or chips, and is also used as a batter coating for some types of empanadas. When I first came here, I thought fried yucca were cottage fried potatoes! There is also otoé, which is also a root vegtable used like potatoes, and the above mentioned guangou, which is a bean that looks somewhat like a large, green lentil, usually cooked with rice.
    Among the fruits are; maracuya, a fruit that makes a whitish, tart juice. guanabana, which is green and tart, and what inspired the quayaberra shirt for men, that has four pockets so one can pick guanabana and put them in the pockets. It´s juice is orange-coloured, it looks like orange juice, but definitely doesn´t taste like it!
    Panamanians also loved grilled meat, there are parrilladas everywhere. There are street vendors who sell beef brochets for a quarter. It is considered a snack here. They finish them off with some picanté sauce over an open flame before they give them to you, to give them a spicy, smoky flavour.
    There are also street vendors that sell barbequed chicken, from 1/4 to a whole chicken, it is very good, and very inexpensive.
    Of course Panamanians love fish dishes. The most popular are corvina (choker), tuna, shrimp, langosto (like prawns), and lobster. One can also find dorado, grouper, snapper, wahoo and rooster fish on menus in some places or up-scale restaurants in Panama City.

    Typical Street Parillada with bbq pork on yucca. Plate for birthday feast. Fonda similar to many on street corners in Panama
    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Business Travel
    • Food and Dining

    Was this review helpful?

  • bilgeez's Profile Photo

    Pollera Headpieces

    by bilgeez Updated Mar 17, 2009

    2 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Polleras aren't complete unless they have the pearl-laden headpieces displayed here. They are also ornamented with gold. These are very costly and families hand them down from generation-to-generation. Often families rent these headpieces out to augment their income. There are many parades and festivals in Panama, so there are many opportunities to rent these out to the queens and other pollera-wearing women of these local celebrations.

    Related to:
    • Festivals
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • bilgeez's Profile Photo

    Panama Viejo

    by bilgeez Updated Dec 10, 2008

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    On the east end of Panama City, are the ruins of the site of the original Panama City. It was first settled in the mid-16th Century, and was there until Captain Morgan pillaged it and the Colonial Spaniards decided to move the town to a more defensible site, where Casco Viejo is now. The area of Panama Viejo wasn´t really reinhabited until the 20th Century again.
    The pictures below are of a moving, stageless play that was performed on the grounds of the Panama Viejo Museum and Cultural Centre in March, 2008. It depicted the original governor of Panama and other pioneer Panamanians who just arrived from Spain and how life was at that time. Panamanians love cultural or historical plays, their Passion Plays on Good Friday are legendary, and last all day! They do them in real time! But that´s another story. We were fortunate enough to find out about this event and go to it, as it is very close to where my wife and I live in Panama City (We walked over). The City and the Tourist Ministry put these events such as this on almost every month.

    Tower of old Cathedral Panama Viejo The Merchants of Panama Viejo Me and My New Girlfriend.
    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel
    • Budget Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • call_me_rhia's Profile Photo

    Kuna Indians

    by call_me_rhia Updated Aug 9, 2008

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Plenty of people spend a small fortune for trips outside the city to visit "authentic" native populations... the nearest to the city would be a day trip to settlements along the Chagres river to the Embera indians, while a farthest and multi-day one would be to the San Blas islands to spend some time with the Kuna indians,

    I must admit that I was tempted to go to the Embera village, but my husband put a clear veto to my proposal... for no reason at all. He suggested that we'd spend a relaxing day in the city, just casually strolling about. On the map I saw that the Avenida Central would be a good place to go, since it's a pedestrian avenue. Well, it turned out that there were many Kuna indians walking about too, doing some shopping AND wearing their traditional clothes... obviously not for the tourists (we were possibly the only foreigners, there).

