Money and duty free for Panama
Currency and Money
Balboa (PAB; symbol B/.) = 100 centésimos. There is no Panamanian paper currency; coins exist in denominations of B/.10 and 1, and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 centésimos. US currency was adopted in 1904 and exists alongside the Balboa coinage: B/.1 = US$1.
US Dollar (US$) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of US$100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are in denominations of US$1, and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 cents.
MasterCard and Visa are the most commonly used, but American Express and Diners Club are also accepted. While you will be able to use credit cards in higher end hotels and restaurants, anywhere smaller or more local will not have the facilities, and it is wise to always have some cash to tide you over. Many of the islands, including Isla de Coiba and Isla Contadora, have no banks and no cash machines, so carrying cash is essential.
ATM machines can be found throughout the country, especially in the cities. ATMs are found in or next to banks, or in the streets marked by the red sistema clave sign. Banks usually charge a fee to draw out funds in Panama, but it still usually works out better than changing money. You can usually only draw up to US$500 in cash at any one time, but this amount varies between banks. ATMs can run out of cash, so try and always have some on you, in case you are unable to withdraw any immediately.
You can still cash traveller’s cheques at some banks, especially the larger ones in the cities, but not everywhere, and you can spend them almost nowhere. This being the case, they are not really a recommended form of currency to rely on. If you must carry traveller’s cheques, they should certainly be in US dollars as they won’t be accepted in any other form; American Express traveller’s cheques are best. You will also be charged a fee to change traveller’s cheques, usually about 1% of the transaction price.
Mon-Fri 0800-1500, Sat 0830-1200.
There are no restrictions on the import and export of either foreign or local currency. However, amounts of over US$10,000 must be declared upon arrival.
You can change foreign currency at the bank in Tocumen International airport, and after that you’ll have to see if you can find any casas de cambio (exchange houses), which are mostly found in Panama City. There is no need to exchange US Dollars, however, and they are easy to come by.
Panama duty free
The following items may be imported into Panama without incurring customs duty:
• 10 packs of cigarettes or 2 packets of tobacco.
• 5 bottles or 3.8L of alcoholic drinks.
• Goods up to the value of B/.2,000.
You may bring in gifts, as long as you do not have more than six of each item.
Fruit, vegetable and animal products, weapons, explosives, narcotics and hazardous materials.