Before I talk about the appropriate tip in Panama, I should mention that in most restaurants you will need to ASK for your bill. To ask for your bill say “La cuenta por favor” (the check please). If you don’t ask for your bill, the waiter will not bring it to you. You can put la cuenta por favor in to google translate then click on the sound icon to hear the correct way to say the words. Pretending to write on the palm of your hand works as a way to ask for your bill too.
A 10% tip is customary at restaurants in Panama. You need to check your bill closely because the 10% tip may already be added in. Sometimes it is already added in but sometimes it is not. Look for the words PROPINA ( that means tip) on the bill. If there is no mention of Propina on your bill or it is blank next to the works, the tip was not included.
If your service was excellent and/or the food was great, you can certainly tip more. But regardless of the service or quality of the food, a 10% tip is always expected.
Keep in mind that most restaurants only accept CASH for payment. They will not take credit cards. Be sure to ask if they accept credit cards before you order.
Some other words you need to know to understand your bills:
ITBMS is tax. The tax rate in Panama is 7%.
Efectivo is cash. This is how much cash you gave to pay for your bill.
Cambio is your change – how much change you get back.
You can qualify for a 25% discount off your entree (not appetizers, desserts or drinks) if you get a Panama visa. You will also need to meet the age requirements.. a woman over 55 or a man over 60. This discount is for Panamanians too. You should show your Cedula or visa card when you order so the waiter can prepare your bill with the discount added in.
No tip is expected for taxi drivers or other services.