    Kunas' traditional clothes, for women at least, consist in colorful skirts, red and yellow head scarf, long strings of arm and leg beads, gold nose rings, earrings and a panel in their blouses known as molas. Lesson learned. Don't look for artificial tribes when you have the real people migling in the city with you, and not for you. Look at my travelogue if you want to see more pictures.

    kuna women shopping

    Was this review helpful?

  • bilgeez's Profile Photo

    Folk Dancing - Bailenario Folclorico

    by bilgeez Written Apr 25, 2008

    2 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Panamanians love to dance and not just Rumba or Salsa. They have several dance troupes throughout the country that dance traditional, folclorico style dances, where the girls wear polleras and the boys wear montunos and guayaberra camisas. The dancing is a combination of ballet, flamenco and a little salsa. It is a courtship dance, the boys imitate swimming after the girls to catch them. The girls act coquetish and swing their hips and polleras to tease and excite the boys.

    Bailenderos Bailera Folklorico Tuna Folklorico Pas de Deux Fin
    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Arts and Culture
    • Romantic Travel and Honeymoons

    Was this review helpful?

  • Assenczo's Profile Photo

    Taxi small talk

    by Assenczo Written Jan 10, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    For better or worse the Panamanians are nice talkative fellows who readily provide the traveller with the latest in the gossip column. Chances are that they will talk about Mel Gibson's latest exploits, meaning buying prime real estate and thus connect to you, the avid movie buff. Meanwhile he is going to pump his patriotic ego and make you practice your Spanish. What a win-win situation!

    Related to:
    • Road Trip

    Was this review helpful?

  • gdilieto's Profile Photo

    The Pollera: A Panamanian National Symbol

    by gdilieto Updated Jun 13, 2007

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Panamanian traditional women dress, the "Pollera" (see pictures) has become a Panamanian national symbol. Its flowing skirt, abundance of handwork, and ornate jewelry make this dress beautiful, admired and cherished by all Panamanians. Today Pollera is used on special occasions and in festivals.

    It normally consists of a blouse or shirt and a two-tiered full skirt. There are many tales related about its origin, but the popular opinion is that it was adapted from a gypsy dress worn in Spain at the time of the conquest of Peru and brought to Panama by the servants of the colonial families. The hairdress is an important part of the pollera and complement the costume.

    An handmade pollera takes several months to create and can cost from several hundreds to several thousands of dollars.

    Polleras, and the jewels that go with it, are handed down from mother to daughter, from one generation to another, as an heirloom.

    Traditional Panamanian Costumes
    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • bilgeez's Profile Photo

    Fiestas

    by bilgeez Written Jun 9, 2007

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Panama runs on fiestas. There seems to be one somewhere every week. They have fiestas for local historical events, religious holidays and to celebrate a town’s patron saint(s). Check the local papers or the tourist guide for events surrounding your stay. The biggest fiesta in Panama is Carnaval, of course. Every town has a celebration beginning the weekend before and leading up to Ash Wednesday. Probably the most lavish of these is in Los Santos province in the town of Las Tablas. See my Las Tablas pages for a description of this event.

    Carnaval float in Las Tablas 2007 Carnaval Las Tablas 2007 Torerros at SJB festival in Chitre 2007 Corpus Christi Los Santos 2007 Diablito in Corpus Christi parade Los Santos 2007
    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Budget Travel
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • malianrob's Profile Photo

    Money

    by malianrob Written May 22, 2007

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Panama uses the US dollar as its currency. The official name for it is the balboa, but it's exactly the same bill. Panamanian coins are of the same value, size and metal as US coins; both are used. In most of Central America, US dollars are the only currency exchanged. In Panama City, however, you can exchange currencies from almost anywhere in the world at a casa de cambio, due to the city's large international offshore banking industry.
    This is what I liked because I didnt have to change any money.

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Panamá City

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

14 travelers online now

Comments

Panamá City Local Customs

Reviews and photos of Panamá City local customs posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Panamá City sightseeing.

View all Panamá City hotels