Exercise a high degree of caution in Panama due to high levels of criminal activity and incidents of civil unrest. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new security risks.
Do not travel to the Darien Gap, beyond Yaviza, because of the risk of violent criminal activity.
- If you are arriving from a yellow fever endemic country, including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru or Venezuela, you will be required to present a valid yellow fever certificate to be allowed entry into Panama.
- We strongly advise you
not to travel to the Darien Gap, beyond Yaviza, because of the risk of violent criminal activity.
Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
Entry and exit
Panama requires visitors to have the equivalent of $US500 or a credit card and a return or onward travel ticket, to enter the country. A departure tax of $US50 is payable at the Tocumen Airport in Panama City if not already included in the cost of your air ticket.
Panama is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that all travellers be vaccinated for yellow fever before travelling to Panama (See
Some airlines may require passengers to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the
Department of Health website. Airlines will not accept passengers bound for destinations within the US without evidence of an onward or return ticket, even if the traveller may be eligible to enter the US under the visa waiver program.
Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest
Embassy or Consulate of Panama for the most up-to-date information.
Travelling with children
Minors with Panamanian dual nationality or are resident in Panama who are exiting the country with one parent must present an original birth certificate and notarised consent from the other parent (or from both parents if travelling alone). When the notarial consent and birth certificate are issued in Australia or another country, they must be authenticated with an apostille stamp.
Travelling to Panama through the USA or Canada
If you're travelling to Panama through the US, or if you are transiting Honolulu or another US point of entry, you are required to meet US entry/transit requirements. Check your visa requirements with the nearest
US Embassy or Consulate well in advance of your travel. Also read our travel advice for the
United States of America.
If you're travelling to Panama via Canada by air, you will require an eTA (electronic Travel Authorisation) for Canada. Information and applications can be found on the
Government of Canada website or the nearest
Canadian High Commission.
Safety and security
Exercise a high degree of caution in Panama because of the high levels of criminal activity. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
Petty crime, such as pick-pocketing and bag-snatching is common, especially in Panama City and Colon, at airports, bus terminals and on public transport. Violent crime, including armed robbery and muggings, is less common, but does occur throughout Panama.
High-crime areas in Panama City include Calidonia, San Miguelito, Rio Bajo, El Chorillo, Ancon, Curundu, Veracruz Beach, Parque Soberania, Tocumen, Panama Viejo, Casco Viejo and shopping areas on Avenida Central. Avoid walking alone after dark in Panama City. Travellers have been targeted by armed criminals, especially at Madden Dam, a tourist site north east of Panama City in the Chagre National Park.
Incidents of 'express kidnappings', where victims are forced to withdraw funds from an automatic teller machine (ATM) to secure their release, have occurred. Be cautious when using ATMs, particularly in public places. There have also been incidences of credit card and ATM fraud.
Be cautious of approaches by visitors seeking access to your property. Criminals may use a number of scams to gain the trust of victims and identify potential routines, then organise robberies with other gang members.
Darien Gap beyond Yaviza: do not to travel to the Darien Gap, beyond Yaviza, in southern Panama near the border with Colombia, because of the presence of violent criminal activity, including Colombian guerrilla groups and drug traffickers. There have been numerous reports of kidnappings and murders (including of foreigners), armed robberies, injuries from recently-planted landmines, deaths and disappearances in this area. The dangerous zone begins at the end of the Pan American highway (at Yaviza, about 230km southeast of Panama City) and ends at the Colombian border. This area includes the Darien National Park and privately owned nature reserves and tourist resorts.
Civil unrest/political tension
Protests and demonstrations, primarily concerning local social and political issues, occur from time to time and are often centred on the campus of the University of Panama, the National Assembly, the Presidential Palace in Panama City and on main streets and highways. Avoid all demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent. Monitor local media, particularly in periods of demonstrations.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our
Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.
Money and valuables
The US dollar is the paper currency of Panama, however, Panama mints its own coins. Travellers should be aware that counterfeit currency, particular $US50 and $US100 notes, exist in Panama.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.
By law, you must, as soon as possible:
Use only registered taxis and, wherever possible, call a taxi rather than hail one off the street. Do not share taxis with unknown passengers and always sit in the back seat. Travel on local buses is not recommended as they do not follow permanent routes and, in terms of security and maintenance, are often unsafe.
Road conditions, street lighting and vehicle maintenance are generally poor and driving at night is hazardous. Night construction on the Pan-American Highway is frequent, often with little or no signage to alert drivers. Keep windows closed and doors locked at all times. For further advice, see our
Road travel page.
