The time I lost my phone in Palomino, Colombia and got it back with Find my iPhone

This story starts in Costeña beach about a 40-minute bus ride from Palomino.

Long story, short. I ate some bad chicken quesadilla and reserved a hammock. Hammocks rarely work out for me but I really wanted to sleep outside near the beach and fall asleep to the waves. I never ended up sleeping that night, thanks to food poisoning. As much as I wanted to stay I figured I should get to the pharmacy. So I started my long miserable trek back to palomino. Costeno is about a 30-minute walk from the road so I made the voyage, waited 15 minutes for a bus and headed towards palomino. After arriving I promptly went to the drug store to pick up some antibiotics and found a nearby moto-taxi to take me down the road to my hostel so I could relax and after being up all night, horribly sick and all this immediately after hiking Tayrona National Park so I was pretty sore from top to bottom. After taking a seat and feeling a flush of relief I reached to grab my phone. Not in my left, not in my right, not in my fanny pack. A rush of anxiety shoots across me. I don’t put in my phone in any other place! I had just lost my 256gb unlocked iPhone 7 Plus In Colombia.

I immediately begin to retrace my steps and remember using it at the drug store for translation. “I must have left it at the drug store,” I thought. I rush out of my hostel racing towards the nearest moto Taxi I see.

He takes me to the drug store. The man I spoke to earlier is dealing with another customer and I am doing my best to be as patient as possible. I burst and ask the man if he has seen my phone, he said he has not seen it. It was this moment I was pretty certain it was gone forever. However, there was still one more place to look and that was on the dirt road I paid the moto-taxi to take me down to get to my hostel. I walked the dirt road eyes on the ground. Got all the way to my hostel without a trace.

I had to resort to Find my iPhone if I was going to have any luck. So I grabbed my iPad which was having problems connecting to WiFi, so I grab my laptop. Same issue no wifi…  Hostel networks aren’t the most consistent. I go two hostels down where my friends are staying at. I jump onto iCloud.com on my laptop and begin to track the location of my phone. I locked and sent a message to my phone in English and Spanish informing the possessor of my location at Tiki Hut hostel, including their phone number and the promise of a reward upon return. Thankfully my phone was still on and I was locating my device on the map which was vague however I could see movement, up and down the length of the dirt road. 5 minutes or so went by with no response or arrival: I grew tired of waiting and decided as a final last-ditch shot in the dark effort I would play the sound and waltz down the road in hopes of hearing it. So I did just that, played the sound walked outside the hostel, didn’t get but 20 ft before I heard a muffled “ping, ping, ping”. I hear it once “Ping Ping Ping” more as I close in on a group of moto taxi’s under a shady tree. They look at me guiltily and awkwardly as I’m now directly not front of them when I hear “PING PING PING”. I reach out my hand curling my fingers in the “hand it over” gesture. He reaches into his bag and pulls it out and promptly hands it over. His friend said something in Spanish I could only assume translated into “where is the reward?”. I handed over decent cash but didn’t pay out like I would have had I not needed to hunt down my phone. Make sure to download and turn on “Find my iPhone”. It may be the only tool you have to get it back.

For a list of other great apps to have when traveling check out my TOP 20 apps for backpackers

Top 20 apps for Backpackers

The Top 20 apps on every seasoned backpackers phone

Apps you don’t leave home without 

AppNeededForTraveling

Here is a list of my TOP 20 Apps that are paramount during your travels. This list encompasses affordable accommodations, options for offline entertainment, free financial transfer and visibility, offline maps and more. If you feel have left anything out please make use of the comments below.  

