Panama

Packing List

This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in-country and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything on the list, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind there is a 100-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in-country. 

Baggage & weight limit: The Peace Corps limits the size and weight of baggage and will not pay to transport baggage that exceeds these limits. The allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 100 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds per bag. 

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers.

General Clothing

Panama has affordable clothing (readily available) stores throughout all areas of the country. Panamanian fashions reflect those of the United States, so don't feel like you have to change your style of dress.

Because of the heat and humidity, cotton and quick-dry fabrics are good ideas, especially for underwear. Outdoor clothing with fabric that wicks away moisture can be useful; however, cotton-synthetic blends also hold their shape and can be cooler to wear. EH and SAS Volunteers will generally wash their clothes by hand, therefore aim to bring more durable items.

The following clothing items are generally not acceptable: short shorts (above the knee) on women or men, spaghetti-strap tank tops, or flip-flops.

  • 3–4 pairs of casual pants (quick-dry, cargo, jeans); (2-3 for CEC PCVs)
  • 1–2 dress pants or skirts for EH and SAS; 3-4 for CEC and TE
  • 2–4 casual shorts (gym shorts, capri pants; should be at least finger-tip length)
  • 1–2 work shirts (T-shirts, old button-down shirts) for CEC and TE; 2-4 for EH and SAS
  • 3–5 dress shirts (dri-fit polos, button-down shirts, polos, blouses) for CEC and TE; 1-2 for EH and SAS
  • 3–6 casual shirts (button-downs, T-shirts, wide-strap tank tops)
  • 1 warm top (sweater, sweatshirt, thermal shirt)
  • 1–2 bathing suits (more conservative is better)
  • 4–6 pairs of socks for CEC and TE; 5-10 pairs for EH and SAS (dark colors are preferable)
  • 10–14 pairs of underwear
  • 10–14 bras for women (regular bras are recommended as sports bras might not dry as quickly)
  • 1–2 hats/bandannas 

Shoes

Shoes larger than size 10 (both men and women) or wide widths are hard to find in Panama.

  • 1 pair comfortable dress shoes (2-4 for TE PCVs); dressier sandals are considered formal for the Peace Corps/Panama office
  • 1 pair hiking shoes/rubber boots (many PCVs use rubber boots, which can be bought in Panama)
  • 1-2 pairs casual shoes (running shoes, sneakers, sandals)

Electronics

Tablet, computer, or neither: It is highly recommended that you bring a laptop to facilitate your work and reporting requirements. A tablet may be cheaper and can perform most of the functions a computer can, but must be able to run Microsoft Silverlight, which is required to run the reporting form that must be submitted to Peace Corps/Panama once every six months. Alternatively, reports could be submitted using a computer at an Internet café if you don’t bring a laptop. To get Internet besides Wi-Fi, Volunteers can purchase data USB sticks (available in Panama) that plug into laptops or tablets that have a SIM slot.

  • Flashlight (headlamps are recommended)
  • Water resistant/shockproof watch
  • Digital camera
  • Laptop/tablet
  • Rechargeable battery pack for phone
  • Unlocked cellphone
  • E-reader
  • Portable solar charger

Miscellaneous

Note for female Volunteers: Feminine products are easily accessible in Panama. Pads are available in all community stores; specific brands and tampons are available in all cities. During your service, you will likely be visiting a city at least once a month, so it will be easy to buy more. That said, bring enough items with you for 1-2 months. 

  • Three-month supply of any medications, to last through pre-service training; copy of prescriptions
  • If you wear glasses, bring two pairs (contact are not recommended due to elevated rates of eye infections and contact solution is hard to find)
  • If you plan to travel to other countries for vacation, you may want to bring extra money to suit your travel plans; credit cards or traveler's checks are preferable to cash. There are ATMs in larger cities, and most towns so you may want to bring an ATM card to access a bank account in the U.S. 
  • Small gifts for host family and friends (not required); knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; photos to give away
  • Dry bags (it rains a lot and it's good to protect your gear; zip-top bags work as well)
  • Rain protection (compact umbrella, lightweight poncho)
  • Small, sturdy backpack for short trips
  • Start-up supply of toiletries
  • Bath towel (quick-dry recommended)
  • Beach towel
  • Sunglasses 

Other items to bring or purchase in Panama

  • Inexpensive jewelry
  • Hobby items
  • Pocketknife or multipurpose tool
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sarong/wrap
  • World map
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Small padlocks for luggage
  • Sleeping pad (for traveling)
  • 100% cotton sheets or lightweight sleeping bag 

What Not to Bring

  • Batteries
  • Razors (readily available in country for personal hygiene, both disposable and refill cartridges)
  • Basic health-care items (such as sunblock or bug repellant) unless you have a specific brand or preference; basic items are included in the medical kit
  • Kerosene burners
  • Kitchen supplies
  • Wedding ring/band (a cheap silver band is a good placeholder)
  • Mosquito net (supplied by Peace Corps)
  • Spanish-English Dictionary (supplied by Peace Corps)