Good to Know before Departure

PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION HERE. We have collected together here the most important things worth knowing which can help you prepare before departure.

The price of the trip includes

  • Journeys and outings inside Panama by bus, speed boat, motor boat, and sailing boat. Exception: Kuna Yala rainforest tour and individual travel in the capital city. See prices.
  • Three nights’ hotel accommodation in Panama City, accommodation on the sailing yacht, and likewise the optional two nights either on the boat or in palm-roofed beach huts. On our shorter trip in the San Blas area two nights accommodation in rustic island lodge.
  • We supply full board and three courses a day according to the programme. Exception: on the last day or days in Panama City, the price does not include lunch.
  • During the time spent on the boat drinks not containing alcohol plus food plus drinking water.
  • Alcoholic drinks as indicated in the programme.
  • All entrance charges. See prices.
  • Prices of local guides.
  • All outings not marked on the programme as optional.
  • Charges for diving masks, snorkel tubes, and frog flippers.
  • Charges for kayaks belonging to the boat.
  • Authorised use of the motor boat belonging to the boat.
  • Organising and guidance in your language from arrival to return.

The price of the trip does not include

  • Costs of travel to and from Central America.
  • The inland air ticket between El Porvenir and Panama City.
  • Possible charges related to the airport.
  • Insurance.
  • Possible charges for guarding luggage.
  • Alcoholic drinks not mentioned in the programme.
  • Tips.
  • The optional outing into the Kuna forest.

The area visited

The southernmost country in the Central American isthmus, you arrive in Panama by plane, where you land at the capital. From here you go by speed boat to visit the Las Perlas islands, in the Gulf of Panama in the Pacific Ocean, from where you go back to the capital city by sailing boat and continue on by boat through the Panama Canal. Once you stand in the Bay of Portobelo on the Caribbean side, the picture-book beauty of the San Blas islands will be your home for a couple of days. From here you return by plane where you enjoy a panoramic view on your way into Panama City, from where you set off back home.

Group numbers

Per boat 6 to 8 people, with a maximum of two sailing boats per convoy. Naturally, on special request we also cater for individual groups or groups with numbers differing from these, organising equipment and meals accordingly.

Means of transport

We travel by aeroplane, rented bus, speed boat, sailing yacht, motor boat, motor dinghy, and in the capital city if the need arises by taxi or by city-centre public transit. Our journeys are not specifically Caribbean sailing holidays – the boat for us is merely a means of transport that we use and we strive to spend only the minimum amount of time on the yacht. However, because of the geographical distances over three days we need the boat to get between different locations. At these times, and insofar as it is possible, we make every effort that this does not divert us from the programme of activities. In order to sail on less choppy water, we try to travel some of the journey at night. More information about our boat…

Accommodation

Your trip will be special and because of this we make sure to choose a high standard of accommodation. You will spend two nights in a four-star hotel in Panama City, at the beginning of the journey and at the end. On the main item in the adventure, sailing on the yacht, you spend eight nights. We thought that this period of time in cabins might cause some travellers problems, so we make sure to moor every night close to an island. At these times, if the infrastructure allows, we have the chance of alternative accommodation to the boat. On the last two nights of sailing, there is organised accommodation in palm-roofed huts, if you prefer not to sleep on the boat.

Food, meals

In Panama City we arrange breakfasts and dinners for our travellers. During the further time spent on the boat all meals are arranged for our guests, which means four varied and light complete courses. This means something like the following:
1. Breakfast (cereal flakes, milk, coffee, tea, fruit juice, bread, cold cuts, sausage, jam)
This gives everyone sufficient strength for the day’s activities, which although relaxing take place under a sometimes tiring hot sun.
2. Lighter lunch (fruit, salad, crayfish, fish, sea snails, crabs, poultry, pork, salads, pasta, if requested a vegetarian menu, white or red wine)
In the heat of the early afternoon and during water sports eating heavy meals is not recommended. We try to consider our guests’ health.
3. Supper (similar to lunch, but with a more substantial dessert)
This meal rounds off the day. Usually, after it goes dark we serve and strive to provide delicacies from both international and local cuisines.

