Packing for World Youth Day
There is no need for any formal clothing at World Youth Day, so focus on functional, casual apparel.
Some religious shrines and churches enforce a modest dress code
requiring that shoulders and knees be covered, so be prepared for that
in your packing. In general, wear modest clothing that is respectful, as
this is a Christian activity.
A good backpack is essential. Some
features to look for in a good backpack for this trip include:
sturdiness; pockets for water bottles; lots of attachment points for
tying things; be able to
carry supplies (food, blankets, devotional books, radio, etc.) for the
week; and a sternum strap so the shoulder straps don’t slip off. A belt
strap can be a huge help in transferring the weight of your full
backpack from your shoulders to your hips. You may also consider
purchasing, in advance, one of the official WYDUSA backpacks available
You will also walk a great deal
during World Youth Day, so bring sturdy, well broken-in shoes along with
foot care/blister kit available at your local drug store. Expect
to walk over five to ten miles each day as part of the WYD experience. If your
group has any mobility-impaired pilgrims, but sure to take appropriate
precautions and note their situation when registering with World Youth Day. The weather
in Panama in January is hot and humid with temperatures averaging around 89 degrees Fahrenheit. January also marks the beginning of the dry season. Check the forecast so that you can wear clothing that is helpful for
traveling around such a climate for a week or a few days.
During the activities
throughout the week, plan on taking whatever you will need for the
entire day in your backpack when you leave in the morning. Some things
you might want in your backpack include: rosary, jacket, rain jacket or
umbrella, flashlight, snacks, hand sanitizer, travel toilet paper, the
WYD pilgrim guide book, a small radio (and headphones) for simultaneous
language translation at major events, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen,
camera, foot care kit, water bottle, cell phone, and a cell phone pocket
Packing for the Vigil Walk and Closing Mass
this two-day experience of “roughing it,” only bring what you need for
Saturday and Sunday. In addition to the gear you normally carry during
WYD week, you will need to carry: a sleeping bag or blanket (or a
lightweight sleeping bag liner), a ground cloth (a shower curtain from a
dollar store works great), a sleeping pad (a cheap pool mattress can do
the job), flashlight, change of clothes, toothbrush and toothpaste, and
prescription drugs. This is where having some attachment points on your
backpack can be valuable. Climbing carabineers are especially handy for
attaching things to your backpack.
The US dollar is officially recognized and used as Panama's paper currency. Though Panama produces its own coinage (the balboa), US coins are accepted. For this reason, pilgrims coming from the US do not need to exchange currency. It is recommended to use nothing higher than $10 and $20
US bills as $100 and $50 US bills are harder to break and less accepted
by many businesses.
The Panamanian balboa is divided into centésimos, which are equal in size and value to US coins. The coins come in values of one, five, 10, 25, and 50. 100 centésimos equal one Balboa. One balboa equals one US dollar.
Credit cards are
handy in Panama, but not all are accepted and many street vendors or
small shops only take cash. Also, most banks charge a foreign
transaction fee for each transaction so be sure to check with your bank
before making the trip. Also be sure you inform your bank of your
intended credit card use overseas before you depart so that they do not
think your card has been stolen. Do not bother with travelers’ checks as
the widespread acceptance of credit cards and debit cards as well as
the availability ATMs have made them somewhat obsolete.
The exact details of the meal system will be announced soon. Details will be forthcoming.
Americans travel abroad and come home to massive cell phone bills
because they did not manage their data usage during the trip. If
bringing your cell phone overseas, be sure that you contact your mobile
phone service provider to understand the financial implications of using
your phones and data plan overseas. Some folks bring an unlocked phone
overseas and purchase a local SIM card once they arrive. Note that
whether using a cell phone or an international calling card, all
pilgrims should call, text, or email an emergency contact at home within
24 hours of arriving in Panama. You may also want to consider using
digital services like Skype or WhatsApp(if you have wi-fi capabilities),
as this cuts down on the costs of communication overseas. However, even
with this in mind, be aware that this trip is a pilgrimage, not a
vacation, and as such, mobile devices should be used only for the
purposes of this trip (for instance, using the WYD app, reading
Scripture or devotional prayers online, etc.) or for emergency contacts
and/or checking in.
United States citizens
will need a valid passport to travel to Panama that must be valid for three months after your return date. The U.S. State Department
recommends that your passport have at least three months of validity left
for international travel (your passport should be valid through April 30, 2019). International travelers are encouraged to register
their trip with the State Department’s optional Safe Traveler Enrollment
Program. No visa is required for U.S. citizens traveling into Panama.