GREAT AMERICAN VACATION
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Dial 911 nationwide for police, fire, and ambulance. In a medical or dental emergency, ask your hotel staff for information on and directions to the nearest private hospital or clinic. Taxi drivers should also know how to find one, and taking a taxi is often quicker than an ambulance. Many private medical insurers provide online lists of hospitals and clinics in different towns. It's a good idea to print out a copy of these before you travel.
For theft, wallet loss, small road accidents, and minor emergencies, contact the nearest police station. Expect all dealings with the police to be a bureaucratic business—it's probably only worth bothering if you need the report for insurance claims.
Most embassies in the capital open at 8:30 and close by noon.
The Hospital Nacional is an excellent private hospital with English-speaking doctors, a 24-hour emergency room, and specialists in many areas. The Centro Médico Paitilla is the country's best, and most expensive, hospital. The Clínica Bella Vista is a private clinic with English-speaking doctors. To take advantage of Panama's state-run health care, head to the public Hospital Santo Tomás.
Medical staff at Panamanian public hospitals are well-trained and professional. However, hospitals are underfunded and often lack supplies: as a rule, you're best going to a private clinic, which means medical insurance is a must.
Pack a basic first-aid kit, especially if you're venturing into more remote areas. If you'll be carrying any medication, bring your doctor's contact information and prescription authorizations. Getting your prescription filled in Panama might be problematic, so bring enough medication for your entire trip.
U.S. Embassy (Avenida Demetrio Basilio Lakas no. 783, Clayton. 507/317–7000. panama.usembassy.gov.)