The meals given above are just an example. We take care during our expeditions that the boat is well stocked, since we are often far from any developed areas. At all times the menu therefore depends on our ability to obtain basic foods and naturally depends also on the day’s fishing catch either by our guests or by local inhabitants, because we cannot take everything with us for the entire journey. Of course, no-one should assume that there will not be enough food or drink. We strive to serve healthy and tasty meals.

Physical demands of the journey

Everything necessary can be done if you are reasonably light, in everyday good physical condition. During the time spent outside you will not be exposed to any heavy physical strains.

Recommended items to pack for the journey

Because on the boat we mainly travel in the tropics, keeping your belongings light in a travel bag that’s not overpacked is recommended. Because of the heat, you will need mainly summer clothes and it is worth packing enough for all your time on board since washing facilities cannot be guaranteed. Though it is unlikely to be actually cold, you should keep in mind breezy cooler evenings. Also, even during dry periods there can be a sudden downpour. For long periods you are likely to be exposed to the effects of the sun, so you will need some kind of headgear, and sunscreen. Before departure, we suggest looking over the following non-exhaustive list: a large bag (wheeled suitcases, sports bags, backpacks to taste), a small backpack or camera bag for land excursions, one with urban clothing for sightseeing and evening entertainment, several changes of loose, airy clothing, preferably wide-brimmed hats, sandals or light waterproof shoes for land for walks (on board the boat you’ll usually go barefoot), easy dry, possibly detachable trousers, rain jacket and / or windbreaker, a change of clothing for cooler evenings, at least one bathing suit, flashlight (head lamp ) lamp & camera batteries, American standard (two flat, 110V, 60 Hz) power converter, sewing kit, pocket knife, alarm clock (mobile phone), a camera, tick and mosquito repellent, sunglasses, sunscreen, maybe blinkers for sleeping, ear plugs to block the sound of occasional buzzing insects, the sound of the boat engine or the wind. In addition, when choosing personal hygiene items, we ask that you prefer biodegradable products and packaging where possible. Although the list is long, the most important is summer clothing, which takes up less space. Please also remember that the ship and the aircraft cabin luggage space is limited in size, so there is absolutely no question of exceeding the 15 kilogram limit on internal flights. Besides basic drugs, remember you may need to pack special medicines as well. Of course, also don’t forget to bring a good mood and a positive attitude.

What is not worth bringing

Bad mood, stress, hurriedness and domestic politics.

Weather

Panama’s climate is a tropical equatorial climate marked by small fluctuations in temperature, making it very pleasant for foreign tourists. There are two seasons, the dry and the rainy seasons, which locally take the place of summer and winter. The dry season lasts from the end of December until the beginning of May, and the rest is the rainy season. However in the territory between the Caribbean coast and the Pacific Ocean quantities of rainfall differ substantially from month to month. The driest month is March (2 rainy days). It being the dry season does not mean that it never rains and likewise in the rainy season it is not permanently raining. In general during the rainy season the number of sunny hours is high. After sunset the whole country experiences cool breezes. Hurricanes don’t arrive on Panama’s coasts. This is a huge advantage over other tropical tourist resorts. The humidity content of the air is extremely high, sometimes reaching 70%, due to the influence of sea currents, but severe choppy seas are rare.

Safety

The parts of Panama we will be visiting can be regarded as safe. Panama City, like every large city, has less recommended quarters. Rely on your tour guide for information about this. During your sightseeing and walks around the city you only need to be normally alert and keep your wits about you, no more than on any Budapest street. In the rural parts you will meet basically friendly people. Here you only need watch your valuables, just as anywhere in the world.

