How to travel to Panama. What are the current requirements?
Due to my business I am a frequent traveler. However, flying in times of a global pandemic brings new challenges and experiences. In the last 20 years I have never seen the airports as empty as they are now. It reminds me a lot of the 90s when I was flying for the first time without my family to England. When planning your trip to Panama there are some important details to consider.
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Important recommendations for passengers coming from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Spain, USA, Canada, etc.
If you travel from one of the countries of the European Union, United States, Canada, etc. to Panama, at the time of arrival at Tocumen airport you must present a negative PCR or antigen (rapid) test, which must not be older than 48 hours. With this it is not necessary to take another test at the Tocumen airport or comply with any type of quarantine.
If you do not carry such test, if your test is expired or if your test does not meet the minimum requirements established by the health authority, you must take a COVID-19 rapid test at the Tocumen airport (at your cost).
Requirements for passengers arriving from South America, United Kingdom, India or South Africa
The Panamanian health authorities established the following entry requirements for passengers coming from and having stayed or transited through the United Kingdom, the Republic of South Africa, India or any South American country during the last 15 days. In order to travel to Panama, you must present a negative PCR or antigen test which must not be older than 48 hours.
Additionally upon registration with the National Immigration Service in Panama, passengers coming from or who have transited through the United Kingdom, South Africa, India or South America, during the last 15 days, must take a COVID-19 test at Tocumen airport at their own expense (costs 85USD).
If this test is negative, the person must comply with a three (3) day isolation period (remember that this only applies to passengers coming from South America, United Kingdom, India or South Africa). If you are Panamanian or a foreigner resident of Panama (and have the corresponding documentation, i.e. migration ID card or E cedula and proof of address such as a lease contract or title deed) you may serve the isolation period at your residence in Panama.
Otherwise, the isolation period must be spent in a non-COVID-19 surveillance hotel for non-COVID-19 travelers at state expense. Isolation may also be carried out in hotels authorized by the health authority at your own cost. In this case you must present your reservation to the airline before boarding the plane to Panama.
Either if you spend the isolation period at home or in a hotel, in both cases, at the end of the three days period, another PCR or antigen test must be performed. This test must be done by the health authority at its expense in a laboratory that has an operating permit from the Technical Board of Health and is validated by the Gorgas Memorial Institute). If the test is negative the the isolation will be concluded.
For passengers who test positive upon arrival in Panama, a COVID-19 RT-PCR test and +ICGES analysis must be performed, complying with mandatory isolation for 14 days.
Now, in practice, what is it like when you travel to Panama?
First, before planning your trip, find out where to get a PCR or antigen test, which it is legally recognized for travel purposes. Nowadays, major airports already have laboratories for such tests. Depending on the day of the week a PCR test can take about 24 hours (although I know of a lab in Vienna that delivers it in 90 min) and an antigen test result can be available in about 15 to 30 minutes. Please note that when traveling, not all countries will accept an antigen test for entry into the country. Panama accepts antigen or rapid test, Spain for example only accepts PCR tests. You will usually receive your COVID-19 test result to your email so that it is available during your trip on your mobile phone.
Choose the lab ahead of time and schedule your appointment early to get your PCR or antigen results prior to your flight. It happened to me that I arrived at the airport once on a Sunday thinking I could get a quick PCR test before my trip, and no.... but that’s another story.
When you arrive at Tocumen airport in Panama, you must enter with your mask on, and its use is mandatory at all times and in all airport facilities. Likewise, your temperature will be taken by airport personnel. Immigration and customs lines are properly marked on the floor. Immigration and customs agents will serve you through protective windows to ensure physical distance.
To enjoy your flight and reduce your stress level, we recommend the following:
1. Investigate the travel requirements of the country of origin and destination in a timely manner.
2. Do Web Check-In and download your mobile boarding pass.
3. Remember to bring your mask.
4. Arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before your flight departure time.
5. Take into account that in some airports, only passengers who are going to travel are allowed to enter the facilities.
6. Remember that you can bring food on board for your personal consumption.
7. To expedite the boarding process, have your boarding pass ready, as well as your passport and COVID-19 test.
8. When passing through immigration control in Panama, remember to show your passport and migration ID card or E cedula (if applicable). If you are entering Panama as a tourist, remember to have your hotel reservation or place of lodging at hand.
Feliz viaje! Have a safe flight!