Travelers Guide to Panama Currency

Panama Currency

The official currency of Panama is the Balboa. This currency has been tied to the United States Dollar since 1904, and has equal prominence and circulation in the economy.  Balboa is used alongside the U.S. Dollar with an exchange rate of 1: 1.  In practice, this would mean that a product available in Panama for one Balboa has an equivalent price of one U.S. Dollar in Panama. 

The Panamanian Balboa

The international exchange code, or the ISO 4217, for Balboa is PAB. Due to its relationship with the U.S. Dollar, the currency is traded on the foreign exchange markets on a par with the U.S. Dollar. This currency is available in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 75, 100, 150, 200, and 500 Balboa coins. One Balboa is further divided into fractional units of 100 Centesimo. The Banco Nacional de Panamá, or the Central Bank of Panama, does not issue Balboa paper notes. United States Federal Reserve notes are used as the accepted means of paper note transaction throughout Panama.

Traveler's Checks and Currency Exchange

Exchanging currency and redeeming traveler’s checks in Panama are extremely convenient. Traveler’s checks can be redeemed by banks, exchange shops, hotels, and international airports. Also, if you are using American denomination traveler’s checks then you don’t need currency exchange, as the Balboa and the U.S. Dollar are used interchangeably in the country. 

Unlike most Central and South American countries, conversion for all major currencies is relatively easy. Panama’s extensive offshore bank network provides an efficient chain of currency exchange centers in most cities and towns.

Credit Cards

In addition to cash and traveler’s checks, plastic money is another viable option to consider for payments when you are traveling in Panama. While Visa and American Express are the preferred credit cards in Panama, most upscale shopping centers and shops also accept MasterCard and Diners Club. However, smaller restaurants, shops, and transportation services in most cities still prefer cash. Make sure that you are well-versed in the credit policy of your bank regarding international transactions and foreign exchange before you consider making payments by credit card.

Keeping your Money Safe

Travelling in all parts of Panama is safe for tourists. However, it is still important to understand some basic precautionary measures to safeguard your money. If you are carrying a good amount of cash or expensive items like jewelry, watches or electronics, it makes sense to deposit these items in the safe vaults provided in most hotel rooms. Do not carry your cash and credit cards together, so that if you lose one, you still have the other to rely on. Keep handy the contact details of your banks or their affiliated partners in Panama, so that you can contact the necessary parties in case of loss of credit cards, debit cards, or traveler checks. Most importantly, always carry the contact details of your native embassy. Your country’s diplomatic consulate is the most reliable and extensive source of help you can contact in case of emergency.