The Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 requires U.S. citizens traveling to Panama to present a valid passport. (Previously, only a driver's license and copy of your birth certificate were needed to enter Panama.) For an up-to-date, country-by-country listing of passport requirements around the world, go to the "Foreign Entry Requirement" Web page of the U.S. State Department at http://travel.state.gov.
Important: When entering the country travelers must be able to demonstrate proof of sufficient funds if requested, and they must present an onward or return ticket. And keep in mind that Panama charges a departure tax of $20 (£10) at the airport; the tax might already be included in the price of your ticket.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments require a parent or legal guardian (or someone other than the parent) traveling alone with a child to provide documentary evidence of relationship and travel permission. Having such documentation on hand can facilitate entry/departure if immigration requests it, although it is not always required. Inquire when booking your airline ticket about updated entry/departure procedures for children.
Citizens of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and most European nations may visit Panama for a maximum of 90 days. No visa is necessary, but you must have a valid passport and a $5 (£2.50) tourist card, paid when entering by land or at customs when entering by airplane. Carry your passport and tourist card, or better yet, a photocopy of each, with you at all times. Police will sometimes ask for your documents, particularly on long bus rides on routine checks.
There are no vaccination requirements when entering Panama. However, if you'll be traveling to the tropical lowlands or to the jungle, it's wise to get vaccinated for typhoid, yellow fever, and hepatitis A. All travelers should also be up-to-date on their tetanus immunizations. There has been a recent spike in Dengue (the early stages of yellow fever) in recent years, so travelers will want to be especially careful during the rainy season. If you'll be going to the Darien, you may also want to take malaria pills, which should be prescribed by your doctor at least 10 days before your departure. However, if you're traveling during the dry season or won't be exploring the tropical lowlands or rainforests too much, your risk of tropical disease is relatively low.
What You Can Bring into Panama -- Visitors to Panama may bring with them personal items such as jewelry, and professional equipment including cameras, computers, and electronics, as well as fishing and diving gear for personal use -- all of which are permitted duty-free. Visitors may bring in up to 200 cigarettes and 3 bottles of liquor tax-free. Customs officials in Panama seldom check arriving tourists' luggage.
What You Can Take Home from Panama -- U.S. Citizens: For specifics on what you can bring back and the corresponding fees, download the invaluable free pamphlet Know Before You Go online at www.cbp.gov (click on "Travel," and then click on "Know Before You Go! Online Brochure"). Or contact the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20229 (tel. 877/287-8667) and request the pamphlet.
Canadian Citizens: For a clear summary of Canadian rules, write for the booklet I Declare, issued by the Canada Border Services Agency (tel. 800/461-9999 in Canada, or 204/983-3500; www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca).
U.K. Citizens: For information, contact HM Customs & Excise at tel. 0845/010-9000 (or 020/8929-0152 from outside the U.K.), or consult their website at www.hmce.gov.uk.
Australian Citizens: A helpful brochure available from Australian consulates or Customs offices is Know Before You Go. For more information, call the Australian Customs Service at tel. 1300/363-263, or log on to www.customs.gov.au.
New Zealand Citizens: Most questions are answered in a free pamphlet available at New Zealand consulates and Customs offices: New Zealand Customs Guide for Travellers, Notice no. 4. For more information, contact New Zealand Customs, the Customhouse, 17-21 Whitmore St., Box 2218, Wellington (tel. 04/473-6099 or 0800/428-786; www.customs.govt.nz).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.