FAQs Panama

Why Choose Panama

Panama has the largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon Basin and its jungle is home to an abundance of tropical plants, animals and birds - some of them to be found nowhere else in the world. However, it is for a feat of engineering, a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, that Panama is famous. Every year, thousands of people make the eight-hour journey through the waterway and it generates a proportion of the country's GDP. Offshore finance, manufacturing, Colon free trade zone and a shipping registry generate jobs and tax revenues. But substantial poverty still lingers strongly in Panama as tiny minority controls the wealth and power and 40% of the population live below the poverty line. When you volunteer in Panama, you will not only work with the underprivileged, you will also enjoy the culture and natural beauty of Panama and get intimately connected with the country.

Is Panama Safe?

Except for the border region between Panama and Colombia, Panama as a whole country is a very safe destination. We still advice volunteers not to venture out alone after dark and not to show your valuables in public. There is a risk of petty crime in urban areas of Panama, like in any city around the world.

In rural Panama, people are generally very friendly and extremely help. Panama is without doubt one of the safest places to visit in Latin America. Volunteers will also have cell phone number of our country coordinator and you can call our coordinator anytime if you want to discuss anything. Our project and host family will also help and advice you.

What is the program duration?

Our volunteer programs start on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month and run for 1 to 12 weeks. Please arrive on Sunday to begin your program form the next day. Because of the increasing volume of applications, participants are requested to apply at least two to three months in advance.

What age do I have to be a volunteer?

You must be at least 18 years old to be a volunteer and you should be in good health; there is no upper age limit.

Do I have to speak a foreign language?

If you speak some Spanish you will make your stay more meaningful. If you do not speak any Spanish, we would recommend you to learn few words before you arrive. We also arrange for Spanish classes you can take while volunteering.

Why should I pay a registration fee?

The registration fee is required to help run the organization (office space, computers, Internet, supplies and staffer salaries). New Hope Volunteer maintains one central office at Kathmandu and a field office at Chitwan. It has international office in the US to run the coordinated program. Part of the fee goes to maintaining these offices. Furthermore, we have been running school construction and renovation project in Chitwan to offer more schooling opportunities for children of Nepal. We are also developing some conservation projects. The remaining money of the program directly goes to support these programs.

Are MasterCard, Visa and other cards accepted?

Panama uses U.S Dollars. You can bring cash and most credit cards are accepted in Panama. ATM’s are widely available and volunteers will have no problem taking out money if they find they need more. Be aware that your home bank probably applies international use charges as well as the charges for using a different company’s ATM. It is wise to check with your bank ahead of time to confirm that your card will work overseas. Debit cards and credit cards are becoming more widely accepted at major stores; however, they are still not accepted as widely as in the States.

Do I need travel insurance?

As with any overseas traveling, health insurance is recommended. Please obtain necessary health and travel insurance before coming to Panama. New Hope also offers very accommodation but comprehensive insurance policy. For details on this, please visit: http://www.newhopevolunteers.org/travel_insurance_policy.php

What should I bring for myself?

Most daily use items are available in Panama at a reasonable price. However, we suggest volunteers pack the following things:

  • Camera
  • Mobile phone NOTE: only bring cell phones that have multi-national coverage. You cannot switch to a new SIM card here, as the local phone system requires resident status and a receipt for your phone purchase.
  • Sleeping bag-only necessary if you wish to actually camp-out
  • Mosquito and insect repellents
  • Sunscreen, SPFs
  • Work gloves (if joining conservation or farming project)
  • Books about Panama
  • Map of Panama
  • Toilet paper
  • Sheets
  • Pillow
  • Soap
  • Toothbrush/paste
  • Toiletries
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Sunglasses
  • Shoes/boots (for work and travel)
  • Towel
  • Hot weather clothing, but conservative
  • Jeans, pants or skirts
  • Swimsuit
  • Long-sleeve shirt and jacket for cooler areas
  • Jeans or pants or skirts for Panama City
  • Raingear, especially during the rainy season

Will there be someone to pick me up from airport?

One of our representatives will be waiting for you at the airport, holding a sign with your name on it. Please do not forget to send your detailed flight itinerary in advance. You must arrive at the Tocuman International Airport (PTY) in Panama City, Panama.

How much extra money do I need?

We manage food and accommodation for volunteers from the first to last day of program so there will not be need of more money for the basics. In general, things in Panama are quite cheaper. You may need some extra money if you plan to take part in activities outside your program or if you just want to buy some souvenirs.

Will I have communications access?

This all depends on your placement. Almost all placements will have access to a post office. If you are in a city placement, you can have phone and e-mail access. However, this information will all be given to you before your departure to Panama.

Can I bring my cell phone from my home country?

Please bring your cell phone but ask your network provider if your phone works with other sim cards from outside your country. You can use most mobile handsets with a local SIM card in Panama.

Can I work and travel with other volunteers?

We allow people to come with a friend or even in a large group. You sometimes may be placed in different location situated within 1-2 miles. We can place any volunteer near another volunteer already working in the field. Please note that volunteers of the opposite sex are not allowed to stay in same room unless they are a married couple.

Is it possible to change placement if I get dissatisfied?

New Hope Volunteer will seriously consider the request of volunteer for the change of placement to meet the expectation of volunteers. We cannot change the position without genuine reasons.

What about vaccinations and medication?

This all depends on what vaccinations you already have and what country you are coming from. We suggest that you consult a doctor from your country before you arrive. Some vaccinations are needed as much as 2 months before arrival to Panama. New Hope Volunteer does not cover liability and insurance of volunteers. Therefore, volunteers must have appropriate insurance before joining the program. However, you should consider the following vaccinations:

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG
  • Hepatitis B
  • Malaria
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid vaccine
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles

Are New Hope Volunteer programs only for International volunteers?

We mobilize national volunteers along with international volunteer as their counterparts.

What about visas?

Countries whose citizens have passports valid for at least 6 months upon entry do not require a visa to enter Panama include (amongst others) Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, German, Ireland, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom. Citizens of some Australia, Canada, Japan and US may enter Panama with a tourist visa that is stamped on arrival. When arriving by airplane, as of May 2008, entry requirements are proof of:

  • a return ticket out of Panama
  • possession of US$500 in cash or travelers' checks
  • Recommended vaccination for yellow fever--only if coming from a country where yellow fever occurs (includes most of South America and Africa but not USA).

Where is the arrival and departure point?

You will need to arrive at Tocuman International Airport (PTY) in Panama City, Panama. You can leave from the same airport also.

Emergency Contact

You have three parties available to you 24/7 in case of emergency, health-related or otherwise: New Hope Volunteer staffers, your host family, and your program supervisor. Make sure to have contact information for all three parties before you arrive. If you cannot find our representative at airport or if your flight details change, please call our coordinator immediately and you will be told what to do.

What are the characteristics of good volunteer?

If you have attributes like independence, patience, a sense of humor, tolerance willingness, flexibility, self-motivation and open-mindedness, you get the most out of your stay in Panama.

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