  1. Hostelworld – Every backpacker’s resource for finding and researching hostels. Find all you need to know about hostels here.
  2. Airbnb – Is to hotels what uber is to taxis. Community-based accommodations where you can rent a bed, room or entire apartment or house for an agreed duration. Often cheaper than hotels and sometimes cheaper than hostels.
  3. Couch surfing – Everyone has that friend who will let you crash on their couch. Couch surfing is an app you can use to find a couch to crash on all over the world. As well as amazing people along the way. Free accommodations!
  4. TripAdvisor – This app needs no introduction. Where to go to hear real experience and reviews as well as find exciting things to do.
  5. Maps.me – A new addition to the arsenal that I love. This is the perfect solution for those who travel without cellular reception and rely on WiFi, or just traveling through a dead zone… Maps.me allows you to download the map of your area and view your location while not connected (many people are under the impression you need cellular/WiFi to view your GPS location but this is untrue.) Not only can you view your location, you can easily bookmark locations, share those locations and get directions to and from with a couple of clicks. Like Hostelworld, you’ll find few backpackers without this helpful app on their phone.
  6. Skyscanner – A great resource for finding budget-friendly flights. Search by month view to see the cheapest flight possible given flexible dates. Set up email alerts for when the price drops considerably.
  7. CheapOair – I consistently find the cheapest flights on CheapOair (even when compared to Skyscanner) always cross-reference the two to find the best deal. I found a round-trip flight from Quito to Galápagos for 400 bucks and a one-way ticket from Medellin to Rio for the same price.
  8. Paypal – It’s always recommended to bring several sources of cash along with your journey. Paypal is a tried and true solution that many people feel comfortable using, even hostels. I say open up a Paypal account in the event you need to transfer cash or receive cash instantly for a very nominal charge. This service is free if you choose to send money to “friends and family”. I seriously recommend getting the debit card for it as well which can act as another source of cash in the event you lose your debit or credit card.
  9. Mint – If you don’t already know Mint is the business when it comes to the insight of your finances. Track and categorize transactions throughout multiple accounts. You can even view your credit score and pay your bills… all from one place. Makes taxes easier too. Set up your accounts before you leave so you are never surprised or suffer from the overdraft, late fees, and dings to your credit from missing your payment!
  10. Cash app – Similar to Paypal, completely free. Uses your bank account and is quick and easy to set up. You can set it up so that money is automatically redirected to your account after it enters your cash app account. You can make it instant for a fee. Otherwise, it takes 3 business days. You even get a digital card you can use to make online purchases. Made by square so you trust it’s validity!
  11. Speedtest – This one is a little geeky but stays with me. With Speedtest you can check the speed of the WiFi or cellular signal you are on. This is helpful when you want to find the best bed in the dorm, best dorm in a hostel, the best network between hostels or comparing cellular carrier data speeds.
  12. Audible – Great audiobooks for long bus rides, or drowning out partying hostel roommates.
  13. Kindle App – eBook and Pirated Lonely Planet Reader (Jk)
  14. Spotify – A great way to discover new international music by following playlists of your newly acquired friends.
  15. WhatsApp – The universal, international messaging app everyone unanimously agreed on, seemingly. No matter where they are from you can expect they have WhatsApp.
  16. Uber – Works well in larger cities (Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, don’t know about Cali but assume so. Usually around half as cheap as a taxi. Do not take uber from airport, my driver got busted by the policía, more on that here<- link>
  17. Find friends (Location Sharing App) – Great way to make sure you are never separated and can always find each other. You can allow the family to track your location as well, for peace of mind. You can revoke privileges whenever you want.
  18. Find my iPhone (Lost Phone Recovery App) – Allows you to track, lock, wipe, display a message or play sound on your iOS device. This literally saved my a** in palomino, read this amazing story here.
  19. Duolingo – To learn the fundamentals of the language of wherever you are headed to.
  20. Google Translate – The best translation app. Use voice or images to translate as well.

How to Pack/BackPack/Travel with Mavic Pro in Colombia.

I wanted to share my experience during my 2 months traveling with my Mavic Pro in Colombia.

Before I left I was struggling with how to pack my Mavic Pro. I was looking at my beautiful DSLR camera backpack that came with my used Mavic Pro, debating whether to take it or not. The bag was capable, the problem was… it looked like an expensive bag meant to carry a lot of expensive tech equipment… not the attention I wanted in South America. After months in the country, I can say with confidence that I have a very discreet and effective way to travel with your precious drone.

For long backpacking treks you always want flexibility.

Another thing that held me up is whether I wanted one bag for my Computer and Mavic Pro separate. I decided to keep em’ separated so I can have the flexibility of lighter loads for day treks (instances where I just want to shoot and be light for a long trek, without bringing all the gear or big backpack designed only for tech devices.)

My requirements for my bag of choice was clear, I needed the bag with the smallest footprint. Luckily for most you reading this, you already have it. The DJI fly more combo bag is as compact as you’ll find. I can fit all 4 of my batteries in the bag along with RC, replacement propellers, cleaning cloth, iPhone, Nd filters, 4+ microSD cards, microSD to SD Adaptor, and battery-to-USB Adaptor!

