FAQ

1) Is there a particular Panama bird book that is recommended, and what is its cost?

"The Guide to the Birds of  Panama" by Robert Ridgely. You can find it in amazon.com for approximately US$40.00.

2) Are there places in your itineraries where there is limited or no electricity for battery charging?
  • Patiño Lodge
  • San Blas
  • Coiba Island
  • Cana Field Station (not in operation at the moment)
  • Burbayar Lodge (not in operation at the moment)

Electricity is limited in these areas. However, a generator is turned on every morning and every evening for a total of about 3 hours per day. You can charge your batteries when the generator is on. 

3) What is the weight limitation for domestic flights in Panama?

For domestic flights within Panama each passenger is allowed 1 bag of up to 30.8 lbs (14kg) with Air Panama. For flights to David, Medellin, Cartagena and San Jose (Costa Rica) each passenger is allowed 1 bag of up to 66 lbs (30 kg). Carry-on luggage is limited to 8.8 lbs passenger (4 kg). Excess baggage is allowed subject to flight occupancy and a fee of US$1-2 per extra pound will be charged directly by the domestic airline.

4) Is there a limit to the size of baggage (checked and/or carry-on)?

There is no limit on the size of baggages but preferrably small to mid-size suitcases or duffle bags will work best.

5) Traveling to Colombia after our Panama stay?

Traveling by land is not an option. There are no roads connecting Panama with Colombia. There are no passenger ferries that travel from Panama to Colombia either. The most efficient way is to fly to Cartagena or else to charter a boat to do the overnight voyage. Recommended airline: Copa Airlines (www.copaair.com).

6) How far is the Panama Canal from the Tocumen airport?

Tocumen International Airport is located some 20 miles away from the Panama Canal.

7) Where can I rent cell phones in Panama?

The website http://www.cellrentpanama.com gives helpful information for renting cell phones in Panama. Email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Phone: 6613 7890. Furthermore, some car rental companies at the Tocumen International Airport or in Panama City also have cell phone rentals available.

8) Can I rent binoculars?

You have the opportunity to rent binoculars for US$10/day plus 7% tax for a tour booked with us. The price will be included in your invoice. In cases of loss or damage, a $50 fee applies. For special rates of rentals lasting longer than one day, please consult us directly to check availabilit of the binoculars.

9) How should we tip our guides and drivers?

Ancon Expeditions is Panama’s top eco-tourism operator. Our Natural & Cultural History Guides are the country's finest. Due to frequently asked questions from our clients about suggested guide & staff gratuities, we would like to provide you with the following universal tipping guidelines:

  • Naturalist guide/Tour leader:  US$10.00-US$20.00 per person/day
  • Day tour guide:  US$10.00 per person/day
  • Transfer driver:  US$2.00 per person
  • Tour driver:  US$5.00 per person/day
  • Tour boat driver:  US$5.00 per person/day
  • Hotel bellman: US$1.00 per person per suitcase
  • International airport bellmen (red caps): US$1.00 per piece of suitcase

10) Do retirees receive discounts on your tours?

If you are retired holding Panamanian social security or ‘pensionado’ status you are entitled to discounts on hotel rates. If you are legally established and a proven jubilado or pensionados we would be happy to grant you a 50% (Mon-Thur) or 30% (Fri-Sun), discount for bookings at our lodge Bocas Inn.. Otherwise, if you want to book air or another hotel that does not belong to us we would ask you to book those services directly.

Click here to download the English version of the discount listings

Click here to download the original (Spanish) version of the discount listings

11) Do we need Malaria medication for our trip to the Darien or to San Blas?

Malaria prophylaxis is not required and there are no threats, warnings or concerns about malaria in Cana, Sasn Blas or its vicinity. Nevertheless, if you are concerned about it you ought to consult your personal doctor or the CDC to make a decision on whether or not getting vaccinations is appropriate.

