I encourage anyone who is interested in bringing a team to
Panamá to take a look at the FAQs below.
See common Spanish phrases, with
recorded examples, along with humourous
translation tips below.
If there is a question you would like answered, but don't see it
there, please let me know.
I encourage team leaders to contact Assemblies of God World Missions,
and especially the Short-Term
Prior approval and insurance coverage are mandatory to receive
US teams in country.
For youth pastors, visit the AG
Ambassadors in Missions (AIM) site.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) for Teams
ministering in Panamá
Click on any question in the following list to see the answer.
If your question isn't answered here, please contact us.
What languages do they speak in Panamá?
- Spanish (official) and English (14%)
What about translation?
Here are a few of my suggestions to make translation of
testimonies, teaching and preaching more effective:
- Specific is better than general.
- Tell *your* story: personal is better than impersonal.
- Avoid reference to $$$, cars, houses, possessions. It's a
- Relationships, families, emotions are all common denominators
you can use to effectively communicate across cultural and
- Look at your audience, not at the interpreter.
- Use brief, declarative phrases: short and to the point is
- I can translate to English if the team will sit together off
to one side or the back, as long as it doesn't disturb the
* Check out this humorous look
at translation on a missions trip.
What are Immigration visa requirements to
enter Panamá? [TOP]
- With a valid US passport you are issued a tourist stamp in
your passport for free as you go through Immigration processing
at the Tocumen airport terminal in Panamá. The tourist visa is
valid for 30 days and if you need to extend your stay for longer
that can be arranged.
- For a series of pictures entering Panamá's Tocumen airport
(from 2006), click on this
What about crime safety?
- common sense is your best protection, along with prayer
- always travel in a group (3 or more) and communicate where
you're going to your leaders
- keep your passport and tourist card with you at all times,
especially at night. One of our pastors was taking out his trash
in front of his house, didn't have his ID and was jailed for the
How is the food and water in Panamá?
- water in the cities and villages is perfectly healthy to
drink; in outlying areas you can bring bottled water or purify
- fish is common ("Panamá" is Kuna word for "abundance of
fish"), chicken and rice most common meal
- please alert us to any severe food allergies beforehand
What about hotels?
- Panamá hotels offer whatever level of comfort you would like
to pay for. Since rates change, please contact us directly if
you need help securing lodging.
How much does transportation cost?
- rental vans: online reservation likely cheaper than what is
available here in Panamá.
- if available, the Panamá Field has a missionary van
reasonably priced daily rate, plus cost of diesel and includes
What's the weather like?
- yearly average 80+ degrees, 86% humidity--it gets hot!
- dry season ("summer") is December - April and rainy season is
May - November
- plan for heat safety: drink plenty of water, rest in the
shade or a/c when you need to. As a doctor friend told me, "If
you're not going to the bathroom, you're not drinking enough
What is appropriate dress for different
- General rule of thumb: dress up more than you would in the
- Panamanians wear high heels, dresses, suits and dress
shoes when walking in the streets (where people can see
them), and then change into more comfortable shoes and
clothes at home, and sometimes at work.
- Uniform suits for employees are common in most businesses.
- At Church:
- Ladies: dresses or skirts covering knees, blouses with
shoulders covered--no skinny straps; nylons welcome, though
optional; if you cannot wear a dress for some reason, dress
slacks are acceptable.
- Men: dress slacks, collared shirts (not T-shirt type),
ties welcome, but optional for group; preachers *must* wear
ties, and a jacket is accepted, but gets very hot!
- At Construction site:
- Ladies: jeans, pants, shorts to knees, T-shirts (no
inappropriate slogans, ads etc.), no tank-tops, sandals or
- Men: jeans, no shorts (sorry guys, women can show their
legs, but we can't!), T-shirts (no inappropriate slogans,
ads etc.), no tank-tops, any work boots, shoes.
- In town, Free time, Site-seeing, shopping:
- Ladies: Shorts, T-shirts, shoes-sandals (see above
comments re: all).
- Men: Shorts (finally!), T-shirts, shoes-sandals (see
above comments re: all).
What about money, overall trip expenses?
- Panamá currency is called the Balboa and it is equal to the
US dollar. Paper bills are the same US paper bills. US coins are
accepted here. Panamá coins are same size-shape, but have
different inscriptions and are *not* accepted back in the US.
- you can bring $100s and $50s for City hotels and restaurants
and sometimes gas stations, but in the interior, you need $20s
(reason: a lot of counterfeit $100s and $50s in circulation)
- ATM machines are everywhere in the city and accept Plus and
- in the City most grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants,
and hotels accept US credit cards, but please note you will most
likely pay an international fee of about 1%
- if I'll have to put down a hotel deposit for the team, which
is fine, please just plan on writing me a check and I can
deposit it to pay my VISA bill
- there's a $20/person Panamá airport exit tax that is included
in your airline ticket. You do not have to pay it separately in
the airport as in years past.
- Overal trip expenses for ground transportation, lodging, and
- $50 per diem, "Roughing it": For teams
that spend most nights camping out or sleeping at a
church, eating typical Panamanian rice/beans/chicken,
renting missionary field van
- $75 per diem, "Motel Seis": For teams
that lodge in modest but clean hotels, eat meals in
restaurants and typical food, rent missionary field van
- $100 per diem, "Latin luxury": For teams
that lodge in nice hotels, eat all meals in restaurants,
rent a Hummer! (nope: just wanted to see if you were paying
What about electrical power?
- Panamá uses 110V electrical outlets like the US, so your
appliances like hair dryers and CD players will work fine
- it would be wise to use surge supressors for important items
since power spikes are common
- you may want to bring those little orange plug-in adapters to
convert from three-prong power cord to two-prong outlets
- 220V power is usually available for welding machines, or
heavy power tools on the job site
What about: taxes, tipping, taxis,
window-washers, beggars? [TOP]
- tourist-related industries typically charge 10% tourist tax
- additional 10-20% tip on meals is customary, but can be more
- taxis are reasonably priced, reliable and safe in Panamá City
- at stop lights young men will wash your car windshield
(whether it needs it or not) and expect a tip of $0.25 - $0.50.
Wag your forefinger side-to-side to say "no." If that doesn't
work, still smile :-) and bless them with a tip.
- beggars will also pass by at stop lights. Feel free to
contribute or not. I try to give a small evangelistic tract with
What do you as a missionary want us as a
team to know most of all? [TOP]
- remember a few key words:
- "flexible" - the relationships & the event
weigh more than the start or end time
- "gentle" - with each other, with the Panamanian
people, with the furniture & plumbing (it's not always
made sturdy; eg: some youth tried washing their feet in a
hotel sink--it came off the wall!)
- "prayerful" - let everything you do in
preparation and in country be filled with prayer
- "attitude" - be a "loving learner" (my focus
beginning from language school to the present). If you're
saying "why don't they...", "they shouldn't...", "that's
weird/strange...", then you're judging. You can't judge
them and serve them at the same time. It's OK to say:
"that's different" (because there will be a lot that's
different to you) and try to learn.
- please channel all correspondence/communication through one
person--either the leader or team member assigned by the leader
- Bring all of your ministry in Español! egs:
solo/choir music trax, printed materials, puppet/drama skits,
- In ministry we can project digital media or DVD films onto
walls/screens indoor or outdoor (weather permitting); we have or
can get audio player, mic and sound system
- it is assumed that the team will cover the missionary's
expenses while traveling and ministering together
- please contact Assemblies
of God World Missions (417-862-2781) for trip
forms, info on travel insurance and helpful suggestions for
short-term ministry teams
Thanks for your interest in bringing a team to minister with us in
Panamá. Feel free to contact or e-mail us.
Click on the Spanish phrase link in the left column to hear a
recording in wave format.
The English translation is in the right column.
| Spanish phrase
|| English translation
| Dios le
|| God bless you (formal)
| Dios te
|| God bless you (informal--to a child)
| A Su
Nombre -- Gloria!
|| ¡To His Name -- Glory!
| A Sus
Hijos -- Victoria!
|| To His Children -- Victory!
está el baño?
|| Where is the bathroom?
| ¿Cómo se llama?
|| What is your name (formal)? - or - What is it called?
| ¿Cómo te
|| What is your name (informal--to a child)?
| Hermano, Hermana
|| Brother, Sister (in Christ, or in the same family)
| ¿Cómo se dice?
|| How do you say?
| ¿Qué es esto?
|| What is this?
| ¿Cuánto cuesta?
|| How much does it cost?
| Más barato
| ¿Cuál tamaño?
|| What size?
| pequeño, mediano,
grande, equis large, extra grande
|| (sizes) small, medium, large, extra large, extra large
| ¡Hola! ¿Cómo
|| Hi! How are you (formal)?
| ¡Hola! ¿Cómo
|| Hi! How are you (informal)?
Tips for Translation
Hopefully the following will never happen to you when you come
to minister with us here in Panamá. But it has happened to
I hope you enjoy this little skit. Feel free to use it for your
MEMBER (looking directly at Translator, and not at the
audience, speaking too fast)
TRANSLATOR (confused or lost at times)
| Tell them I am just tickled to death to be here.
|| (long pause) I'm not sure why but he said something
about scratching himself until he dies.
| When you asked me at lunch to speak to you today, I had
butterflies in my stomach.
|| At lunch I ate some flies that got into my stomach
before speaking today.
| But now I'm really happy to have this opportunitiy to
be with you.
|| It's OK. I'm really happy to have a chance to eat with
| I'd like to talk with you today about the
contextualization of theology in the Third World setting.
|| I'd like to talk to you about a text from another
| But first let me share with you my testimony.
|| First I want to share my .....???
| When I was a kid...
|| When I was just a small goat...
| I didn't understand the implications of what Christ did
for me when he died on the cross.
|| I did not understand what happened when Christ died at
| But then He convicted me of sin through His Holy Ghost.
|| But a ghost arrested me for it.
| I had been a real lady-killer. I lived a life of sex,
booze, and drugs.
|| I had killed a lady. (another pause) I'm too
embarrassed to translate the other part he just said. But
then he took medicine and got better.
| He set me free.
|| I was let go.
| He made me a new creature.
|| I was made into a new animal.
| (excited, faster and LOUDER) Now I have a new life. My
past is forgiven. I am part of the body of Christ. They
are my family. I'm so excited. I want to tell you, and
everybody, all about it!
|| He's very happy. Please clap for him.
My thanks to the Project Compassion Team for allowing me to use,
and edit, this material they gave me.