Panama is one of the safest countries in Latin America, with a few exceptions. The ragged port town of Colón is dangerous day and night, except in the Colón 2000 cruise-ship and Zona Libre (Free Zone) areas. The northeastern region of the Darién Province near the Caribbean Sea is dangerous due to incidents of kidnapping, murder, and drug-running by Colombian guerrilla and paramilitary groups who have crossed the border into Panama. Other regions of the Darién are home to several lodges that are in a no-risk area.
Panama City is safe, with low to moderate crime occurring mostly in neighborhoods such as El Chorrillo and Curundú; these neighborhoods should be avoided if possible. El Chorrillo surrounds Casco Viejo, to which visitors should take a taxi instead of walking. Panama City is a modern, clean city, yet a very visible poor underclass lives in run-down neighborhoods that feature prominently in the city's west side. As with any urban area, visitors should be alert, exercise caution when taking money out of an ATM, and not walk around with large sums of cash.
Visitors headed for the beach should be extremely cautious when swimming or surfing in both the Pacific and Caribbean oceans, where there are strong riptides. Often there are no warning signs; and tour guides rarely advise their clients of dangerous areas. Remember, no matter what happens, stay calm, and swim parallel to the shore and out of the current.
Illegal drugs are easy to buy in Panama, but stiff penalties apply to anyone caught with illegal substances.
For current security information about Panama, check the U.S. Department of State's Travel Advisory website at http://travel.state.gov.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.