Pre-Trip Tips – Read Carefully!
We are looking forward to hosting you down in Panama. Here is a general list of tips and information about Bocas del Toro for your reference:
You won’t need to bring too much.
- T shirts & Tanks
- Flip flops
- A pair or two of cheap sunglasses. You can always buy extra in town if you lose a pair too!
- 1 decent light rain jacket – (it’s the tropics)
- Comfy sleep / lounge wear
- Hats – not a bad idea
- Sunscreen – May be cheaper to buy in the states
- Beach towel for beach days & boating
- One “throw away” outfit for ATV quadding day
- Closed toed shoes for ATV quadding (these shoes will get very dirty!)
- Panama City Nightlife? – Perhaps one pair of jeans and 1 nice shirt
Air Panama has free booze on the flight. Enjoy! 🙂
ATMs / CASH:
There is just 1 ATM on the island, giving out standard US Dollars. You can use most debit cards without a problem, the fee is around $3. It might be a good idea to contact your bank before the trip and let them know your travel plans. Most restaurants and businesses on the island are cash only, so plan ahead and don’t be reliant upon using your debit card for purchases throughout the day, at restaurants, or at bars at night. You should definitely take out as much cash as you’ll need for a few days, but don’t carry it on your person at all times, as there is always the possibility of occasional theft (see “Safety” below). Keep all valuables and cash locked up in a safe place, in your bag, in your room. This 1 ATM machine is also used by hundreds of people each day, and will occasionally run out of cash. If you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone, contact your guide and we will help your group figure out the best solution. You can avoid this problem by bringing enough cash from home, but please handle yourself and your belongings wisely.
CABS / WATER TAXI:
In Panama City, negotiate the price with your taxi drivers before taking a ride. A trip from the international airport to the domestic airport in a standard yellow cab should be about $33. Don’t get into any unmarked cars, as they aren’t licensed taxi drivers. Find a guy you like and go with your gut. You shouldn’t have to deal with taxi or boat fare on the island, as it is included in the price of your trip for your entire group.
Anything that is unique or crucial to your quality of life – toiletries, vitamins, hair stuff, pills, medicine etc. – we recommend bringing down with you just to make sure you have it. There is a pharmacy on the island, however the selection or brands of products may be slightly different than what you are used to. It’s always nice to have your own meds.
The only crime to speak of on the island is theft. Mostly smartphones, cameras & cash. People have a tendency, drunk or sober, to get a little too comfortable and leave their possessions on the bar or table top and walk away (if only for a moment) and *poof* they’re gone. So please keep this in mind, as it’d be a drag to lose anything on the trip. At night, it’s necessary to have some cash on hand, but don’t go flaunting a wad of $100’s when you’re buying a $3 cocktail. Really it’s best just to avoid any extra attention – as most indigenous people here do not have much at all (and people by nature may get desperate). People are generally cool here, but it’s easy to spot a newcomer and best to not make yourself a target. Never take anyone you meet at a bar or club back to your house. Do not walk down dimly lit streets at night and try to travel in groups of 2 or more in the late evenings. If you get lost, talk to tourists and not locals. Do not attempt to buy drugs on the street or in bars. If you ever find yourself in a questionable situation with locals or police, immediately call your guide.
PASSPORTS / IDs:
You don’t ever need to bring this stuff with you out on the town. No one will card you & it’s best to keep your actual wallet, credit cards and passport locked up in your bag at your hotel. We usually go out on the town with just a few carefully selected bills in our pocket. Know where everything is in your pockets before you hit the town, so you aren’t fumbling around at the bar and dropping cash on the floor (you would be amazed at how often this happens). We usually don’t bring phones or cameras out at night either. (What happens in Bocas….)
ONE SET OF CRAPPY CLOTHES:
We recommend to bring one set of throw away clothes for your muddy ATV adventure day. If your package includes this outing, you will most likely end up covered head to toe in tropical mud. Boardshorts are probably fine, but if you don’t plan on going shirtless, bring a throwaway top because it’s going to get thrashed.
ONE PAIR OF CLOSED TOE OR AMPHIBIOUS SHOES:
Our quad adventure is a wild one – and we recommend bringing an old pair of clothes toed shoes with you. There are sticks, stones, hot engine parts, and all sorts of obstacles whizzing by your feet on this particular day, so flip flops are not recommended. If you have a pair of amphibious shoes, they will be perfect here – but you’ll want to make sure the toes are protected.
Don’t forget to pack your own beach towel! While our houses are equipped with towels for showering, please do not remove them from the homes. When you choose to go out beaching or boating, bring your own and let your house towel stay put. No one wants to dry off from a steamy shower after a world-class adventure day with a sandy towel anyways.
SWIMMING AT BEACHES
While most swimming throughout Bocas is safe, there are certain beaches with rip currents that can drag you out to sea. Ask your guide for more info on this each day. If you find yourself in a rip current, do not panic and swim parallel to the shore. If you are not a strong swimmer, it’s best for you to stay in the shallow or calm water. If you have valuables with you at the beach, make sure someone in your group is on shore watching them while you are in the water. Don’t leave cameras or wallets or keys unattended while you are swimming.
SWIMMING AT BARS / CLUBS:
Many of Bocas’s best parties are situated above the water and many people do choose to swim. If you do, make sure you leave your belongings with a friend and make sure they are paying attention. Do not leave your clothes and valuables in a pile on the side of the pool! Be careful when diving – you do not want to get stitches in our hospital!
You don’t want to go there. You just don’t :). Please be mindful that the nearest “real-ish” hospital is an hour airplane ride or an hour boatride away – so it’s imperative that you be careful and protect yourself and your friends during all activities. Surprisingly, there are very few serious or life threatening injuries each season on the island. Though they can repair broken bones and give shoddy stitches here, it’s better to just keep your wits about you and stay safe!
WATER / POWER OUTAGES
Occasionally all islands in the tropics suffer from temporary water or power outages. If you think the problem is specific to your hotel or home, please call your guide. Chances are, the entire island has lost power. This is usually resolved within a short period of time. People actually grow to love it, however. Put your phone down, crack a beer and talk to your buddies! If you do run out of water and are in dire need of a shower, we may be able to find a solution for you. And, you can always dump a bucket of water into the toilet bowl for a solid flush. This is common practice in SE Asia.
You will be provided with a local cell phone number with important contacts. Your guide, the boat drivers, etc. We’ll be with you some of the time, but if we aren’t and you need us, just use the cell phone provided and call at any time for anything.
We are always seeking to improve our promotions and online presence! If you guys are active on Facebook/Instagram it would be awesome if you could tag your facebook photos with @panamaconcierge and hashtag your Instagram photos with #panamaconcierge – we will put them on our website too. If you are enjoying yourselves on your trip, this is the best way you can thank us!!
If you’re interested, here’s a little history lesson about this pirate island:
See you shortly in Paradise!!