Panama

Strange, warm, welcoming.

Panama

Coming to Panama from Costa Rica, I was initially struck by how much more run down it is. Isla Colon, the gateway to Bocas del Toro, at first glance, feels like a place you want to leave, but give it a few days and it grows on you.

Where I’ve Been

Panama Placeholder
Panama

Currency = Balbao, however the US dollar is widely used.

Find Yourself Rating

Very good. Especially if you’re from the US or Western Europe you’ll notice how much more run down this area is than what you’re used to. There are stray dogs everywhere. Some areas feel just shy of unsafe, others feel upscale, and others feel tropical. You may even meet some Jehova’s Witnesses that will try to convert you. For self-discovery I found that the shift I encountered from my initial judgments about Isla Colon (from run-down beach town I wanted to escape, to curious town where it’s easy to meet people and has so many interesting areas) helped me begin to question my own internal and external judgments. Plus, allowing yourself some time on beaches with nothing to do other than admire the scenery and walk around does wonders for inspiring reflection.

Female Solo Travel Ranking

Very Good. In Isla Colon I stayed a few blocks off the main area – that main area seemed very safe (police patrol and lots of people) but it’s very noisy due to all the restaurants and bars/clubs. Because the streets leading away from the center were quiet, I thought they were unsafe. However, my hotel managers told me it was very safe, and, as it turned out, they were right! Streets are well lit, and I didn’t encounter any problems.

Touristy vs Authentic

Authentic. This place doesn’t have any pretenses. They do want to encourage tourism – in fact, fresh off my boat ride, a guy named Nino said he’s help me get a cab, and was true to his word. He first gave me lots of information about the town and tried to have me sign up for one of his tours. So there’s a mix of feeling like people are helpful and feeling like their helpfuless is done in hopes of financial gain. Other than this, though the actual center of Isla Colon is pretty touristy, if you get away from it, you get to experience things that feel really authentic.

Getting Around / Transportation

Buses. Curiously, though Panama is poorer than Costa Rica, their roads are infinitely better. Taking a bus to anywhere you want to go is the way to travel. I used the Caribe Shuttle but if you want to go to someplace like Boquete, there are local buses you can get from Isla Colon. There are also flights if you want to go to Panama City. Definitely sign up for the STEP program to know which areas are not safe. Though I didn’t encounter any issues, there are definitely areas of Panama that are reputed to be dangerous. 

How to Save Money

It’s inexpensive! Compared to Costa Rica, Panama was like winning the lottery in terms of how far money goes. The only exceptions are if you need something like sunblock, or, as I found out, needing to buy a top I could swim in that would also sheild me from the sun. Most food is affordable on a budget, unless you splurge at one of the better restaurants. There are many, many hostels and budget hotels in the area, and laundry washing was about $3 for a huge bag.

Negotiating Tips

Not always common. I sometimes asked if a merchant could offer a lower price for something, but did not find it easy or that normal to negotiate on prices.

Tipping

Depends. If you stay in luxury accomodations and eat at finer restaurants, expect to tip somewhere around 10%. The taxi I took from the center of Isla Colon to my hotel cost $1. I was so shocked, I could not handle giving the driver less than $2. The driver seemed equally shocked that I would give him such a good tip. I learned that taxis don’t expect a tip. Restaurants do expect tips in the area of 10% of your bill.

WiFi Access

Medium There was WiFi access but it didn’t work well. I was told often that the issue was with iPhones, specifically. Connecting was painful. WiFi definitely exists in many places, but actually using it isn’t always a good experience.

Toilets

Very Good. The toilets were all western and clean. Sometimes I’d use a facility on an island and it was perhaps less desirable, but overall the bathrooms were good. 

Insects, Rodents and Reptiles

Moderate. Mosquitoes did come out at night, but I didn’t encounter any rodents or reptiles.

Passport, Visa and Entry/Exit Rules

Kind of Crazy but it Works. It’s always a good idea to check the US government website (or your country’s local government if not the US) for in-depth information as well as the Panama’s embassy website. I crossed the border by bus from Costa Rica. I had to buy an exit ticket, show my passport, walk across a bridge with my luggage, show my passport again, smile (because when I asked how much it cost to enter Panama the immigration officer told me it cost a smile) get a stamp, done. So, no visa required! If you come direct from the US you may have to show proof that you have enough money to pay your way, especially if staying for a while.

Health, Water, etc.

Moderate. Apparently it is safe to drink the water in certain areas of Panama. However, the Bocas del Toro area is not one of them. That being said I did have drinks with ice in them (smoothies) and was ok. Check the CDC website for recommended vaccinations. I received the Hep A, Hep B, Typhoid vaccinations. 

