Panama reopens for US travelers — here’s what you need to know

Oct 9, 2020

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Panama reopens for travelers on Monday, Oct. 12. Here’s what you need to know for a safe, responsible visit.

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“Panama is ready to greet travelers once again,” Tourism Promotion Fund Chairman Fernando Duque said Thursday in a virtual press conference announcing the reopening. “Starting next Monday, we welcome visitors from all over the world. There are no countries restricted for travel to Panama — only simple and proven measures to keep visitors and residents safe.”

Indeed, Panama has released one of the most comprehensive reopening guides we’ve seen this year, and precautions appear to be just as thorough to match the attention to detail.

The Central American country will reopen with over 44 air travel routes from various international partner countries, with more to come in following weeks.

Before travel

As Duque stated, travelers of all nationalities are welcome in Panama with the following preparations in place:

  • A negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test result taken within 48 hours of arrival time in Panama
  • Completed electronic affidavit of health, agreeing to comply with all local health and sanitation requirements as outlined by the Ministry of Health of Panama; providing information regarding local addresses or whereabouts; and confirmation that the traveler has not been sick or exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days. (The affidavit will be available beginning Saturday, Oct. 10, and can be found here)
  • Health insurance is not a requirement for entry, but is highly recommended.

Related: Do you need a coronavirus test to fly?

Upon arrival, travelers should expect:

  • To wear surgical face masks throughout the airport except for momentary identification at security and immigration checkpoints. All face masks must be in optimal condition, and worn properly to cover both mouth and nose. Wet, dirty, or damaged masks must be replaced as soon as possible.
  • Respect social distancing guidelines of six feet or more between people from different households
  • Any PCR test results that are older than 48 hours by arrival time in Panama will require a second COVID-19 test to be administered at Panama’s Tocumen International Airport (PTY) at the traveler’s cost — about $30 to $50.
  • If the rapid test results come back positive, the Panamanian government will quarantine the traveler at no cost to the visitor, for seven days, after which an antigen rapid test will be administered. If it comes back negative, the traveler can carry on but if it returns positive, then the traveler will remain in quarantine until the next result returns negative.

Related: Getting a coronavirus test for travel is getting easier — but it still takes planning

Rules and regulations in Panama

Most of Panama’s requirements follow basic health protocols for COVID-19 prevention. Face masks are required on all forms of transportation, and travelers are encouraged to wash hands, sanitize belongings frequently, cover nose/mouth with the crook of their arms when sneezing or coughing, and so forth, and visitors should expect stringent enforcement of all compliance by local officials. Travelers are also encouraged to utilize electronic payment where possible, take advantage of free hand sanitizer stations, submit to temperature checks by businesses and tourism operators, and to use digital maps and menus where possible in order to avoid cross-contamination through paper.

Additionally, many of Panama’s beaches remain closed to prevent crowding and spread of infection.

Travelers are encouraged to stay within a “social bubble” limited to their travel companions throughout the duration of their stay, as much as possible.

Restaurants are encouraged to accept reservations ahead of time in order to avoid crowds, and all tables must be separated at a socially distanced metric of six feet in each direction. Condiments will be offered in individual package sizes, and no buffets will be open. Menus will either be offered in stand form or digitally through the use of QR codes, and hand sanitizer will be available at the table or in high-traffic areas.

Related: How coronavirus could forever change the face of travel

Tours and tour sites will be limited to 50 percent capacity in shared ground transportation vehicles such as cars and buses, and venues are limited to 30 percent capacity and a maximum four people per table. Capacity at the marina is reduced to 25 percent of full capacity to avoid crowds.

Panama has implemented stringent protocols for hotel and public safety. All hotel reception areas will have physical separation barriers such as protective glass or acrylic sheets, while lobbies and waiting rooms will be cleaned three times per day and elevators must be cleaned and disinfected every two hours. Everyone must comply with the maximum capacity limits on elevators, and wait for the next car if the limit has been reached. Hotels can no longer serve food buffet-style; only a la carte in hotel restaurants or via room service.

Related: The extreme lengths some establishments are taking to maintain social distance

Getting there and where to stay

Related:

Flights are very cheap to Panama right now, with the lowest rates beginning between Fort Lauderdale and Panama City for $166 round trip.

Flights on alliance carriers hover around the $330 round trip mark from the cheapest destinations in Miami and Fort Lauderdale to Panama. Award flights begin at 35,000 MileagePlus miles and $68 on United; 36,000 Delta Skymiles and $78 in taxes, or 27,500 AAdvantage miles and $83 in taxes.

Hotels are plentiful, with more than 200 options available in Panama City for early November according to Hotels.com.

Related: TPG’s beginners’ guide to points and miles and loyalty programs

Marriott offers a variety of properties at great rates, with 15 hotels in the Panama City region ranging from Category 5 properties the W ($136 or 40,000 points per night) and JW Marriott ($149 or 37,500 per night) to affordable and hip Category 2 AC Hotels ($73 or 5,000 points per night) and Category 1 Aloft Panama ($98 or 4,000 points per night).

Related: Limited time promotion on Marriott award nights

Hilton travelers can also get in on the affordable deals, with rooms at the Hilton Panama beginning at $114 or 31,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

Looking for a better rate? You could try the Hampton by Hilton Panama for $47 or 10,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

Hyatt fans have one option in the area: The Hyatt Place Panama City/Downtown, from $64 per night or 5,000 World of Hyatt points after Nov. 1, when the property reopens.

Featured photo by By jose_leonardo7 / Shutterstock

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