Hygeine, health

The health-care situation is satisfactory. In the capital city there are countless private and state health clinics, along with pharmacies. On the most distant waters of our trip, we are at the most one or two hours from the nearest clinic and three hours from the capital city. In Panama City drinking water is not a problem, but even so we suggest bottled water, which can be obtained anywhere. Our travellers on the boat have access to cool, clean drinking water at all times. In all cases wash any vegetables or fruit that you buy! It is a good idea to avoid any food or drink items that you think might cause stomach upset. Naturally, the food we serve our guests is clean and in good condition.

In Panama inoculation against yellow fever is compulsory, and if you cannot produce evidence of inoculation you can be refused entry at the border. Apart from this, we suggest inoculation against hepatitis A and B, both of which are unfortunately also possible to catch in Europe. The risk of malaria in this area is small, and in general is not a significant danger. In connection with medicine against malaria – because of possible side effects – we strongly recommend you consult your doctor! If you take precautions against mosquitos there should be no trouble. The lead guide has lived out here for years and travelled to many countries, but has never met anyone who was infected by malaria, or any similar disease. Naturally, it is worth bringing one or two types of medicine with you: pills to reduce fever, a thermometer, painkillers, stomach pills, something against chills or throat infections, as well as perhaps against toothache, plus bandages, cream against infected wounds, sticking plasters, moist wipes.

Local prices & money

In Panama the currency is the balboa, which in practice is identical to the US dollar. It is worth bringing with you US dollars as paper money, and preferably the smaller notes like 5, 10, 20, because not every business will accept the bigger notes. It’s only possible to use bank cards in the city, likewise cash dispensers. VISA is the best-known, but MasterCard and other types of credit card are also usable. The use of euros or travellers’ cheques are not advised, because while it is possible to use them they are only accepted in some places, and recently ever fewer places are taking them. Panama in general is cheaper than Europe. Because we provide all meals and entrance fees and other items contained in the programme for our travellers, you only need to think of paying for optional excursions, alcoholic drinks, and buying presents to take home when it comes to calculating how much money to change. In Panama City clothes and technical goods are cheaper than in Europe. There will be shopping possibilities on our street walks. Our programme is feasible with about 100 dollars of pocket money, but for clearing Panama customs and for safety reasons we suggest a minimum of 200 dollars and a bank card.

Prices from 2011, items are listed among the following largely for your guidance:
– Miraflores, Panama Canal dam viewing entrance: 5 USD
– Miraflores, Panama Canal museum entrance: 3 USD
– Panama City, Metropolitan Nature Park entrance: 2 USD
– San Blas, extra nights with full board: 65 – 75 USD/per head per night
– San Blas, indian homespun ”mole”: 6 – 50 USD
– San Blas, photographing Kuna amerindians: 1 USD/photo
– San Blas, optional boat outing and jungle tour: 30 – 40 USD per head
– tips to the captain, cook, tour guide: 10 – 20 USD per head per worker
– tips to local guides, bus drivers: at your discretion
– approximate price of a restaurant meal in Panama: 6 – 8 USD (3 – 20 USD)

Border regulations, customs

Live animals, and animal-originating products are naturally forbidden from being brought into the country, but there are no other especially strict rules. At the moment of crossing the border you need to show your air ticket and sufficient money to cover your needs (cash, bank card). It is strongly advised to keep a photocopy of the personal page of your passport, any visas, your air ticket, insurance, vaccinations, addresses and telephone numbers in a separate place from the originals. On the aeroplane you must fill out border-crossing and customs-declaration papers which you are given. You should keep the stubs or counterfoils with you until the end of your journey.

Luggage Restrictions

The weight limit for luggage – and only very rare exceptions are allowed – is the usual 20kg (44 pounds) and you may not exceed it. However, regional airlines and other local transport companies have a lower limit, of 15kg (33 pounds). You must keep this in mind when considering gifts to take home, other shopping and other things which could increase your total baggage weight.


Photos and illustrations seen on this page were made by our hotel partner, Albrook Inn. We might make use of other hotels in the same category with strictly similar standards of service.

Photographs: ©Albrookinn.com