Panama travel advice
Latest updates: The Health section was updated - travel health information (Public Health Agency of Canada)
Last updated: ET
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- Risk level
- Safety and security
- Entry and exit requirements
- Laws and culture
- Natural disasters and climate
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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 in Colón and some areas of Panama City, due to high levels of crime.
Region beyond Yaviza - Avoid all travel
Avoid all travel to the areas beyond the town of Yaviza in Darién Province to the Colombian border, due to the extremely high level of violent crime.
Mosquito Gulf - Avoid all travel
Avoid all travel to the Mosquito Gulf, from Boca de Río Chiriquí to Coclé del Norte, due to the high level of illegal activity such as drug smuggling and human trafficking.
Safety and security
Region between Yaviza and the Colombian border
Avoid all travel from the end of the Pan-American Highway (past Yaviza, about 230 km southeast of Panama City) to the Colombian border. This area includes parts of Darién National Park and privately owned nature reserves and tourist resorts.
Colombian guerrilla groups and drug traffickers are present in this area. The level of violent crime is extremely high, with numerous reports of:
- armed robberies
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
Avoid all travel to the Mosquito Gulf, from Boca de Río Chiriquí to Coclé del Norte.
This is a very remote part of the country with limited road access. There are high levels of illegal activity such as drug smuggling and human trafficking along the coast.
Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, occurs.
- Ensure that your belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
- Avoid displaying signs of affluence or carrying large sums of cash
- Use ATMs located in public areas or inside a bank or business
- Don’t walk alone after dark
- Remain vigilant in all public places, especially at airports and bus terminals
In Panama City, high-crime areas include bus stations and shopping areas on Avenida Central as well as the following neighbourhoods:
- El Chorillo
- San Miguelito
- Juan Díaz
- Parque Soberania
- Río Abajo
- Veracruz Beach
Theft from hotel rooms occurs in both urban and resort areas.
Residential break-ins and robberies also occur. They are more likely to happen when nobody is home. Criminals may also try to gain your trust then enter your home.
- Stay in busy, reputable and well-protected hotels
- Always verify the identity of a visitor before opening your door
- Ensure that windows and doors are secure and locked in both private and commercial accommodations
Violent crime is not frequent, but does occur. There have been violent crimes committed in the cities of Colón and David, as well as in some beach communities.
Express kidnappings have also occurred. Criminals abduct victims, usually for a few hours, and force them to withdraw money from ATMs in exchange for their release.
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
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
- 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 police and the Embassy of Canada.
Lifeguards don’t usually supervise beaches. Tidal changes can cause powerful currents, and riptides are common. Several drownings occur each year.
Rescue services may not be consistent with international standards.
- Consult residents and tour operators for information on possible hazards and safe swimming areas
- Follow the instructions and warnings of local authorities
Tour operators may not adhere to international standards.
If you undertake adventure sports, such as diving:
- choose a well-established and reputable company that has insurance
- ensure that your travel insurance covers the recreational activities you choose
If in doubt concerning the safety of the facilities or equipment, don’t use them.
If you engage in adventure tourism:
- never do so alone
- always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
- buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
- ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
- ensure that you’re properly equipped
- ensure that you’re well informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
- inform a family member or friend of your itinerary
- obtain detailed information on each activity before setting out
Road conditions and road safety are poor throughout the country.
Drivers often drive dangerously.
Night construction on the Pan-American Highway is frequent, and the highway is not well-lit.
- Keep car windows closed and doors locked at all times
- Be prepared for possible roadblocks
Public transportation has improved in the recent years but may be unreliable.
Local buses within Panama City don’t always follow a regular route. Due to the risk of theft, when travelling by bus:
- be aware of your surroundings
- protect your belongings
Taxis and ridesharing
Registered yellow taxis are generally safe if located at a taxi stand, which are usually found at malls, hotels and main transport hubs.
They are not metered. Fares are calculated according to the number of zones crossed to get to a destination. It's preferable to have small bills available to pay taxi fares.
When using a taxi:.
- agree to a fare before departure
- tell the driver you don’t want to share a taxi, since they may attempt to pick up additional passengers
- always sit in the back of the vehicle
Rideshare apps are commonly used throughout the country.
If you use a trusted ridesharing app, confirm the driver’s identity and the licence plate before getting in the car.
The following areas are known as transportation corridors for narcotics:
- the southeastern coast of Comarca Kuna Yala
- Coiba Island
- the Mosquito Gulf
- the entire length of the Pacific coast
These areas are especially dangerous at night. Boaters should be wary of vessels that may be involved in smuggling.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Entry and exit requirements
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 the Foreign Representatives 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.
