The answers to the questions are from
Dr. Lawrence Burgee who has taught
courses in Panama for several years.
Do I need a passport?
Yes. Panama is a foreign country
and requires a passport for entry and exit. While in Panama, you should
carry your passport with you at all times. You may need to show it as
identification for travel and to prove that you are at least 18 years old
if entering establishments where alcohol is served. You must submit a
photocopy of the passport picture page to Dr. Burgee no later the final
payment deadline. Bring a copy of your passport with you and store it in
your luggage. In the unlikely event that you lose your passport, the
photocopy will greatly expedite replacement processing.
Do I need to speak Spanish?
No, but a little bit will
help and show you are interested in the culture. English is widely spoken
in Panama City and is spoken by the students, faculty, and administrators at
Quality Leadership University (QLU). The front desk personnel at the hotel also
speak some English. With that said, it would certainly be to your benefit to
be able to speak a few words of Spanish in order to be polite, identify and
order food, ask directions, etc. You may want to bring a Spanish phrase book
or this free and handy
Spanish reference. There are some very good free video lessons at
|Students pose on the
Portobelo on the way to the beach at
Do I need a laptop computer?
Yes, it is highly recommended that you bring a laptop computer in order to
complete assignments. Any computer with MS Office 2010 (or higher) and an Internet connection
will be adequate. Quality Leadership University and the Crowne Plaza Panama Hotel
both have wi-fi available (and included in our travel package). QLU has two lab classrooms with computers and you
are welcome to use them, provided you can work around the class schedules
for the courses that use the rooms. If
you do not have a laptop, Stevenson has a limited number of "loaners"
available (make request to Dr. Burgee).
Is there a pool at the Crowne Plaza Panama
Hotel? Are beaches close by?
There is a nice pool and sundeck at the
hotel where you can hangout and get some
sun (average high temperature is 87 degrees in the
Beaches are 30-60 minutes away. The group will
spend multiple days at the beach!
Are there places in the city to walk
and jog for exercise?
There is a new jogging and cycling path
Costera) along the bay about five minutes walk from
(Park) is about two miles from the hotel
($2-4 cab ride) and has a three-mile
traffic-free paved loop. The
Amador Causeway is about four miles from the
hotel ($4-8 cab ride) and provides a
beautiful setting for a walk or jog. It has
a paved path along the water that runs from the
mainland out to a small island.
Students on the
beach at San Blas
much spending money should I bring? Are meals included?
uses the US Dollar as currency and in general things are less expensive than
in the United States, particularly outside of Panama City and resort areas.
A nice buffet breakfast is included daily at the Crowne
Plaza Panama Hotel (where we stay), a quality business-class hotel located just four
blocks from campus in a very safe neighborhood. Food and drinks are "cheap"
(but high quality and tasty) and you can get by with $5-10 per day for lunch,
and $10-20 per day for dinner. Many students "feast" on the free hotel
breakfast, eat a light snack for lunch, and then save their spending money
for dinner and evening "socializing". There are two excellent large
supermarkets where you can get great prices: one is one block from the
campus (Supermercado Riba Smith), and the other is three blocks from the hotel
(Supermercado REY). There are also the
standard fast-food options like McDonalds, KFC, and Subway (but I like the
local food better and it's healthier). The fresh fruits at breakfast
(oranges, grapefruits, melons, papaya, etc.) are outstanding.
Are Panama City and the surrounding areas safe?
been to Panama with students many times and we have never had any problems.
As in all large cities, pickpockets are a problem, and there are a few areas
in Panama City and Colon that should be avoided. However, we will have local
guides and QLU chaperones with us at most times with local knowledge. The
areas of El Cangrejo and Bella Vista where the hotel, QLU, and many
restaurants are located are considered to be some of the safest sections in
Panama City. For excursions, we will visit and stay in areas regarded to be
safe. However, when traveling in a foreign country, it is wise to be
cognizant of your surroundings at all times. It is not recommended that you
go out alone at night and it's best to travel in groups of 4-8 people.
A surfer looks for the perfect wave at
A student partakes in some monkey
Do I need any
special medicines, shots, or vaccines? Is the water safe to drink?
On all of my trips to Panama, the students and I have
been in Panama City, Colon, the (former) Canal Zone, Isla Grande, and
"known-safe" areas around or en route to those areas. These areas are judged
to be "safe" from malaria and yellow fever, and the professors and students
I traveled with never took any special precautions (other than wearing
mosquito spray containing DEET), nor have I, and there have never been any
problems. The areas known to sometimes have problems are in eastern Panama,
particularly in the Darien Rainforest near Columbia, places where we would
never go. However, if you have any immune-system weaknesses or disorders, it
may be recommended (check with your doctor) that you get certain vaccines or
medicines. The biggest problem students (and professors) encounter are
severe sunburns (bring sunscreen), dehydration (all the stores have
bottled water available), and foot injuries (there are many open drain holes
and uneven sidewalks throughout the city). A very few students have gotten diarrhea from
drinking tap water outside of Panama City. The water in the Crowne Plaza
Panama Hotel, Quality Leadership University, and most of Panama City, is
pure and safe and I've never had a problem.
Panama City at Night
Students Playing Games
What should I wear?
What about for the company visits?
Panamanians tend to dress nice and rarely wear shorts (except while
exercising or at the beach).
Shorts are frowned upon at QLU and it's rare that you'll ever see the
Panamanian students wearing
them. Jeans and t-shirts are very popular with all age groups and acceptable
nearly everywhere. You should bring a light jacket to class and to
restaurants. The local establishments love to show off their air
conditioning and it may get a bit chilly indoors (but not outdoors). If you
want to see how the locals look, check out the video (below) that shows
locals getting on the colorful local public buses (diablos rojos) in the late afternoon.
With the exception of cultural travel days outside Panama City, or when you are exercising, I would
recommend that you avoid the combination of shorts, t-shirt, white tennis
shoes, and a baseball cap (which prominently announces you as a
For the company visits, you should bring a few nice business-casual outfits, but suits and ties are not necessary.
Here is how students dressed at company visits during the
2012 Winter Term in Panama
and 2014 Winter Term in Panama.
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