To fit 4 batteries in this bag. You can put one in each side pouch, the pouches are deep and the elastic fits over the batteries snuggly  (I know what you are thinking -Rain/Dirt-hang in there).

You have the third battery in the Mavic and then after you put the controller (with the guard, more on this in a moment) you have just enough room to lay one more down, flat, on top of the controller.

So we now have everything we need in the nice and tight fly more combo bag. However, that black leather bag is likely to get some looks. It looks like a DSLR camera bag and Camera’s are easy to resale.

The BEST TIP, I can give you when you travel to Colombia is to use one of the very popular handmade Colombian bags to act as a cover for your fly more combo.

 

While you are traveling around Colombia you will see a variety of bags with a similar round shape with an open drawstring top with long straps. You will most likely see many people walking around with them.

FUN FACT: The design of the handmade bags are unique to the city you are in. They are not mass produced so take a moment to acknowledge the differences. Despite their different designs, they are found everywhere in Colombia roughly the same 2-3 sets of dimensions, The ones I’m referring to is the most popular size.

These bags are the perfect size for the fly more combo bag to slip into. With enough room on the top of the charger and hub as well enough room to slip PolarPro ND filters Case between.

I have a foldable rainproof jacked that o rest on top of everything.I tighten the drawstring so that the flooded up jacket pouch is the only thing visible.

 

How to travel when concerned about rain

 

 

A nice touch to this set up is that I can completely be covered in rainy environments. If it begins to rain. I remove the foldable rainproof jacket on top, unfold, and put on. The jacket is long enough (and wide enough) that it covers the top of the bag, preventing water from getting inside. The bottom of the bag may peak out a bit but the bulge it creates irrigates water away from it on your jacket so it hasn’t been an issue despite some exposure.

How I travel on the plane:

Fly more combo bag is personal item,

My backpack (laptop, hard drives etc) is carry-on.

I have a fanny pack that I slip into my backpack during security.

Check the non-electronics.

How I travel on the bus

Similar to plane the Mavic Pro bag and my backpack containing my laptop, iPad, external drive, adaptors, cables, chargers… never leaves my sight. I have a large Fannypack that contains things I need handy (GoPro, passport, batteries, sunblock, etc) These three bags are always with me. I put the Mavic Pro bag and computer close to my feet always as I have nightmares of people throwing their bags on top of mine or a scenario where it shifts in an overhead cabin and comes crashing down when someone opens it. My large trekking bag goes underneath the bus.

Accessories I couldn’t trek without.

Multi-Hub

The most important thing to bring if you ask me is a multi-battery charge hub. I have a metallic blue one that charges batteries simultaneously. Unfortunately, the size of it was not meant for travel and I figured that I could compromise speed for size. So I opted to get a 4-battery hub that simply attaches to your single battery charger. This way you aren’t waiting around for a battery to finish charging to put the next one on.

 

Mavic RC joystick and screen protector

Worth its weight in gold if you ask me. This is a must if you plan on using fly more combo bag.

4th Battery

Buy an extra battery. 4 is the magic number, 3 is good, 4 is better. You can fit all 4 and charge all 4 believe me you will need all 4 when you start to travel.

ND filters

Bring your top three, I recommend PolarPro.

SD cards

Bring 3-4,16gb, preferably 32gb cards. Why not bigger? No need, until we get a battery that keeps our drone in the air for longer than 25 minutes we will have our hands on the drone to swap batteries often, not much more work to swap cards. This method also protects your data. As you will be distributing footage among many cards so if your drone gets lost you can at least have some footage to recover and it also incentivized you to perform attentive media management, meaning moving your data to external hard drives and “locking in the vault” so to speak. Number your SD cards so you know which ones have the footage you took and need off-loading. Remember, The data is only safe once it reaches your external and even then some would argue that is not enough. Also, bring MicroSD to SD card Adaptor. It’s feather light and may come in handy.

External Hard Drive (1 TB or higher especially for 4k footage)

You can’t rely on the cloud to back up your footage in South America. Few places have the upload bandwidth needed. Get yourself a nice terabyte hard drive (or larger). Better yet if you can swing the extra cash… If you asked me which you should get… I would suggest one with Wifi capability, and a slot so you can plug your MicroSD directly into the external drive and port over your files this way. Disclaimer: In my experience with an older model (older wifi WD Passport), it was inconsistent and slow but this would be the ideal drive to have. Especially if you do not intend on traveling with your computer.

