I am just a few minutes removed from participating in the latest World Youth Day webinar with USCCB WYD staff. I will type below some items covered in the webinar:
- NO MEASLES VACCINATION REQUIRED; NO PROOF OF IMMUNIZATION REQUIRED FOR USA CITIZENS TRAVELING FROM USA. I apologize for any inconvenience (or panic) this might have caused, but I assure you I was simply passing along what I was hearing. Once again, no paperwork or anything will be required, only your passport.
- The more websites you read on Panama, the more you will read about various disease and various levels of vaccinations required. As you have seen, information changes, but as of today, November 15, 2018:
- Nothing will be REQUIRED of you other than your passport.
- Visit this website and make your own determinations regarding your own level of immunization. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/panama
You may read articles that warn you of yellow fever, etc. if you are entering a rain forest or areas outside of Panama City. Please note that while we are visiting a rain forest, it is about the least-remote location you can find: Gamboa, which is just 20 miles north of Panama City and poses very little threat of disease.
Malaria might be a concern, given that we are indeed sleeping outdoors on Saturday, Jan. 26th. Because we are in Panama City, the risk is low. Just as you should do all week, you should ensure that you apply a good level of mosquito repellent.
- In the event of a lost passport, it’s a good idea to take a cellphone pic of your passport to help in the replacement process. We will have digital copies of them as well.
- Between a half million and 1 million are expected during the week. 1.5-2 million are expected for Vigil/Closing Mass.
- A security official warned us about petty theft/pickpockets. Please consider securing valuables in areas that are hard to find for a pickpocket.
- Panama City has Uber. I don’t know how much you might need it, given our proximity to the subway system, but now you know. They do not have Lyft.
- A security official warned us to avoid sharing taxis and Ubers with other parties. Negotiate price in advance, and let your driver know that you do not want to share a ride.
- Weather will be hot. Pilgrims should not be fooled by the calendar- prepare for WYD like it’s July.
- Pilgrims should plan to drink more water and consume more calories due to the physical demands of WYD.
- Pilgrims will receive water bottles in their pilgrim backpacks, and PC will have lots of water filling stations.
- Water is safe to drink in PC.
- Electricity is exactly the same as in USA.
- Have a cellular communications plan. Know your carrier’s options for cellular and data in Panama to avoid a surprise bill later. Some experienced travelers swear by “burner phones” or SIM cards, others simply pay a few bucks for a temporary international plan and use their existing phones. Just make sure that Kevin knows which number you will use if it’s not the cellular phone that we have on file.
- On the pilgrimage itself, we plan to use WhatsApp for communication. It’s a free smartphone app that allows for group messaging, can run on wifi, and what I like about it is it will create an instant photo gallery from our collective shared photos. Closer to the trip I will send more details about how we’ll use it to ensure effective communications. Feel free to get it and start learning it.