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Latest updates: Safety and security - new COVID-19 preventative measures and restrictions
COVID-19 – Global travel advisory
Effective date: March 13, 2020
Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.
This advisory overrides other risk levels on this page, with the exception of any risk levels for countries or regions where we advise to avoid all travel.
Panama - Take normal security precautions
Take normal security precautions in Panama.
Colón and some areas of Panama City - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to Colón and some areas of Panama City, due to high level of crime.
Safety and security
COVID-19 - Preventative measures and restrictions
Preventative measures and restrictions are in place.
The government of Panama has declared a general containment on January 16 and 17, 2021 in the following provinces:
- Panama Oeste
- Los Santos
During this period, you must stay inside your home or accommodations unless you need to perform essential activities. A nationwide curfew is also in effect from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Inter-provincial mobility is also restricted and additional local restrictions may be in place.
- Follow the instructions of local authorities, including those related to physical distancing
- Avoid crowded areas
Health department - Government of Panama (in Spanish)
Region beyond Yaviza
Avoid all travel between Yaviza and the Colombian border. Colombian guerrilla groups and drug traffickers are present in this area. The level of violent crime in this zone is extremely high, with numerous reports of kidnappings, armed robberies, deaths and disappearances.
The area spans beyond the town of Yaviza in Darién Province to the Colombian border. It begins at the end of the Pan-American Highway (past Yaviza, about 230 km southeast of Panama City) and ends at the Colombian border. It also includes parts of Darién National Park and privately owned nature reserves and tourist resorts.
If you choose to visit this region despite this advisory:
- be extremely vigilant at all times
- review your security situation regularly
- leave a detailed itinerary with family or friends
Violent crime is not frequent, but does occur in Panama. Petty theft occurs in rural and urban areas throughout the country. Both have been reported in areas frequented by tourists.
In Panama City, high-crime areas include bus stations and shopping areas on Avenida Central as well as the following neighborhoods:
- El Chorillo
- San Miguelito
- Juan Diaz
- Parque Soberania
- Rio Abajo
- Veracruz Beach
There have been violent crimes in the cities of Colón and David, also, and in some beach communities. Theft from hotel rooms occurs in both urban and resort areas. Stay in busy, reputable and well-protected hotels and always verify the identity of a visitor before opening your door. Ensure that your personal belongings, and passports and other travel documents, are secure at all times.
Avoid displaying signs of affluence or carrying large sums of cash and be cautious when withdrawing money from ATMs. Ensure that windows and doors are secure and locked in both private and commercial accommodations.
Do not walk alone after dark. Remain vigilant in all public places, especially at airports and bus terminals.
Demonstrations occasionally occur. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)
Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse.
Incidents of assault, rape and sexual aggression against foreigners have occurred, including at beach resorts. In some cases, hotel employees have been implicated.
- Avoid walking after dark, especially alone, and avoid deserted or under-populated areas
- Exercise caution when dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances
- Don’t accept invitations or rides from strangers or recent acquaintances
If you are a victim of a sexual assault or other crime, you should report it immediately to the nearest Canadian consulate or embassy.
Road conditions and road safety are poor throughout the country. Drivers often drive dangerously. Keep car windows closed and doors locked at all times.
Night construction on the Pan-American Highway is frequent. Be prepared for possible roadblocks.
Local bus travel within Panama City has improved in recent years, but buses don’t always follow a regular route. When using public transportation, be aware of your surroundings and protect your belongings.
Registered yellow taxis are generally safe if located at a taxi stand. They are not metered, and fares are calculated according to the number of zones crossed to get to a destination.
- Agree to a fare before departure
- Don’t share a taxi with strangers
- Always sit in the back of the vehicle
The southeastern coast of Comarca Kuna Yala, Coiba Island and the entire length of the Pacific coast are known as transportation corridors for narcotics.
Coastal waters can be dangerous on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Currents are strong and riptides are common. Drownings have occurred. Most beaches lack sufficient rescue equipment and are not adequately monitored or marked.
Water safety abroad
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General information about foreign domestic airlines
COVID-19 - Entry, exit and transit restrictions and requirements
In an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), most governments have implemented special entry and exit restrictions and requirements for their territory. While some countries have started to ease some of these measures, most remain in place.
Before travelling, verify if the local authorities of both your current location and destinations have implemented any specific restrictions or requirements related to this situation. Consider even your transit points, as many destinations have implemented strict transit rules which could disrupt your travel.
These could include:
- entry bans, particularly for non-residents
- exit bans
- quarantines of 14 days or more upon arrival, some in designated facilities, at your own cost
- health screenings and certificates as well as proof of adequate travel health insurance
- travel authorization documents to be obtained before you travel
- border closures
- airport closures
- flight suspensions to/from certain destinations, and in some cases, all destinations
- suspensions or reductions of other international transportation options
Additional restrictions can be imposed suddenly. Airlines can also suspend or reduce flights without notice. Your travel plans may be severely disrupted, making it difficult for you to return home. You should not depend on the Government of Canada for assistance related to changes to your travel plans.
- Monitor the media for the latest information
- Contact your airline or tour operator to determine if the situation will disrupt your travel plans
- Contact the nearest foreign diplomatic office for information on destination-specific restrictions
Foreign diplomatic offices in Canada – Global Affairs Canada
COVID-19 - Border closures
Panamanian authorities have closed the land and sea borders until further notice.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Panamanian authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months beyond the date you expect to leave Panama.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
Tourist visa: Not required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Length of stay
Tourists may only remain in Panama for a maximum of 180 days. If you wish to stay in the country longer, you must change your residency status. Immigration authorities may deny you re-entry if you try to renew your stay in Panama by travelling out of the country for a short period of time and returning as a tourist. They implement strict border controls.
