Insider Tips About Your Upcoming Trip to Panama
The experience of traveling abroad in the midst of COVID-19 regulations means a challenge for many...in fact I recommend a lot of patience because each country has its own system of how to deal with the pandemic. That is why in this blog I want to give you recommendations given from my own experience in order for you to enjoy your trip to Panama.
www.pixabay.com // Frauke Riether
First, when you purchase your flight ticket to Panama and have your flight confirmation from the airline, you have to register online before making your trip to Panama; the system generates a QR code, thus letting the Panamanian health authorities know where you will be staying during your trip.
Here is the link: https://www.panamadigital.gob.pa/RegistroPacoViajero
Remember that if you are traveling from Europe, the flight is long and the validity of the COVID-19 test may be compromised and the airline may not accept it and worse, may not let you board the flight. Also, investigate in time all necessary requirements not only of your destination country, but also of the country where you will make a stopover or transfer (if applicable).
For example if you travel with KLM via Amsterdam to Panama you will need a PCR test (even if you have a connecting flight only). I recommend that two days before your trip (taking into account that the validity of a PCR test is 72 hours), you take the PCR test which normally gives you the result in 12 hours, but there are others that take a little longer. In order to avoid any stress, it is better to take the required test in time. This PCR test will help you to transfer through Holland or another EU country without any problem. However, when you arrive in Panama the PCR test will already be expired. To enter Panama you can also present an antigen or rapid test (according to current regulations, as of today June 11th 2021). Therefor I recommend that the same day you travel, you take an antigen test (at the airport of departure) and the result is given to you in 15 to 30 minutes. With this you can be sure that you will not have any problems when arriving in Panama.
Always have at hand in a small trolley or handbag your passport, your airline ticket (which I recommend to have in your cell phone as a photo, pdf and also printed), the required COVID-19 exams (with a copy in your cell phone as a photo or pdf and also printed), because you will always be asked these documents about 10 times throughout your trip.
In one of my trips I overheard while waiting in line for the boarding of the plane that an airport official complained to another passenger why he only had the COVID-19 exams on his mobile phone, that he should have them printed out as well, but that is not true, since it depends on the airport and the country, as well as the airline, it is not always necessary to have the printed documentation, but as I explained, better forewarned and be prepared than to have a bad time.
Every airport has temperature control at each location, whether in Europe or Panama. As a general rule there are thermal cameras that scan the temperature of all passengers.
Arrival in Panama
Once you arrive in Panama you will have to wait in line and wait for your turn to get off the plane, then you will be transported to the airport terminal, and once inside you will be asked again for the COVID-19 test. As I said, be careful that they are not expired. Then you will have to go to get your luggage, which is usually coming out on the right hand side (flights from Europe). Just follow the corridor and you will see the lines, as well as the signs going down some stairs; there you will be asked again for the COVID-19 test and passport, but now, it is to register you in a database (confirming the online registration that you had already made prior to your trip).
How to get to your hotel
After passing the passport control (take the left row for tourists, and the right row for foreign residents and Panamanians), you will need to pick up your luggage. Be guided by the signs of the origin of your flight. At the exit of the airport you will feel the humid Caribbean heat, it will take you a few days to get used to it. Don't be surprised if people come up to you offering to help you with your suitcase and bags, asking you if you want a cab. I do not recommend taking one. Cab drivers' fares are very high, i.e. they can charge you between 20, 30 and 50 US dollars. Be careful because free competition of supply and demand rules in Panama.
What I do recommend is that you install an UBER application on your cell phone, make sure you have internet connection on your phone because you can take an UBER and it will cost you a fraction of what you would pay in a normal cab, and you will be more comfortable. If you come with a lot of luggage a $21 UBER is enough room to get to your hotel using the highway. Remember that mobile data roaming in the EU is no problem, but when you arrive in Panama you may not have internet. When you arrive you will be able to buy a Sim card. Buy a non-contract prepaid one. A recharge of 20 to 25 US dollars is enough to have internet connection. Google maps will help you a lot to know how to move around Panama. To avoid internet connection problems you can download offline maps of Panama on google maps.
PCR tests in Panama
If you travel to Chiriqui, you will be asked to take an antigen test before you leave the province again. If you travel by plane this test will be done by the Ministry of Health at the airport in David. There is also a private laboratory at the Tocumen airport for passengers traveling abroad. The rapid test result will be delivered to you in about 30 minutes. However, PCR tests are not done at neither of the two airports. Contact us if you need information of laboratories in order to get your PCR COVID-19 exam for travel purposes on time, either express in 5 hours, or standard processing time between 12 to 24 hours.
On your return to Europe if you travel with KLM please note that the Netherlands requires registration as well, here is the link: https://www.government.nl/documents/publications/2021/05/26/quarantine-declaration).
Be well informed before organizing your trip and buying your airline ticket, each country and airport has its own rules and requirements.
Have a safe trip, I see you soon!