DISCLAIMER: This article was published on January 20, 2021 and last updated on February 25, 2021. We will update it as much as we can and with the most accurate information possible, but it is always best to confirm travel guidelines, testing requirements and boarding procedures with your airline and the country’s most recent laws to which you are traveling. It is the responsibility of the traveler to know and comply with all requirements according to each destination.
As of January 26, in order to enter the US, passengers will have to present a negative COVID test before boarding their flight. The CDC is accepting either an antigen or PCR test. Many countries around the world are requiring COVID-19 negative tests before entry- including Panama.
Can you test at Tocumen International Airport before leaving?
Yes, as long as it is the antigen test that is required before boarding. If you need a PCR, you will need to get it from one of the private clinics in Panama City.
Tocumen International Airport has had rapid antigen testing available since October 12, 2020, however only for incoming flights as the facilitates were placed after the check-in counters and security. On February 1st it was announced that in Tocumen International Airport would relocating one of their testing laboratories to the level 100 in the terminal, before security, so that passengers who require an antigen test before boarding may do so.
On February 3rd we were able to confirm that the antigen testing at Tocumen is operational, accommodating both incoming and outgoing passengers. “A great fast service,” was its first review on Facebook by Cat Patri. We recommend arriving even earlier to the airport than usual, of course, to account for the test, check-in and security time.
Antigen Tests in Bocas del Toro
Antigen tests can be done Isla Colón at the Hospital Guillermo Sánchez Borbón, Monday through Friday from 7am – 9:00am. If you have symptoms, you can be tested at any time, however with no symptoms and for the reason of traveling, those are the hours.
There are no appointments; it is first come, first serve. The tests are free of charge and results are available the same day at 2pm. They will give you handwritten results the same day and an official printed document that backs it up the following morning. Plan on doing the test the day before so you can be sure to get your official printed document before you leave the island. It’s important to let them know that you need the test and the printed results because you are traveling. Pay special attention to this detail if you are testing on Friday, because according to the hospital, if you don’t get the letter on Friday, it won’t be available until Monday.
In the case of the United States, according to the CDC, the airline should accept this test as long as it was taken 72 hours before your flight departure from Panama and presented as a written document -either paper or electronic- with name of the passenger (make sure it’s written the same as on the passport), the time and date the sample was taken, the type of test and with the “negative” or “not detected” result.
The results from the hospital on Isla Colon are handwritten on a piece of paper. We have received reports that there are airlines that are not accepting anything handwritten. That’s why it is important to request a printed version. The written result comes with an official Ministry of Health stamp and information of the corresponding doctor and hospital. With that, and the printed document backing up the test, it has been accepted by the airlines at check-in.
IMPORTANT: We recommend confirming all COVID-19 test requirements and boarding procedures with your airline along with the the regulations specific to the area to which you are traveling.
JANUARY 25TH UPDATE FOR U.S. BOUND PASSENGERS: It has come to our attention that in addition to the proof of negative COVID-19 test, passengers traveling to the United States will need to fill out this form before boarding: PASSENGER DISCLOSURE AND ATTESTATION TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. This is a written and signed declaration and agreement between the passenger and the airline that all COVID-19 testing and boarding requirements have been fulfilled. In other words, the passenger is swearing they they have taken a COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours, or have the proper documentation stating that they have recovered from COVID-19 within the last 3 months and are cleared to travel.
We are unaware if these forms will be made available at Tocumen International Airport by the airlines themselves. You are able to download the file here, print it and fill it out before checking into your flight and presenting it to the airline ticket agent.
If it is a PCR test that is needed, nothing is available at the moment in Bocas del Toro. You may be able to get a sample taken, however there is no lab that can process it within the time you will need the result for traveling. The best options for a pre-flight PCR test for Bocas del Toro visitors are in Panama City (and these places can also do antigen tests, which tend to be about half the price):
Hospital Paitilla – PCR test costs $100. Results are given within 24 hours of taking the sample. There are no appointments, so it’s best to arrive early in the day. Currently 7am – 4pm, Monday – Friday. They will be adding the weekends once there are no longer weekend quarantines in Panama City. Results are given electronically in both English and Spanish. (507) 265- 8800
Hospital Punta Pacifica – PCR test costs $95. Results are given between 24-48 hours of taking the sample. We have been told there are no appointments and that it’s best to arrive early in the day, though we have also heard you can set up an appointment ahead of time online on their website. There is testing daily from 8am – 6pm. The results are given electronically in Spanish.
Vidatec – PCR: $95 Results in 12-24 hours (Monday-Friday), 24-36 hours (Saturday and Sunday) and Antigen: $40 3-6 HRS. Telephone: (507) 226-1533 WhatsApp: (507) 6500-2974
Adssio Laboratories – PCR $89.47. Drive-thru testing tent, Calle 64, San Francisco district of Panama City. Reserve your appointment and pay online. Results in less than 24 hours (Monday-Friday) and 24-36 hours on Saturday and Sunday.
For more options on testing in Panama City and other areas of the country, check out a great article by Panama Relocation Tours.
For any test, we recommend double-checking the following:
- Any writing is clear and legible (though any written tests may not even be considered without the printed document backing it up)
- Your name and all personal information is written correctly (as it appears on your passport)
- Both the date and the time of the sample collection are included
- The type of test is indicated: “antígeno,” to which the abbreviation “Ag” is commonly used
- Negative result is confirmed as “negativo” or “no detectado”
- Always confirm the latest regulations with your airline and destination’s government
TIP: Scan any written test result or letter to have an electronic back-up (see if your hotel is able to do it for you at the front desk or in Bocas del Toro you can get it done at Galaxy Internet Cafe or Isla Colon Pharmacy)
If You’ve Had COVID in the Last 3 Months and Are Traveling to the US
From the CDC website:
“CDC does not recommend getting tested again in the three months after a positive viral test, as long as you do not have symptoms of COVID-19. If you have had a positive viral test in the past 3 months, and you have met the criteria to end isolation, you may travel instead with documentation of your positive viral test results and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official that states you have been cleared for travel. The positive test result and letter together are referred to as “documentation of recovery.”
COVID-19 testing before your flight is possible in Bocas del Toro, at the Isla Colón hospital, just as long as the country you are going to and the airline you are flying will accept an antigen test. Be sure you will be able to receive the test results within the time-frame required and with all the proper documentation that is necessary to present for the country to which you are traveling.
For information and tips on requirements for entering the country, check out this article.