12) Is the Darien dangerous? What are the current safety conditions in the Darien Province? (How much guerilla/paramilitary activity, etc)

Each year, we bring to the Darien hundreds of travelers. In over one decade of offering tours in the Darien there has never been a 'dangerous situation' to speak of. We do not gauge safety conditions on how much ‘irregular’ activity goes on in the areas we visit within the Darien. We simply do not operate tours in these areas. It is incorrect to generalize that the Darien is not safe when this province encompasses almost 1/5 of the total area of the country. There are places in the Darien you want to avoid visiting, just like in New York City, Washington DC or London, but most the Darien lives under peace and safety. We wouldn't be promoting, running tours and operating lodges there if the conditions did not allow it.

13) How many times has the Darien Explorer Trek come into contact with narcotraffickers, coyotes, or rebels?

Never.

14) How safe are your Darien tours for a solo female?

It is as safe as it is for a solo male trekker or a couple of trekkers. Solo females on our Darien Explorer Treks are fairly common, for example.

15) What kind of training should I do to prepare for all the hiking on Camino Real or Darien trips?

You need to be in very good mental and physical conditions. The most demanding aspect of these treks is the heat and the humidity factors. You should also account for the fact that for the most part of the trek you would be wet be it by rain or by river crossings along the trail. The longest hikes are mainly along level terrain. If possible you should train with the footgear you would be wearing on the actual trek and do up to an 8 mile hike in dry/wet terrain. If there is a creek nearby where you can walk in and get your feet wet that could help you get used to the conditions.

16) What sites would you include for a man wanting to stroll down memory lane, from his time growing up U.S. brat in the Zone?

The canal (a partial transit or a jungle boat), Miraflores locks, the Amador Causeway, Albrook, Clayton, a stay at the Melia Panama Canal (former US Army’s School of the Americas), the train to Colon. Golf at Summit Golf Course, Summit Botanical Gardens, Ancon Hill, Quarry Heights, etc.

17) My aging parents love to travel for birdwatching but have reached a point where they are unable to walk long distances. They are currently looking for a destination that has a lodge that has birding available on the grounds in case they are unable to take an excursion. They are not capable of hiking but can get out of a vehicle and walk short distances for viewing. Are there any locations in Panama that would be appropriate for them?

There are several lodges in Panama that offer birding on site.  Furthermore, Panama is privileged with abundant avian wildlife and accessibility to it.  You do not have to go far or walk long distances to reach some of the best birding spots in the country.

18) We have young children at home and are concerned about being out of contact. I am not looking for regular telephones. Is there emergency communication available at the Punta Patiño lodge? Is there any transportation in case of an emergency?

There are telephones at the Punta Patiño Lodge and there is cellular signal. In case of emergencies there is the possibility of chartering a fixed wing or helicopter or else take a boat to Puerto Quimba (1 hour) and drive 4-5 hours back to Panama City.

19) What is the main difference between the Panama Canal Transit and the Panama Canal Rainforest Boat Adventure?

Partial or Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal Transit:

  • Operated by a reliable tour outfitter and their bilingual narrator on board
  • You will be on a 250 passenger cruise boat with many tourists
  • You will pass through 2 sets of locks (Pedro Miguel and Miraflores) on the Partial Transit and through all three sets of locks (including Gatún Locks) on the Ocean to Ocean Transit.
  • You will stay on the Panama Canal the whole time hearing about the current, past and future facts about the Canal etc.
  • You will not be able to get out of the boat to see the locks from above
  • You will not be able to spot animals from close up as they are in the side arms of the Canal in Gatun Lake

Panama Canal Rainforest Boat Adventure:

