People are traveling a bit more and sharing their experiences, so I thought I’d relate a few things that I have heard here.
If you travel here to Panama, you need to be COVID-19 negative. You either need test results in hand that are no more than 48 hours old, or you will be tested when you arrive at the airport. From what I have heard, usually there is very little waiting to take the test. The results come in about 1/2 hour and it costs $50.
For much more complete information, check this great website. It will tell you everything you need to know about traveling here! (thank you Tom for this link)
Some say it would be nice if you know you are negative before you get on the plane but many people can’t get test results that quickly and it may be more expensive. But, if you want to be tested before you leave, Jackie Lange shared this other option. (Jackie, of Panama Relocation Tours and a great source of tons of info!) This site tells you what airports offer testing. If you leave from one of them you can get your test quickly and know your status before you fly.
If your test on arrival at the Panama City airport is positive, you will be sent to a hotel for quarantine (at Panama’s expense). They will re-test you in 7 days. If that is negative you are free to go. Otherwise you stay for another 7 days.
So, now that you are in Panama, what’s next? I share this link frequently because it has information about some very useful people. https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2017/06/05/good-people-to-know-in-panama/
The US embassy in Panama is here to assist US citizens with whatever they need, but since COVID-19, it’s been emergency assistance only. https://pa.usembassy.gov/consular-section-announcement/ It says that passport renewal is still available, but my friend Tom found out that there are no appointments for certification of US drivers licenses, the first step in getting a Panamanian license (a requirement for residents). Now, there is a different procedure that starts with getting a certified copy of your license from the state that issued it, and then get that apostled by the Secretary of State in that state. I know, it sounds like a hassle but I believe getting residency anywhere is a series of hassles and documents, and then a big sigh of relief when it’s finally finished. If you are applying for residency be sure to check with your lawyer about this and all requirements.
That’s all the tips and tricks I have at the moment but as always, do your own homework! Things change. In spite of the best efforts of everyone, myself included, wrong information can get passed around. Airline reservations, especially, can change at a moments notice so be diligent about checking on your flight right up to the time you plan to fly. There is a very reduced number of flights because of the reduced number of travelers, so it’s very possible that your flight time will be changed, or your flight will be canceled. Be sure to check with your airline about requirements and safety measures on your flight. You can count on masks being required everywhere, on the plane, and everywhere in Panama.
There is hopeful news about vaccines in the works, so in the coming months maybe we’ll see the world start to change in regards to COVID-19. That would be wonderful! But right now, today, it’s the reality in our lives and we must live accordingly. As always, take care of yourselves and each other.
Pertinent information is always welcome in the comments.
I hope I wasn’t misleading: I couldn’t get a notarial appointment at the US Embassy online (for certifying the DL). Either they were fully booked, or simply aren’t offering appointments more than 4 weeks into the future. I didn’t try calling, given the visibility of appointment scheduling online. https://pa.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/notaries-public/. Someone might find a chink in the customer anti-service armor, or know how to get in, but I wasn’t going to incur the brain damage to try and find it myself.
BTW, it looks like getting the DL stuff taken care of at the home-state level is less expensive: $50 for notary service at the US Embassy, vs $11 for a certified copy of my DL (online), plus $5 for mailed-in Apostille request (all in Colorado); general timing for transactions is 3 weeks.
I have heard from other sources that the embassy is closed to all but emergency business, so I don’t think your situation is unusual. But of course, like I said, people should do their own research and they may find the situation changed. Yay on the DL business though. Glad that is working out well.
Update: nobody asked for my registration paperwork or the QR Code from VisitPanama.com. It’s probably bunkum.
The Tocumen airport COVID testing area is easy to miss if you’re not expecting it. It’s a couple of people dressed for surgery standing on the side of the concourse almost all the way to baggage claim and immigration control. You go down a seemingly abandoned concourse for a very long walk, then there is a small kiosk set up with attendants. It was easy to register and pay ($50); they do the nasal sampling through holes in the plexiglass window, and after 35-40 minutes (in my case) of waiting in the large seating area (with restrooms, thankfully) an attendant comes out and calls names. You will end up with a piece of paper to present at the entry to baggage claim. By then, there is no crowding the carousel, and your bags are dizzy from spinning around wondering why you haven’t collected them yet. Breeze through customs, and you’re free! If you aren’t positive or false positive, that is… I can’t attest to that sore twist of fate. However, given the volume of testing going on in US private sector quick-test labs, the low volume of work at Tocumen is probably less likely to be fat fingered or contaminated so as to yield false positives. Safe and happy travels to all your readers!
Thanks for the update! Glad to hear everything went smoothly. Welcome to Panama 🙂