 

 

El Valle

Check out my video filled with wildlife found in El Valle

Facts about El Valle, Anton Valley
El Valle de Anton is a town in central Panama. It’s in the crater of an extinct volcano, surrounded by mountains and cloud forest. To the north, Cerro Gaital National Park protects 3 hills: Cerro Gaital, Cerro Pajita, and Cerro Caracoral. Its trails have ocean views and the park is home to hundreds of species of native birds, including the red-legged honeycreeper, the bay-headed tanager, and the blue-crowned motmot.

You can get there from Panama City for about 12 bucks altogether.

Best Hostel
What makes El Valle so cool is the deep mountainous rainforest vibe. The sounds at night are amazing. I stayed at the Bodhi Hostel which I would recommend. It has a very nice Asian/buddha vibe with unique handmade from local material furniture. It is clean and the staff is very polite. Included with your stay: free breakfast, high-speed internet WiFi, lockers, bikes for rent, communal kitchen, bbq area, Shisha/Hookah lounge and bar with affordable beer.

The guy at the front desk pulled out a printed map with all the POIs emphasized. He spoke about each one giving brief details in a timely fashion. He made it clear if wanted to learn more I could always ask. You will find cool people from all over the world here as it is the most popular hostel in El Valle.

Prices are reasonable a $12usd for dorm and $28usd for private room

Prices vary by season

bodhi hostels

tripadvisor

If you prefer sloths over people then keep reading.

Want to Pet a Sloth? Zip Line the Jungle? Test your manhood on an awesome ATV tour? If not there is a very nice Butterfly Haven you can walk through…. Haha all jokes aside I did it all (Estoy hombre y mi gusto mariposa)

The ATV trip is the top of my list (unfortunately its also the most expensive)

G0043075.JPG

Taharaa ATV Tours
#1 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
Price: $160 per ATV (tell him Tyler from Trek with Tech sent you, can’t promise it will do much but we spent a lot of time together so its worth it)
If you want to throw someone on back add $25
Only 2 people per ATV, this is not your mama’s ATV ride by the way….with that said my Mama did it. However, she has spent a fair amount of time on the back of dirt bikes so she had a bit of experience. I don’t mean to scare anyone away I think anyone can do it, the machines are new, and four-wheel drive. The rain can make the final climb difficult though.

tripadvisor

Butterfly Haven
#2 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
I was somewhat dragged here but very glad I went. Butterflies are mother natures living flowers and you really see that here. The tour guide was extremely polite and knew English fairly well. He made sure to show us at least 25 different species of
tripadvisor

El Nispero Zoo and Botanical Garden
#6 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
Not the most extravagant zoo but a zoo in the rainforest nonetheless. A tourist pays roughly 12 bucks to enter. However, as usual, my memory is foggy.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g635545-d1978054-Reviews-El_Nispero_Zoo_and_Botanical_Garden-El_Valle_de_Anton_Cocle_Province.html

El Valle Panama Hot Springs
#9 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
Did not do personally, however, my sister did and she said she had a good experience so I felt it was worth mentioning as she rarely steers me wrong. The water may not be steam hot but warm.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g635545-d6224389-Reviews-El_Valle_Panama_Hot_Springs-El_Valle_de_Anton_Cocle_Province.html

Canopy Adventure
#20 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
Not quite sure why this is so low on the trip advisor list. Maybe that south park episode about zipping had a impact. It was enjoyable but as you can imagine the highs are brief and a little too topical. It was interesting never the less. Cost was

Casa Mariposa (Sloth Hotel)
#3 of 15 B&Bs / Inns in El Valle de Anton
Where do I begin? First of all, thank god this place exists. The property is stunning. The creek running through it is a haven for frogs that lull you to sleep
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g635545-d3140531-Reviews-Casa_Mariposa-El_Valle_de_Anton_Cocle_Province.html

El Valle, Panama

Check out my video filled with wildlife found in El Valle

Facts about El Valle, Anton Valley
El Valle de Anton is a town in central Panama. It’s in the crater of an extinct volcano, surrounded by mountains and cloud forest. To the north, Cerro Gaital National Park protects 3 hills: Cerro Gaital, Cerro Pajita, and Cerro Caracoral. Its trails have ocean views and the park is home to hundreds of species of native birds, including the red-legged honeycreeper, the bay-headed tanager, and the blue-crowned motmot.

