Panamá Financial Summary

Hola chicos!!!!  I just realized that although I wrote this awhile ago, I never posted it!  Better late than never though!  Here are the stats for Panamá!

Days in Panamá: 10

Money Spent: $286.88

That means we spent $28.66 per day, or roughly $14.33 per person per day.  So we were just barely under our target budget of $15 per person per day.  I’m very proud of us forfinallybeing on budget again after going over in the last few countries.  Rock on!!!!

A side note: I didn’t count our passage on Fritz the Cat here, as I consider that to be between countries and it was so expensive it would totally throw the whole skew off.

As you can see, our spending only fell into a few categories in Panamá.  Despite how small the country is, buses are not cheap in Panamá.  They seem to run about $2+ per hour of travel.

Food is also more expensive than in South America.  The cheapest meal we ever had was a $1.50 plate of rice and beans in Las Tablas.  In Panamá City and Bocas del Toro, you can expect to pay at least $3.50 for a decent plate of Panamanian food.  We did have hostels with kitchens most of the time so we tried to buy groceries and cook a lot to keep costs down.

We didn’t pay for a single place to stay in Panamá!  That’s right, our Lodging cost was absolutely ZERO!  Yeah hostel reviews and Couchsurfing!

FYI, Panamá’s currency is the US dollar, although instead of just calling them “dolares”, they are also called “Balboas.”

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Hotel Mansión Teodolindo in Managua, Nicaragua

Pool and lounge

Hotel Mansión Teodolindo is a very professionally-run hotel with the capability to accommodate all your needs during your stay in Managua.  There is plenty to see and do in Nicaragua’s bustling, cosmopolitan capital city, and the helpful staff at Mansión Teodolindo can help you with information and arrangements.  When you need to come back to the hotel to relax, though, you’ll be very glad you picked this place.  Rooms are spacious and luxurious, with cable TV, WiFi, and kitchenettes.  Bathrooms include hair dryers, fluffy towels, soaps and shampoos, and a never-ending flow of hot water.  There’s also an impeccable outdoor pool, lounge, and full-service restaurant open all day.  Guests are given the option of a Continental, Nicaraguan, or American breakfast included in their stay, while the lunch and dinner menu offers various tasty, large meals for a great value.

The most notable thing about this hotel?  Hotel Mansión Teodolindo strives to be eco-friendly and energy efficient in their business practices.  Recycling and linen reuse is encouraged.  They’ve even received several awards and certifications for their efforts.  So you can sleep soundly knowing you’re supporting a well-run business with great environmental practices!

Services Offered:

Air conditioning

Cable TV

Hot water 24/7

Phones in rooms

Kitchenettes in rooms

Breakfast included

Parking lot

On-site restaurant and room service available

WiFi

Office center with computers

Gym

Pool

Laundry service available

Airport pickup available ($7.50 per person)

Car rental available

Location: De INTURISMO, 1 cuadra al sur y 1 cuadra abajo, Managua, Nicaragua

Phone: (505) 2228-1050

Email:hotel@teodolinda.com.ni

Website: www.teodolinda.com.ni

Prices (not including tax):

Single: $60

Double: $65

This post was sponsored by Hotel Mansión Teodolindo.

A Fresh Perspective

Today’s been a long day of travel from capital to capital- San José, Costa Rica to Managua, Nicaragua.  But we have an exciting reason for not being in bed yet!  Zach’s old friend Steve is on a plane as we speak, flying in to join us for 10 days in Nicaragua!  Steve has never traveled outside the US or Canada, but he’s always up for adventures so we know it’s going to be a good time.  We’re excited to “show him the ropes” per se, and to have someone else to hang out with!  Mostly, I think it’s going to be really cool to have a friend with us as we near the end of our trip.  I’m hoping that we can show Steve a really amazing time and that traveling with a “newbie” will help us see things through fresh eyes again.  But enough from me, I’ll let Steve introduce himself:

“I’m Steve and I’m and joining Zach and Carrie on part of their journey through Central America. I’m very excited to experience someplace very different from what I’m used too. I’m looking forward to a good culture shock in Nicaragua with new language and lifestyle. My Spanish isn’t the best but I love a challenge and learning/experiencing new things. In all I’m just very excited about the experience I’ll have there, and everything I’ll be able to learn from being in a vastly different culture. Of course, when I tell people about traveling to Nicaragua they all have their comments (good and bad), questions, and concerns. My main concern for the journey is the SUN! So hopefully I don’t get too sunburned, otherwise I know this trip is going to be remarkable journey!”

