This half day tour takes you up close to some of the Caribbean Sea’s most dramatic wildlife
Travel Resources & FAQs
In this section you will find important information about Bocas del Toro: Weather, water, important phone numbers, language, banking, medical and more.
Bring a raincoat. It can rain for days on end in Bocas, even during the “dry” summer season. Late summer is the driest time, followed by February and March.
Bocas del Toro is consistently hot throughout the year, even during the rainy season, with temperatures ranging from 23-32 degrees centigrade (72-90F). The high humidity levels make it feel warmer, and visitors are advised to drink plenty of water. Most places in the province do not have air conditioning.
Unlike most of Panama, tap water in Bocas del Toro is not safe to drink. For years, residents and visitors have lobbied for the government to replace the old water treatment system, but for now you’ll have to make do with bottled water. Water from the tap is fine for washing and brushing your teeth but it is best to avoid drinking from the faucet. To cut down on plastic bottles, refill your old one at BSTA´s Tourist Information Center.
Also be aware that despite the heavy rainfall, fresh water is very limited in the archipelago. The supply can be cut off without warning, or may only be available at certain times of day. Keep showers short, and flush toilets only when necessary.
Hot water is not widely available in the province.
Important Phone Numbers
Police: 104, 757-9217 (non-emergency)
There are several internet cafes in Bocas town; all charge $2 per hour to use their computers. Wifi is free of charge for customers at several restaurants and hotels in town, and BSTA´s Tourist Information Center also has internet access for visitors.
Spanish is most widely spoken across Bocas, so it’s good to brush up on the formalities. As a result of immigration from Jamaica throughout the last century, English is also common in the archipelago. Many local business owners are proficient in English, French, or German and are used to dealing with foreign visitors. The indigenous languages of Naso, Ngöbe and Buglé are still spoken in the native communities of Bocas, as well as a unique creole mix of Ngöbe, Spanish, French and English called Wari Wari, spoken mainly by the residents of Old Bank, Isla Bastimentos.
Banking / ATM
Panama uses US currency called, interchangeably, dólar and balboa. In addition to paper money, Panama has a set of coins in denominations of one, five, 10, 25 and 50 centavos.
Banco Nacional de Panamá, the only bank in the archipelago, is located in Bocas town, on Calle 4. The bank closes during the week at 2:00 p.m. BNP will sometimes exchange traveler’s checks and has a 24-hour ATM. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to have cash on hand as most of Bocas’s businesses do not accept credit cards and BNP’s ATM is not always operational. They have another ATM located in a bright yellow cabin on Calle 1, next to the Policia Nacional building, which is also available 24 hours.
More banks and ATMs are available in Changuinola.
The only hospital in the archipelago is located in Bocas town on Avenue G, near Calle 10. It has a 24-hour emergency room, and the direct phone number to the hospital is 757-9201. There is also a small pharmacy tucked away in the Rosa Blanca general store on the waterfront on Calle 3. The hospital in Changuinola is better equipped, and recommended for more serious conditions.
For serious injury, you will want to be transported directly to Panama City or David, where state of the art medical services are available. Check with your insurance provider to ensure that medical expenses, including emergency airfare, are covered abroad. If not, consider buying supplemental health insurance.
Malaria and Vaccinations
While mosquitoes are relatively scarce on the islands, visitors to Bocas del Toro may wish to take anti-malarial medication. For most malaria pills to be effective, the traveler should begin taking them roughly a week before arriving in the region, and must continue to take them throughout and for several weeks after the trip. Chloroquine is the most highly recommended malaria pill because it is safe, effective, and inexpensive. Most anti-malarials require a prescription from a physician and travelers would do well to consult their doctor before taking any anti-malarial medication.
While in Bocas del Toro, avoiding mosquitoes is the surest way to prevent malaria. Use bug repellant containing a minimum of 30% DEET. Alternatively, several sensitive-skin friendly alternatives are available in Bocas, such as locally produced coconut and citronella oils – both great for avoiding sandflies.
A yellow fever vaccine is also recommended, as well as an up-to-date tetanus vaccine.
There are occasional reports of pick-pocketing and petty theft in locations most frequented by tourists. Often, thieves will target distracted beachgoers - it is not recommended to take any valuables, including cameras and MP3 players, or large amouts of cash to the beaches. Violent crime is very rare, and a conscientious traveler will feel not just safe, but welcome in all areas of Bocas del Toro.
Strong riptides at many of Bocas’s beaches – particularly Wizard, and occasionally Red Frog - should be of much greater concern for most visitors. If caught in a rip, shout for help immediately and do not attempt to swim against it. Instead, swim parallel to the shore until the current curls round and brings you back to the beach. Additionally, sandbars and coral can be a threat for surfers, especially novices.
Although it is not always checked at Tocumen International Airport or the border, visitors to Panama officially need to have an onward ticket before entering the country. A flight out of the country or a return bus ticket will be accepted
For visits of up to 90 days, citizens of the following countries need only show a valid passport to enter Panama: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Egypt, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Holland, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, Uruguay and Wales.
For visits of up to 90 days, citizens of the following countries need only show a passport and a tourist card ($5 at the airport or border): Antigua, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Granada, Guyana, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, San Marino, South Korea, Suriname, Sweden, Taiwan, Tobago, Trinidad, the USA and Venezuela.
Visitors are strongly encouraged to contact the Panamanian embassy in their country or the Immigration Office in Panama City for additional information, as travel policies regarding specific countries may change unexpectedly. (Immigration Office; Av Cuba &Calle 29 Este, La Exposición, Panama City; 8am-3pm Mon-Fri.