Entering Panama for a short-stay

Travelling to Panama
Updated 2017-07-31 11:29

Getting to Panama by air means arriving at Tocumen airport, near the capital, Panama City. The airport code is Pty (the first letter and last two of Panama City).

As with all air travel, sometimes it looks like you have booked all the way from your home city to your destination direct, but closer inspection reveals that you're being routed through other places, so what looks like an excessively long time can be explained by stopovers that may be overnight or just a few hours.

Similarly, you may appear to be flying into the country at the airport closest to where you're going to be staying, when in fact you will fly into the main airport (an international airport) and then transfer to an internal flight.

That is the situation in Panama. If you fly in from another country you will enter at Tocumen, and if you're staying in David, way over to the west, you will get there on a different aircraft, possibly operated by a different airline. Not that you need to do that last leg by air, of course. Panama benefits from the Panamerican Highway, on which you can whizz to other cities by bus or rented car.

Panama is a short, broad country (772 kilometers/480 miles wide) with the Atlantic (Caribbean) to the north and the Pacific to the south. The border to the east is with Colombia and to the west, Costa Rica and on through the rest of Central America to Mexico and the USA.

So it depends largely on where you're coming from. Many Americans enjoy a road trip, which can be made into a part of the vacation, taking in other countries and cultures before arriving in Panama with the benefit of having your own car.

The same applies for people from Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil, who can see a bit more of the world on the way to Panama. That's if you or at least someone in the party likes driving, which can be more tiring than sitting in an airplane all day. But at least on the road you can choose your departure times, rather than having to get up in the middle of the night to get a connecting flight to a hub that feeds Tocumen.

It's a pleasant modern airport, though, and Panama is a pleasant modern country. Just make sure your passport is up to date and you've got the visa if you need one.

Entry requirements

The good news is that citizens of many countries don't need a visa at all but can just swan in on the strength of their passport and be given a standard duration of 180 days.

Useful links:

Panama's Department of Immigration

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