Fire and rescue services
Call 911, or go to the hospital.
Call 104, or go to the nearest police station.
We haven't changed our level of advice:
Exercise a high degree of caution in Panama overall.
Higher levels may apply in other parts of the country.
Full travel advice: Safety
Full travel advice: Health
Full travel advice: Local laws
Full travel advice: Travel
Full travel advice: Local contacts
Crime levels are high in Panama.
Petty crime is common, mainly pickpocketing and bag-snatching. You're most at risk in Panama City and Colon.
Take extra care of your valuables in:
To prevent petty crime:
Armed robbery and muggings occur in Panama. Violent crime is less common than petty crime.
Hotspots for crime in Panama City include:
Armed criminals may target you at Madden Dam, a tourist site in the Chagre National Park.
'Express kidnappings' also happen, where criminals force you to withdraw money from ATMs.
To protect yourself from violent crime:
Credit card and ATM fraud occurs.
House break-in and robbery scams also happen. Criminals may gain your trust and then rob your house.
Be aware of your surroundings. Always keep your credit card secure.
Colombian guerrilla groups and drug traffickers are active in the Darien Gap, near the Colombian border.
Violent crime is common, including:
The danger zone starts at the end of the Pan American highway at Yaviza and extends to the Colombian border. This area includes the Darien National Park and privately owned nature reserves and tourist resorts.
Be aware of landmines in the area.
The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it doesn’t make payments or concessions to kidnappers.
Protests and demonstrations can happen:
Public protests and events that draw large groups of people can turn violent.
To protect yourself during periods of unrest:
If you encounter a protest, leave as soon as it is safe.
Terrorism is a threat worldwide.
Panama doesn't have many lifeguards. Rescue equipment at public beaches is limited.
Strong currents and rips can make swimming dangerous.
The Bay of Panama is polluted with untreated sewage and industrial waste.
If you decide to go swimming:
In the event of a natural disaster:
To get alerts and advice, register with:
Severe weather can happen, including:
Severe weather may affect:
The hurricane season is from June to November. Storms and hurricanes can happen in other months.
The direction and strength of hurricanes can change suddenly.
If there's a hurricane or severe storm:
If a hurricane is approaching:
Panama experiences earthquakes. Tsunamis can also happen.
Get to know the earthquake safety measures for each place you stay and visit.
To receive tsunami alerts, register with the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.
If you're near the coast, move immediately to high ground if advised by authorities, or if you:
Don't wait for official warnings, such as alarms or sirens. Once on high ground, monitor local media.
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave. Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won’t pay for these costs.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many 1000s of dollars up-front for medical care.
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
Medication with pseudoephedrine is banned in Panama.
If you plan to bring medication, check if it's legal in Panama. Take enough legal medicine for your trip.
Carry a copy of your prescription and a dated letter from your doctor stating:
Yellow fever is widespread in Panama. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal virus spread by mosquitoes. It's prevented by vaccination. Get vaccinated before you travel.
Zika virus is also widespread. If you're pregnant, the Australian Department of Health recommends that you:
Malaria is a risk throughout the year in Bocas del Toro, Darien and San Blas. It's not a risk in Panama City.
To protect yourself from disease:
Get medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash, bleeding nose or gums, or a severe headache.
HIV/AIDS is common in Panama.
Take steps to reduce your risk of exposure to the virus.
Many hantavirus pulmonary syndrome cases are reported in Los Santos province.
To protect yourself:
For outdoor activities:
Waterborne, foodborne and other infectious diseases are common, including:
Serious outbreaks sometimes occur.
To protect yourself from illness:
If you're bitten or scratched by an animal, get medical help straight away.
Get medical advice if you have a fever or diarrhoea.
Some private hospitals and clinics are good. Facilities outside Panama City are limited.
Many doctors and hospitals need cash payment before treating you, even in an emergency.
If you're seriously ill or injured, you'll need be moved to the US or another a place with better facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive. Treatment in the US can be extremely expensive.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
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.
