General Health Concerns
Medical facilities in Central and South America vary widely in quality. In large cities and tourist areas, clinics often provide high quality care for routine and emergency issues. In smaller centres or rural areas access to supplies and a standard of medical care similar to New Zealand is likely to be more difficult to find. New Zealanders travelling or resident in Central or South America should hold a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes provision for medical evacuation by air.
A number of mosquito-borne illnesses, including Dengue fever, Chikungunya, Malaria and Zika virus, are common throughout parts of Central and South America. Travellers are advised to use insect repellent, wear protective clothing, and stay in lodgings where there are mosquito screens on windows and doors. The Ministry of Health website contains more advice on avoiding mosquito bites while travelling.
Note: The NZ Pilgrimage is likely to opt for Home-stay accommodation during days in the diocese and Hotel accommodation during WYD. However, WYD events will be outdoors and in large spaces and the WYD Vigil and Final Mass includes an overnight stay in the open.
Travel Risks in Panama
There is some risk to your security in Panama due to criminal activity and the potential for civil unrest and we advise caution.
Violent crime in Panama, such as armed robbery, is not common but does occur. There have also been reports of “express kidnappings”, where individuals are forced to withdraw funds from automatic teller machines (ATMs) to secure their release. To reduce the risk of this occurring we recommend you use ATMs located inside banks during daylight hours and exercise vigilance while doing so.
Petty crime, such as bag-snatching and pick-pocketing, is common, especially in urban areas such as Panama City, Colon and in airports, bus terminals and on public transport. We advise New Zealanders travelling in Panama to be safety conscious at all times and take steps to secure personal belongings. You should avoid walking alone at night in Panama City. Only use registered yellow taxis and avoid sharing a taxi with unknown passengers.
Protests and demonstrations occur occasionally in Panama City and are often focused near the university and on major streets and highways. New Zealanders in Panama are advised to avoid all protests, demonstrations and marches, as they have the potential to turn violent with little warning.
General Travel Advice
New Zealanders travelling or living in Panama should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air. New Zealanders in Panama are encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
From New Zealand Embassy, based in Mexico City and serving Panama
Anyone who is pregnant or plans to become pregnant should defer travel to an affected area. We recommend that women travelling in Zika-affected areas protect themselves against mosquito bites and, if needed, use an appropriate contraception to prevent pregnancy. Women returning from Zika-affected areas should avoid getting pregnant for eight weeks after leaving the affected country. For more information please read the advice at https://safetravel.govt.nz/news/zika-virus.