Latinamerica Collection
Tourist Information About Panama

Passport and Visas

The following information is subject to change and should be verified by contacting the nearest diplomatic or consular office of Panama. Violations of entry and exit requirements may result in serious penalties.

 

i. United States Tourists
A valid U.S. passport is required for all citizens regardless of age in order to enter Panama BY AIR and to return to the U.S.

 

SEA TRAVELERS must have a valid U.S. passport, or other original proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a certified U.S. birth certificate with a government-issued photo identification. However, sea travelers are still advised to obtain a valid U.S. passport to facilitate entry and exit. As early as January 1, 2008, all U.S. citizens may be required to show a valid U.S. passport whether traveling by air or sea. U.S. citizens simply passing through the Panama Canal AS PASSENGERS are not required to obtain visas, report to customs, or pay any fees. Those traveling through the canal by personal watercraft should contact the Panama Canal Authority beforehand.

 

Though not necessarily an official requirement of Panama, U.S. citizens should assure that their passports are valid for a period of six months after their expected date of departure from Panama. If a second nationality passport was used to enter Panama in the case of dual citizenship, all U.S. citizens must use a U.S. passport when returning to the U.S.

 

Additionally, Panamanian law requires that travelers either purchase a tourist card from the airline serving Panama or obtain a visa from a Panamanian embassy or consulate before traveling to Panama. Further information may be obtained from the Embassy of Panama in Washington D.C., or the Panamanian consulates located in many major U.S. cities.

 

All people traveling within Panama, citizens and tourists, are required by law to have in their possession at all times their original passport or other official identification.

 

In order to prevent international child abduction, many governments require documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Though this may not be required in all countries, possessing such documentation may facilitate entry and departure.

 

ii. Canadian Tourists
A valid Canadian passport is required for all citizens regardless of age in order to enter Panama and to return to Canada. Though not necessarily an official requirement of Panama, Canadian citizens should assure that their passports are valid for a period of six months after their expected date of departure from Panama. If a second nationality passport was used to enter Panama in the case of dual citizenship, all Canadian citizens must use a Canadian passport when returning to Canada. Certificates of Naturalization, birth certificates, Certificate of Canadian Citizenship, driver's licenses and photocopies are NOT accepted as alternative travel documents by authorities in Canada or Panama.

 

All people traveling within Panama, citizens and tourists, are required by law to have in their possession at all times their original passport or other official identification. Canadians must also be in possession of a tourist card, which may be purchased in advance through the airline or travel agency used to arrive in Panama. These cards may also be purchased upon arrival at a land border or at Panama City's Tocumen International Airport. Tourist cards are valid for a stay of up to thirty days though an extension may be requested before the expiry date for an additional thirty days.
According to the Canadian, government-issued travel report, all visitors to Panama must have in their possession at least US$500 equivalent or a valid credit card as well as a return or onward ticket.

 

In order to prevent international child abduction, many governments require documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Though this may not be required in all countries, possessing such documentation may facilitate entry and departure.

 

iii. European Tourists
European tourists traveling to Panama do not require any form of visa but must assure that their passports are valid for at least six months past the date of arrival in Panama.

 

All people traveling within Panama, citizens and tourists, are required by law to have in their possession at all times their original passport or other official identification.

 

In order to prevent international child abduction, many governments require documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Though this may not be required in all countries, possessing such documentation may facilitate entry and departure.

 

Airport Taxes and Customs
According to the Canadian, government-issued travel report a US$20 (cash only) airport fee is assessed upon departure. However, the U.S. version of this travel report does not mention this fee.

 

Health and Vaccinations
Panama requires any travelers coming from countries infected with yellow fever to show documented proof of vaccination.

 

All tourists should be sure that their routine vaccinations are up to date whether traveling or not. This information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control website.

 

Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, and Rabies vaccinations are recommended, but not required, for all those traveling to Panama. For more information visit the Centers for Disease Control website.

 

Malaria risk exists in rural areas of Bocas Del Toro, Darién, San Blas provinces and San Blas Islands. No risk exists in Panama City or in the former Canal Zone. In the case of infection, the antimalarial drug chloroquine is recommended for use. For more information about Malaria visit the Centers for Disease Control website.

 

To avoid infection of any diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, it is recommended that you wear long sleeves or pants or have in your possession mosquito repellant, especially in areas where infection of Malaria is possible. Additionally, the use of bed nets is recommended in these areas.

