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 on amazon.com for approximately US$40.00.2) Are there places in your itineraries where there is limited or no electricity for battery charging?
Electricity is limited in these areas.3) What is the weight limitation for domestic flights in Panama?
For domestic flights, each passenger is allowed 1 bag of up to 50 lbs (23 kg). Carry-on luggage is limited to 8.8 lbs passenger (4 kg). Passengers are responsible for excess baggage fees: US$5.00 per extra kilo (max. 3 kg extra allowed on 1st checked bag). 2nd checked bag at US$35.00 extra cost of up to 50 lbs (23 kg). Name or date changes on flight tickets are subject to a penalty of US$25 plus 7% tax (per change, per route). Ticket cancellations with more than 30 days before your trip are subject to a service fee of US$25 per ticket (taxes included). Within 30 days from your arrival, our regular cancellation policies apply. Penalty for no show is 100% of all applicable fares, taxes, and surcharges. Surcharge for transportation of a pet or a surfboard is US$30 per item per route.4) Is there a limit to the size of baggage (checked and/or carry-on)?
There is no limit on the size of baggage but preferably 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?
There are no phone-rental kiosks in the Panama City airport, and travelers who need to make a lot of local calls and receive international calls are better off buying a phone in Panama or buying a sim card if you have an unlocked cellphone. Cellphones that accept prepaid phone cards are as cheap as $20 in electronics stores in Panama City (and come with a bonus of $20 in calls), and phone-card companies have nonstop promotions that double or triple the value of phone cards. Local calls are as low as 10¢ per minute, and incoming calls are free. While some higher-end hotels rent cell phones, it's probably cheaper just to buy a new one.
Prepaid phone cards can be purchased in just about any grocery store or pharmacy, and instructions for how to add credit is listed on the back of each card. The instructions are in Spanish, but whoever sells you the card can credit your account if you ask.
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 availability 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:
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.11) Do we need Malaria medication for our trip to Darien or to San Blas?
Malaria prophylaxis is not required and there are no threats, warnings, or concerns about malaria in Cana, San 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 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 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 in 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 the Camino Real Trek?
You need to be in very good mental and physical condition. 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 a 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:
Panama Canal Rainforest Boat Adventure:
20) Do you recommend traveling to Darien with young children?
We would not recommend traveling with children to 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, wildlife, 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, the quality is not very high and tours are always on a shared basis.22) 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 a 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 neotropical rainforests cannot be compared to the African savannahs in terms of wildlife viewing. It would be practically impossible to see a Jaguar on a 15 day trip into the most remote areas of 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.23) Are you aware of any changes 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.