Panama City, Panama Flashback (January 2018)

Hello and welcome to another travel flashback post. This one’s not very exciting … unless you really love to read about #TravelCurse.

So we were about to leave Rio de Janeiro after spending the New Year holiday there. We were about to fly to Panama when the airline staff at the check-in desk asked us whether we had any proof of Yellow Fever vaccination. We didn’t. My fiancé has actually been vaccinated before, but he hadn’t brought his little Yellow Fever vaccination book because we were under the impression that we didn’t need it for this trip. The airline staff informed us that we would not be able to fly to Panama after visiting Brazil as many countries in the region now require that you show proof of Yellow Fever vaccination if you’ve been in any part of Brazil, not just the Amazon!

We spent what felt like an hour agonising over what to do next. We found a travel blog written in English explaining that it was quite tricky to find a place to get Yellow Fever vaccination in Rio (partly due to lack of English-speaker-friendly signage etc.), and even if you get it, you would have to stay in Rio for several days before you’re allowed to travel.

Finally, we found out that Peru did not require travellers arriving from Brazil to provide proof of Yellow Fever vaccination, so we changed our tickets so that we could land in Lima — via Panama.

Guess what happened next.

The flight to Panama was delayed for several hours!

They gave us access to a premium lounge, which included a decent all-you-can-eat buffet and bathrooms. We ate and drank and lounged there for a few hours (there were power sockets so we were able to plug in our devices). It could have been worse: a European family who were travelling on the same flight as us had a little boy who needed to apply some sort of antiseptic cream to his skin every few hours — but most of the cream was in checked baggage, and the small container of cream they had in their carry-on luggage was running out!

Eventually, we arrived in Panama City in the middle of the night.

Updated boarding pass
Updated boarding pass. Yes, that does say 5:30 AM.
Hotel voucher and immigration form
Hotel voucher with immigration form in the background

Did Panamanian immigration officers care one fig that we had no Yellow Fever vaccination certificates?


They let us through and we waited for half an hour or so for the whole party of affected travellers to get through immigration. Then we boarded this silly bus together. It reminded me of the silly buses I used to go on road trips on with my university chorus club family in Thailand. There would be silly multi-coloured lights and music. Imagine such a thing in Western Europe XD

Party bus atmosphere for travellers who arrived in the middle of the night after hours of delays
Party bus atmosphere for travellers who arrived in the middle of the night after hours of delays
Dimmed lights: the party bus version of Do Not Disturb mode, I guess?
Dimmed lights: the party bus version of Do Not Disturb mode, I guess?

We drove through Panama City, unable to see much of it apart from some dazzlingly lit-up casinos.

We got to the hotel and waited for what felt like an hour as each passenger was checked in.

We got maybe a couple hours of sleep before we had to get up and board the bus again to go back to the airport.

The gate at Panama City airport early in the morning
The gate at Panama City airport early in the morning
Going to Peru for real this time!

Here endeth my tale of travel misery.

Oh, what happened to that European family with the child who needed antiseptic cream? They left on a different flight to us so the last time we actually saw them was when we were checking into our hotel rooms. I hope it worked out all right for them.

Fun fact / aside: I started writing this blog post while waiting to board a plane in Thailand in July 2018, and I’m finishing and publishing it from my current home in London, over a month after I started writing it. Yeah, I’m not one of those writers who stick to a strict routine of writing for certain amounts of time at certain intervals. Not right now, anyway. I mean, this incident happened about nine months ago! And almost all my blog posts so far have been “travel flashback” posts! Hmm, maybe I can start a whole series of “blog posts written in airports while waiting to board planes” or similar — because I’ve started drafting a few blog posts in similar situations. That’s it — I’m going to dub them “Preparing Me for Take-off” — a line from one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands: Captain (Million Miles an Hour) by Something for Kate.

Unrelated: Saw this ad at the airport. What genius thought that any man would want to use a perfume called “XS”? I can see they were going for “excess” — but all I can think about is “extra small”! And there’s even a literal little snake in the picture! >.<