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Most travelers from Western countries can visit Panama for up to 90 days with the purchase (on arrival) of a $5 tourist visa; you can buy this upon arrival or at the check-in desk of some airlines. Your passport must be valid for at least six months. The visa may actually say it is valid for only 30 days so ask the usually friendly officer to write "90 días" by the stamp on the visa.
Arriving tourists are technically required to show proof that their travels continue beyond Panama. A return ticket will suffice. Airlines are often more demanding than immigration officials on this particular issue: If you don't have a return ticket they might not let you board the plane.
It is nearly impossible to extend your stay in Panama unless you are a retiree investing in property or sponsored by an employer. If you need to stay longer, grab a cheap round-trip flight to Colombia or Costa Rica (or take the bus to Costa Rica) to qualify for a new entry visa.
Consulate of Panama in Washington, D.C. (202/483–1407. www.embassyofpanama.org.)
Oficina de Migración (Av. Cuba and Calle 28, Panama City. 507–1800. www.migracion.gob.pa.)