Foreign travel advice


Safety and security


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Panama

Although there is no recent history of terrorism in Panama, attacks cannot be ruled out.

Political situation

Protests can be unpredictable, occur at short notice and escalate quickly. You should avoid protests and demonstrations, monitor local media and follow advice from local authorities. You should avoid travelling around protest-affected areas at night. Protests may be particularly large in Colón City. Protests often involve informal road blocks and can affect access to the border crossing into Costa Rica at Paso Canoas and international airports. Check your route and alternatives before travelling. If you are unable to reach an airport for a planned flight, please contact your airline to make alternative arrangements.


If you’re the victim of a crime in Panama and want to report the incident, do so before you leave the country, otherwise the police may not investigate.

Street crime can happen anywhere, but these areas of Panama City have higher levels of crime:

  • San Miguelito
  • El Chorrillo
  • Río Abajo
  • 24 de Diciembre
  • Santa Ana
  • Juan Diaz

Protecting yourself and your belongings 

There is a risk of pickpocketing in busy areas, on buses and at bus stations. You can take steps to protect yourself and your belongings, including:

  • not carrying large amounts of money or valuables around with you
  • leaving valuables in a safe place such as a hotel safe

People have been attacked after withdrawing cash from ATMs.

Take sensible precautions to avoid mugging, particularly in main shopping areas and tourist sites, including:

  • Albrook Mall in Panama City
  • Via España and Avenida Central in Panama City
  • the area of Calidonia in Panama City
  • the old town (Casco Viejo) in Panama City
  • the old Panama ruins (Panama Viejo) in Panama City
  • the Madden Dam area – off the main Panama to Colon road
  • the city of Colon

Be wary if visitors approach you to get access to your accomodation. Criminal gangs have used this method to commit burglaries. If you’re in any doubt, call the police.

Sexual assault

There have been violent attacks, including sexual assault, in tourist destinations in Panama City and across the country. Use the same level of caution you would in the UK when travelling at night. Avoid poorly lit areas and do not walk on your own.

See advice for women travelling abroad.

There have been incidents of targeted gang assassinations, some in tourist areas. Most of these crimes are between members of rival drug gangs.

Laws and cultural differences

Smoking and e-cigarette bans

It’s illegal to smoke in public places. You could be fined 25 to 100 US dollars if you’re caught smoking where it’s not allowed. The use of e-cigarettes is also banned in public places.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Do not become involved with drugs of any kind. You can get a prison sentence for possessing even a small quantity of drugs.

The judicial process is slow and sentencing may take up to 2 years. Conditions in prisons and other detention facilities in Panama are harsh. Most facilities are overcrowded with limited access to healthcare. There have been recent cases of riots ending in prisoner deaths.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex civil unions are illegal, but same-sex relationships are legal in Panama. Most Panamanians are generally tolerant of LGBT+ travellers. However, Panamanian law does not ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There have been incidents of police officers detaining LGBT+ couples on the grounds of public indecency. Showing affection in public can lead to unwanted attention. Casco Viejo is considered a safe place for LGBT+ travellers.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

Swimming safety

Take care when wading, swimming or taking part in water sports on Pacific and Caribbean beaches. Some beaches have strong currents and undertows and there are rarely warning signs. People drown every year.

Do not swim in the Bay of Panama as it is highly polluted with untreated sewage and industrial waste.

See advice on safe swimming from ABTA and holiday water safety from the Royal Life Saving Society.

Hiking and mountaineering

If hiking in the hills around Boquete and the Province of Chiriqui you should consider going with an experienced guide. Trails may not be well marked, and mobile phone coverage is unreliable. Tourists have gone missing and died hiking without a guide. Seek local advice before setting out.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning on driving, see information on driving abroad.

You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Panama for up to 3 months. The Panamanian authorities will not accept a paper licence – you can update it to a photocard licence. Carry a copy of your passport with the dated entry stamp as proof you’re still within the 3 months permitted.

Drivers and front-seat passengers must wear seatbelts. Children aged 4 and under must travel in the back in fitted child seats.

Drink-driving is a serious offence in Panama. If you are tested and found to have any alcohol in your system, you may get a fine, have your licence revoked and your car impounded.

Driving standards

Driving standards can be poor. Traffic accidents are common. Roads are often poorly lit and can have potholes and unfinished repairs. Darien Province and other remote rural areas may have very few surfaced roads.

Traffic can be heavy in Panama City and other populated areas such as:

  • Pacora
  • Chorrera
  • Capira
  • Arraijan

Repair work and construction sites are common in these areas.

If you’re involved in a traffic accident with another driver, wait inside your vehicle for your insurance representative and the transit police to arrive. Avoid any type of confrontation with other drivers or passers-by.


Unregistered taxis can be in poor condition. Many accidents are due to poor maintenance and driving standards. Picking up many passengers is common in Panama. Make sure your drivers do not do this.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

See extreme weather and natural hazards for information about how to prepare, and how to react if there is a warning.


The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to November. Hurricanes do not directly affect Panama but often cause heavy rain. There may be flash floods and landslides. October and November have the heaviest rainfall. Monitor local news, check World Meteorological Association weather reports for Panama and follow local advice.


Earthquakes are a risk in Panama. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake or tsunami.