Health & safety
Casco Viejo is currently the focus of an ambitious urban renewal program, though it’s still very much a work in progress. Generally speaking, the tip of the peninsula southeast of the Iglesia de la Merced is safe for tourists, especially since the area is heavily patrolled by police officers on bicycles. However, you should always exercise caution, and stay where it’s well lit and where there are plenty of people around. Always take taxis at night.
Casco Viejo gets an undeserved bad rep, though you should not underestimate how quickly the neighborhood can change. As you move away from the tip of the peninsula, you will be entering high-density slums and plenty of tourists have been the target of criminal activity. Other high-crime areas include Curundú, El Chorrillo, Santa Ana, San Miguelito and Río Abajo.
There are occasional reports of robbery near the ruins of Panamá Viejo – don’t go after sunset, and always keep an eye out.
When walking the streets of Panama City, be aware that drivers do not yield to pedestrians. Sometimes it’s best to approach intersections like Panamanians – look both ways then run like hell.
Medicine in Panama, especially in Panama City, is of a high standard.
Centro Médico Paitilla (265 8800, 265 8883; cnr Calle 53 & Av Balboa) Has well-trained physicians who speak both Spanish and English.
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