If you want an all-American healthcare solution, minus the exorbitant, expensive healthcare cost, medical tourism in Panama is the step in the right direction. With its Americanized culture and state-of-the-art medical facilities, Panama is quickly emerging as a medical tourism hotspot.
Nearly 2.4 million tourists visit the country each year. Although the numbers are not as high as some other destinations, still adequate to consider it a major tourism destination. The government is continually amending its healthcare infrastructure. Hospitals are now equipped with the latest technologies and have accreditations from international organizations such as JCI. Moreover, services like 911 are readily available, making Panama a more favorable destination for most Americans.
Table of Contents
- Why Choose Panama for Medical Tourism?
- Healthcare System in Panama for Medical Tourism
- Traveling to Panama for Healthcare Travel
- Things to Know Before You Travel in Panama – Frequently Asked Questions
- Where to Stay in Panama for Medical Treatments?
- Things to do in Panama
- Final Verdict
Why Choose Panama for Medical Tourism?
Panama is a very well “westernized” country with a solid English-speaking community. They use US dollars as national currency and offer various modern amenities for medical tourists. Panama is at the crossroad of the Pacific and the Caribbean ocean. It means you will get to enjoy tropical beaches, wildlife, culture, and everything you can wish for in an adventurous medical vacation. For most American countries, flying here is very easy. For example, it will only take around 2.5 hours to travel here from Miami.
How Much can I Expect to Save in Panama for Medical Treatment?
Medical expenses cost a fraction of the price when compared to the US. Yet, it still maintains the same quality. Depending on your condition, expect to save anywhere from 25% to 80% of the total cost. Treatments like In Vitro Fertilization can cost around $18,000 in the US, whereas you only pay approx. $6,000 in Panama. Similarly, simpler procedures like Root Canal will cost about $350 instead of the $1,100 charged in US hospitals.
Is Panama Safe for Medical Tourists?
Panama is one of the safest countries you can visit right now. People here are very friendly and will generally be ready to offer help. That said, no country is entirely safe, and Panama is no different. You will need to take your own safety precautions before traveling. Also, there are a few no-go zones that you should try to avoid.
For example, avoid traveling to Colon unless you are with a tour group. Colon is a port town that is known for muggings. Likewise, avoid Darien Gap, which is near the Caribbean. Colombian guerrillas’ presence and a few other factors made this place a crime and drug zone. Despite the risk, many travelers still choose to travel there. That’s mainly because of its immense natural beauty.
Public transports can also be dangerous at times, depending on the location. We recommend you take a taxi or hire private transportation. In general, tourist-heavy places are very safe. The government’s efforts are also effective at steadily declining the crime rates year by year.
Is the Healthcare System in Panama the Same as Back Home?
The healthcare system in Panama is comparable to that of the US. Panama boasts several top-class hospitals that are either affiliated or have received accreditation from international governing bodies. Although most of the best hospitals are in Panama City, you will easily find excellent hospitals throughout the country.
You may need to pay for medical expenses out-of-pocket, but that’s not an issue judging how cheap the costs are. Furthermore, public hospitals will charge you less money. But the experience might not be as good as the private counterparts. And there’s also the issue of long waiting times in public hospitals. If you have the money, then definitely private healthcare will be the right option to go with. You will receive the treatment and other services entirely based on your needs.
Healthcare System in Panama for Medical Tourism
The diplomatic relationship between the US and Panama since 1903 has left a significant impact on the country. It has American footprints in its culture, systems, and economy. The impact on healthcare is no different. In fact, their century-old association has given Panama decades worth of advantage in providing healthcare services closest to American Standard.
Panama constantly ranks high in services related to dentistry, cosmetics, and eye surgery. Complicated procedures relating to orthopedic, joint replacements, and transplants are also gaining a lot of tractions lately. Private hospitals are best in terms of offering personalized care. Doctors even give their personal contact to keep stay up-to-date with the patient’s health status. Depending on the hospital, you can also enjoy shuttle services and various amenities during your stay.
Common Treatments are Done by Medical Tourists in Panama
Hospitals in Panama offer most treatments sought by foreign tourists. Listing the names of all will be counterintuitive. Therefore, here’s a condensed list of some of the common treatments.
- Cosmetic Surgery
- Orthopedic Surgery
- Bariatric Surgery
- Fertility Treatments
- Eye Surgery
- Stem Cell Therapy
- Cancer and oncology-related treatments
Cost of Medical Treatments in Panama
The cost of treatment will vary between the hospital and the location you choose. But here is a medical tourism costs comparison table between the United States and Panama.
|Procedure||United States||Panama||Est. Savings|
|In Vitro Fertilization||$18,000||$6,000||70%|
|Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass||$26,000||$16,000||40%|
Popular Hospitals for Medical Treatment in Panama
Medical tourism in Panama is renowned for its world-class institutions and highly trained medical practitioners. Their affiliation with international medical institutions enables them to maintain a high standard of medical care for both locals and foreigners alike. You will likely find the latest techniques, equipment, and methodologies used in most public and private hospitals. However, for foreign patients, there are a few we’d like to recommend.
