How to get to Bocas del Toro?
You can book your international flight to Panama City, Panama or San Jose, Costa Rica. We recommend flying into Panama City. From either city, you can take a bus or flight to Bocas del Toro.
- From Panama City:
- Flight: Fly with Air Panama on a short 45 minute direct flight to Bocas del Toro (BOC). Please purchase tickets at www.airpanama.com in advance as they fill up quickly during the high season. Flights leave from Albrook domestic airport (PAC), which is a 30 minute, $25 cab ride from the international airport or a 10 minute, $5 cab ride from most hotels/hostels within the city. The cost is approximately $200-250 roundtrip.
- Bus: Direct buses to Almirante (port town near Bocas town) leave at daily in the evening around 8pm from Albrook Mall Terminal in Panama City. The bus arrives around Albrook bus terminal, you can take a $25 taxi ride from Tocumen Airport or a $5 taxi ride from most hotels/hostels within the city. Make sure to wear pants and bring a jacket, as the bus gets cold. The bus will take you to Almirante. You will get off the bus and take a $1 cab ride to Bocas Marine Tours. From here you take a $6 water taxi to Bocas Town. Boats leave every 30 minutes starting at 6 AM. The cost is approximately $25-30 one way.
- From Costa Rica:
- Flight: Fly with Nature Air direct to Bocas del Toro from San Jose.
- Bus: The easiest way to travel by bus is with Caribe Shuttle. There is also a public bus that leaves from the Coca Cola Bus Station in San Jose at 9 AM. Purchase the ticket when you get on the bus. You will arrive to the border around 2 PM. At the border you will need to get out and walk across the border to get your passport stamped. *please make sure you bring printed proof that you are leaving the country otherwise they will force you to by a return bus ticket. The bus will continue to the Almirante bus station. From here take a $1 taxi ride to Bocas Marine Tours and get a water taxi to Bocas Town. The last water taxi leaves at 6 PM. We will arrange to pick you up in Bocas town before dark.
Where do I get picked up?
- All volunteers will be picked up in Bocas Town upon arrival at the airport or at a predetermined time/place if traveling by bus/boat.
Do I need a visa? Any other entry requirements?
- U.S. & Canadian citizens do not need a visa. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months past your trip dates and you must show your exit ticket (flight ticket to leave Panama; a bus ticket is not sufficient). U.S. & Canadian citizens can stay in Panama for 6 months. For visa and entry requirements for other countries, please check with your country’s embassy or consulate.
Is it safe?
- Yes, Panama City and Bocas del Toro are both safe areas to visit in Panama and Central America. You should however use common sense when traveling in these areas and stay in the tourist areas of town and Panama City. The most frequent crimes are petty thefts and robberies so don’t carry a lot of cash or flash valuables around especially after dark. We recommend always traveling and doing activities with a buddy or group of people.
Do I need medical insurance?
- Yes. We recommend all volunteers have medical insurance coverage. We also suggest all volunteers check their international coverage with their medical insurance providers and/or buy travel medical insurance.
- We have a partnership with World Nomads for travel emergency & medical insurance: https://www.worldnomads.com/travel-insurance/
What vaccinations do I need?
- Please visit your primary health care physician to discuss your upcoming trip to Panama and to get all of the necessary shots and medication required for your trip. You will want to have a prescription from your doctor outlining all prescriptions and their purpose. You can also visit the CDC’s website for a list of recommendations of vaccinations by country.
- Malaria Pills? Bocas del Toro is a malaria free area of Panama so malaria pills are not necessary.
Can I drink the water?
- Yes and no. We don’t recommend drinking the tap water in town or in the communities we work as your body may not be accustomed to the bacteria in the local water. You can use the water to brush your teeth, shower, etc. Most restaurants serve filtered water if you ask for a glass of water and there is fresh filtered water provided at the Volunteer House.
Where do I stay?
- We recommend all participants staying in/near Bocas Town so it’s convenient to get to/from class.
