Tips For Visiting Bocas Del Toro Panama by:Jason Lancaster
Visiting Panama's Bocas Del Toro? Ten Tips to Maximize your Holiday
Are you thinking about going to Bocas Del Toro, Panama? Think no more! Pack your bags and get going! It's time to hit the finest beaches that you'll ever find in the Caribbean like the Red Frog beach (and you can probably see some of the little Red Frogs the beach was named after, too). Maybe you can even do a little bit of adventure tourism like mountain biking and zip-lining, or indulge in water sports like underwater sightseeing and sea kayaking - name it, and you've got it. After a day of "hard work" having fun, you can wind down with a gourmet dinner, a bit of dancing, and a drink or two (or three) in Bocas Town's hopping nightlife.
A Bocas del Toro stay is a cross between the fun you can expect from an Aruban beach vacation and the adventures offered by a Costa Rican jungle resort. And it doesn't cost as much as the two put together, either. For about $50 a night you can get a decent standard room in Bocas Town, and for about $20 you can buy dinner for two.
Now that you know that, we might as well cover a few more bases to make your trip to wonderful Bocas del Toro more enjoyable. You might want to take the following to heart:
1) If you're planning to go underwater, bring your own waterproof camera. The place has the goods: clear waters, colorful fish, and coral reefs that go on and on, and the only way you can take them with you is to snap a few pictures. Bringing your own waterproof camera (disposable cameras are OK) means that you're sure you have it when you need it, and it won't cost you as much than if you buy a camera in Bocas - assuming you can even find one for sale.
2) Wear shorts and walking footwear. It's hot out there, both figuratively and literally! At 90 degrees F, unless you want to get fried like an egg on the sidewalk, wear less clothes. The main island in Bocas is much too small for taxi service, which means you will be doing a lot of walking. Besides, what better way to take in the ambiance than a stroll about town, right?
3) Have money to burn (or at least, spend), and US dollars are the way to go. All establishments in Bocas accept U.S. dollars, and the exchange rate is exactly one dollar to one Balboa (not Rocky - that's what the Panamanians call their currency). In other words, Panama uses the U.S. Dollar as the official currency - no exchange needed.
4) No, you don't have to bring bottled water from your home country to Bocas del Toro, but once you get there, it's better to err in the side of caution and always have one with you. These are available everywhere, and the price is pretty low, especially if you consider your health. Tap water in the area comes from rainwater, and though they're generally safe, you'll never know where those clouds have been!
5) Bring your passport, not just because it is your primary ID and proof of nationality, but you really can't get into any country without it, can you? The good news is that if you're from the US or Canada, a passport is all you'll need. Other than a tourist stamp, which can cost between $8 to $12, there are no visas or special permits. Extensions after 30 days are also easy to get for a nominal fee. Your driver's license will only be needed if you want to rent a car (which you won't need to do while in Bocas).
6) On beach days, be sure to pack a lunch. When you get to Bocas, make a trip to the store and stock up on some basic foodstuffs before hitting the beaches. Most because can only be reached by boat (technically a water taxi), so you want to bring food with you because there won't be anyone at the beach selling snacks. Always have water with you, and why not pack up some Balboa too (Balboa is a solid local beer in Panama).
7) English is A-O-K. An English-Spanish dictionary can be helpful, but if you don't speak a lick of Spanish that's perfectly fine in Bocas. From the hotel staff to the restaurant workers, you will find most Bocas residents speak excellent English. In fact, many of the people you'll meet in Bocas are native English speakers from the US and Canada that have decided to move for good.
8) Staying in touch is easy. If you absolutely have to have a cell phone, you can rent or buy a pre-paid phone easily. Otherwise, check out one of many Internet cafes in downtown Bocas Town. You can rent a computer for as little as $3 an hour, and most internet cafes have VOIP phones (a.k.a. internet telephones) that allow you to call anywhere in the world for very little.
9) Cross the border and visit Costa Rica. I'ts not that Costa Rica is very different from Panama (unless of course you go a lot further into the Costa Rican jungles), but a quick hope to Costa Rica is a great way to get another stamp on your passport. Costa Rica is only about an hour away, and there are day tours which will take you into the jungle in Costa Rica. You can be back in Panama by nightfall or the next morning.
10) Bring a vacation mindset. Leave the hustle and bustle behind and slow your pace. You can try to hurry things up in Panama, but you're likely to fail. Life in Bocas del Toro is easy and laid back, so always remember that YOU are the visitor there. There are things that the locals will do differently, and it won't be because they're rude or mean; it's just the way they're used to doing things. Don't be surprised by slow service at the restaurant or a general indifference - no one in Bocas takes anything too seriously. Remember that, and you're likely to appreciate the slow pace.
Those are the things that I brought along with me to Bocas Del Toro for my vacation, and it helped me enjoy myself. I hope that these 10 tips will be of help to you too.
About the author
I have nearly a decade of experience in the auto industry, particularly on the sales side of things. I've cleaned, fixed, bought, sold, and financed thousands of cars in my lifetime. Currently, I'm a self-employed search engine marketer that does some writing on the side.