You can get there from Panama City for about 12 bucks altogether.

Best Hostel
What makes El Valle so cool is the deep mountainous rainforest vibe. The sounds at night are amazing. I stayed at the Bodhi Hostel which I would recommend. It has a very nice Asian/buddha vibe with unique handmade from local material furniture. It is clean and the staff is very polite. Included with your stay: free breakfast, high-speed internet WiFi, lockers, bikes for rent, communal kitchen, bbq area, Shisha/Hookah lounge and bar with affordable beer.

The guy at the front desk pulled out a printed map with all the POIs emphasized. He spoke about each one giving brief details in a timely fashion. He made it clear if wanted to learn more I could always ask. You will find cool people from all over the world here as it is the most popular hostel in El Valle.

Prices are reasonable a $12usd for dorm and $28usd for private room

Prices vary by season

bodhi hostels

tripadvisor

If you prefer sloths over people then keep reading.

Want to Pet a Sloth? Zip Line the Jungle? Test your manhood on an awesome ATV tour? If not there is a very nice Butterfly Haven you can walk through…. Haha all jokes aside I did it all (Estoy hombre y mi gusto mariposa)

The ATV trip is the top of my list (unfortunately its also the most expensive)

G0043075.JPG

Taharaa ATV Tours
#1 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
Price: $160 per ATV (tell him Tyler from Trek with Tech sent you, can’t promise it will do much but we spent a lot of time together so its worth it)
If you want to throw someone on back add $25
Only 2 people per ATV, this is not your mama’s ATV ride by the way….with that said my Mama did it. However, she has spent a fair amount of time on the back of dirt bikes so she had a bit of experience. I don’t mean to scare anyone away I think anyone can do it, the machines are new, and four-wheel drive. The rain can make the final climb difficult though.

tripadvisor

Butterfly Haven
#2 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
I was somewhat dragged here but very glad I went. Butterflies are mother natures living flowers and you really see that here. The tour guide was extremely polite and knew English fairly well. He made sure to show us at least 25 different species of
tripadvisor

El Nispero Zoo and Botanical Garden
#6 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
Not the most extravagant zoo but a zoo in the rainforest nonetheless. A tourist pays roughly 12 bucks to enter. However, as usual, my memory is foggy.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g635545-d1978054-Reviews-El_Nispero_Zoo_and_Botanical_Garden-El_Valle_de_Anton_Cocle_Province.html

El Valle Panama Hot Springs
#9 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
Did not do personally, however, my sister did and she said she had a good experience so I felt it was worth mentioning as she rarely steers me wrong. The water may not be steam hot but warm.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g635545-d6224389-Reviews-El_Valle_Panama_Hot_Springs-El_Valle_de_Anton_Cocle_Province.html

Canopy Adventure
#20 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
Not quite sure why this is so low on the trip advisor list. Maybe that south park episode about zipping had a impact. It was enjoyable but as you can imagine the highs are brief and a little too topical. It was interesting never the less. Cost was

Casa Mariposa (Sloth Hotel)
#3 of 15 B&Bs / Inns in El Valle de Anton
Where do I begin? First of all, thank god this place exists. The property is stunning. The creek running through it is a haven for frogs that lull you to sleep
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g635545-d3140531-Reviews-Casa_Mariposa-El_Valle_de_Anton_Cocle_Province.html

Gringo Diaries: My First Day in Bogota

11/29/2017

 

Arriving in Bogota, Colombia at 6:50pm

Airbnb booked paying $15USD/night

Cost of flight: $106USD ( I forgot to add check-in bag which cost me $40USD ouch!, If I would have added during booking I would have only paid $27USD

Booked for two nights in Chapinero Provincia

Screen Shot 2017-12-03 at 10.53.59 AM.png

 

 

Arriving in Colombia was chaotic for the following reasons.

I arrive at airport in Bogota

I luckily booked an Airbnb right before my flight took off from Panama.

You do not get full access to address until after the host confirms.

I am now at customs, The fervent customs officer apparently had to see this address load on a google map to believe its real.