In the event of a motor vehicle accident remain at the scene and do not move the vehicle until the traffic police arrive.
The number of lifeguards and the availability of rescue equipment at public beaches in Panama is limited. Due to strong currents and undertows, check conditions with your hotel or authorities located near or at the beach before entering the water. The Bay of Panama is polluted with untreated sewage and industrial waste.
Tourists wishing to visit the National Park on Coiba Island need to obtain special permission from the Panamanian Ministry of Government and Justice and the National Environment Authority.
Pay particular attention when travelling by sea along both the Pacific and Caribbean coastlines of Panama as these areas are known transport routes for the narcotics trade.
The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the
Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Panama.
Also refer to our general
air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.
You are subject to the local laws of Panama, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our
Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
Panama law requires that you carry identification documentation at all times. Failure to produce identification on request could result in a fine or jail time.
Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy prison sentences served in local jails. Possessing even a very small quantity of illegal drugs or being in the company of someone using illegal drugs are grounds for arrest. See our
Although motor vehicle insurance is compulsory in Panama many locals drive without it. If you are involved in a car accident Panama law requires you to wait with the vehicle until the traffic police arrive.
Although homosexual acts are not illegal, discretion is highly recommended as homosexuality is not socially acceptable in all areas. See our
LGBTI travellers page.
Knowingly transmitting sexually transmitted diseases is a crime in Panama.
It is illegal to photograph official buildings in Panama.
There are curfews for minors (under 18 years of age) in Panama City. Persons under 18 years of age require a special carnet (permit) if they are out during restricted hours. Minors violating curfews may be detained at a police station until their legal guardian can arrange for their release.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Taking photographs, particularly of children and women, may be met with suspicion and violence. Permission from an adult should be obtained before taking photographs of, or talking to, children.
Take out comprehensive
travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
Consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. Consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The
World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our
health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.
Panama has some good private hospitals and clinics, however, medical facilities outside the capital are limited. Many doctors and hospitals require cash payment prior to providing services, including emergency care. Medical emergencies may require evacuation to a third country, most likely the US, where the cost of medical treatment can be extremely high. Medical evacuation costs would be considerable (in the tens of thousands of dollars).
All medication must be transported in its original packaging and be clearly labelled. Prescription and controlled medications must be accompanied by a letter from the prescribing physician explaining the reason why the medication is being taken, and including the medication's generic name. Contact the nearest embassy of Panama for a list of restricted medications.
Malaria is a risk throughout the year in Boca del Toro, Darien and San Blas but is not a risk in Panama City. Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne illness dengue fever and Chikungunya virus also occur from time to time. Take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent at all times. Consider taking prophylaxis against malaria where necessary.
There is widespread transmission of Zika virus in Panama. Protect yourself from mosquito bites. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to affected areas. Further advice for both females and males is available from the
Department of Health. Also see our
Zika virus travel bulletin.
Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis,
yellow fever, tuberculosis, rabies and brucellosis) are a risk with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. Boil all drinking water or drink only bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
Panama is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. Consider vaccination against yellow fever before travelling to Panama. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the
Department of Health website.
Where to get help
Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.
If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police by dialing 104. The national emergency number is 911. Obtain a police report when reporting a crime.
Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can't do to assist Australians overseas.
Australia has a Consulate in Panama headed by an Honarary-Consul. The Consulate provides limited consular services and doesn't issue passports.
Australian Consulate, Panama
Avenida A Casco Viejo
Siguiente puerta al Super Gourmet Deli
Telephone: +507 667 73833
Australian Embassy, Mexico City
Ruben Dario 55
Corner of Campos Eliseos, Polanco
Colonia Bosque de Chapultepec
11580 Mexico DF MEXICO
Telephone: (52 55) 1101 2200
Facsimile: (52 55) 1101 2201
Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the Embassy, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
The hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides and flooding may occur. In the case of a hurricane or other natural disasters, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.
The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning. You can check the latest hurricane information at the
National Hurricane Centre website.
In the event of an approaching hurricane, follow the instructions of local authorities. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. Contact your airline for the latest flight information. The hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who may choose to stay. Familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. Carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo ID, etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our
Severe weather page.
Panama is subject to earthquakes.Familiarise yourself with your hotel's evacuation plans on arrival and follow the advice of local authorities in the event of an earthquake. Information on natural disasters, including earthquakes and volcanic activity, can be obtained from the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS).
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches.