CLIMATE
Yearly average temperature: 27 Centigrades or 82 grades Farenheit. Rainy seasons from May to August and from December to January. Dry seasons from February to April an September to November.

LANGUAGE
The oficial language in Panama is spanish but english is widely spoken in Bocas del Toro.

CURRENCY
Balboa: equivalent to the american dollar, which is freely used in the country. There are not Balboa bills, only coins, that are equal to the american dollar in size and value.

POPULATION
9.883 inhabitants (2000 census) is the population of the islands.

ELECTRICITY
110 VAC/50 cycles. Some places have also 220 VAC/60 cycles.

BANKS
There is only one bank in Bocas del Toro, a branch of the National Bank of Panama, in the Goverment House street. Open mondays to fridays from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, and saturdays from 9:00 am to 12:00 md.

CREDIT CARDS
Most of  shops and service stores  and resturants and hoteles accept credit cards. Travellers checks can not be cashed in the National Bank. Money from credit cards can be get at Caja de Ahorros and at Panama National Bank.

IMMIGRATION- Visa
In the Government House. All foreigner visitors must have a valid passport and visa to enter or leave Bocas del Toro. Main office is in Changuinola City. A tourist can remain in Panama for 90 days, not normally extendable. There is no need to obtain departure permits to leave the country, provided that the visitor complies with the terms of the tourist status. If a tourist exceeds the time allowance without a legal extension or justification, a fine will be charged according to the exceeded time. Visitors should carry their passports with them at all times.

 

Do I need a car?  How do I get around?
Bocas is mainly a taxi cab transportation town.  The taxis are comfortable, usually 4-door Toyota pickup trucks.  The roads were repaved in 2009 but are in reasonable shape, except going to Bocas Del Drago…it can get rough.  Also, the road out to Bluff recently washed away (the surf really pounds on this stretch) and they augmented the road with a small rock-in-cage seawall.  We’ll see how long that lasts.

You can also rent electric golf carts from Tyson William in town.  This is the way to go, they are rugged and a full charge gets you pretty much where you want to go all day.  You can also rent bikes.  Be prepared, these typically breakdown given the salt air and abuse they get from overuse.

When I am in Bocas, will I see wildlife and birds, such as parrots? 
They fact is that most people that come to Bocas and hang around town don’t really see much wildlife…and this is one of the world’s best places to experience tropical diversity, the Smithsonian Tropical Research facility is here, 1 mile outside of town.  Even the tours on the boats don’t really get you close to the vast array of animals and birds that are everywhere on the islands.  If you want to see wildlife, get out of town, walk the road towards Bocas Del Drago…you’ll see lots of wildlife up there, especially around La Loma, just past Vista Linda…Welcome to the Jungle!

Can I use Credit Cards in Town?
In a few places, yes, and that is growing.  But Bocas is really a cash town.  At the bank, there are two ATM’s and they work well most of the time, but not always.  Bring cash just in case.  Contact your credit card company before coming here and tell them you’ll be using the ATM in Bocas.  Also, if you bring traveler’s checks, you’ll be waiting in long lines at the bank.  Again, the best option is to bring cash.

How is the shopping?
There are some pretty cool street vendors and shops that have everything from Molas (cloth designs from the Kuni Indians that are really interesting pieces of art) to jewelry and tee shirts.  There are also some new shops opening up that have interesting furniture and homewares that are of a tropical flavor.  You’ll pretty much see and get what you want in an afternoon.  And there too many grocery stores…some are to be avoided.

Is the food and water safe to eat/drink?   
The food is fine but the water is sketchy…OK to wash but we encourage only drinking water that has been purified, regardless of what people tell you about town water.  Your best bet is bottled water, beer or beverages that you buy at the store.

Is there Internet and do cell phones work?
Yes on the Internet.  There are several internet cafe’s and WIFI hotspots in town.  Your cell phone may or may not work at Bocas if you bring it from the States or Europe and depends upon your plan, but there is good cell service.  What we suggest is buying a cheap cell phone ($30) and use phone cards.  This way, you’ll be able to call family and friends and tell them about the cool place you are in.

Is there crime?  
Bocas is a reasonably safe place to visit and crime is typically limited to occasional petty theft.  Some of the notorious crime has actually been committed by gringos – Carenero Brim and Wild Bill are examples.  But overall, Bocas is safe if you use your head.  Emphasis on being smart.

Step #1 – Recognize that tourists are “Haves” and the locals tend to be “Have Nots”.  Don’t take valuables to the beach (including your camera) or tempt the possibilities.  Just don’t.  A big part of avoiding crime is ensuring you don’t participate – leave your stuff behind.  Especially places like First Beach (Wizards) and sometimes, Bluff.  If you go there, leave your valuables behind.

Also, Panama is a conservative catholic country…..wear your shirt when walking through town or else the Police might tell you to put one on.  Same goes with a bikini.  Just look at the locals and respect the way they dress by doing the same.

Step #2 – We also suggest not staying out past midnight unless you are with a crowd.  And if you buy and take drugs…expect bad things to happen.  Your call, but if you do, you are a part of the problem.

Again, avoiding crime by taking yourself out of the window of opportunity is just plain wise anywhere you travel.