There are many good private hospitals and clinics in Panama City but outside of the capital the availability of good medical facilities is limited. It is common that doctors and hospitals require cash payment prior to providing services, including emergency care.
It is recommended that international travelers purchase medical insurance before arriving in Panama.
Tap water is chlorinated and generally safe to drink in cities and towns. In rural areas as well as in Bocas del Toro, bottled water is recommended.
Local vegetables, meat, seafood and poultry as well as pasteurised milk are considered safe for consumption.
Outbreaks of dengue fever occur from time to time, particularly in the province of Darien.
There are risks of malaria in rural areas of of Boca del Toro, Darien and San Blas. Using insect repellent at all times is recommended.
Most of Panama is safe for tourists. The exceptions include areas near Columbian border (Darien Gap, beyond Yaviza) that are extremely dangerous due to the presence of drug traffickers and Colombian guerillas. Also, the city of Colon is currently considered a high crime area and not recommended for international travelers. Some parts of Panama City also should be avoided, particularly Casco Viejo.
Tourists should avoid walking alone, be cautious when using ATMs and be aware of possible petty crime incidents such as pick pocketing and bag snatching that are prevalent at airports, bus terminals, on public transport and in the main shopping areas.
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