Thanks to my sub-par T-Mobile plan I had no access to data immediately my cellular plan, so I was forced to jump on the (temporarily-free) Airport WiFi in front of the customs officer. The WiFi sucked (or the address did) and the address never loaded in case you were wondering. However, he didn’t look like he was going to budge on the issue (stickler for the exact address) so I opened up Airbnb and was luckily my host had sent me a message with an address. Either it had what he was looking for or grew weary of trying, For whatever reason, he finally gave me the stamp. Thinking the toughest part was well on my way to quickly jump into a cab and get to my room

I walked up to the first exchange counter I see, greeted by a woman, I threw down around $140 bucks for exchange. She says she will give me 302,000 Colombian pesos for it. I was about to pay but my mental conversion wasn’t checking out. I should only be charged 30,200 for this conversion which would run me about $10 bucks to have them exchange $140USD… so I ask her about it again and she says “no” so I asked her what the 30,200 is for…. She said, “that’s what you get”I was blown away “I’m going to give you $140 bucks and you are going to give me $100 worth of pesos back to me?” … “yes” she replied. I couldn’t roll my eyes and ask for my money back any quicker. So I figured well if I can’t convert my cash I can use uber as that will charge my Paypal and I can wait to convert at a better rate.

My 30 minutes of free WiFi has already run out as I spent a fair amount of time with the customs agent and exchange thief by this time…. and I still had no data from T-Mobile.

“So I guess I’m back to square one, I need cash” so I look around and see a sign for another cash exchange. Hopefully a more affordable cash counter, however, I had been in line for 10-15 minutes and it wasn’t budgeting an inch. Doing the math, at this rate I won’t need a hotel room. It will be morning by the time I get it exchanged…. “Man, am I thirsty,” I thought. “I’m going to get some Gatorade and some gum”

Do you know how much I paid for that? Neither do I here are my receipts…

IMG_CF97C919901B-1.jpeg

Does the one on the right say I paid $15.80USD for this?

“Can I dispute? … no, You don’t have the skills Tyler move on”

…miraculously I now had data, as I immediately got a warm feeling of comfort. My transportation issues have been solved.

I called for my Uber and continued to finish the most expensive Gatorade I’ve ever had in record time.

“Uber drivers here” notification pops up on my phone. “Thank god get me out of this hellish money pit of an airport.” My driver is nowhere to be found. I realize he must be on the ground floor and run downstairs. My driver recognizes me and waves me over. He tells me to throw bags in the back seat and sit in front.

I’m going to stop right here and mention that I knew in Colombia uber drivers will ask you sit in the front seat. It was described to me that there was some unrest between taxi drivers and Uber drivers so uber drivers try to stay low-key. Which is cool with me. I was going to pay 24,000 pesos which is $8 roughly by my calculation.

So I jump in the uber car and we are off… for approximately 15 feet before a cop jumps in front of his car. The Uber driver says to me “Eres mi amigo”. Not a stranger to shenanigans, I quickly pick up what he is putting down which is. “Don’t tell them I’m your uber driver”.

Cop  #2 makes uber driver open his window and begins to interrogate him. The tone did not sound in his favor. They remove him from the car now surrounded by 4 cops, they begin searching his trunk. I look over to the cop watching me, she takes the eye contact as an invitation to interrogate me. She asked if he is my amigo. To which I replied “Si, somos amigos”. The problem with this stunt I’m trying to pull is the cops have just heard almost all the Spanish I know and are asking me things I simply can’t understand… my Uber driver knew little to no English. Thus, Sherlock Holmes will not need Watson to crack this case. Looking at my dwindling odds of success and realizing that I’ve barely set foot in this country and I’m ALREADY lying to the cops. The jig was up! I came clean. I’m not about to see what the inside of a Colombian jail looks like for the sake of an $8 dollar Uber ride. I spent twice that amount on Gatorade and gum a moment ago, so I’m just in the compromising mood.

The officer, appreciating my honesty, set me up with a taxi driver.  I tell him where I want to go and he says “Quince”, “$15 ?” I replied “es Doble Uber” he said no, I showed him conversion. Which I was right it was double. Getting tired of all the bullshit I looked at him and said “Dolce” (12) he agreed and I finally got my ass out of that airport.

