Malaria, Dengue, Bugs, Spiders, And Snakes In Panama

“Kathleen, my fiancé and I are considering moving overseas and are researching different areas that we may like. I have just started reading your articles about Panama. I find the emails helpful and informative.

“I wonder if malaria is still a concern in Panama? What kind of poisonous insects, snakes, etc., are there?”

–Roxanne E., United States

Malaria and dengue both are concerns in all the tropics; dengue is more of a current issue in Panama. That said, you’re safe in this country if you use normal precautions. Use bug spray, for example, and know the symptoms. Both malaria and dengue are treatable, the earlier the better.

Yes, there are spiders and scorpions in Panama, as well as snakes. We saw horrible, hairy spiders last weekend in Veraguas, nesting in a half-built home we toured.

Venomous snakes in this country include the bushmaster (rare), the coral, and (most common) the fer-de-lance. Before you venture into the forest or the jungle, familiarize yourself with what these snakes look like. If you see one, stay out of its way. None of these snakes are aggressive; they typically won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.

Panama is the world’s top overseas retirement haven…but everywhere, including Panama, has its downsides.

Snakes in the jungle are no reason to stay home, but you want to know about the snakes in the jungle before you take off for your hike.


“I’m wondering about insect problems in the outlying areas of Panama, for example Boquete and the beaches. I’m concerned, because I am very sensitive to insect bites and stings.”

— Charles F., United States

No place in Panama is bug-free. Frankly, no place in the tropics is bug-free. If you’re sensitive to bug bites, the beaches probably don’t make sense, not in Panama and maybe not anywhere. Higher altitudes are probably a better choice. So, yes, Boquete might make more sense. The most bug-free zone I can recall from all my travels in Central and South America and the Caribbean is the Andes of Ecuador. There are bugs…but not so many bugs that bite.

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