Travel to Latin America is a wonderful chance to experience a stunning array of cultures, landscapes, ecosystems and activities. At the heart of this experience are the differences between your ways of life. You should understand that this means that standards of health and safety will not be the same as in your country.
When you arrive in a hotel, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the fire procedures and your escape routes and nearest fire exit. Be especially careful about this if you are staying in a hotel that is more than two storeys high. Take a flashlight with you and have it within reach by your bedside.
Balcony heights and distance between the rungs can vary considerably from country to country. Do take care around balconies, particularly if you are traveling with children. If you are unhappy with the balcony height, or any other aspect of it, you should request a suitable alternative room.
Trips and Slips
Guards and warnings of wet floors, uneven steps, holes, or other trip hazards sometimes are not provided. Watch your step!
The vast majority of pools will not have lifeguards, depth markings or non-slip surfaces around them. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the layout and depth of the pool. Be aware of any hidden and/or submerged objects. In the event of an emergency, know how to get help. Avoid using the pool when alone, at night and after consuming alcohol.
Take time to familiarize yourself with the beach and also take local advice particularly regarding swell and currents. On sandy beaches one way you may be able to identify strong currents is by looking out for distinct sandy patches in the face of breaking waves – avoid these stretches. If you are caught in a ‘rip’ current, do not panic, swim sideways out of the current – do not swim back against it. Take great care in areas where there are motorised craft of any sort sharing the water with swimmers. If in doubt, don’t bathe.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a chemical compound of carbon and oxygen. It has no colour, taste or smell and is extremely poisonous. Gas stoves, fires and boilers, gas powered water heaters, paraffin heaters, solid fuel powered stoves, boilers and room heaters are all capable of producing CO if not appropriately installed and maintained. You can tell if a gas appliance is working correctly by observing the flame. A yellow/orange flame is evidence of possible CO presence. A ‘healthy’ flame should be crisp, vibrant and blue.
Symptoms of CO poisoning can easily be confused with flu, severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, general lethargy. Severe CO poisoning makes the body turn a cherry-red colour. If you suspect CO poisoning get out into fresh air as quickly as possible and call for medical help. If you can, open doors and windows.
Please exercise caution when using electrical appliances. When using your own appliances be sure to use relevant adapters and converters.
You should always seek immunization advice from a trained medical professional at least 6 weeks prior to travel. Make sure you take medication appropriate to your destination.
The sun in Panama is stronger than you are used to most probably. Use a high factor sunscreen, avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun in the middle of the day. Take a broad-brimmed sun hat, a baseball cap is rarely sufficient. Cover up with appropriate clothing. Drink bottled water. Stay in the shade.
Food and Drink
Use your common sense when selecting where and what to eat. Ask your guides for advice. Drink bottled water. Always wash your hands before eating. Anti-bacterial hand wash is worth having.
Take note of what is going on around you and keep away from any situations where you do not feel comfortable. Keep up to date with local and regional events in the media. Leave your jewellery and valuables at home if you can. Only carry as much money as you need for the day. Respect local customs particularly when visiting religious sites, markets and rural communities. It is hard to generalize but you should at least be prepared to cover shoulders and knees when visiting churches.
Activities and Excursions
Before you go you might like to check details with your tour operator and, if necessary, take appropriate equipment with you. Whilst on holiday you should use your common sense. Always follow the guides’ instructions. If you ever have cause to feel nervous about the safety of an activity or excursion then do not go. Report your concerns to your guide, local contact and/or tour operator at the earliest opportunity. Remember that if you choose to take an excursion or activity on holiday which is not arranged as part of your package, your tour operator will not accept any responsibility.
When travelling by foot, be careful crossing roads. particularly in Panama City. When traveling by taxi, make sure it is licensed, ideally you should ask your hotel or restaurant to call one for you. When traveling by coach or minibus, we recommend that you use seat belts when they are provided. If there are no seat belts then try to avoid the front seats, seats by emergency exits and seats in the middle of the back row. When travelling by hire car, familiarize yourself with local regulations and laws before setting off. Check all tires for tread and air pressure, including the spare. Check oil, water and petrol. Always obey speed limits, never drink and drive. Drive in the daytime whenever possible and be aware of distances between petrol stations. Drive defensively and be aware that pot holes and random speed bumps are common.
Pre-existing Medical Conditions and Disabilities
Please make sure that your tour operator is aware of any pre-existing medical conditions or disabilities which could affect your holiday. Please ensure that you travel with sufficient supplies of medication. When flying always pack enough medication in your hand luggage to tide you over should flights be delayed or your hold luggage go missing.
Access to Medical Facilities
During your holiday you are likely to be traveling in areas well away from medical facilities such as doctors, pharmacists and accident and emergency units. Your travel insurance must include sufficient cover for emergency medical evacuation, by air if necessary.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are fully and adequately insured for the duration of your holiday. Take time to confirm that all activities, excursions and destinations are included. Be particularly careful of any altitude exclusions. Ideally your cover would include, but not be limited to adequate: medical, legal, cancellation, delay and personal possession cover.
Letting us Know
You should always use your common sense whilst on holiday. If you ever have cause to feel nervous about the safety of an activity, excursion, mode of transport or hotel then please report this immediately.
Report your concerns to the supplier on the ground (this could be your hotel, bus driver or activity leader for instance). You should also inform your guide, local contact and/or tour operator at the earliest opportunity.