Penalties for drug offences are severe. They include long prison sentences.
Authorities may arrest you for illegal drugs if you're either:
You must always carry ID, such as a certified copy of your passport.
If you're aged under 18, curfews apply in Panama City.
To be out after curfew, you'll need a special permit.
Police can detain you for violating the curfew. A guardian will need to collect you from the police station.
In Panama, it's illegal to:
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you’re overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
Panama recognises dual citizenship.
Get permission before photographing anyone, especially women and children.
Same-sex relationships are legal, but not socially acceptable.
Consider the risks of public displays of affection.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders.
Make sure you meet all entry and exit conditions. If you don't, the Australian Government can’t help you.
If you arrive by air or land, you won't need a visa. You'll be granted an initial stay of 180 days when you arrive.
To enter, you'll need to show proof of:
If you’re transiting on a cruise ship and Panama is a port of call, you won’t need a visa. An immigration official will stamp your passport and you will be granted a stay of up to 90 days
If you arrive by another type of boat, you'll need a visa.
Entry and exit conditions can change. Contact the nearest Panamanian embassy or consulate for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
If you’re travelling through the US, you must meet US entry or transit requirements. This includes transit through Hawaii.
Check your visa requirements with an embassy or consulate of the United States before you travel.
If you're travelling through Canada, you'll need an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) for Canada. Check your visa requirements with either:
You may need a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter Panama. Some airlines may want to see one when you leave.
Find out about returning to Australia after exposure to yellow fever.
You'll need to pay a departure tax at the Tocumen Airport in Panama City. Check if your airline ticket already includes this cost.
If you're travelling to the US, you'll need evidence of an onward or return ticket. This applies even if you can enter the US under its visa waiver program.
Children who are Panamanian dual nationals or residents must have extra documents to leave Panama without both parents.
If these documents are from outside Panama, you must have them verified with an apostille stamp.
Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you’re just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.
The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport’s expiry date before you travel. If you’re not sure it’ll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport.
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
The local coin currency is the Panama Balboa (PAB).
The banknote currency is the US Dollar (USD).
Beware of counterfeit currency, especially $US50 and $US100 notes.
Only exchange money at official banks and exchange services.
ATMs and credit card facilities are widely available. Check with your bank to make sure your cards will work.
You can drive with:
You must get your IDP before you leave Australia.
Driving hazards in Panama include:
Driving at night is dangerous. There are often night roadworks on the Pan-American Highway. There may not be signage for these roadworks.
If you're in a motor vehicle accident, don't move your vehicle. By law, you must remain at the scene until the traffic police arrive.
If you plan to travel by road:
Make sure your travel insurance covers you when using a motorbike, quad bike or similar vehicle.
Always wear a helmet.
Only use registered taxis. It's best to arrange them at your hotel.
To reduce your risks if using taxis:
Avoid public transport. Local buses don't follow set routes and are poorly maintained.
Many international cruise liners visit Panama.
The Pacific and Caribbean coastlines are transport routes for illegal drugs. Consider this security risk before deciding to travel by sea.
DFAT doesn’t provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check Panama's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.
If you plan to visit the National Park on Coiba Island, you'll need a special permit.
Contact the National Authority for the Environment (ANAM in Spanish) or your tour operator.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
Call 911, or go to the hospital.
Call 104, or go to the nearest police station.
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Contact your provider with any complaints about tourist services or products.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can’t do to help you overseas.
Australia has a consulate in Panama, headed by an Honorary Consul. It can provide limited consular help, but can't issue passports.
You can get full consular help from the Australian Embassy in Mexico City.
Ofucuba 7 Edificio El Colegio
Calle Jose de Obaldia y Calle 8va
Telephone: (+507) 667 73833
Ruben Dario 55
Corner of Campos Eliseos, Polanco
Colonia Bosque de Chapultepec
11580 CDMX Mexico
Phone: +52 55 1101 2200
Fax: +52 55 1101 2201
See the Embassy website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures.
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
Be the first to know official government advice when travelling.