Visa & Passports
British passport holders do not need a visa to visit Panama, except if arriving by sea. Entry for up to 180 days is normally issued on arrival. However, you may be refused entry if you don’t have an onward ticket out of Panama. For further information on entry requirements and if you are entering by sea, contact the Panama Embassy in London. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of exit from Panama. There is also a US$40 airport departure tax, but many airlines include this in the price of flight tickets.
Flying via the USA
Most flights to Panama will go via the USA so you will need to apply for an ESTA (Electronic System Travel Authorization) in advance. All travellers on UK passports (including children and infants) must have an individual machine-readable passport and must complete an ESTA prior to departure. Without an approved ESTA, you could be denied entry into the US and therefore denied boarding your flight(s). It’s worth also checking the US embassy ESTA for current customs regulations, as they change frequently.
The official currency of Panama is the Balboa but it has the same value as the US$ which is the standard currency in use. You can pay with US$ everywhere, preferably with cash as ATMs are accessible except in remote areas so it’s best to have enough cash on you.
Credit and Debit Cards
Most hotels and restaurants in remote areas of Panama don’t accept credit or debit cards so it’s worth checking with your hotel before you depart the city. In general, credit and debit cards are accepted but we don’t recommend taking travellers cheques.
Tips and Haggling
The standard tip in Panama is 10% of the bill, although smaller cafes and restaurants won’t expect a tip. Taxi drivers don’t expect tips either but you’ll find that tour guides generally do. The amount is dependent on the length of your tour and what you feel comfortable giving.