- San Fernando Hospital (JCI Accredited) – Phone: 305-6300; Address: Vía España, Panamá, Panama
- Hospital Punta Pacifica (JCI Accredited) – Phone: 204-8000; Address: Pacific Boulevard and, Vía Punta Darién, Panamá, Panama
- Centro Médico Paitilla – Phone: (507) 265-8800; Address: cnr Calle 53 Este & Av Balboa
- Hospital Nacional – Phone: (507) 207-8100; Address: Avenida Cuba, between Calle 38 and 39, Panama City, Panama
Traveling to Panama for Healthcare Travel
Panama’s proximity made it very easily accessible for most European and American countries. Numerous flights travel to and from Panama on a daily basis. However, the cost will drastically vary based on where you are coming from. To give you a simple estimate, we have prepared some information on the time, distance, airfare, and the best time to visit.
Distance and Flying Times
- New York to Panama: 2914 miles, 5hr 12min
- California to Panama: 2335 miles, 6hr, 30min
- Toronto to Panama: 1219 miles, 4hr 16min
- London to Panama: 5,274 miles, 15hr 25min
You will need to check with your airline to get the proper pricing on the flight ticket cost. Still, it’s always a good idea to get an estimation on how much it might cost. So, from New York, expect to pay around $900; from Toronto, expect to pay approx. $700. From a further distance like London, expect to pay about $900 to over $4000, depending on your airline and the type of seat you choose.
When is the Best Time to Visit?
Panama is suitable for vacationing all year round. However, as a medical patient, you may want to visit from January to mid-April. The climate will be dry during those times. The rest of the months will be typically considered rainy season. However, if your medical condition is not severe, then surely consider visiting whenever you want. You will get to enjoy various festivals and events depending on when you visit.
Things to Know Before You Travel in Panama – Frequently Asked Questions
If you are planning medical tourism in Panama, indeed, you are in the right direction. However, just like traveling to any foreign country, you will need to keep certain things checked before venturing into Panama. To aid your process, we have prepared a list of questions that most travelers seek answers for.
Do I need to speak Spanish?
No, you do not need to speak Spanish. English is widely spoken in almost all parts of Panama. Hospitals will also have English-speaking doctors and staff.
What about malpractice and liability laws in Panama?
Although Panama has a lot in common with the US, they haven’t adopted their laws and regulations. Doctors will be responsible for any damages to the patient but may not require to pay for the damages. So we recommend you get insurance before traveling.
What payment methods are accepted in Panama?
US dollar is widely used in Panama. Their official currency is Balboa; still, they use US currency as a legal contender instead of printing their own money. For medical purposes, you can also use MasterCard, Visa Card, bank transfer, etc.
How to access emergency services?
911 services are available in various cities of Panama. It is generally used for medical emergencies. For police support, dial 104, and for the fire department, dial 103. Also, keep your country’s embassy number for legal help.
Do I need medical insurance in Panama?
It is highly advisable to get comprehensive medical insurance before traveling to Panama. For instance, emergency transport to your country will be very costly without insurance. Health risks like dengue, malaria, diarrhea, etc., are common in Panama. Therefore, to avoid any additional medical expenses, consider getting a proper insurance plan. If you want insurance plans from Panama’s local companies, then the price can be as low as $35 per month.
Do I need car insurance?
Yes, every driver needs to have at least basic insurance for vehicles. The price will vary depending on the size and type of the car. To avoid serious implications, we would recommend you opt for the comprehensive insurance package. It will include damages to your cars, and also damage done to other vehicles if it’s your fault.
What about wheelchair access in Panama?
Panama is well-equipped to handle tourists with limited mobility. Hotels, hospitals, and all major tourist spots will have wheelchair-accessible facilities in place. That said, certain remote zones may not have these facilities. Therefore, if you are there just for medical vacation, we recommend you stick to travel destinations to get the most out of your medical visit.
Where to Stay in Panama for Medical Treatments?
There are literally countless places where you can stay in Panama. From cheap hotels to all-inclusive luxury resorts, all are available in Panama. However, we will be suggesting a few hotels we think is suitable for most people. Our picks are popular and have good reviews from tourists.
Le Meridien Panama
Le Meridien Panama, with its astonishing décor and a waterfront view, makes this hotel a must-stay for anyone craving the optimal luxury. The hotel features a gorgeous pool on the 6th floor and has a full-service spa with various treatment facilities. Their in-house restaurant offers top-class Latin American cuisine and is one of the best dining places. This hotel is suitable for people of all demographics. They even have dedicated space for wedding and business trips.
