Passports and Visas
All passengers require a machine-readable passport valid for six months beyond the conclusion of their trip, with appropriate visas. You should carry your passport with you at all times to ensure against its loss or theft in hotels. Check with the Panamanian Consulate to determine if any visas are needed. Securing required documents is the responsibility of the traveler. This information is a guide only and it is essential that you check all current passport and visa rules with your travel agent before departure.
Vaccinations are not currently required before travel to Panama. You might want to check with your healthcare provider about six weeks prior to your departure for the most current recommendations. Travelers are advised to drink and brush their teeth with bottled water. Avoid eating uncooked vegetables, and be wary of ice and fruits or vegetables that may have been washed in local, untreated water. Ask your local guide about purchasing food from street vendors, as much is safe and quite tasty. In Panama, the tap water is considered safe as it is chlorinated, however bottled water is available. A good sun block and insect repellent should be worn at all times.
Panama's currency is the Panamanian balboa (B), however U.S. dollars are also generally accepted. Coin denominations are 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centesimos, plus B1 and B10. One balboa is equal to 100 centesimos. Centesimos coins are of identical size, denomination, and metal as U.S. coins, and the coins of both nations can be used interchangeably. American Express and Visa are regularly accepted, as well as MasterCard, however some smaller restaurants or shops may prefer cash. ATMs are widely available in Panama City. You can change US dollars at banks and currency exchange agencies for the best rates, hotels and some shops can also change them for you, but the rate will likely be much higher
Panama has 110 V at 50 Hz, with a type A or B socket. America's electrical currents are 120 V at 60 Hz, with a type A or B socket, so you will not need a converter or an adapter.
Wireless and wired Internet access is widely available in main cities throughout Panama. Many of the hotels we use offer this service free or at a small charge. There are also Internet cafés in major cities that allow you access, usually for a small charge.
Phoning home from another country can be expensive. All hotels will add a service charge to the cost of any phone calls you make from your room. This charge can be very high. It is always cheaper for you to use public telephones (payphones) if your cell phone is not set for international calls. Your Travel Director can explain how to dial internationally if you are unsure.
Panama's banks are generally open 8:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Mondays-Fridays, and are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants and shops in large cities and tourist areas; however street vendors and small shops may only accept cash. If you plan on using Traveler's Checks, make sure they stay dry - they are considered void if they get wet.
In Panama City, you'll find everything from small shops to malls, including one of the longest shopping streets in the world. In other parts of the country, look for arts and crafts made by the natives, including jewelry, baskets, sandals, molas created by the Kuna and more.
We suggest the following tipping rates: Travel Director or Local Travel Expert US$4-5 per day (or the equivalent in the local currency), Driver US$2-3 per day (or the equivalent in the local currency), Local sightseeing guide US$1-2 per day/tour (or the equivalent in the local currency), Porters US50-75 cents per bag (or the equivalent in the local currency), Housekeepers about US$1 per day (or the equivalent in the local currency), Snorkel or dive guides - the amount will vary according to their services, Taxis - not really necessary, but you can round up the fare on the meter, Restaurants and bars 10-15% of the total bill. If a service charge has already been added there is no need to tip as much or at all.
For travel between cities in Panama, local buses are a good option. Within towns, a taxi may be the easiest way to travel. Just be sure to have your hotel's concierge advise you of the correct fare and negotiate this with the taxi driver before agreeing to the ride. Public buses are also an option. Use extreme care when crossing streets, as traffic can be hazardous. Boats are available for travel to the San Blas and Bocas del Toro Islands.
Generally, casual jeans or slacks, shirts, and a jacket are all you'll need. Be sure to have comfortable walking shoes and a hat for sun protection. In beach areas, a sarong or other covering is often worn by women. For travel to the rainforest, the amount of luggage you can take may be restricted, and it is a good idea to put clothes and gear in seal-able plastic bags. Always make sure you have rain gear, sun protection, insect repellent and a hat.