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Frequently Asked Questions about traveling to Panama

We would like to inform you about the current situation and rules in Panama. We hope you will find your answer in the list of frequently asked questions. Do you have another question? Feel free to contact us.

Is Panama safe?

Yes -in fact Panama is the safest country for tourists and business men in the region and one of the safest countries in Latin America. Purse snatchings and pick-pocketing common in other places are uncommon here. That said, like anywhere, some caution is needed. Don't wander around in poor areas. In Panama City, take only authorized taxis which are painted yellow with a number on it, a taxi officially connected to your hotel or use Uber. If there's two people in the front seat of the taxi, don't take it. Use common sense. Don't carry large sums of money or flash expensive watches.

One city in Panama is unsafe: Colon. There are no tourism attractions in the city of Colon itself so avoid it. When you visit the Colon area, go with a tour guide or go to the Free Trade Zone only.

Do I need a visa to visit Panama? Is there something I need to know about before my trip?

Citizens of most countries including the USA, Canada, the European Union and most Latin American and Caribbean countries don't need a visa. What is required is a valid passport for at least 6 months after you depart and an onward / return flight ticket. Travelers from the US as well need a tourist card which can be purchased at the airport for approximately $ 10 USD. For all other countries consult your embassy or a Panamanian consulate about visa requirements.

Entry requirements change with surprising frequency. It is each traveler's responsibility to check with the consulate for the most up-to-date visa and passport information.

Of note: a law requires anyone entering Panama to have a passport which is more than 3 months valid. So make sure you do, or you maybe you will be refused by the entry. You are also required to have a a minimum of $500.00. People are rarely asked for this, but have it just in case.

Panamanian law also requires you carry some kind of ID when you are out and. To avoid losing your passport, just carry a photocopy of the photo page of your passport and also the page where your entry date is stamped.
If your children are traveling with one parent only, Panama requires a notarized letter of permission from the other parent.

What type of food is typical for Panama?

Panama's cuisine is indicative of both its northern and southern neighbors. Travelers can find the rice, beans, tamales, and tortillas common to Central America as well as the ceviche (cold seafood soup) and empanadas (fried corn tortillas filled with meat) of South America. The national dish is sancocho, a spicy stew with chicken and vegetables. There is also plenty of seafood.

What is the currency?

The official currency of Panama is the Balboa, named after Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, who discovered the Pacific Ocean in 1513. One Balboa is divided into 100 cents. Since 1904 one Balboa equals one US Dollar and since then, the US Dollar has legally circulated in Panama.

In other words, in practice, the currency used day-to-day in Panama is the US dollar, which is also legal tender. Currently there are Panamanian coins that have the same weight, dimension and composition of the coins used in the USA (1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents). Panama also has its own $1 coin. For paper money, only the US Dollar is used (there are no paper Balboas).

Can I drink the water?

Yes in Panama, with the exception of a few places in Bocas del Toro, you can drink the tap water. However you do taste the chlorine in the water and that is why we advise to buy bottled water.

When is the best time to visit Panama?

Travelers can visit Panama any time of the year. Temperatures are hot year round in the lowlands (90s during the day/ 60s at night) and cool in the highlands. Most of Panama has two seasons based on rainfall: a wet season and a dry season. Dry season runs from mid-December to mid-April and is generally considered to be the best time to travel.

However, even during the height of the wet season, all day rains are rare. More commonly, travelers will experience brief heavy downpours interspersed with sun. Crowds are smaller during this time and travelers can still participate in most of the same activities. These differences are more common on the southern, Pacific side of Panama. The northern Caribbean side of Panama experiences rain showers year round, with slightly lower rainfall in February/ March and September/ October.

What is the weight limitation for domestic flights in Panama?

For domestic flights each passenger is allowed 1 bag of up to 30 lbs (14kg) per person. Carry-on luggage is limited to 8 lbs per passenger (4 kg). On some routes its possible to bring extra luggage at an additional cost (check with us for these routes).

What electrical voltage is used?

The voltage is the same as the United States and Canada: 110V.

In case of an emergency, what are the medical facilities like?

As a by-product of its long association with the United States, many Panamanian doctors are U.S. trained and the standards of the top hospitals in Panama City and David compare favorably to US standard.

What immunizations are required or recommended for visiting Panama?

No immunizations are currently required for visiting Panama except a yellow fever certificate if you are arriving in Panama after visiting an infected area. Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended. A Yellow Fever vaccination is also recommended for travel to certain regions of Panama, though the risk is generally considered to be small. For the most current information, please consult your doctor. We advise you to take your own decision based on information you will obtain in your home country.

Is it safe to drive in Panama?

Panama has one of the best road infrastructures in Latin America. The Pan American Highway, the main highway across Panama is in excellent condition. Driving in Panama City can be quite hectic, but outside of the city it's easy. As with driving in any unfamiliar country, we strongly recommend you plan to drive only during the day.

How should we tip our guides and drivers?

Always a difficult subject: here a bit a guide line.

Day tour guide: US$10.00 per person/day

Tour driver: US$5.00 per person/day

Tour boat driver: US$5.00 per person/day

Hotel bellman: US$1.00 per person per suitcase

International airport bellmen (red caps): US$1.00 per piece of suitcase

What kind of clothes and other items should I bring?

For the tropical climate, light colored, loose fitting cotton clothes are the most comfortable. Panama is near the equator, so the sun is strong. You"ll need good sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.

The highlands can be cool in the evenings, so a warm sweater or light jacket is necessary. If you plan to hike, bring long pants, boots, a hat and insect repellant. For visiting the Darien Jungle bring fast drying clothes.

What is the easiest and cheapest way to make and receive phone calls in Panama for a visitor?

Panama- USA/Canada/ Europe phone calls are incredibly cheap- 5 cents a minute. The cheapest way to make phone calls is by Skype or on your Gmail. You can also buy a $10.00 Cable and wireless or Movistar phone card at major grocery stores like El Rey or Farmacia Arrocha. You just put in the “code" and call from any phone. If you want to receive phone calls, we advise you buying a SIM card for a few dollars.