Weather

Warm all year. Depending where you are there may be a sunny and rainy season. Temperatures remain near the 80s all year round.

Essentials to Pack

A bathing suit, sunblock, and mosquito repellant are basic necessities. Sunglasses will go a long way.

How to Make Friends

I went to the Tequila Bar in the center of town every night. It was way more mellow than some of the other places, and I ended up getting friendly with some of the locals there and the main cook. It was 6-months old when I was there, wonderful place! Generally speaking, because Isla Colon is so small you’re likely to keep running in to the same people every day and they can be very friendly!

What to Do and See

Playa Estrella (Starfish Beach) is amazing. I’ve never seen starfish “in the wild” and there are so many! Definitely take a few boat trips and see the nearby islands like Zapatilla and Red Frog Island (yup they’re there but hard to find.) If you go to the Tequila Bar eat a burger, and if you get friendly with the cook, he’ll make you something awesome not on the menu. (Or, it might be on their menu by now, but, yum!)

Where to Stay

Hotel CalaLuna – A few blocks off the main drag which means a much more peaceful sleep! The owners, from Italy, are lovely and helpful. Rooms are spacious and even have a nightstand! Bathroom was ample with a nice hot shower!

Learn about Heather and what set her on her world journey. She also explains why this life is not just for Millenials, it’s for anyone that wants to create a life around what they love most in life. 

Listen to an episode of the video interview series that will inspire you to follow your heart. Whether you want to travel full time or have another calling, this series is for you.

See the amazing people I’ve been meeting on my travels and the fun stories that go along with the meetings.

Check out my travel photos from around the world to see the world from wherever you are.

If you’ve been thinking that there’s got to be  more to life than work, or, you’ve lost your job, and wonder whether now is the time to do something you’re more excited about, this quiz will help you. Answer a few questions and get a free guide to help you know the areas you need to work on, followed up with inspirational and helpful tips to put your dreams into action.

Traveling the world full-time may sound glamorous and exhilirating. (In many ways, it is!) But, it’s not full-time fun. Before you decide to go, take this quiz to make sure you’re ready, and, if not, find out how to bridge the gaps.

This fun quiz helps you understand what your travel personality is, and how to make sure you indulge it when planning your next trip to maximize your enjoyment!

This one is pure fun – test your transcontinental travel trivia knowledge. Hit the button below if you dare take the quiz and see your score! 

If you enjoyed the first quiz, see how you do on the second one! More fun, more tricks, Click the button below to test your knowledge!

If you want to see every post I’ve written, starting with the most recent, this is the place to start!

In 2020, I was traveling in New Zealand as the coronavirus pandemic brewed, and, got stuck there. If you want to read about what this time was like and traveling during this time, check out this page.

Many of my blog posts are about things I’ve discovered about myself or about being, while I’ve traveled. If you’d like to focus on posts that only have self-discovery themes, click the button below.

I’ve been traveling the globe solo, and many of my posts share thoughts and resources specifically for other solo travelers. If you’re a fellow solo traveler, or you’re thinking about solo travel, this is a collection you will find of interest.

Sometimes I write posts where I give insider information on certain cities I’ve visited, which may be more along the lines of places to go, how to save money, etc. If that’s your main interest, check out this compilation of posts.

At the heart of international travel is learning about the many different cultures and ways of being around the world. The posts compiled on this page speak, specifically, about the cultural observations I’ve had.

If you’re looking to read blog posts about specific destinations, click the country of your interest below to go to it’s blog page and get country-specific reviews and thoughts.

Africa

Argentina

Brazil

Cambodia

Chile

Costa Rica

France

New Zealand

Peru

Portugal

Scotland

Thailand

Uruguay

Vietnam

 

Want more in-depth information about travel? Trying to figure out how to afford full-time travel (or, doing what you want to do, full-time)? Check out these items!

Looking for a photo or a travel-related item to reconnect with the spirit of travel? Check out this page to see some of my photos and where you can find them as prints and various photo-gifts..

Trying to create a more fulfilling life? Want help with planning out how to make your mark in the world? Check out this page to see how Heather can help you!

10 + 7 =

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Hi, I'm HEATHER.

Sign up to learn how to quit your job to travel the world (or pursue your passion) and why you should if you're over 40!

How To Make Money 

Without A Job 

Lost your job? Want to ditch your job? Pandemic slow your business income? Learn easy ways to make money and have money without a stable job.