Passport with “X” gender identifier
While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
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 foreign representative for your destination.
Tourist visa: not required for stays up to 180 days
Business visa: required
Student visa: required
Length of stay
If you wish to stay in the country for more than 180 days, you must change your residency status.
To renew your stay as a tourist, you must exit Panama for at least 30 days. 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.
Panama National Immigration Service (in Spanish)
You need a permit from Panama’s National Authority for the Environment to access Coiba National Park. Contact your tour operator to obtain it.
You may be refused entry to Panama, even for transit purposes, if you have a criminal record.
You must obtain an entry stamp from immigration officials upon entry into Panama. You may be fined US$1,000 if you fail to do so.
Exit or onward ticket
Immigration officials may ask you to show them a return or onward ticket and proof of sufficient funds to cover your stay.
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.
Children and travel
Learn more about travelling with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.
Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.
Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Pre-travel vaccines and medications
You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary.
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.
- Contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of your trip to arrange for vaccination.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.
For destination entry and exit requirements, including for COVID-19 vaccination requirements, please check the Entry/exit requirements section.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.
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.
- 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 provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Safe food and water precautions
Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.
- Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
- Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs.
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 of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insect bite prevention
Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:
- Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
- Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
- Minimize exposure to insects
- Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed
To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.
Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.
There is a risk of chikungunya in this country. The risk may vary between regions of a 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 is a risk to travellers. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
- Dengue can cause flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to severe dengue, which can be fatal.
- The level of risk of dengue changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. The level of risk also varies between regions in a country and can depend on the elevation in the region.
- 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.
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
American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease) is a risk in this country. It is caused by a parasite spread by infected triatomine bugs. The infection can be inactive for decades, but humans can eventually develop complications causing disability and even death.
Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from triatomine bugs, which are active at night, by using mosquito nets if staying in poorly-constructed housing. There is no vaccine available for Chagas disease.
Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may put you at higher risk of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.
Closely supervise children, as they’re more likely to come in contact with animals.
Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette, which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:
- washing your hands often
- avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
- avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness
Medical services and facilities
Good health care is 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.
You may have to pay in advance, in cash, to obtain medical services.
Medical evacuation can be very expensive and you may need it in case of serious illness or injury.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
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, you may require a translator or legal representation.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect heavy fines and long jail sentences.
Panamanian law requires all individuals to carry official identification documents at all times. Authorities may jail and fine you if you fail to produce identification upon request.
There may be curfews for minors (under 18 years old) in Panama City.
Police may arrest minors who are outside alone late at night in Panama City if the police believe they’re involved in suspicious activities. Police may detain minors until they can contact the parents, who may receive a fine.
Indigenous persons may ask you for a small fee if you take picture of them.
Ask permission before taking photographs of individuals, particularly of children and women.
Panamanian law does not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex.
However, 2SLGBTQI+ travellers could be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics.
You can drive in Panama with your Canadian driver’s licence 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 the police
- don’t move the vehicle until a police officer tells you to do so
You should carry an international driving permit.
If you plan on buying property or making other investments in Panama, seek legal advice in Canada and in Panama. Do so before making commitments. Related disputes could take time and be costly to resolve.
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.
International Child Abduction
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. The convention applies between Canada and Panama.
If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in Panama, and if the applicable conditions are met, you may apply for the return of your child to the Panamanian court.
If you are in this situation:
- act as quickly as you can
- contact the Central Authority for your province or territory of residence for information on starting an application under The Hague Convention
- consult a lawyer in Canada and in Panama to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
- report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children’s Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre
If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.
Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country’s judicial affairs.
- List of Canadian Central Authorities for the Hague Convention
- International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
- Travelling with children
- The Hague Convention - Hague Conference on Private International Law
- Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
- Emergency Watch and Response Centre
The currency in Panama is the balboa (PAB).
It is used interchangeably with the U.S. dollar (USD).
There have been issues with counterfeit US$50 and US$100 bills. Carry only small bills 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.
Earthquakes and tsunamis
Western Panama is located in an active seismic zone. Earthquakes and tsunamis can occur.
A tsunami can occur within minutes of a nearby earthquake. However, the risk of tsunami can remain for several hours following the first tremor. If you’re staying on the coast, familiarize yourself with the region’s evacuation plans in the event of a tsunami warning.
In the event of a natural disaster, follow the advice of the local authorities.
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. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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