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Business Travel in Panama

September 2015


Business Customs

Business practices and customs in Panama are a unique blend of North American methods and traditional Latin style. Foreign corporations operating in Panama are important in shaping the style and manner of doing business.

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Travel Advisory

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs maintains current travel-related information at www.travel.state.gov. International travelers and citizens on extended stays overseas are advised to visit this site for foreign travel information and, when appropriate, warnings.

You can view the U.S. Department of State’s Panama-specific information here: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/panama.html.

Further information can be obtained from the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Panama, at Tel: +507 317-5332, Fax: +507 317-5278, or email: Panama-ACS@state.gov.

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Visa Requirements

U.S. citizens may enter Panama with a passport that does not expire for at least three months from the date of entry and a return airline ticket. They are automatically authorized to stay in the country for 180 days as a tourist. The 180-day period is nonrenewable. There is no tourist card requirement. Travelers should be ready to show that they are carrying “sufficient funds,” which is $500 or travelers’ checks. Travelers are not often asked and sometimes a credit card or display of wealth is enough, but failure to show funds if asked can result in refusal of entry. There are visas available to businesspersons wishing to spend extended periods of time in Panama:

  • Inversionista (Investor): A minimum of $160,000 must be invested in setting up a company in Panama with a minimum of five Panamanian employees in its payroll, and $1,050 must be deposited in advance ($800 with the National Immigration Service and $250 with the National Treasury).

  • Permiso Temporal (Temporary Permit): For executives transferred from an overseas office to work in Panama temporarily or technicians working with a company in Panama for a limited time. Executives must prove their income will come from outside of Panama. Foreign technicians shall not exceed 15% of the employees of the company. The visa is valid for one year and is renewable up for six years.

  • Visa Corta Estancia Por Negocios (Short Stay Business Visa): For businesspersons coming to Panama for the purpose of setting up a branch office of a foreign company in Panama. The visa is valid for up to nine months and is nonrenewable.

  • Permiso de Residencia para Nacionales de Paises con relaciones amistosas, económicas y de inversion con la República de Panamá (Friendly Nations Residency Permit). The U.S. is included in the friendly nations list. This residency status is granted to individuals coming to Panama with the purpose of pursuing commercial or professional activities in Panama. Once approved, this permit grants an indefinite residency in Panama. Applicants must show a bank account with approximately $5,000 or more and proof of a commercial or professional activity.

There are other business related residency permits available, some related to special zones such as the “Panama – Pacific Area”; the “City of Knowledge”; “Export Processing Zones”; and for “Call Centers.”

There is a $40 departure tax on leaving the country. This charge is usually built into the return fare of the airline ticket.

U.S. Citizens are subject to Panamanian law when visiting Panama and penalties for possession, use, and trafficking in illegal drugs are severe.

If you plan to bring representatives or technicians to the U.S. for training, you should be aware that Panamanian nationals need a valid visa. Visa applicants should go to the following link: http://panama.usembassy.gov/non-immigrant_visas.html.

U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons from Panama to the U.S. should be advised that visa issuance is managed by the U.S. Department of State’s Consular Section rather than the U.S. Department of Commerce. Visa applicants should go to the following links:

U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should be advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following links.

State Department Visa Website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/

U.S. Embassy Panama, Consular Section: http://panama.usembassy.gov/visas.html

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Panama has an excellent telecommunications infrastructure, which includes broadband internet penetration, calling card availability, and public phone services. Access to internet services and international direct dial is available in most public places around Panama City and other major cities. Most hotels offer free Wi-Fi connection, and direct dial is available to more than 150 countries worldwide. Panamanian cell phone service operates using GSM technology, and travelers may purchase buy prepaid SIM chips for unlocked GSM phones at various retail outlets, airports, etc. There are 170 radio stations and five television stations in Panama. Both cable TV service and satellite-based services are well-established in Panama.

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Panama has excellent air transportation facilities. Three major U.S. airlines serve the country, as well as other foreign-flagged airlines. Copa Airlines, the Panamanian airline, has its regional hub at the Tocumen International Airport, connecting Panama with 11 U.S. cities and destinations throughout Latin America.

Buses and taxis are readily available in urban areas. Taxi fares are low and usually range from $2-10 depending on the trip's length. Taxi services from hotels are typically more expensive, but vehicles are in better condition and are generally safer. Congestion in the Panama City metro area is a rapidly increasing problem, but, since the metropolitan area is relatively compact, taxi service generally is the best mode of transportation. The Government of Panama inaugurated the first line of a metro system in early 2014 and is executing a plan for a fully integrated bus and metro transit system to deal with the congestion.

Transportation from Tocumen International Airport into Panama City can be made by a specially-designated car & driver/taxi service, with prices between $30-40 depending on the size of the vehicle. Taxis may be shared with other passengers. Car rentals are available. There is no bus service available at the airport. Major car rental companies operate in Panama.

There is train service from Panama City to Colón, on the Atlantic side of the country. Service is operated by the Panama Canal Railway Company. While the railway is primarily a container transportation facility, it also operates limited passenger service, and has become a popular tourist option to visit Colón.

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Panama's official language is Spanish. However, English is often spoken in major cities and tourist destinations.

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Health conditions in Panama are good, especially in the urban centers. Running water is available in almost all parts of the country and is usually potable. Use of bottled water or boiling before use is necessary only in some rural areas and small towns in the provinces. There are no major potential health risks when visiting Panama, particularly in the business areas of the country.

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Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays

Panama does not observe Daylight Savings Time. So from roughly April – October, it is one hour behind the U.S. East Coast. From November – March, Panama observes U.S. East Coast time.

Private business offices are open from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 12 noon. Banks are open from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Most local banks open Saturdays from 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 Noon. Government offices are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

All private, government, municipal, and U.S. Embassy offices are closed during local holidays. In addition, the U.S. Mission observes all U.S. holidays.

2015 Panamanian holidays:

January 1

January 9

February 17

April 3

May 1

November 3

November 5

November 10

November 28

December 8

December 25

New Year's Day

Mourning Day


Good Friday

Labor Day

Independence Day from Colombia

Colón Day

The Uprising of Los Santos

Independence Day from Spain (Observed Monday, Dec 2)

Mother's Day

Christmas Day

Note: There is a large Jewish community, and several businesses observe Jewish holidays.

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Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings

Business travelers should not experience any problems entering with laptops or other personal business equipment or software for personal use. Exhibition and sample materials can be brought into Panama, subject to temporary entry restrictions.

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Web Resources

For More Information

The U.S. Commercial Service in Panama can be contacted via e-mail at: enrique.tellez@trade.gov; Phone: 011-507-317-5000; or visit our website: http://www.export.gov/panama.

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  Notice to Visitors!

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  Notice to Visitors!

  The link you have chosen will take you to a non-U.S. Government website.

  If the page does not appear in 5 seconds, please click this: outside web site

  BuyUSA.gov is managed by the International Trade Administration and external links are covered by its website disclaimer statement.