From the Costa Rican border we head up into the mountains of Parque Nacional La Amistad to enjoy a week of cooler weather. Then we head east to Santa Fe and La Yeguada to visit a lake and spend some time outdoors.
After a week in a beach house near Las Tablas, we head across the canal and into Panama City to arrange the shipment of our car to Colombia.
This is a long post. I'm sorry, but it's unavoidable. Before we get into this arduous process in detail, let's cover a few pieces of general advice.
There has been a rumor for about four months now that a ferry service is going to start up between Colon and Cartagena. Currently, first sailing is scheduled for July 2nd, but along with quetzals, I don’t believe it exists. The ferry has been delayed three times due to the bureaucratic permit process. Meaning it’s in the hand of corrupt officials and slow-moving government employees.
First-hand info about the ferry is being posted on Drive the Americas.
This article is part of our Budget and Money Report series.
Our per diem expenses cover food, lodging, gas and other supplies and travel costs for three people. We travel in a 1997 Toyota 4Runner, tent camp in paid facilities roughly 70% of our nights and eat less than 10% of our meals in restaurants. This budget does not reflect personal spending money, which is mostly used to buy souvenirs and booze. We don't track this money, but we do know we have not come close to spending our budgeted amount of $10 per person per day.
This country took our budget, grabbed it by the throat, and chucked it into a dirty Panama City gutter. Then kicked it in the ribs a couple times for good measure. We tried our best, for the most part, to keep things reasonable. Unfortunately, a combination of poor pre-trip budgeting and unforeseen events left us more than $600 over budget after our short stay of 19 days in Panama. Youch.
Panama's not a cheap country by Central American standards, but it's better than Costa Rica. We did great in that country, so it stands to reason that we could have saved money in Panama as well. However, we ended up doing quite the opposite.
This article is part of our Internet and Phone Report series.
General Availability: High
Quality of Bandwidth: Medium
Frequency of Internet in Campgrounds: Average. Camping in a hostel or hotel, there will be internet. Camping at a national park, there won’t be any access.
Frequency of Internet in Hotels: High
We spent just under three weeks in Panama, and although that seems like a long time we didn't see much of the country. We spent a few days in Boquete, a few more in Santa Fe, and then headed to the Azuero Penninsula. We stayed a week on Playa Uverito near Las Tablas and then went to Panama City for a few days to arrange the shipment of our car to Colombia.
In general, internet is available everywhere. There were small internet cafes in every town, and several in tourist areas. Some restaurants and coffee shops had internet, but not as many as you’d think. Surprisingly, in the town of Boquete which is known for its huge selection of coffee shops, we drove around for more than an hour looking for one that internet without luck.
From the heat of the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica we beelined for the mountains of Boquete, spent a few days enjoying the cool mountain air, before searching out a better camping spot near Santa Fe.
Then we headed out to a beach house on the Auzero Penninsula to get caught up on work and to get a few big projects underway. We took the time to cook a few delicious meals and to take part in Panama's totally crazy Corpus Christi festival.
This article is part of our Border Crossing Report series.
Border Name: Paso Canoas
Closest Major Cities: Ciudad Neily, Costa Rica and David, Panama
Cost for Visas: $1 per person for Panama entry
Cost for Vehicle: $15 for insurance, $1.60 for copies
Total Time: 1.25 hours
Date Crossed: Monday May 28, 2012