FAQs About Family Home Stays in Panama | Host Family FAQs


FAQs About Living with a Local Host Family

To get an even better idea about what to expect from your family home stay, check out what Mary Beth has to say (she lived with 6 different host families in Panama).

1. Should I bring my host family a gift?

You don't have to, and it won't be expected of you at all, but it is a very nice gesture. Usually we recommend bringing something typical from your country or region, as our host families rarely (if ever) get the chance to travel abroad. After all an immersion program is also about cultural exchange, and bringing a small gift will certainly be very appreciated by your host family as they are opening their house to you.

2. Does my host family speak English? Can I do a home stay with no Spanish?

For an even more detailed response, check out this blog post... Your host family will most probably not speak English, or only a tiny little bit. But that's a good thing, since you're here to practice your Spanish, correct? Don't know any Spanish? GREAT! That's what true immersion is about: forcing your brain to use the language. It can be challenging at the beginning but you'll learn faster this way! Even if you don't know any Spanish at all, you'll find a way to make yourself understood. In the beginning, with gestures and a few words, and after a few days with small sentences. That's how it works. Embrace the learning process, don't be afraid of it!

3. Will my host family have wifi?

Probably not. Some host families in Panama City and in Boquete do, but most don't (as only very few do, we don't assign host families based on this). But we do have internet at our Spanish schools which you can use during opening hours 7 days a week. But please remember: you're on vacation so make the most of your time, enjoy our country and try to keep your online time to a minimum!

4. Can host families accommodate special diets?

YES they can, if they are simple enough like a vegetarian or no pork diet for instance, or if you have certain food allergies (like allergy to nuts, or to seafood). If it gets more complicated and you need to eat Gluten Free for instance, the family will not be able to accommodate this. But you could maybe cook your own meals and still do the home stay.

5. How do students get to their host family's house upon arrival?

Knowing each students' Panama arrival details is very important for us. Our host family's do not like to improvise and therefore they like to know beforehand about what time to expect the new member of their family.

This is why it is so important that you let us know about your travel plans. If you haven't done so, we'll be asking you by email but please feel free to let us know: . In this way we will be able to coordinate everything between you, your host family and our Spanish school.

For home stays in Panama City, we'll pick you up at the airport (either PAC or PTY) and take you to your host family's house.

If you're doing a home stay in Bocas del Toro, we will either pick you up at the airport, and then take you to your host family's house, or if you arrive by boat you'll have to make your way to our Spanish School in Bocas del Toro and from there we will take you to your host family's house. You just have to let us know your arrival details. For more information about how to get to Bocas del Toro, Panama please click here...

For a home stay in Boquete, the following assumes that you already know how to get to David, Panama.

If you arrive to David during office hours (every day of the week: Mondays to Sundays from 8:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.) then we will automatically pick you up, either at the airport or bus station, drive you up to Boquete (40 minutes), pay a short visit to the school, and then take you to your host family's house.

In other words, we need to know your exact arrival details to David.

If you arrive out of office hours, we can also set up a pickup in David for an additional $10 on top of your home stay setup fee. Otherwise you'll have to arrive to your host family's house on your own (we will give you your host family's address!).

If on your first day in Boquete, you arrive too late (after 8 p.m.), you might have to spend that night in a hotel or hostel of your choice (again, we can help!). With certain host families it could not be considered polite to start an Immersion Program so late a night.

Whatever students decide to do, they'll have to let us know about their travel plans, so that we can let their host family know about their arrival details.

6. Do host families get compensated?

Transparency is important, and we understand that students would like to know how much of their homestay fees are paid to the family they are staying with.

At Habla Ya, we charge 2 separate fees for a homestay: a weekly fee and also a setup fee of $75. As you already know, the setup fee covers the time and effort that is put into processing your interview, selecting a family that fits your specific needs, including phone calls and visits to the host family to check if everything is in order, as well as the continuous follow up once you're here. It covers our costs of quality control, meaning regular visits to each house to make sure the housing conditions have not deteriorated. It also includes a pickup in David, Panama City or in Bocas del Toro upon arrival.

The weekly fee that you pay mostly covers the family's food expenses, electricity, gas, as well as the lodging itself.

Approximately 50% - 65% (depending on package and location) of your weekly fee will be paid directly to the families, to cover their expenses for hosting you (food, electricity, water, gas, etc.).

The rest of the weekly fee is to cover our expenses and/or make payments to agencies (sometimes up to 25%). Habla Ya is not a non-profit organization, and we do have to cover expenses. These include rent, but more importantly the salaries of our staff, meaning our teachers, the front desk staff that is helping you throughout your stay, and the Language Travel Consultants who have helped you setup your trip by phone/email before arrival.

We are a small private business striving to grow, so that we can welcome even more students in the future, provide income to even more local families, and thereby help fuel the economy of our beautiful country.

Please keep in mind that our host families are not poor, but middle class by local standards. This means that they were comfortable and independent economically speaking, before joining our program. The percentage they receive for students covers their expenses for hosting you, and also leaves a profit for them to enjoy.

Many times we also have to finance families who need to make improvements to their homes before joining the program. It takes time to recruit quality host families and unfortunately we do not have an unlimited amout of them. Host families are assigned on a first come first serve bases, independent of the length of students' stays, so being able to live with a host family that understands the purpose of the program is certainly a real bargain considering you'll not only be receiving a roof over your head and a room, but also warm meals and quality time to improve your Spanish.

7. Can I do a home stay without studying Spanish?

Sorry but no. We only have a limited amount of host families and we always run out so our Spanish students have priority.

After ours students sign up for our Immersion Program by filling out our Pre-Program Interview, we send them their host family's details (including phone number). This will enable them to contact their host family during the weekend in case plans change and there is not enough time to communicate these changes to the school (but we would really appreciate if you please make the effort to call us and write us an email, especially if you have an airport or bus station pickup scheduled!!!).

FIND MORE ABOUT HOME STAYS WITH LOCAL HOST FAMILIES... Top of page