What to Wear in Panama

We have now lived in Panama a year and I think I can answer the question ¨What to wear in Panama?¨with actual experience rather than Internet speculation. Also Jamie is visiting at the beginning of September and Adam and Emily are comming at the end. So this can give you some ideas of how to pack.

Rural Panama

Out in the campo clothing is more for decency´s sake than anything else. We live in a small rural Latina community that has little money to spend on clothes.

Women wear shorts or skirts of light weight material. These are usually accompanied by tank tops or tube tops. For footwear flip-flops, also known as chancletas, are universal for men and women. Although I have noticed the younger women have been wearing a knock-off versions of Crocs. You will never see leather shoes in the campo, they just mold. For working both men and women wear black rubber uninsulated boots. Clothes do not need to match, and holes and stains are acceptable. For women makeup should not be worn. Our women neighbors think that only prostitutes wear makeup. After having the "only bad women wear makeup" conversation. One of the moms turned and asked me if I wore makeup and I had to admit I did own and wear makeup. But I quickly explained, ¨I only wear it in the city. In the USA wearing makeup is the custom for all women,¨ in hopes of negating any ideas about me.

Men wear shorts or pants often with out a shirt for working. Although when visiting your neighbors it is etiquette to wear a shirt. Jeff has been living in a pair of board shorts, they dry quickly and are light weight. Younger men tend to favor t-shirts while older men favor button up shirts called guayaberas that are made of light weight materials and have four pockets on the front. Straw hats are worn for sun protection by the older men, but the younger favor ball caps. Especially those with a NY logo. The traditional shoe is a cutarra which is a woven leather sandal.

Panama City

In Panama City the clothing is more a la moda.

Women wear skin tight pants usually jeans, with tight bright colored tops. Long pants are generally forgone in favor of capris or high-water length. Skirts are acceptable, but shorts are not common. It rains often and puddles are frequent. Don't bother to bring a rain jacket, it is just too hot. An umbrella is a good alternative. Older women often wear matching shirt pant sets made from linen. High heeled sandals tend to be the most common foot wear although you will also see dressier flip flops and every now and then tennis shoes. Fancy pedicures are often displayed peeping out of the sandals. Makeup and jewelery are bright and accessorized and all the better if they involve rhinestones. A little side note, bras sold in Panama push up and together for maximum cleavage and pants are really tight and also seem to have a lifting qualitiy to show off shapely rear ends, even at the expense of having a muffin top.

Men wear pants and nice shirts in The City. Jeans with fancy embroidered back pockets, with nice trendy t-shirts. Name brand sports shoes are popular as well. Older men favor slacks with button-ups or polos, generally short sleeves. The shoes are almost always nicer leather dress shoes. For any guy carrying a backpack or messanger bag is a convient way to go. Most people do not have cars and they have to take everything on the public bus system.

As far as going out at night in the city. Men should be wearing collared shirts with dress shoes, and women can wear a nicer outfit or dress with heals. Keep in mind that many of the streets and side walks are uneven, making stilettos a bit tricky. I also usually bring along a scarf or light sweater because restaurants and theaters can be chilly. Makeup is perfectly acceptable and often very bright. Cleavage is the most common accessory for the ladies.


  1. Anonymous4/26/2009

    Thank you, it is VERY helpful!! :)

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Glad I saw this prior to arriving, as I would have had to stay in the countryside and avoid the cities. Are rental cars advised for people who want to explore the entire country or is there a better means of transportation?