Waldorf Astoria Panama
Waldorf Astoria Panama is another luxury hotel in Calle Uruguay, Panama City. This hotel is similar to the previous one, except it focuses more on its spa services. Couple’s treatment, beauty services, prenatal massage, deep-tissue; all are available here. The inclusion of an outdoor pool and hot tub makes for a one-of-a-kind spa experience. Additionally, this hotel offers two restaurants, pet services, and smoking zones for whoever wishes to use it. If you have the money, you will surely enjoy a lovely stay in Waldorf Astoria.
Luna’s Castle Hostel
If you are on a tight budget, Luna’s Castle Hostel should be your top choice. Unlike traditional hotels, Luna’s Castle takes an unusual approach to tourism. Their decoration stands out from the rest by having very simple furniture and funky, non-conventional artworks on the wall. The rooms are very comfortable and reasonably spacious. The hotel has a lot of restaurants and attraction sites nearby within walking distance. Breakfast is complimentary, and coffee service is available 24 hours. The airport is also a short distance apart from the hotel.
Metro Hotel Panama
Metro Hotel Panama is a suitable choice for urban travelers. This hotel doesn’t try to stand out by having luxurious features, neither it offers quirky settings to attract tourists. It’s a typical budget-friendly hotel that will give all the necessities one would look for in a hotel. Metro Hotel Panama is a simple, clean, and very practical hotel. All the essential facilities, such as metro stations, grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, etc., are within walking distance from the hotel. So if you are looking for a simple medical vacation, this hotel will be perfect.
Things to do in Panama
Cost is just one factor on why people choose healthcare in Panama over the others. Panama is the closest in operating and offering services similar to the US. Along with it, you can enjoy tropical landscapes, beautiful beaches, outstanding nightlife, and much more. So while you are on your medical vacation, here are a few activities you can do to make your stay more enjoyable. Once you are done with these sites, make your own bucket list of things that interests you.
Panama Canal has changed maritime travel forever by connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific oceans. This canal has been operational since 1914 and is a must-visit destination for any tourist traveling to Panama. The canal is over 80 Km long, so it is impossible to see the whole stretch at once. Therefore, you can start by taking boat tours. On your way, you will commonly get to see massive ships filled with colorful containers and gorgeous landscapes.
Beaches of Bocas Del Toro
If you want to enjoy tropical islands in the Caribbean, then Beaches of Bocas Del Toro is the way to go. Bocas Del Toro is best for holidays and offers luxurious resorts, jungle eco-lodges, beachfront surf hotels, and much more. Bocas Del Toro literally has multiple chains of islands, which you can’t visit on a single tour. You can also enjoy tropical rainforests, wild animals, and indigenous culture in certain areas during your stay.
Wander around Panama City
Panama City, despite being a modern metropolis doesn’t lose its historical charms. There you can explore Explore El Casco Viejo‘s colonial architecture that is reminiscent of Panama’s old history. You could spend some time walking around Plaza Bolivar, which, along with having some of the largest and most ornate churches, offers countless restaurants nearby. It is great for enjoying a lovely evening with family. Or you can also visit the ruins of Panamá Viejo, which is a world heritage site and is the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast.
Go Shopping in Panama
Going for shopping is the most practical thing you can do during your medical tourism to Panama. It’s a great place for shopping and can save you some serious cash if you visit the duty-free areas. Shopping is very popular amongst both tourists and local Panamanians. There are countless shopping malls offering multinational products. If you are visiting during the rainy season, then shopping will be more convenient; as beaches, resorts, and other outdoor vacation spots won’t be very accessible. Higher-end shopping malls offer resto-bars, fine dining restaurants, and various other alluring amenities to keep you busy. So definitely try out shopping during your medical tourism in Panama.
Medical tourism in Panama can save you some hefty cash on your medical expenses. Along the way, you can enjoy a delightful and relaxing vacation experience. Our article is intended to give you an overall impression of what’s it like to to have a medical vacation in Panama. Still, you will need to do your own research to get the most accurate data specific to your condition. Also, if you are interested in exploring other destinations, consider reading our article on the best countries for medical tourism.
- US-trained doctors are widely available
- The medical system is reminiscent of the US standard
- English speaking doctors and staffs are prevalent
- The country uses US currency as a legal contender
- Offers countless attractions and activities for tourists of all interests
- JCI accredited hospitals are available
- Medical costs are still high compared to many Asian countries
- Medical malpractice laws are not as strong as in the US
You may consider other countries for medical tourism, such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Israel, etc., and more. We have a detailed guide as Popular Destinations for Medical Tourism.