 

Safety and Security
Panama is a developing country, and travelers should exercise caution as criminal activity continues to be an active problem. Tourists should avoid carrying with them valuables that may jeopardize their safety.

 

Clothing and What to Bring
Because of the relatively large fluctuations in temperature it is always a good idea to have long sleeves and even a jacket for the cooler spots. Long sleeves are also comfortable at night as they will protect you from mosquitoes. Be sure to bring a good pair of shoes for any excursions as open-toed shoes are not recommended. Also, be sure to bring a pair of beach sandals and light shoes for when it is much hotter out. You will want light clothing such as cotton tee shirts as well, as the temperatures can be quite hot. And bring an umbrella regardless of whether it is the wet or dry season.

 

Currency, Banks, Credit Cards
The US$ has been legal currency in Panama since 1904. However, the currency of Panama is called the balboa (B) and is made of 100 centesimos. US$ and balboas are exactly interchangeable with 1B = 1US$. Centesimo coins are also available in the same denominations as U.S. coins though American coins are also accepted.

 

A good option is to bring US$ into Panama as they can be used throughout the country. Canadian dollars may be difficult to exchange in Panama and US$ are preferred.

 

In addition, international debit and credit cards may be used to withdraw money from local ATMs. Also, most major credit cards are accepted in Panama, especially in tourist destinations. It is always a good idea to check with your credit card companies to find out what, if any, foreign use fees exist.

 

Bringing US$ traveler's checks to Panama for exchange is also another viable option. Canadian dollar traveler's checks may be difficult to exchange and US$ traveler's checks should be used.

 

Taxes and Tips
In addition to a 5% sales tax, 10% gratuity may or may not be added to restaurant bills. The restaurant bill will show this information. It is still customary to tip 10% total for restaurant and café services.

Also, a 10% tax is generally added to hotel room bills as a tourist tax. However, in order to be sure, always consult your bill.

 

Time Zone
The time zone used in Panama is five hours before Coordinated Universal Time, or (UTC-05:00). This means that during summer (daylight savings time) Panama is two hours behind New York City and one hour ahead of Los Angeles.

 

Telephone Calls
When calling from Panama to the United States or Canada visitors must dial the following: 001 City Code Local Number.

 

Electricity and Voltage
Electricity is generally the same as in the U.S. and Canada, with 110V/60Hz. However, because much of the wiring is older, the receptacles may be limited to two-prong without the ground prong. For that reason, it is a good idea to purchase a few inexpensive adapters for any three-prong (grounded) cords you may have.

 

Local Newspapers
• Bitchnews (English)
• The Bocas Breeze (in Bocas del Toro) (English)
• The Bulletin (English)
• Critica en Linea (Spanish)
• DIAaDIA (Spanish)
• El Panama America (Spanish)
• El Siglo Digital (Spanish)
• The Isthmian (English) 
• La Estrella de Panama (Spanish)
• La Prensa (Spanish)
• Noriegaville News (Available in English and Spanish)
• The Panama News (English)
• The Visitor, El Visitante (Available in English and Spanish)

 

Transportation and Getting Around in Panama
i. Cars
Tourists will encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the U.S. and Canada. Always exercise caution when driving an automobile. Roads are often not well-maintained and drivers may simply not use signal lights. Also, keep in mind that insurance is not a requirement in Panama. Many of the North American rental car agencies are represented in Panama.

 

ii. Taxis
Taxis in Panama are abundant and may be signaled from the middle of town, taxi stands, or scheduled in advance. Fares in Panama City are determined by zones rather than meters. Fares are generally reasonable, making this a good option for traveling through the city.

 

iii. Buses
Buses service all accessible areas in Panama. There is a main terminal in Panama City which services the country's destinations.

 

Also, urban buses are available in Panama City and charge a flat rate upon boarding the bus. These buses are generally painted in bright colors and are essentially recycled school buses.

 

iv. Boats
Travel by boat is another option to a few destinations in Panama, including the San Blas Islands.

 

v. Trains
Train travel through the country is no longer offered though there is a tourist train available along the Panama Canal.

 

Business Hours
Businesses are generally open from 8:00AM until noon and then reopen from 2:00PM to 5:00PM or 6:00PM. On Saturdays, business will only have their morning hours generally from 9:00AM until noon. Retail businesses are open from 9:00AM until 6:00PM everyday but Sunday.

 

Banks are generally open from 8:00AM until 1:30PM while government offices are open from 8:30AM until 4:30PM.