Dear Travelers to Boquete: Don’t Visit Until You Understand These 6 Things

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"Dear Travelers to Boquete: Don’t Visit Until You Understand These 6 Things".

Search our blog about all things Panama! From must dos, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, in our blog you'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 15 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


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Dear Travelers to Boquete: Don’t Visit Until You Understand These 6 Things

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A charming rural mountain town, where the simpler things in life are more important than the car you drive, Boquete has always been an oasis for both Panamanians and tourists looking to escape the heat of Central America's lowlands.

And as any educated and experienced traveler will tell you, getting to know and understanding the local culture can make or break your vacation anywhere in the world, and Panama is no exception. From avoiding things that could offend someone from Boquete, to knowing what to expect from your tour guide, here are 6 things you should definitely know before visiting!

6. Our Town May Seem Small, But It's Actually Very Big So Take the Proper Precautions When You Go Out

Boquete is surrounded by hundreds of hectares of protected natural virgin cloud forest. No wonder it's a hikers' paradise. But if you're planning on venturing out to discover some of Boquete's hidden gems, it's highly recommended to go with a local experienced guide. Needless to say Panama is a developing country, which means that even the trails in our National Parks aren't always properly maintained and marked. And even if they are, the jungle just grows so fast, and a trail that was perfectly marked and cleared can be a totally different story in a week's time.

Learning isn't simply confined to books and classrooms. Live your Spanish immersion experience in the mountains of #Boquete 󾌸

Posted by Habla Ya Spanish Schools on Monday, July 25, 2016

Even if you're planning on driving around in your rented own car, be aware that some roads will suddenly turn into treacherous gravel/dirt roads before you know it and two-lane roads become one lane in some areas high in the mountains. Cell phone service disappears when you get into the mountains and during the rainy season, rain storms can develop suddenly and create fast-flowing dangerous rivers in areas where you might not expect it. One of the reasons why some roads "randomly" turn into one lane paths is because they were destroyed by overflowing rivers in the past.

This is not a scare tactic to get tourists to buy more tours: despite our community's efforts to alert visitors, every other year we have the odd hikers who get lost and fortunately, most of the time, they're found several days later cold and dehydrated, but you might not be as lucky. There are several hikes you can do on your own, but instead of risking your life during a fun vacation, it's much better to go with an experienced local who will keep you from making beginners mistakes.

For even more tips about how to avoid the dangers that come from the untamed cloud forests of Boquete click here...

5. Boquete May Be a Popular Tourist Destination in Panama, but Most of Us Don't Speak English

You'll probably find English-speaking tour guides at the big tour companies and maybe your hotel receptionist will speak basic English, but otherwise get ready to pull out your translate app for help communicating in Spanish (or take a quick 1 or 2 day Spanish for Travelers Course).

Spanish has taken @ellrayner on a discovery of the hidden waterfalls in Boquete. Enter our Instagram photo contest to show the world where Spanish has taken you today!

Posted by Habla Ya Spanish Schools on Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Having to struggle with Spanish might be a bit frustrating at times, but relax and enjoy trying to speak another language! Everything is better if you can take the Panamanian attitude of "tranquilo" (being tranquil) and enjoying life.

4. We're Happy You're Here, Even If We Don't Look Like It

The service industry has grown exponentially in the past couple of decades, but unfortunately Panama is still lagging behind in terms of customer service. You'll sometimes be lucky to get an "hola" at a restaurant and don't worry, the tip is sometimes illegally added to your check so even if you wanted to skimp because of the bad service, you might just have an easier time paying that 10% (though we'd encourage you to denounce any illegal business practice that you're aware of - please pass on the info to your hotel for example).

Posted by Habla Ya Spanish Schools on Monday, September 19, 2016

But what you have to understand is that it's more about the Panamanian culture - it has nothing to do with you personally. We're just not the biggest fans of work and if we had it our way, we'd just like to enjoy life (just like you who are traveling around the world). Panamanians are really warm and welcoming individuals, but in a work environment that behavior is still being cultivated. Take it as an interesting cultural lesson that the word "rude" can be defined in many different ways (click here for Top 10 Things to Know About the Panamanian Culture).

An icebreaker, a joke or even a genuine smile before asking for something will work miracles: just do something that sort of "extracts" us from feeling we're at work and you'll certainly get to know a much better side of us.

3. It's a Melting Pot of Races

All are welcome in Boquete and chances are you will find someone who looks like you while you are here. Respecting each individual's way of life, dress, speech, etc. is a deep-seated belief and value of Panamanians. You will not be judged while you are with us and you will do good to follow suit. As the saying goes, "when in Rome, do as the Romans."

2. The Weather is Unpredictable

"Our backs tell stories no books have the spine to carry"- Rupi Kaur

#boquete

Posted by Habla Ya Spanish Schools on Friday, March 11, 2016

One second it's sunny and beautiful with a light breeze. The next thing you know it's a 50 mph wind and raining buckets. The days will be a sweltering 90º (32º C) and the nights drop to a chilly 50º F (10º C). Don't be alarmed - this is all completely normal. The best way to "weather" the unpredictability is to simply relax, take a deep breath of clean fresh air, put a smile on your face and say, "Wow, this is such a fulfilling experience." I promise the sun will come out tomorrow.

1. You Might be Staying at an Expensive Hotel, but your Neighbors Next Door will Have the Barking Dogs, Squawking Chickens, and Rusting Roof

Don't be alarmed or offended, but in Boquete we really don't agree with income classes and stratified societies. Here, pretty much everyone lives amongst each other and goes about their lives not concerned about whether the grass is greener on the other side. Yes we have exclusive neighborhoods that some expats have created for themselves (weird). Yes we have company-provided housing for the indian workers on the agricultural farms (sad in many instances). But generally the rest of us all live together minding our own business and doing the best we can for our families.

Girl Hikers enjoying a panoramic view of Boquete, Panama

Oh, and I wasn't kidding about the barking dogs and roosters at 5am. It's a way of life in Panama… so, welcome!

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Search our blog if you're visiting Panama! From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, you'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while in our country! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


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