What to wear in Panama

Since I posted this article. I have learned first hand what people wear in Panama. Here's the answer.

I’ve been wondering about how to dress when we are in Panama. Our PC packet offers very little insight. Here’s their list of what to bring:
  • 3-4 pairs of casual pants
  • 1-2 pairs of nicer pants
  • 1-3 pairs of shorts
  • 2 out door work shirts
  • 4 shirts or tank tops
  • 3 nice shirts with collars
  • 1 sweater or thermal
  • Bathing suit
  • 4-5 pairs of socks dark colors
  • 2 week supply of undies
  • Hat and bandana

This is pretty open ended so I spent tonight google-ing what Panamanians wear. Here’s the short of it.

Neat and Sharp: The two most common words used to describe how Panamanians dress. This means always having clean hands and face, groomed hair and not sweating. I’m curious to see how that last one goes, it is tropical after all. Also no wrinkles, they are a sign you don't care. Another one that will be hard to do traveling and in a humid climate to boot.

Shorts - Apparently wearing short skirts or shorts was banned by some leader a while back because that was too American and they were trying to distance themselves from Americans. That’s since been revoked but they still wear long pants and skirts.

Cleavage - Many women around Panama City have fake boobs. And even if one doesn’t have fake boobs the bras sold locally push up and together to make sure you have lots of, how did one blogger put it? Ah yes “breasts that protrude out of these little tops like a baby kangaroo out of his mothers belly.” That was a woman blogger by the way.

Heels - Women always wear heels in the city. In most Central American countries girls celebrate their Quinceanera, a kind of debutant party when a girl turns 15. She gets her first pair of high healed shoes and is officially a young lady. This means unless you consider yourself under 15, you wear heels. If you’re a guy closed toed shoes when in city.

T-shirts - Only for very casual wear, otherwise only under other shirts. Guys wear them under button ups. Although looking through PC pictures many seem to wear t-shirts. That’s reassuring.

Collared Shirts - Not unlike dental school, Panamanians seem to prefer collared shirts, be it polo or button up. Looking through photos, most of the local men wear collars. It is amazing to me the number who wear white. I suppose it is cooler, but if you have to wash your clothes by hand, I would think white would be tough to maintain. Or maybe that’s the point?

Here's a November 2006 Peace Corps group at their Swearing In Ceremony. As you can see a number are breaking the rules I established. So I guess I'll take it all with a grain of salt.

If you need more information look at my ehow articles:
How to dress for Panama - men
How to dress for Panama - women
How to dress in Panama City


  1. Jiggling cleavage and high heels! That's always been MY perception of a Peace Corp volunteer.

  2. Kandice Harper4/22/2007

    Hi Foy! How exciting that you are going to Panama with the Peace Corps. Please add me to your email list: kandiharper@mac.com. I can't wait to hear about your adventures!

  3. Anonymous9/17/2010

    I am a young caucasian lady visiting Panama at the moment and wanted to give all women a heads up that if you wear shorts you will be harassed by the local men. They will slow down cars while you walk, wolfn whistle at you, stare blatently at you etc. so I would try to avoid it even though it is much more comfortable in the heat to wear shorts - stick with jeans or skirts beyond the knee to avoid unwanted attention :)

  4. It's normal for men to catcall young woman and especially tourists. Whether or not you wear shorts, this will happen. The best way to avoid it? Walk next to a guy. I seldom get cat called when I'm with my husband or host father.