Panama Tips

Helpful information:

Here is some important information about Panama travel and resources:

Arriving/Departing: Most travelers fly into Tocumen International Airport, Panama City, Panama (PTY), Panama’s only major international airport for commercial flights and the region’s busiest hub, thanks to Copa Airlines.

The Marcos A. Gelabert airport in Panama City (also referred to as Albrook, after the neighborhood in which it’s located) offers flights from domestic airline Air Panama.

The Enrique Malek airport in David, Chiriqui offers flights to and from Costa Rica; all other flights to and from David are domestic.

There are also small domestic airports or airstrips elsewhere in Panama, including the San Blas/Guna Yala region, Contadora Island, and Bocas del Toro.

Customs and Immigration: U.S. and Canadian citizens must have a passport to visit Panama. No visa is required for tourist visits of up to 90 days.

Citizens from visa waiver countries, including Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, El Salvador, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, and Uruguay, may visit Panama for up to 90 days without a visa*.

*This list is subject to change. At present, Panama immigration permits tourists from the U.S., Canada, and other visa waiver countries to stay longer than 90 days (up to six months). However, the law as written stipulates a 90-day maximum, so there is no guarantee that you will be granted a six-month stay on arrival. Please always check with your nearest Panamanian consulate or your home country’s foreign affairs office prior to travel to ensure you have the latest information. Your passport must be valid for at least six months from your arrival in Panama. Passports expiring within less than six months will not be accepted by Panamanian immigration. Be prepared to show proof of solvency (at least $500) and of intended departure. If you stay for five months or more on a tourist visa, you may be required to leave the country for at least 30 days before re-entering.

Country Information:

  • Time Zone: EST (No Daylight Savings adjustments. Google “time in Panama” for the exact current time).
  • Power: 110/220 volts AC, 60Hz, US Standard two-pin plugs. As the U.S. is 120v, you may want to purchase a converter/transformer to safeguard your 120V appliances. Power surges do occur; you may want to use power strips with surge protection to safeguard your laptop and other electronics.
  • Currency: Panama uses the U.S. dollar (referred to as the Balboa). All bills are U.S. bills; you’ll find a mix of coins from different U.S. states as well as Panamanian coins (exact same size/specs as U.S. coins). Major credit cards are widely accepted in Panama City (I mean, not at artisan market stalls, but at malls and restaurants). Outside the city, you may need to use cash for most expenditures; there are even hotels/motels that don’t accept credit cards (ask before you go).
  • Foreign exchange: If you are coming to Panama with a currency other than U.S. Dollars, note that exchange posts can be hard to find. Your options are generally to withdraw USD from ATMs in Panama City, use your credit card for purchases, exchange cash on arrival in Tocumen Airport, ask whether your hotel offers exchange services (many do not), or plan on getting to a bank during business hours (call ahead to ensure the branch you’ll visit does exchanges).
  • Climate: Panama is tropical with average temperatures of 88º F and two seasons: dry and rainy. The dry “summer” season is usually December-April. Expect rain on the Caribbean coast (places like Bocas del Toro), year-round. In highland regions such as Boquete, misty rain is common and temperatures can drop to 60º F at night. No matter where you go, you may need a light sweater or jacket due to cool ocean breezes or over-zealous use of air conditioning. For more information, consult Google News, The Weather Channel, or any other trusted news or weather source.

For help planning your visit contact your travel agent or make use of reduced travel websites such as Kayak.com. Low airfares are often available on Copa/United, visit: www.copaair.com for more information. Other airlines like Spirit also offer budget flights.

For help choosing a hotel and other information try review sites such as TripAdvisor.com. The Riande Airport Hotel and Crowne Plaza Panama Airport are close to Tocumen International Airport but far from city conveniences. If staying in Panama City you may want to choose hotels in central or downtown areas for ease of exploration. El Cangrejo is a popular neighborhood for hotels, metro access, and walkability, as is the adjacent neighborhood of Obarrio.

The Hilton Panama, where the Fast Track Panama seminar will be held, is located on Balboa Avenue and the Cinta Costera, a popular bayside promenade featuring recreation areas. You can walk the Cinta Costera all the way to Casco Viejo, the city’s historic quarter (about 2.3 miles, 45-50 minutes walking).

Waze is an excellent app to have on your smart phone and help you navigate Panama City if driving and if you have local data. If not, you may want to download Panama City, Panama to your smartphone’s Google Maps app, to have access on your smartphone even when offline.

If you’d like local cell/data service, you can buy a cheap cell phone or Panama sim card for your cell phone at Tocumen airport, malls, and other places.

Many restaurants and businesses in Panama City offer free wifi to customers.

Local contacts:

Road trips, tours (day tours, eco-tours, etc), ground transportation, airport pickups, etc:

Rental Cars: There are many rental companies in Panama including

Getting around town: Ride share apps like Uber and Cabify are popular in Panama City as fares are easy to determine, cars are required to have air conditioning, and passengers enjoy the added safety of GPS tracking.

Yellow taxis are ubiquitous and inexpensive (cash only, best to have small bills as they do not always make change). You can hail them most anywhere or use EasyTaxi, an app that provides added security/ease by allowing you to request a ride from your phone. Fares within the greater metropolitan area are usually $3 to $7. Visits to outlying areas like the Panama Canal Miraflores visitor center can cost double. (Uber charges about the same.)

Taxis do not use meters; they carry charts showing the price increase by district. Add $0.35 per additional person to the fare. Taxis charge extra for pickup at hotels, airports, and other tourist destinations. Any taxi can take you to the airport. White “tourism taxis” are the only official taxis for pick up from the airport. Tocumen Airport fare is a flat fee of about $25.

It is not customary to tip (unless the driver has gone above and beyond, carrying lot of luggage, acting as a tour guide, returning a lost item, etc.). It’s always a good idea to ask the taxi driver what the fare will be before getting in.

If you have any unanswered questions after reading this, please don’t hesitate to contact IL Events (questions about the seminar, see http://internationalliving.com/customer-service/events-questions/), IL customer service (questions about logins, memberships, etc.,see http://internationalliving.com/about-il/customer-service/) or Panama Editor Jessica Ramesch (questions about Panama, [email protected]). We also have correspondents in David, Chiriqui (Nanette Witmer, [email protected]) and Pedasi, Los Santos Province, Azuero Peninsula (James Gault, [email protected]) for specific questions about those regions. Please put “2018 Fast Track Panama Seminar” in your email subject line to help us expedite your request.