World Youth Day: Panama 2019


How can I be kept up to date about the latest security or travel information in Panama?

Please register in our STEP program, which allows us to communicate with you while you’re here in case we need to notify you of any emergencies.


I’ve never applied for a passport before, or my former passport has expired. What do I need to do?

If you have never had a passport, you are under 16, you received your last passport when you were under 16 or your last passport was lost, stolen or damaged, you will need to apply for a passport in person at a passport receiving facility. You should apply at least two months before you travel. Visit our “How To Apply For A Passport” page to learn how.


My passport is going to expire before May 2019. Can I still use it for my trip?

On the day you arrive in Panama, your passport should still be valid for at least three months. If not, it’s likely that the airline will not allow you to board or that Panamanian immigration will not grant you entry. View our Panama Country Information Page for detailed Entry, Exit, and Visa Requirements, and be sure to check your passport’s expiration date today!


What are the Panamanian immigration officials going to ask me when I arrive?

  • They will look to see that your passport is valid for three months.
  • They will take your fingerprints and compare them to their database to see if you have a criminal history or have committed immigration violations.
  • They may ask you if you have a return ticket to the United States or if you have sufficient funds to cover your stay in Panama.
  • For more questions, reach out to the Embassy of Panama.  



What happens if I lose my passport in Panama?

Since your Panama entry stamp will be in your passport, you will need a police report for the lost or stolen passport in order to leave. You will also need to come into the embassy to get a new passport. You should call 317-5000 (if dialing from Panama) and follow the prompts for U.S. citizen emergencies in order to schedule your emergency passport appointment during World Youth Day. Assuming you have all of the information we require, we can usually print an emergency passport the same day to allow you to travel back to the U.S. Visit U.S. Embassy Panama City’s lost or stolen passport page for more detailed information.


What happens if I lose my green card in Panama?

You will not be allowed to board a flight back to the U.S. without obtaining a boarding foil in your passport. Please contact U.S. Customs and Border Protection to obtain more information on the boarding foil or visit the USCBP website.


Will I need to carry my passport around with me in Panama?

You will need to carry photocopies of the photo and biographic information page of your passport and your Panamanian entry stamp. You can leave your passport in a safe location while you are out if you would like.


How can I get to Panama City?

There are direct flights from the United States to Panama City from many cities on many airlines including American, Delta, United, Spirit, and the Panamanian airline COPA. Some people also choose to connect through the San Salvador or Mexico City airports. It is also possible to take a bus from San José, Costa Rica, but the bus ride lasts about 12 hours, and long delays at the border are common.


How can I get from the airport to where I’ll be staying?

You can take licensed and registered taxis or use an internet/app-based taxi service. At the airport, internet-based taxiing service drivers are required to meet customers in the parking lot across the street from the exit by baggage claim. Taxis in Panama do not use meters so agree on a fare before getting into the taxi.  


How can I get around the city?

Panama City is a mid-sized city with roughly 880,000 residents.  You can use app based taxi services, taxis or buses. The Metrobus requires you to purchase a Metro card at any metro station or at Albrook Terminal, which is the main bus terminal next to Albrook Mall. There is also one metro line, but it heads from the center of the city to the northeastern suburbs and is not likely to go anywhere a tourist would visit. Embassy employees are restricted from riding the diablo rojos, which are the painted school buses you will see around the city, due to safety concerns. You will likely do a lot of walking because it will be difficult for traffic to pass through the center part of the city during the World Youth Day event. Be prepared to walk in the heat and heavy rain.


How can I travel outside the city?

Air Panama travels from Albrook Airport, which is closer to downtown than the main airport, to Bocas Town, David (near the mountain towns of Boquete and Volcán and the beaches on the Golfo de Chiriquí), and Chitré (on the Azuero Peninsula, which has beaches). It also flies to a few cities in Colombia and to San José, Costa Rica.

You can take buses to some of the beach and mountain towns to the west of Panama City from the main bus station next to Albrook Mall.

