There are many manufacturers of watercolour paints, which can be purchased in tubes or pans. While pans can be useful while you are travelling, because they take up less space, I believe that to achieve intense, colours, you are better to use tube paints.
Cheap sets of tube watercolour paints may be useful for complete beginners because you can purchase a range of colours for very little money. But these paints may not provide the intensity, permanence, smoothness or transparency of more expensive products. Most artists, however, quickly develop a palette of favourite colours and find that they use two or three colours much more than others, so they purchase their paints individually.
Top manufacturers often produce more than one line of watercolour paints with the most expensive product designed to give the best results for discerning artists they will be lightfast, provide strong colour and be more transparent than the cheaper lines which are described as student or hobbyist products. I believe that it is worth buying “artist quality” paints but good work can be done with the cheaper lines
Popular brands used in New Zealand include Windsor and Newton, Daler-Rowney, Maimeri and Art Spectrum but there several other manufacturers, world wide, producing fine watercolour paints.
Watercolour paints are generally, more or less, transparent. Opaque water soluable paints are called gouache and while great work is done in gouache it is considered a separate painting medium. Bearing in mind my first rule (being that there are no rules) there is no reason why watercolour and gouache cannot be used together, and indeed I occasionally use white gouche to recover highlights and sometimes mix watercolours with white to achieve pastel colours. White is not considered a watercolour paint as, in pure watercolour painting, white is achieved by reserving (not painting) the paper.
Sometimes paints are categorized as transparent, opaque or staining. These definitions are fairly self explanatory but it can be very useful for an artist to know that (for example) yellow ochre is considered an opaque colour so if transparency is required it may be better to use, perhaps, raw sienna as an alternative. In most cases whether or not a colour is staining will not matter, but if you are planning to lift out colour after it has been placed the using a staining colour may not be a good idea and it might be better to mask the paper.