- For an additional fee, Give & Surf can arrange a private or shared room for you.
- If you prefer to book your own accommodations, there are many hotels/hostels that offer long-term discounts or look on Facebook Forum: Bocas Property for Rent, Sale, Wanted.
- Some hostel/hotel options:
- $10-25/night range: Bocas Surf School and Hostel, Hostel Luego, Twin Fin Hostel, Coconut Hostel
- $25-60/night range: Casa Max, Lula’s B&B
- $100+/night range: Hotel Bocas del Toro, El Limbo, Palma Royale
What do I do about food?
- There is a large selection of restaurants, cafes, and street stands in Bocas to choose from. Price Breakdowns are as follows $5-8 cheap meal (comida tipica: Chitre, Tom’s, Anic Flor, Bocas Blended), $12-18 nice meal (Raw, Refugio, Om, Munchies)
Is there internet?
- Internet access will be available at the class site. It’s also available at most restaurants, cafes, etc. in town. It will most likely be available at the place you are staying.
Is there a bank?
- Yes. There is one bank in Bocas, Banco Nacional, where you can withdrawal a maximum of $500/day. Please make sure your bank knows you are traveling out of the country otherwise they will cancel your card. American dollars are used as the currency in Panama.
How expensive is it?
- Price Breakdowns are as follows $4-6 cheap meal, $12-18 nice meal; private room in hostel $25-30, dorm bed in hostel $10-15; private hotel room $60 & up. $1-2 beer, soda, water *prices at grocery stores are higher in Bocas town because it is a tourist town and all food travels over by ferry. Fruit and vegetables are inexpensive.
How much extra spending money will I need?
- We recommend bringing $150-200 per week to cover meals and some activities/excursions.
- If you plan on doing higher end activities/tours (SCUBA, ATVing, etc.) plan on bringing more.
When does the course take place?
- You will generally be in class Monday through Friday for most of the day. Additional time will spent directly teaching English classes to locals; this schedule may vary based on when classes are being held but generally they are on weekday evenings.
What do participants do on the weekends?
- Your weekends are your free time to explore the island as well as to study and prepare lesson plans as needed.
- There is a wide variety of activities that you can participate that Give & Surf is happy to help you arrange including:
- Surfing/surf lessons
- Beach trips
- Sail Tours
- & more!
Sending things by mail?
Mail can be received in Bocas town if necessary at Mailbox Etc. Mail is EXTREMELY slow to reach Bocas so we recommend avoiding this if possible.
Where can I get laundry done?
There are a number of places in town that clean clothes for $4 or $5 a load. It usually takes at least a half day to complete.
Bugs and critters are part of life in Bocas. The bugs are not too bad in the main town but you may be traveling to other islands and more remote areas during your time here so we recommend bringing insect repellant.
Do I need a cell phone?
No, you don’t need one, however it can be a cheap, convenient way to communicate with both friends/family abroad and people in Bocas. You can purchase a cheap phone in Panama City or Bocas town or buy a SIM card for your smart phone once you arrive in Panama. SIM cards are approximately $5 and you can buy a data plan for $15-20/month (pay-as-you-go).
Do I need a laptop?
It is not required although we recommend it as it will be helpful for lesson planning, research, and preparing for classes.
Where to stay in Panama City?
- Hostels: Luna’s Castle, Mamallena’s, Panama House, or Casa de Carmen.
- Hotels: Principe (downtown), Albrook Inn (next to Albrook Airport), Country Inns, La Estancia, Coconut Lodge
What should I do in Panama City?
- If visiting Panama City there are a number of amazing sights to see and our short list includes the Panama Canal, Casco Viejo, Miraflores Locks, The Fish Market, Amador Causeway, Portobelo, Gatun Lake, and Old City. Room & Board
Transportation in Panama City?
- Taxis are fairly cheap in Panama City. Make sure it’s a mark, registered taxi. It should be $25-30 to get from Tocumen into the center of Panama City or to Albrook Airport.
- Uber is also available in Panama City.