What I learned from my trip to Costa Rica and Panama

I had quite a vacation 2 weeks ago. I went to Panama City, Bocas Del Toro and Costa Rica. I learned quite a few things and had a lot of negative experiences that I’ve never encountered while traveling before.

I went to Panama without having a good working of knowledge of Spanish. This was a good and bad thing as that it meant that I had to learn fast to survive. All of the places I went were amazing. It was incredibly sunny and everyone was laid back.

Some of the issues I encountered:

  1. My sunscreen (Coppertone SPF70, bought new) was completely worthless (And deemed so by my dermatologist)
    1. This resulted in an extremely bad sunburn that I’m still getting over today. (The redness not the painful burning and other symptoms)
  2. My electronics failed.
    1. My phone’s screen broke mid-trip by falling onto gravel. Note: Cellphone repair shops in Costa Rica don’t hold Google phone glass and screens. It’s just not a popularly held phone.
    2. My camera had issues with the buttons inside of the electronics. That means that I could only shoot with manual mode. Also, Nikkon seems not to be interested in making cameras anymore. So buying a new point and shoot in Panama wasn’t an option.
    3. My credit card just completely broke. (The card, not account issues). Unfortunately this happened in a place where the mail doesn’t work.
  3. The sun burn that I got completely put me out of doing anything while in Costa Rica. This was rather unfortunate but it means you should give yourself time to heal.
  4. Companies who sell aloe products generally suck. They should be required by law to report how much aloe is in the product. Only the pharmacy provided me with a 100% aloe product that helped the bad sunburn that I had.

Some of the things I learned/realized:

  1. Buying a replacement phone with the internet while travelling helped a lot. It seemed like a “large” ($60) extra unneeded expense, but it helped a lot when trying to find things and navigating.
  2. Always carry backup forms of payment. I’ve travelled to europe with only a debit card and some spare cash. I was lucky that I had both forms for payment. Also, carry the local currency in different places in your luggage.
  3. If you’re going to be in extreme direct sun (at the equator) Sunscreen with zinc oxide is a must.
  4. I should have carried a much better first aid kit than what I had.
  5. I got an offer for a $99&$129 first class upgrade for my flight back. The $99 offer I got for the SJO-IAH flight was worth it. I wish I had taken the $129 offer for IAH to ORD as that it was a lie flat seat. Also, if your checkin is failing when you get this offer, do what I did: Call the airline and get it resolved. (Thank you United!)
  6. The general advice I got from fellow travels is to pack for one week’s worth of travel. (And wash while you’re there) That would have lightened the load I had by a lot.
  7. The people in Costa Rica and Panama were extremely laid back, but things still work. You don’t have to be aggressive with following up with everything.
  8. Google Translate is terrible to converse back and forth with. Complex sentences don’t translate very well. (I found this out when trying to buy a bus ticket from Panama City to Bocas more than 1 day in advance)

Will I go back to Bocas del Toro and Costa Rica? Absolutely! I will probably even go back to Panama City.