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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 Exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to Colón and some areas of Panama City, where high crime rates exist.
Region beyond Yaviza - Avoid all travel
Avoid all travel to the areas beyond the town of Yaviza in Darién Province. The area begins at the end of the Pan-American Highway (past Yaviza, about 230 kilometres southeast of Panama City) and ends at the Colombian border. This area includes parts of Darién National Park and privately owned nature reserves and tourist resorts. Due to the presence of Colombian guerrilla groups and drug traffickers, the level of violent crime in this zone is extremely high, with numerous reports of kidnappings, armed robberies, deaths and disappearances.
Travel Health Notice - Zika virus
The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued advice for travellers on the Zika virus, recommending that Canadians practice special health precautions while travelling in affected countries. Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel to Panama. See Health for more information.
Safety and security
Safety and security
Petty theft occurs in rural and urban areas of Panama. Violent crime is not frequent, but does occur throughout the country.
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, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.
Incidents of both petty theft and some violent crimes have been reported in areas frequented by tourists. Avoid displaying signs of affluence or carrying large sums of cash, and be cautious when withdrawing money from automated banking machines. Ensure that windows and doors are secure and locked in both private and commercial accommodations.
In Panama City, high-crime areas include Calidonia, San Miguelito, Juan Diaz, Rio Abajo, El Chorillo, Ancón, Curundú, Veracruz Beach, Parque Soberania and Tocumen, as well as bus stations and shopping areas on Avenida Central. Some violent crime has been reported in the cities of Colon and David, as well as in some beach communities.
Do not walk alone after dark and stay within well-known tourist areas. Remain vigilant in all public places, especially at airports and bus terminals.
Demonstrations and protest marches over various social and political issues occasionally occur in Panama City near the university, and on main streets and highways. These demonstrations are unpredictable and could potentially lead to violence. Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations, and monitor local news reports.
Poor road conditions, dangerous driving habits, and poorly lit streets and vehicles are hazards. Keep car windows closed and doors locked at all times.
Night construction on the Pan-American Highway is frequent. Be prepared for possible roadblocks.
The southeastern coast of Comarca Kuna Yala, on the Caribbean, and Coiba Island as well as the entire length of the Pacific coast, are known as transportation corridors for narcotics. To visit the national park on Coiba Island, you must obtain special permission from the Panamanian Ministry of Government and Justice and the National Environment Authority.
Local bus travel within Panama City has improved in recent years; however, buses do not always follow a regular route. Panama opened line 1 of its new metro system in early 2014, which currently runs from the Albrook bus terminal to the Los Andes commercial centre. 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. Sharing a taxi with strangers is not recommended, and passengers should sit in the back of the vehicle. Taxis 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, as many fees are inflated for tourists.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General safety information
Some beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts can be dangerous, as there are strong currents and undertows, and drownings have occurred. Most beaches lack sufficient rescue equipment and are not adequately monitored or marked.
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.
Official Canadian Passport
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 remain in the country after that time, you must change your residency status. If you attempt to renew your stay in Panama by travelling out of the country for a short period of time with the intention of returning to Panama as a tourist, immigration authorities may deny you re-entry, as they are implementing stricter border controls. Consult Immigration Panama for more information.
Other entry requirements
You must obtain a correctly dated entry stamp from immigration officials upon entry into Panama. Failure to do so may result in a fine, as immigration officials have begun strictly enforcing entry and exit regulations.
When they enter Panama, visitors are required to have the equivalent of US$500 or a credit card, plus a return or onward ticket.
Canadians with a criminal record may be refused entry to Panama, even if it is only for transit purposes en route to another destination. Entry and transit permission restrictions are occurring with greater frequency at Panamanian points of entry, primarily at Tocumen International Airport. Prior to travelling, contact the embassy of Panama for more information on these restrictions.
Foreigners must register their biometrics (fingerprints and facial scan) at their port of entry.
A US$40 airport tax is charged upon departure, and is payable in cash only. This tax is often included in the price of the airline ticket.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
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 provider 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 and is common in most parts of the world.
Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
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 (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
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 Brazil.
- 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 provider.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
* 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 for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider 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 an outbreak of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a viral disease spread through the bite of an infected mosquito that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. Protect yourself from mosquito bites, particularly around sunrise and sunset. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The risk of dengue is higher during the daytime, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Zika virus infection
Zika virus infection is a risk in this country. Recent or ongoing cases of Zika virus have been reported in this country.
All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites day and night.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects such as abnormally small heads (microcephaly). Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted.
Travellers who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy:
- Should avoid travel to this country
- If travel cannot be avoided follow strict mosquito bite prevention measures.
- Talk to your health care professional about the risk of Zika infection in pregnancy.
- Use condoms or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy, if you are pregnant and your partner has travelled to this country.
- Female travellers: wait at least 2 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive (get pregnant) to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body.
- Male travellers: wait 6 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive. Use condoms or avoid having sex during that time.
See 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 provider 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.
Medical services and facilities
Panama City has very good private hospitals and clinics. Public hospitals and clinics do not offer services comparable to Canadian facilities. Medical facilities outside Panama City are limited. Expect to pay cash in advance for medical services, including emergency care.
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
Laws & 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.
Penalties for use, possession or trafficking of illegal drugs in Panama are very strict. 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. Failure to produce identification upon request may result in travellers being taken to jail and charged a fine.
Under the Panamanian penal code, knowingly infecting others with a sexually transmitted disease is a crime.
Although homosexual activity is not illegal, discretion is highly recommended in public places since homosexuality is not socially acceptable in all areas.
There may be curfews for minors (under 18 years old) in Panama City. Minors circulating alone late at night in Panama City may be detained by police until their parents can be contacted if the police deem that they are involved in suspicious activities. Fines may be imposed.
Ask permission before taking photographs of individuals, particularly of children and women. When taking pictures of indigenous persons, it is normal to be asked to pay a small fee.
Panama's legal system is complex. Reporting a crime differs greatly from reporting a crime in Canada and may vary from province to province. Local authorities generally do not speak English or French; therefore, a translator and/or legal representation may be required.
You can use your provincial driver’s licence in Panama for a period of up to 90 days, even though you are permitted to stay in Panama for up to 180 days without a visa.
Although vehicle insurance is compulsory, 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.
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.
You should consult with a reputable real estate agent and/or a local real estate lawyer before purchasing property in Panama.
The official currency in Panama is the Balboa (PAB), which is used interchangeably with the U.S. dollar (USD). Because of problems with counterfeit US$50 and US$100 bills, carry small denominations of U.S. dollars.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
The hurricane season extends from mid-May to the end of November. During this period, even small tropical storms can quickly develop into major hurricanes.
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 and hurricane preparedness
- 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. Occasional flooding can occur, making some city streets impassable. You should keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
Western Panama is located in an active seismic zone.
Emergency services exist but may be subject to certain limitations. 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 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, express 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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