I arrive at my Airbnb, just looking to crash. I’m greeted by my host right outside my taxi… things were looking up.

But I wasn’t able to get to my room and write this until after he spent 15 minutes showing me how to open the door. Which involves a series of unlocking multiple locks with their own special “push”

Or “pull” theme. … and don’t you dare f*ck up the arrangement or you have to start all over because you lose your place. He speaks little English and I Spanish so that makes the game of masquerade even more enthralling.

I tried to relay to him that I’m pretty tired and no longer want to go out. (Partially because I don’t know how to diffuse your door like the guy from hurt locker)

So here I am in Bogota thinking WTF. Haha

I’m sharing this story for the sake of entertainment and do not want this to be a negative reflection. I hope readers will not be deterred from Bogota just because of my initial experience. Since this, I have had an amazing time here and would definitely recommend.

 

How to get to San Blas

San Blas, Panama

If you haven’t already make sure to check out this video I made during my time on San Blas

The trip to San Blas is advertised everywhere for a premium. These All-inclusive packages may sound amazing but I’ve always been a skeptic. I was determined to find the cheapest way to get to San Blas. So I did what we all do. I googled “San Blas on a budget” the first non-advertised hit was an article by Seven Continent Sasha who is a world explorer from down under. In her article, Sasha mentions the Franklin family that she was unable to stay with. Taking her advice I was lucky enough to reserve the Franklin family (thanks to her awesome article). I also decided to stay at hostel mamallena (also mentioned her article) which the tour company knew instantly allowing everything run smoothly. Great hostel by the way.

Tourism in San Blas is still fragile and on small scale, this makes the islands a beautiful place for you to explore. It has one of the best-preserved coral reefs in the world where you are allowed to snorkel. One of the main spots for tourist to try out snorkeling is Dog Island also known as Isla Perro. This island is famous because there is a shipwreck in front of the island reachable by snorkeling and swimming. On the Dog Island, you will also find a very nice beach.

Much of the information below was taken directly from the email received after booking with Lam Tours (contact info at bottom of page)

Panama City hostel to San Blas

Pick Up in the Morning: The pick-up time is between 5-5:40 AM

Land transportation from Panama – Port Barsukun – Panama.

Takes roughly 3-3.5 hours

Boat transportation from Port Barsukun – Cabanas Franklin (Tubasenika Island) – Port Barsukun.

Takes roughly 30-40 minutes

What to do when you get to San Blas

Aside from snorkeling around the island and eating coconuts off the ground, you can get to know thy neighbors. Visit many other islands for $5-$10 bucks. So you don’t have to worry about getting marooned on an island you don’t like (unlikely but nice to have options). You can stay with more than one family so you if you find one you like during your tours, speak to the family you are with to arrange the transition. The community profits directly from tourism so they do not mind sharing tourists with a fellow native.

TOURS: You can make any tour to get to know other islands or the indigenous community, ask for Pali and will help with the cost of the tours that are paid directly on the island. Tours start from $15 per person.

G0166370.JPG

Drink costs I can recall

Balboa beer can 1.50

Coca-Cola can 1.50

Closo Wine – 10/box? (surely not 10 bucks a glass right?)

Total Costs

How much does it cost in total? Below are figures that the Tour Company does not include in your total. Make sure to bring cash with you as It does not seem like they take VISA.

NOT typically INCLUDED:

–  Entrance Fee to San Blas $20.00

–  Port Taxes $2.00

–  Any Types of beverages: Water, sodas, beers, etc. (Your driver will stop at the Grocery Store on the way).

IMG_1734.jpg

Total Breakdown of one person

a 4×4 trip to and from Guna Yala Port: $60

Boat ride to and from San Blas islands: $30

Entrance Fee/Port Tax: $22

Total including Entrance Fee/Port Tax/RoundTrip Transportation= $112

…Then it’s just a matter of how long you want to stay.

$26 dollars a night for shared cabin (includes 3 meals a day)

+$18 more per night for Private which will most certainly put you directly on the beach with ocean view. 

I recommend you stay for at least 5 days. The hardest part is getting there so soak it up while you can.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0004.JPG

My money saving TIP: Keep in mind I booked a shared cabin and received an empty cabin so depending on the time of year couples may not have to pay more for privacy. You can always change your reservation on the island (given its available) so you may be able to get by booking shared and upgrading based on the population of the shared room.

