Is it safe to travel to Panama?

Travel Alert Status

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Travel Warnings:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for Panama due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country

Parts of the "Mosquito Gulf" – Do Not Travel

The “Mosquito Gulf” is an extremely remote and inaccessible area along part of the north (Caribbean) coast.

Do not travel within 10 miles of the coastline, from Boca de Rio, Chiriqui to Cocle del Norte. Drug trafficking and other illicit activities occur in this area.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in this region as U.S. government personnel must obtain prior approval before traveling there and face additional restrictions before such travel is approved.

Parts of the Darién Region – Do Not Travel

Do not travel to the following areas of the Darien:

All areas south of Jaque to Manene to Yaviza to Lajas Blancas cities to the Colombian border

The city of Lajas Blancas

The city of El Salto

Criminal elements and drug and human trafficking networks operate in these areas. Police presence and emergency response are extremely limited.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in these regions as U.S. government personnel must obtain prior approval before traveling there and face additional restrictions before such travel is approved.

Safety and Security:

Avoid travel to remote areas of the Darien Province off of the Pan American Highway. U.S. Embassy personnel are allowed to travel to the restricted border areas of the Darien and San Blas Provinces only on official business and with prior approval of the Embassy’s Regional Security Officer and Deputy Chief of Mission. This restricted area encompasses the Darien National Park as well as some privately owned nature reserves and tourist resorts. The general remoteness of the region contributes to the potential hazards.

Due to scarcity of roads, most travel is by river or by foot path. This, combined with spotty medical infrastructure outside of major towns, makes travel there potentially hazardous. While the number of actual incidents remains low, U.S. citizens, other foreign nationals, and Panamanian citizens are potentially at risk of violent crime, kidnapping, and murder in this general area.

Moreover, the presence of Colombian terrorist groups, drug traffickers, and other criminals is common throughout the Panama-Colombia border area, increasing the danger to travelers. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) operates in the remote areas of Panama’s Darien Province. Note: The Secretary of State has designated the FARC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Similarly, U.S. citizens should not travel to the area of Panama referred to as the “Mosquito Coast,” an extremely remote and inaccessible area along the Panamanian north coast bounded by Boca de Rio Chiriquí on the west and Coclé Del Norte on the east and stretching inward from the coast for five kilometers. Embassy personnel are allowed to travel to this area only on official business and with prior approval of senior Embassy management. Access to the region is almost exclusively by boat and/or aircraft. The area may also have a few unimproved roads and/or paths which are not marked on maps. This may be particularly true in the mining area along the Petaquilla River. Sections of this coastline are frequently used for narco-trafficking and other illegal activities.

From time to time, there may be demonstrations to protest internal Panamanian issues or, more rarely, manifestations of anti-American sentiment by small but vociferous groups. While most demonstrations are non-violent, it is nonetheless a good security practice to avoid demonstrations. The Panamanian National Police have used tear gas and/or riot control munitions in response to demonstrations, particularly when roadways have been blocked or aggression has been used against the police. Demonstrations and marches can and do occur in many locations around the country, to include areas along the PanAmerican highway. U.S. citizens should exercise caution near the campus of the University of Panama, the Presidential Palace, and the National Assembly, which have been the scenes of protests.

Protestors have blocked remote roadways and the Pan American Highway on an intermittent basis since February 2012. Longer duration protests can last for several days, sometimes trapping travelers on the roads without access to food and water. During these extended road closures the security situation can be tense and the potential for violence between Panamanian authorities and protestors is a real possibility. U.S. citizens traveling by road outside Panama City should travel with full fuel tanks, keep extra potable water and food in their vehicles, and ensure cell phones are charged during their travel. For the most recent information on possible road closures, the Embassy advises U.S. citizens to monitor local news and consult local police.

Visitors should be cautious when swimming or wading at the beach. Some beaches, especially those on the Pacific Ocean and those in Bocas del Toro Province, have dangerous currents that cause drowning deaths every year. These beaches are seldom posted with warning signs or monitored by lifeguards.

On the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, boaters should be wary of vessels that may be transporting narcotics, illicit materials, and illegal immigrants to and from Colombia. Bales and specially wrapped packages containing narcotics have been found floating in the ocean or lying on remote beaches. Boaters and beachgoers are warned to steer clear of these items, to not pick up or move these packages and to immediately report their location to the Panamanian authorities.

Special permission is needed from the National Environment Authority to visit the National Park on Coiba Island. The island is an abandoned penal colony, although on occasion, prisoners are sent there to care for the animals. Boaters should avoid the southeastern coast of Kuna Yala Comarca (San Blas Islands), south of Punta Carreto, on the Atlantic Coast.

Local maritime search and rescue capabilities are limited and well below U.S. standards. However, if you are experiencing an emergency at sea or know of someone who is experiencing an emergency off the coast of Panama, please contact the Embassy immediately which can contact Panamanian authorities.

Disclaimer

You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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