Casa Yoses in San José, Costa Rica

Casa Yoses is THE place for backpackers in San José, Costa Rica, with all the services you need for a price you can afford.  The whole cool, colonial building is very spacious with large rooms and a lot of common space for socializing.

All staff members speak perfect English and Spanish and are super friendly and helpful.  The location is great as well- within walking distance to downtown but away from the noise and hustle.  With a well-equipped shared kitchen and a large grocery store only two blocks away (this place is like Safeway!) you can cook all your meals onsite.  You won’t need to cook breakfast though because a tasty one is included in the price of your room!

Beautiful murals throughout the hostel

Casa Yoses showcases some great art, including some cool murals and groovy lamps.  Outside you will find hammocks and a spot to barbeque.  Inside hosts a large TV room, computer room with four machines connected to the internet, and a game room with a nice pool and foosball tables.

Casa Yoses has a great vibe and we don’t come across many backpacking hangouts as nice as this one.  You will not feel like you are “roughing it”, that’s for sure, and you will probably end up staying even longer than planned!

Services:

Free computers with internet

WiFi throughout hostel

TV room

Book exchange

Game room with pool and foosball tables

Security lockers

24-hour reception

Shared kitchen

Parking lot

Luggage storage

Tour information

Connections with local Spanish schools

Volunteer opportunities available

Address: Avenida 8, Calle 41, San José, Costa Rica

Phone: (00506) 2234 54 86

Email: hostel@casayoses.com

Website:  www.casayoses.com

Prices:

Dormitory: $13

Single private: $19

Double private: $32

Double private suite: $38

Triple private: $48

Triple private suite: $57

Quadruple private: $64

Quadruple private suite: $76

 

This post was sponsored by Casa Yoses.

Brigitte Cabinas in Cahuita, Costa Rica

Brigitte Cabinas is a quiet and relaxing spot on the shores of the Caribbean in Cahuita, Costa Rica.  With surfing lessons, horseback riding, jungle tours, and other activities, the friendly owner Brigitte will be sure to find something that fits your fancy.  The cabins are colorful and cozy with ocean-life murals and a sea breeze flowing through the windows.  Each room has a fan and mosquito netting.  The speedy WiFi covers the entire grounds.  An on-site restaurant serves a full spread of classic breakfast options along with local favorites.

Restaurant serving breakfast

The beautiful, not-very-crowded Playa Negra is right across the street, and the town center is only a 15-minute walk away.  Nearby restaurants and tour agencies mean you don’t have to wander far for anything.  If you arrive by bus, call and Brigitte will send a free taxi to pick you up at the terminal.  The hotel takes all major credit cards along with US dollars and Costa Rican Colones.

The best part about Brigitte Cabinas are the stables at the back of the facility with a small herd of friendly horses ready to show you around the area.  On offer are a variety of horseback adventures, ranging in duration from an hour to all day.  On horseback is a great way to check out the amazing jungle and nearby beaches.

Services:

WiFi

Laundry

Parking

Tourist information

Restaurant serving breakfast

Book exchange

Library

Horseback riding

Surfboards for rent and surfing lessons

Bicycles for rent

Address:  Playa Negra, 300 m. West from the plaza, 50 m. South

Phone:  (+506) 2755 00 53

Email:  info@brigittecahuita.com

Website:  www.brigittecahuita.com

Prices (without breakfast/with breakfast):

Single room with shared bathroom ($15/$20)

1-person cabin ($35/$40)

2-person cabin ($40/$50)

3-person cabin with kitchen ($50/$60)

This post was sponsored by Brigitte Cabinas.

