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Currency & Money in Panama

The legal tender in Panama is the Panamanian Balboa ( ฿, PAB) and the US Dollar ( $, USD).

The exchange rate between both currencies is

  • 1 balboa = 1 dollar.
  • 1 Euro = 1.13 balboa

However, the US dollar is the official currency of circulation in the country.

When settling in USD, currency is often given in balboas.
Therefore, it is preferable to travel to Panama with dollars

Payment cards and cash withdrawals in Panama

Throughout the country there are ATMs that accept different types of cards; the most widely accepted are American Express, Visa, Diners and Mastercard.

You can also withdraw balboas or U.S dollars with your Visa, American Express or Mastercard in mid-sized cities or towns that usually have ATMs

Be careful, you’ll find it harder to find them in some more remote areas

Keep in mind that credit card transactions are always subject to commissions (which vary from bank to bank).

The opening hours of banks are quite limited: from 8 am to 3 pm from Monday to Friday and on Saturday from 9 am to noon

ATMs are usually open 24 hours a day.

It is also possible to exchange cash (dollars) on the spot at banks or exchange offices (casas de cambio), but exchange rates are often higher.

Pro Tip

Try, as far as possible, to always have change on you, as not all shopkeepers or taxis have the change, some will refuse you the sale, and to limit the use of your card to save bank charges (leaving with dollars).

The cost of living in Panama

Panama is a cheap country compared to Europe, even though fares have increased in recent years with the boom in tourism

Its economy is one of the most stable in America

The most profitable sectors are finance, tourism and logistics (75% of GDP).

For example:

  • the dish of the day in a local restaurant: $ 5 to 10 Usd. 
  • A menu in a classic restaurant: between $ 10 and 15 Usd. 
  • A more elaborate menu: between $ 15 and 30 Usd. 
  • A 1 litre bottle of water costs about $ 1 Usd. 
  • 1 litre of diesel: $ 0.80 Usd
  •  an entry in a national park: $ 10 Usd 

Is tipping mandatory?

It is to be determined according to your appreciation for the quality of the attention received, the duration of the services performed and the intensity of the work provided.

In restaurants, the tip “propina” is usually included in the service and is included on the bill

Several amounts appear depending on what you wish to leave: 10, 20 or 30%

If this is not the case, it is customary to leave 10% of the bill.

Allow approximately 1 to 2 USD per day per person for the driver, 3 to 5 USD per day per person for the guide.

When leaving the country, you will have to pay an exit tax of : 40 USD (payable by credit card or in dollars).

More Travel Tips

  • Always refuse banknotes that are taped or torn at the edges: it would be impossible for you to use them;
  • Remember to carry some change and small denominations for your petty expenses; 
  • Know that once back in your country, you will not be able to change your balboas into US or Euros..
  • Also, it is better not to withdraw too much at the end of your trip, or else spend it all on the spot! 

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