Panama Traveler Information - Travel Advice
Travel Advice with a Travel Advisory overview from the US State Department. Here we cover Visa, Safety & Security, local Laws and Insurance in our Panama Traveler Information guide.
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Note: Always check that your destination country is one approved for travel by your travel insurance provider.
PASSPORT VALIDITY: 3 months beyond date of arrival.
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: 1 page per stamp.
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: No.
VACCINATIONS: Yellow fever for passengers entering from countries with endemic yellow fever.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY: $10,000.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT: $10,000.
Embassies and Consulates
Avenida Demetrio Basilio Lakas,
Telephone: +(507) 317-5000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(507) 317-5000
Fax: +(507) 317-5278Panama-ACS@state.gov
See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Panama for information on U.S. - Panama relations.
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
Visit the Embassy of Panama website for the most current visa information.
Requirements for Entry:
- A passport valid for at least three months past the date of entry.
- A return ticket to home country or onward destination.
- Money - either $500 in cash or its equivalent, or credit card, bank statement, letter of employment or travelers checks.
- Criminal Record Restriction - Panamanian immigration reserves the right to deny entry to any person with a criminal conviction.
Requirements for Exit:
180 Day Stay-Tourists can only remain in Panama for 180 days. This rule is strictly enforced by Panamanian immigration. Travelers must ensure that immigration officials place an entry stamp in their passport. For further information contact the Government of Panama Migration Service.
Traveling with Minors- Minors (children under 18) who are Panamanian citizens (including dual citizens) or legal residents of Panama are required to present both parents’ identification documents, birth certificates, and notarized consent (in Spanish) in order to exit the country if not accompanied by both parents. The consent must also be apostilled if it was signed in the United States. A child born in Panama may automatically obtain Panamanian citizenship. Non-resident foreign minors are excluded from these provisions.
HIV/AIDS Restrictions: Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Panama. Panamanian immigration does not require an HIV/AIDS test. The U.S. Embassy is not aware of any U.S. citizens who have been deported due to HIV/AIDS. Please verify this information with the Embassy of Panama before you travel.
Arriving by Sea: The Servicio Nacional de Migracion is currently enforcing an entry permit fee of $110 for sea travelers piloting their own boats and arriving as tourists. This fee allows entry into Panama for a period of three months, and can be extended for up to two years through an approved application with the immigration authorities in Panama. U.S. citizens navigating private craft through the Canal should contact the Panama Canal Authority at (011) 507-272-4570 or consult the Panama Canal Authority web site to make an appointment.
Safety and Security
Outside city limits, the Mosquito Gulf (Caribbean side) and the Darien Region (Colombian border) are particularly dangerous due to their remoteness and the presence of criminal organizations.
In the Darien region, most travel is by river or by footpath due to the scarcity of roads. There have been reports of narco-traffickers, and other smugglers and criminals operating in the Panama-Colombia border area.
Access to the “Mosquito Gulf” region is almost exclusively by boat and/or aircraft. Sections of this coastline are reportedly used for narco-trafficking and other illicit activities.
Demonstrations: There may be demonstrations to protest internal Panamanian issues or, more rarely, manifestations of anti-American sentiment. While most demonstrations are non-violent, the Panamanian National Police have used tear gas and/or riot control munitions in response to demonstrations, particularly when roadways are blocked or aggression is used against the police.
Beach and Maritime Safety: Some beaches, especially those on the Pacific Ocean, and those in the Bocas Del Toro and Chiriqui provinces, have dangerous currents that cause drowning deaths every year.
Boaters should be wary of vessels that may be transporting narcotics and illicit materials, or being used in human smuggling operations. Packages containing narcotics have been found floating in the ocean or lying on remote beaches. Do not pick up or move these packages, and immediately report their location to the Panamanian authorities.
Local maritime search and rescue capabilities are limited. If you are experiencing an emergency at sea or know of someone who is experiencing an emergency off the coast of Panama, please contact the Panamanian authorities.
Crime: Panama City, Colon, and Chiriqui province have the highest crime rates. Crimes include shootings, home invasions, rapes, armed robberies, muggings, and thefts. You should take the same precautions you would take in other big cities.
- Remove valuables from your car. Keep windows up and doors locked while driving.
- Use only licensed and registered taxis. Avoid taxis with passengers and instruct the driver not to pick up additional fares while en-route to your destination. Regular taxis are yellow in color. Many hotels also have “tourist taxis” that are not yellow but only pick up passengers in front of well-known hotels. Taxis in Panama do not use meters so agree on a fare before getting into the taxi.
Victims of Crime: Report crimes to the local police by dialing 104 (National Police) or 511-9260 (Tourist Police in Panama City) and contact the U.S. Embassy at +507-317-5000.
Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes that occur in Panama.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- Help you find appropriate medical care
- Assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- Contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- Provide a list of local attorneys
- Provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the United States
- Put you in touch with the Panamanian Office of Assistance to Victims of Crime (Oficina de Asistencia a Víctimas de Crímenes), located at the Technical Judicial Police Station (Policia Tecnica Judicial) in the Ancon area of Panama City, which can be reached at 512-2222.
- Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical
- support in cases of destitution
- Help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- Replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance. If you are in immediate danger, first contact the local police at 104.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
If you break local laws in Panama, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution, and the Embassy cannot get you out of jail or prison. Keep in mind, if you are arrested for an offense, tried and convicted, you must be sentenced before you can be transferred to the United States to complete your sentence in the United States. This process can last three or more years.
Carry Identification: Anyone not bearing identification may be held and will be penalized by the Panamanian authorities. You should always carry your passport that contains the Panama entry stamp in case it is requested by Panamanian authorities.
Drugs: Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Panama are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Property: Exercise extreme diligence in purchasing real estate in Panama. The U.S. Embassy in Panama has received numerous property dispute complaints. The complaints include lost property, broken contracts, and demands for additional payments, accusations of fraud and corruption, and occasionally threats of violence. More information can be found here.
Customs Restrictions: Panamanian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning importation into or export from Panama of items such as firearms and ammunition, cultural property, endangered wildlife species, narcotics, biological material, and food products. Contact the Panamanian Embassy for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available as you may also be breaking local law. The Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Division in the U.S. Department of Justice has more information on this serious problem. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.
LGBTI Travelers: Same sex marriages are not conducted nor recognized in Panama. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals enjoy full legal rights in Panama. However, Panamanian law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and there is societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance. Individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Panamanian law only mandates access to new or remodeled public buildings for persons with disabilities, which is being enforced for new construction. Handicapped parking is often available at many larger parking lots.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Panama City is known to have some good hospitals and clinics, but medical facilities outside of the capital are limited. Hospitals in Panama are either private hospitals or government-run public hospitals. Private hospitals typically require payment of the anticipated costs of hospitalization prior to providing services and require payment of any additional costs upon release from the hospital. These costs can be in excess of USD$10,000-$20,000, depending on the nature of the treatment. In Panama, most hospitals accept credit cards for hospital charges, but not for doctors' fees and do not accept international wire transfers or credit card payments over the phone.
Except for antibiotics and narcotics, most medications are available without a prescription.
The 911-call center provides ambulance service in Panama City, Colon, and the Pan-American Highway between Panama City and Chiriqui. However, an ambulance may not always be available and given difficulties with traffic and poor road conditions, there may be a significant delay in response. There are private ambulance services available on a subscription basis.
The U.S. Embassy does not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare and Medicaid do not apply overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription.
The following diseases are prevalent:
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: While in Panama, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Travelers should carry identification with them at all times and be prepared to stop for unannounced checkpoints throughout the country, especially at night. Traffic lights are infrequently located on roads throughout the country, even at busy intersections. Traffic in Panama moves on the right, as in the U.S. Panamanian law requires that drivers and passengers wear seat belts.
Driving in Panama is often hazardous and difficult due to heavy traffic, undisciplined driving habits, poorly maintained streets and a shortage of effective signs and traffic signals. Use caution when driving at night; night driving is particularly hazardous on the old Panama City – Colon highway. Riding your bicycle on the streets is not recommended.
Road travel is more dangerous during the rainy season (April to December) due to flooding. Rainy season occasionally makes city streets impassible and washes out some roads in the interior of the country. In addition, roads in rural areas are often poorly maintained and lack light at night.
There is often construction at night on Panama's portion of the Pan American highway. There are few signs alerting drivers to construction, and the highway is not well lit at night. When traveling on the highway, travelers should be aware of possible roadblocks. The Pan American Highway ends at Yaviza in the Darién Province of Panama and does not continue through to Colombia.
Traffic Laws: Current Panamanian law allows foreigners to drive in Panama using their valid foreign driver’s license for a period of only 90 days. Driving without a valid driver’s license is illegal in all areas of Panama. Drivers stopped for driving while intoxicated may face the loss of their driver’s license, a monetary penalty, and vehicle impoundment. Talking on a cell phone or drinking an alcoholic beverage while driving also carries a fine.
If you are involved in a vehicle accident, immediately notify the police. Third party liability auto insurance is mandatory, but many drivers are uninsured. If an accident occurs, the law requires that the vehicles be moved off the roadway. Failure to do so could result in a fine. If you are involved in an accident that did not cause injury, you should take a photo of both cars. If safe to do so, exchange information with the other driver and wait for the police to arrive.
Public Transportation: Public transportation should be used with caution. While we still receive reports of thefts and pick-pocketing, Panamanian National Police report the new metro buses with bigger windows and better lighting, have reduced the instances of violent crime.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Also, we suggest that you visit the websites of Panama’s Tourism Authority, Transportation Authority, and the national authority responsible for road safety in Panama (Spanish-only) for helpful information on road conditions in Panama.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Panama’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Panama’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Panama should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts at www.marad.dot.gov/msci. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website (https:homeport.uscg.mil), and the NGA broadcast warnings website https://msi.nga.mil/NGAPortal/MSI.portal; select “broadcast warnings.”
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
International Parental Child Abduction
Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Panama. For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.
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