How Should I Prepare For My Trip To Panama?
A Basic Tourist Guide To Panama Vacation Planning
Planning a trip abroad can be a little overwhelming. There is of course the basic questions to answer such as “where should we stay?”, “what should we see while we’re there?”, and “how should we get around?”, aka the fun parts. Then there are the other questions such as “is the place I’m going prone to rabies?” and “what happens if I get hurt?” that are equally as important but maybe not as fun to answer. We like to travel, we do it a lot, and so we thought we’d put together a list of things to think about as you plan your trip to Panama.
Do I need a tourist Visa to enter Panama?
The short answer is no, you probably do not need a tourist card or special visa to enter Panama, as it is likely you live in one of the majority of countries which hold treaties with Panama, giving you an automatic 180 day visa. The countries which do require special visas are Chad, Ecuador, Egypt, Philippines, Perú, Dominican Republic and Thailand, so if you are a citizen of one of these countries, you’ve got a little extra work to do in order to enter Panama legally. This list may change after publishing of course, so best to check with your country's Embassy directly. If you want to extend your trip, there are several ways to extend your Visa in Panama. However to avoid heavy fines, you will need to contact immigration prior to the expiration of your initial 180 days and the extension costs depend on the type of extension you are applying for. As noted in the title, this is a BASIC tourist guide to Panama so we are not going to bother going into detail on all the extensions available here.
Panama Tourist Visa, check! Now, what else do I need to enter Panama?
The only other thing you need in order to enter Panama legally, is proof that you’re leaving. If you’ve got a round-trip air ticket, your proof is built right in. But if your trip is going to take you off the beaten path, such as flying in but taking a road trip throughout the country with an open-ended return date, just buy yourself a cheap bus ticket out of Panama. You don’t have to be on that bus, but you do have to prove that you’ve made plans for leaving. Also keep in mind that if you are crossing via ground transportation, they tend to be a bit stricter following an outdated law from 2008 that requires you to have a return ticket to the country on your passport. So if you are traveling using a passport of one country and reside in another, be sure to provide proof of your legal residence as well to avoid any unnecessary hassles. Unfortunately, we learned this lesson the hard way.
Do I have to get any special immunizations or vaccines to enter Panama?
There are no requirements on the immunization front in order to enter Panama, but there are certain preparations which are wise, particularly if, again, your travels will take you off the beaten path. A few things to consider: Will you be spending a lot of time in the jungle or otherwise away from cities, which might make you prone to bug and animal bites? Will you be taking part in extreme sports or activities that increase your likelihood of injury? Are you an adventurous eater who will try almost anything? The Centers for Disease Control have put together a handy guide for you online. All you have to do is indicate that you are traveling to Panama, then select what type of traveler you are and it will tell you all that you need to know for your trip to Panama. We’ve already studied up on this for you, because we love you. We can tell you that as long as your routine vaccinations are up to date, you’re probably well covered for the vast majority of ailments you’d be subjected to. Still, you might want to consult with your physician before you take off, just to be sure you’re comfortable and well-informed.
Panama City has a delightful selection of amazing international cuisine and most restaurants are just as clean as anything you are used to back in your home town, but we recommend you try the local cuisine too which should not be missed in Panama. The water in Panama City is safe to drink from the tap as well but be sure to ask when traveling outside of the city. However, for the adventurous eaters among us, it is recommended that you receive HepA and Typhoid vaccinations, as contaminated water and food is a possibility in all places but becomes more likely the further you diverge from “average eats”.
For the free spirits and single travelers, it’s worth noting that HepB is transmitted through sexual contact, tattoo and piercing needles, and is easily prevented with a vaccination. If you believe you might find yourself in the company of another, or commemorating your trip with some new body art, consider this vaccine as a precaution.
For the Tarzans and Janes who’ll be traipsing through the jungle forests of Panama, it’s important that you know malaria is a possibility, and while there is no vaccine for this, there is a course of pills you should take to keep yourself safe. In general in any tropical environment, it is best to carry bug repellent with you at all times. It is the easiest way to keep yourself safe from the blood sucking little disease carrying mosquitoes. Nothing ruins a vacation like a serious case of Dengue. No insect repellent handy? Try olive oil in a pinch. It is cheap and especially effective on the tiny “no-see-ums" which are a mosquito so small you "no see um" until they have already bitten you.
As any traveler knows, there is no substitute for good planning! It’s also important though, to be flexible enough to allow for the unexpected. One excellent way to make sure you’re in a position to expect the unexpected is to do your homework and to ask the right questions. In this blog we’ve laid out a few basic points to get you going and to hopefully set you down the right path, but it’s up to you to ensure that you’re healthy, prepared, and informed about the trip that you’re taking and what you need in order to keep yourself safe and in good spirits while on the road. While planning your Panama vacation, take some time to think about your own unique situation and needs, and be sure to cater to those in addition to the “no brainers” that are universal to smart travel. This will be key in having a journey full of wonderful memories in Panama to last a lifetime! In the event of the unexpected, Panama offers free medical insurance for the first 30 days of your stay. Another good reason it is safe to travel to Panama. Safe travels ahead!