Life in the banana-lands

Awesome tractor-bus outside Las Tablas

Other long-term travelers out there might be familiar with the feeling of “the travel grind.”  To me, it’s how you feel when traveling becomes too routine and nothing feels fresh anymore.  We were kind of suffering from it in Panamá as we were mostly sticking to big touristy sites due to lack of time.  Nothing was feeling authentic or real.  Everyone spoke English and everything was too easy.  We were feeling too much like tourists instead of travelers.

Then, we found the perfect remedy!  Thanks to Couchsurfing, we hooked up with a Peace Corps Volunteer in a small village in the rural mainland of Bocas province.  We stayed with Doug in Las Tablas for two nights, getting a taste of life in “el campo” and meeting some real off-the-beaten-track Panamánians.

Las Tablas is in the heart of the banana-growing lands, where it’s very hot and rainy.  Chiquita Banana is headquartered nearby and thus almost everyone in this area is employed growing bananas which are shipped to the US and Canada.

Miles of banana trees. The sign says "Don't enter or you might get crop-dusted."

Since I did a stint in the Peace Corps in Tanzania, it was really fun for me to reminisce and to compare Doug’s situation with how my life was.  Panamá is a lot further along development-wise than Tanzania, but big parts of the Peace Corps life are the same everywhere.  Doug was definitely a local celebrity known by everyone in town.  Kids would yell, “Hello, teacher!” as he walked by, and he always had to stop to talk to all his fans.  Add Zach and me to the mix and we created quite a spectacle.  Three gringos in town, oh my!

Kids in Doug's host family

Hanging out in Las Tablas helped us feel more connected to Panamánian culture.  It was refreshing to be in a place were there are never any tourists and the pace of life is slower.  The best part of our stay was just walking around the village, greeting kids and practicing our Spanish with all of Doug’s friends.  Las Tablas welcomed us with open arms and we couldn’t stop smiling while we were there.  The Peace Corps life is truly a challenge, but the rewards of being so totally accepted by a completely different culture seem abundant.

Doug and some of his students

We realized that we need to do more of this stuff!  The problem is that there’s just so much we feel like we HAVE to see and we have so little time left!  We’re definitely going to try to hook up with at least one other Peace Corps Volunteer though!

It’s a hard life in Bocas del Toro

Greetings from paradise, friends!  Thanks to the high demand for hostel reviews here, we’ve spent the last five days chilling the gorgeous Bocas del Toro islands off the coast of western Panamá.  The chain consists of several islands, some big, some small, with endless opportunities for exploring.

We first hit up Isla Colón, the biggest island in the chain.  Bocas Town, the most hoppin’ place in the islands, is there.  Although super touristy, it had a laid-back California-esque vibe which we really enjoyed.  Although there’s tons of snorkeling and surfing spots around the Isla Colón, we wanted to have a more relaxing visit.  The biggest event was taking the bus to Boca del Drago, an isolated beach on the far side of the island.

Boca del Drago

It was pristine, refreshing, and relaxing, until we decided to save $5 by hiking back to town.  18km in the heat and we were about ready to fall over.  At least we had plenty of water this time!  (As longtime readers may know, we kind of suck at hiking readiness and preparation, despite how much we do it!)  Zach deciding to hoot back at an angry monkey proved that the heat may have been getting to us.  Thankfully, despite their heated argument, Zach stayed on the road and the monkey stayed in the tree.  When we finally made it back to Bocas Town, we were rewarded with $.50-beer happy hour at Mondo Taitu, and ice cream bars from the local supermarket.

The next day we headed to another island, Bastimentos, known for having less gringos and more wildlife.  Unfortunately it rained throughout most of our day here, but we still enjoyed wandering through Old Bank, listening to the unique Guari-Guari language spoken by the Afro-Panamánians here.

Swingin’ from trees like a monkey.

Although touristy, Bocas del Toro is still closer to its roots than similar places in Costa Rica (so we’ve heard).  I don’t think there’s any way that a couple days here wouldn’t be a good decision!