The next destination Tina and I want to check out on our Central America “test drive” is the country of Panama. While we are here in Costa Rica, we want to take a trip to Panama to scope out where we might want to live for a few months. Our research has mostly pointed to a town called Boquete, which is in the mountains in northern Panama – actually not too far from the Costa Rica border. This area is very popular with North American expatriates because of its mild climate and beautiful scenery.
Since I (Mark) am the designated travel agent for our tour, I started looking into transportation and lodging for a week-long visit to the Boquete area. Here’s the geography:
We will be flying out of San Jose (Costa Rica) and I wanted to see if there were flights to David (pronounced da veed’), Panama, which is MUCH closer to our destination than flying into the international airport in Panama City. Boquete is only about a 30-40 minute drive from David; from Panama City it would take about 6-7 hours (driving a rental car).
We’ve been told October is the wettest month in Costa Rica, so we figured that is likely true for the Boquete area as well. I figured November might be a better month for our visit. That also works out in terms of our visitor visa. In Costa Rica (Panama as well) you can visit for up to 90 days as a tourist, without any formal visa. When the 90 days is up, or sometime before the 90 day limit, you are required to leave the country for a minimum of 72 hours. Once you leave for 3 days, you can return and the 90 day clock starts over again. Some people have been here for years, leaving every 90 days and returning. I don’t think the government (Immigration) is too crazy about that and you do run the risk that they will deny your return - then you’re stuck.
Our 90 day visa is good until Nov 23rd, so a trip to Panama in early/mid November works just fine.
I found there is one airline that flies between San Jose, CR, and David, Panama: Air Panama. It’s only a one hour flight and the schedule is pretty good. The price is $125 per person, each way. It seems a little steep for a one hour flight but the alternative is a 9 hour bus ride.
I researched hotels, B&Bs, and other accommodations for our visit, trying to narrow down a week where everything could work (the flights are only on M-W-F). Another factor that came into play is holidays. Panama has FIVE national holidays in November and I wanted to steer clear of those dates.
After quite a few hours of research, I finally had a plan put together: flights, hotel, and rental car. I was even able to negotiate a discounted rate for our hotel, since we would be staying a week (I emailed the hotel directly and they were very responsive and willing to cut us a deal).
Once I started trying to actually make the reservations for the various components of our trip, I ran into an unexpected snag that eventually led to a change in plans. More about this in the Beware of the Fine Print post.
Posted by Mark