What Is Required to Visit the Panama Canal?

The Panama Canal, the man-made canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, was one of the most time-consuming and intricate engineering projects ever completed. This Canal was constructed as a way for ships to easily transport goods between the two oceans without having to travel around the South American continent. Although a pathway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans dates back to the 16th century and the early explorers, the Panama Canal was not fully operational until the early 20th century. U.S. citizens travel to the canal via land and sea, many because of its historical significance. Certain documents are required to visit the Panama Canal.
U.S. Passport

U.S. Passports are required to visit the Panama Canal by air or sea. This government-issued photo identification must be presented upon entry into Panama. Many cruise ships traveling through the Panama Canal require passengers to hold passports valid for 10 years.

Panama Tourist Card

A Panama Tourist Card is required to visit the Panama Canal. This document takes the place of a visa. Travelers purchase this card in the Panamanian airport's departure area or in the immigration area. This card is needed to clear customs and is good for 30 days. However, those visiting the Panama Canal via cruise ships do not need to obtain Panama Tourist Cards or report to customs unless they plan to disembark. People who live in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Juan, San Diego, San Francisco or Tampa can visit the Panamanian consulate for more information.

Private Boats or Planes

People going to the Panama Canal on private boats or planes are required to have pre-stamped visas from the embassy or consulate. Unlike cruise ships, private vessels have to adhere to the same laws as people traveling on land. U.S. citizens planning to pass through the canal on private vessels should contact the Panama Canal Authority by visiting their website for more information about applying for the proper documents.

Based in Tucson, Ariz., Cicely A. Richard has been writing since 1996. Her articles have been published in the “Arizona Daily Star” newspaper and “ForeWord Magazine.” Richard earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and journalism from Louisiana State University. .