U.S. citizens traveling to Panama are required to present a valid passport. For an up-to-date, country-by-country listing of passport requirements around the world, go to the U.S. State Department’s website at http://travel.state.gov. Click on “U.S. Passports & International Travel” and then choose “Country Information.”
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. However, it’s rare that an official will ask for this.
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 180 consecutive days. No visa is necessary. If transiting the Panama Canal as vessel passengers, there is no need to even show a passport if not disembarking. A passport must be valid for at least 3 months from arrival in the country.
Carry your passport with you at all times. Panamanian police will sometimes ask for your documents, particularly on long bus rides on routine checks. The last thing you want is be detained by police for hours on your way somewhere, so be sure to have your passport with you. If you absolutely refuse to carry your passport, make a copy of your ID page and your Customs arrival stamp. Even in Panama City, police are known to take advantage of “gringos” without documents, threatening jail time or demanding a payment of whatever you have on you. (If you don’t have enough on you, they’ll be happy to drive you to the nearest ATM.) This little trick is most likely to happen to men walking around at night after a few too many drinks, but the bottom line is to always carry your passport or a copy of your ID and entry page.
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. Occasionally, spikes in dengue fever occur, so travelers will want to be especially careful during the rainy season. If you’re going to the Darién, 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
For information on what you’re allowed to bring home, contact one of the following agencies:
U.S. Citizens: U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20229 (www.cbp.gov; tel. 877/287-8667).
Canadian Citizens: Canada Border Services Agency, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0L8 (www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca; tel. 800/461-9999 in Canada, or 204/983-3500).
U.K. Citizens: HM Customs & Excise, Crownhill Court, Tailor Road, Plymouth, PL6 5BZ (www.hmce.gov.uk; tel. 0845/010-9000; from outside the U.K., 020/8929-0152).
Australian Citizens: Australian Customs Service, Customs House, 5 Constitution Ave., Canberra City, ACT 2601 (www.customs.gov.au; tel. 1300/ 363-263; from outside Australia, 61/2-6275-6666).
New Zealand Citizens: New Zealand Customs, The Customhouse, 17–21 Whitmore St., Box 2218, Wellington, 6140 (www.customs.govt.nz; tel. 04/473- 6099 or 0800/428-786).
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.