You could also rent a car. You do not need an international driver’s license to do so, but you should make sure that you have sufficient insurance to cover any incidents while driving a car outside the U.S.   


What money do they use in Panama?

Panama uses the balboa, but it is worth the same as a U.S. dollar, and they only use U.S. dollar bills. You may receive balboa coins, which are interchangeable in value with their U.S. counterparts here in Panama. 1 balboa = 1 dollar


Do I need to bring cash or credit cards?

Most restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores accept credit cards in Panama. There are ATMs around the city where you can withdraw cash. Be sure to advise your banks that you will be traveling in Panama so that they are less likely to decline any purchases or withdrawals.


What happens if I get sick or get in an accident in Panama?

It is very important to make sure that you have travel insurance to cover any situation that could arise. If you do not purchase travel insurance make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. The medical care in the private hospitals in Panama can be quite expensive. While the medical care standards are generally quite good and many doctors speak English, you may need to be evacuated to the U.S. for complicated cases, so it is important to have insurance for medical evacuations as well.

In the event of an emergency, you can also contact the U.S. Embassy in Panama.. We can assist you in notifying relatives in the U.S. if you give us written permission. We cannot pay for your medical care or pay to evacuate you, so insurance is important! The U.S. Embassy in Panama maintains a list of hospitals, doctors, and evacuation services in Panama.


I take medications regularly. What should I do?

It is somewhat easier to buy drugs without a prescription in Panama than it is in the U.S. You should bring enough medication to last your trip, but if for some reason you do not or you lose them, a pharmacy should be able to fill your basic prescriptions. Be sure to bring your prescription with you and ask your doctor or pharmacist to write the generic—not brand name—of the drug.


Is Panama dangerous? My parents are concerned.

Statistically, Panamanian crime rates are lower than in many other countries in the region, but that doesn’t mean that crime doesn’t happen. Always be cautious about showing your money or valuables in public, and try to walk in groups.

Crime is not the only type of danger, however. Car accidents happen frequently in Panama. Drivers here may be less cautious, so you should driver defensively and not take risks as a pedestrian.

Drowning occurs in Panama due to rip tides and strong ocean currents. Some individuals have also gotten lost on poorly marked mountain trails. Weather conditions can change rapidly.

View our Panama Country Information Page for more information about safety and security in Panama, including the latest travel advisory.


What happens if I’m a victim of a crime?

First, call the police at 104 or 511-7000. You can also call the Tourism Police at 511-9260. You can also notify the U.S. Embassy in Panama by calling +(507) 317-5000.


What happens if I get arrested?

The police will likely notify the U.S. Embassy in Panama, but you should ask to do so yourself. It is important to note that we cannot make judgments on someone’s guilt or innocence or get anyone out of jail. The U.S. Embassy also maintains a list of attorneys who practice in Panama.


How can I stay connected in Panama? Will I be able to use my cell phone?

Cell phones are everywhere in Panama just like many places in the world. Unfortunately, many U.S. cell phone companies charge high rates for roaming outside the U.S. One solution is to try to link your device to WiFi as much as possible. Many cafes and hotels have WiFi for their guests. Just ask for the access code. Many Panamanians choose to communicate with each other via internet or app based messaging services.


What’s the weather like in Panama?

Hot mostly. January and February are “summer” months in Panama, which means that the weather is drier. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it won’t rain during your trip. Since Panama is close to the equator and the sun is strong, be sure to protect yourself with plenty of sunscreen as it is easy to burn quickly. If it does rain, be especially careful to avoid trails without a guide because they can get washed out. 


I don’t speak Spanish. Will I have difficulty getting around?

You might have some challenges, but you can usually find someone who speaks a bit of English if you ask around enough, especially in tourist areas.  You can also use translation apps on your phone to translate phrases from English to Spanish to communicate when needed.


How expensive is Panama?

Panama is not cheap. Food prices are fairly comparable to those in the US. Since Panama is a small country, most products are imported, which means that you often may pay more for them in Panama than in the U.S.

Last Updated: January 10, 2019