How to pay in Panama and what to look for

The questions keep coming up: What types of credit cards and currencies can I use in Panama? How much money can I withdraw daily? Can I use American Express? How safe is it to pay in Panama? Here you will get answers to your questions.

Currencies in Panama

The official Panamanian currency is the Balboa and is used in the form of coins only. The Balboa is made by the United States Mint. For general payments, however, mainly the US dollar is used. A balboa equals one dollar and the most common coin is the 1 balboa coin. Prices are often shown in Balboa, with the abbreviation PAB. This can be confusing at the beginning, but since the value is equal to the dollar, you quickly get used to it. People often talk about Balboa on the street, even though they actually mean dollars.

Example: "Un Balboa" means "One Dollar", easy!

How do you pay in general in Panama?

Despite the rapid development of Panama, the infrastructure is still not comparable with that in the US or Europe. Therefore, cash is preferred in many places. Even larger restaurants or hotels often do not offer card payment. So you should always have some cash with you or make sure that you can actually pay with the credit card.

Is it safe to have cash with you?

Of course we can not say that nothing will ever happen. You can be robbed anywhere in the world. Panama is very safe compared to many other countries in Latin America, and crime is not on every corner. Nevertheless, especially in urban areas, it is always expected to be the victim of an attack. You should always only have as much cash as you can lose. Because in the case of a robbery, it is best to give everything immediately.

We recommend that you always carry only things that are necessary. If you leave your hotel on foot, you do not need to take your driver's license. If you just go buy a can of beer, you do not need to carry $ 100.

Can I pay with 50 or 100 dollar notes?

Yes, theoretically! But in most cases, and especially in small shops, only 20-dollar bills or smaller are accepted. So if you are coming to Panama, you should first divide your money into 20 dollar bills. If you are buying a bigger item or renting a house, you should also be able to pay with larger notes.

Which types of credit cards are accepted?

In places where credit cards are accepted in principle, you can easily pay with Mastercard or VISA from around the world. So far, we know of no case in which one of the two cards were basically not accepted.

Important Note: American Express is not widely accepted, according to the statements of various travelers and also locals.

How much money can I withdraw daily?

For most banks, the daily limit is between $ 500- $ 800 at the ATM. The ATM usually gives you only banknotes up to $ 20. The ATM fee is $ 4.25 per cash withdrawal.

What about credit card fraud?

It sometimes happens that credit card payments are debited twice or wrong amounts are entered. Whether this is intentional or not, we always recommend a quick check of your credit card bookings via online banking. So, in case of a wrong booking, you might be able to react quickly and get your money back. Basically, as a Panama Traveler Team, we have had consistently good experiences in recent years. Only one out of five members discovered a double debit in the last 3 years.

Book Cover Panama Guide
Book Cover Panama Guide