  • Operated by our own company and our expert naturalist guide
  • You will be on our small expedition boat with a maximum of 12 passengers
  • You will not pass through the locks (however, we can add a stop & visit at the Miraflores Locks and museum after you are done with the jungle boat. This is a great combination, as you will see the Canal, animals AND the locks from above as well as the great museum.) If you choose our rainforest boat tour with the extension to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center, the supplement is US$35 per person plus 7% tax including the guide, entrance fee and drop off at your hotel afterwards.
  • You will be on the Panama Canal, see the huge cargo ships passing by as well as on the side arms of the Canal. Our naturalist guide will tell you all about the Canal, history, nature around the canal and wildlife. If you choose the stop at the Miraflores Locks after the boat tour, you are able to walk on top of the Miraflores Locks and go to the visitor center/museum
  • On this tour you will see the Panama Canal from a different perspective: You will be on the Canal, but also on Gatun Lake where you might be able to see the rich Panama Canal wildlife and animals such as White-face Capuchin Monkeys, Howler Monkeys, sloths, bats, turtles, crocodiles, toucans, various bird species, etc.
  • This tour will offer you a completely different perspective on the Panama Canal and its natural assets. This is a fun and educative tour for both adults and children and complements the Panama Canal (Partial or Full) Transit very well.

20) Do you recommend traveling to the Darien with young children?

We would not recommend traveling with children to the Darien. Transportation and communication are not reliable and health centers are far and apart.  If you want to have a similar experience to the Darien in terms of birding, hiking, remoteness, wildilfe, consult us about Burbayar Lodge.  While Burbayar is ‘legally’ located in the province of Panama, geographically, geologically and historically it is actually located in the Darien region. We are happy to help you with lodging arrangements in Burbayar or day tours from Panama City.

21) Do you offer land transportation to San Blas? Can you go from San Blas to Bocas directly without coming back to Panama City?

We do not offer land transportation to San Blas and there are no organized outfitters that offer such services. We can arrange transfers and low-budget day trips and overnight stays near Carti with our local Kuna partners who will take care of your transportation, boat rides, accommodation and excursions, however quality is not very high and tours are always on a shared basis.

22) How far  is the beach from Punta Patiño Lodge and how is it compared to the beaches at Pedasi?

The beach in Punta Patiño is very similar to those of Pedasi with the added bonus that there is literally nobody there.  Bear in mind that Punta Patiño is a 60,000 acre private nature reserve.  So, if you are looking for solitude Punta Patiño is the place to go. The beach at Punta Patiño is about 500 yards from the lodge. Please note that it is not a deep blue water beach with snow-white sand. Furthermore, beaches on the Pacific Ocean are tide dependent. With fluctuations of over 20 feet the water recedes, in some instances, as much as a half mile back during low tide.  

23) We will be on a road trip through Central America with our own car. Question: If we book tour with you from Punta Patino or from La Palma or from El Real, can we park our car safely in Meteti or El Real?

Please note that it is perfectly safe to leave your car in Meteti or Puerto Quimba in order to go to Punta Patiño. You can’t drive all the way to El Real, as this town is on the other side of the Tuira river and there are no bridges over the river.  The last town you can reach is Yaviza.  We run tours to the Darien with a minimum of 4 participants. We could offer you the Coastal Darien Explorer and arrange to pick you up from Puerto Quimba.

24) Our Darien experience must be river oriented / wildlife/cultural / jaguar etc – a reminder that I have done over 50 safaris in Africa, and been into Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru , Costa Rica, Nicaragua so know the buzz in general (I do admit though that most of the Africa trips have been mid and upper level luxury.)

I’m afraid now that you may be expecting results similar to those of safari expedition in Africa when traveling in the Darien.  You are aware that the neo-tropical rainforests cannot be compared to the African savannahs in terms of wildlife viewing.  It would be practically impossible to see a Jaguar in a 15 day trip into the most remote areas of the Darien.  For sure, sightings of this kind will not occur from a riverboat-based trip. An expedition into the Darien must combine a lot of hiking and river navigation and while culture and wildlife would be an important component of the experience, the adventure in itself of being in the most remote area of Central America, hiking on paths and navigating rivers seldom visited by outsiders is what should prevail in your expectations.

25)  Are you aware of any chances to travel the Panama Canal on a freighter?

You may want to touch base with a local ship handler.  They may be able to assist with your inquiry.  CB Fenton and Ferni are among several local ship handlers that deal with freighters crossing the Panama Canal.