You may be refused entry to Panama, even for transit purposes, if you have a criminal record. Immigration authorities frequently apply entry and transit permission restrictions at all Panamanian points of entry, but primarily at Tocumen International Airport.
You must obtain an entry stamp from immigration officials upon entry into Panama. You may be fined if you fail to do so. Immigration officials strictly enforce entry and exit regulations.
Exit or onward ticket
Immigration officials may ask you to show them a return or onward ticket to enter Panama. Failure to do so will result in a denial of entry.
You must register your biometrics (fingerprints and facial scan) at the port of entry.
Cash or credit card
You are required to have the equivalent of US$500 or a credit card when entering Panama.
You must pay a US$40 airport tax upon your departure. It is payable in cash only. However, this tax is often included in the price of the airline ticket.
You need a permit from Panama’s National Authority for the Environment to access Coiba National Park. Contact you tour operator to obtain it.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
- Pandemic COVID-19 all countries: avoid non-essential travel outside Canada - January 7, 2021
- Zika virus: Advice for travellers - December 24, 2019
- Global Measles Notice - July 23, 2019
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health professional about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is recommended depending on your itinerary.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in Central America and Mexico, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Central America and Mexico. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in Central America and Mexico, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), chikungunya, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), West Nile virus, and Zika virus.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently a risk of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- In this country, dengue fever is a risk to travellers year-round. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
- Dengue fever can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The level of risk of dengue fever changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. After a decline in reported dengue cases worldwide in 2017 and 2018, global numbers have been steeply rising again.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Zika virus is a risk in this country.
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be sexually transmitted. Zika virus can cause serious birth defects.
Pregnant women and women planning a pregnancy should visit a health care professional before travelling to discuss the potential risks of travelling to this country. Pregnant women may choose to avoid or postpone travel to this country.
- Prevent mosquito bites at all times.
- If you are pregnant, always use condoms correctly or avoid sexual contact with anyone who has travelled to this country for the duration of your pregnancy.
- Women: Wait 2 months after travel to this country or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer) before trying for a pregnancy. If your male partner travelled with you, wait 3 months after travel or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer).
- Men: Wait 3 months after travel to this country or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer) before trying for a pregnancy.
For more travel recommendations, see the travel health notice: Zika virus: Advice for travellers
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in Central America and Mexico, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.
Medical services and facilities
COVID-19 - Testing facilities
Consult the following links to find out where you can get a COVID-19 test:
Local COVID-19 testing facilities - Government of Panama (in Spanish)
Good health care is only available in private hospitals and clinics in Panama City. Quality of care varies greatly in public hospitals throughout the country, which are limited outside Panama City. Expect to pay cash in advance for medical services, including emergency care.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Travel health and safety
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Panama’s legal system is complex. Reporting a crime differs greatly from reporting a crime in Canada and may vary among Panama’s provinces. Local authorities generally do not speak English or French. Therefore, a translator or legal representation may be required.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect heavy fines and/or long jail sentences in difficult prison conditions.
Panamanian law requires all individuals to carry official identification documents at all times. You may be taken to jail and fined if you fail to produce identification upon request.
There may be curfews for minors (under 18 years old) in Panama City. Minors circulating alone late at night in Panama City may be arrested by police if authorities believe them involved in suspicious activities. Minors may be detained until their parents can be contacted and they may be fined.
Ask permission before taking photographs of individuals, particularly of children and women. Indigenous persons may ask you for a small fee if you take picture of them.
Sexually transmitted diseases
Knowingly infecting others with a sexually transmitted disease is a crime under the Panamanian penal code.
Panama’s law does not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. However, homosexuality is not widely accepted in the Panamanian society.
General safety information and advice for LGBTQ2 travellers abroad
You can use your provincial driver’s licence in Panama for a period of up to 90 days.
Although vehicle insurance is mandatory, many Panamanians drive without it. In the event of an accident, call 104 to reach the police and do not move the vehicle until you are advised to do so by a police officer.
You should consult with a reputable real estate agent or a local real estate lawyer before purchasing property in Panama.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Panama.
If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Panama, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.
General information for travellers with dual citizenship
The currency in Panama is the balboa (PAB).
It is used interchangeably with the U.S. dollar (USD). There have been issues with counterfeit of US$50 and US$100 bills, so carry only small denominations of U.S. dollars.
Natural disasters and climate
Hurricanes usually occur from mid-May to the end of November. During this period, even small tropical storms can quickly develop into major hurricanes.
These severe storms can put you at risk and hamper the provision of essential services.
If you decide to travel to a coastal area during the hurricane season:
- know that you expose yourself to serious safety risks
- be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
- stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
- carry emergency contact information for your airline or tour operator
- follow the advice and instructions of local authorities
- Hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones and monsoons
- Large-scale emergencies abroad
- Active storm tracking and hurricane watches and warnings - United States’ National Hurricane Center
The rainy season extends from April to December. Seasonal flooding can hamper overland travel and reduce the provision of essential services. Roads may become impassable and bridges damaged.
Western Panama is located in an active seismic zone. Earthquakes can occur. Tsunamis can also affect coastal areas. In the event of a natural disaster, follow the advice of the local authorities.
- Earthquake - Get prepared - Government of Canada
- Tsunami warning system - U.S. National Weather Service
- Latest earthquakes - U.S. Geological Survey
Emergency services exist but may be limited. In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 104
- medical assistance: 911
- firefighters: 103
Panama - Embassy of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to Panama in Panama City and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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