Are you a picky eater? Great, I am too. Youll is happy to hear its mostly edible. The scariest thing was a fried fish (where it looks like it jumped out of the ocean and into a deep frier). They have options for lobster as well for those of you who want to splurge.

What did I eat?

Breakfast: fried egg on Untoasted bread served with tea and coffee

Lunch: fried fish with rice and vegetables served with tea and coffee

Dinner: fish and papa fritas (french fries) served with tea and coffee

Try the cinnamon tea it’s amazing.

How will you know when it’s time to eat?

A man blows a Conch! The island is small enough you will definitely hear it!

Additional info about the Gala/Yala Kuna community

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 12.19.16 PM.png

As you can see, San Blas will remain informal until the Panamanian laws are effective in the region of San Blas, and no one can force them to change their laws because they are independent, the government of Panama may require that they must respect as his first law, the Constitution of Panamá.

Mandatory Documents Requirements: DON’T FORGET YOUR ORIGINAL passport, Migration and Border Police will review all passports before arriving in San Blas and out of San Blas. Must travel with your original passport or cedula Panamanian as will go through a review of migration and border police, will review the entry stamp to our country, and no one can be illegal crossing borders to go to Colombia or arriving from Colombia (ORIGINAL passport – DO NOT ACCEPT COPIES – THERE IS NO EXCEPTION).

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0003.JPG

Drone footage: Despite the Drone footage you may see on my page. Please be advised Drone footage is strictly prohibited on the Franklin Island. I found out the hard way. The drone footage you see was taken during the brief moments I did not know about this policy. I took down my drone immediately upon learning of violation and implore those who go in the future not to mimic my behavior.

Pictures of indigenous people: There was a moment when a man was paddling his canoe down the river, I grabbed my phone to take the shot and was informed by the boat driver not to. It’s easy to forget about sensitivity and privacy (especially when you grew up in North America) however it’s always a good idea to ask permission before taking shots of people on and around this community.

Starfish: Never bring starfish above water, you can kill it this way.

Contact info to arrange San Blas Trip from Panama City

I recommend using WhatsApp as Judy is very on top of it, she responded quite promptly to my messages starting at 8:30pm. Her English is exceptional and she made Booking this trip a breeze.

Judy E Lam

www.lamtourspanama.com

USA: 1 (704) 469 – 9146

Panama: 507 395 – 7105

WhatsApp: 507 6706 – 2810 | 507 6088 – 9000

E-Mail: info@lamtourspanama.com

You found this helpful please remember to subscribe to my youtube and social media channels so you can learn more about great places like San Blas.

How to get to San Blas, Panama

San Blas, Panama

If you haven’t already make sure to check out this video I made during my time on San Blas

The trip to San Blas is advertised everywhere for a premium. These All-inclusive packages may sound amazing but I’ve always been a skeptic. I was determined to find the cheapest way to get to San Blas. So I did what we all do. I googled “San Blas on a budget” the first non-advertised hit was an article by Seven Continent Sasha who is a world explorer from down under. In her article, Sasha mentions the Franklin family that she was unable to stay with. Taking her advice I was lucky enough to reserve the Franklin family (thanks to her awesome article). I also decided to stay at hostel mamallena (also mentioned her article) which the tour company knew instantly allowing everything run smoothly. Great hostel by the way.

Tourism in San Blas is still fragile and on small scale, this makes the islands a beautiful place for you to explore. It has one of the best-preserved coral reefs in the world where you are allowed to snorkel. One of the main spots for tourist to try out snorkeling is Dog Island also known as Isla Perro. This island is famous because there is a shipwreck in front of the island reachable by snorkeling and swimming. On the Dog Island, you will also find a very nice beach.

Much of the information below was taken directly from the email received after booking with Lam Tours (contact info at bottom of page)

Panama City hostel to San Blas

Pick Up in the Morning: The pick-up time is between 5-5:40 AM

Land transportation from Panama – Port Barsukun – Panama.

Takes roughly 3-3.5 hours

Boat transportation from Port Barsukun – Cabanas Franklin (Tubasenika Island) – Port Barsukun.

Takes roughly 30-40 minutes

What to do when you get to San Blas

Aside from snorkeling around the island and eating coconuts off the ground, you can get to know thy neighbors. Visit many other islands for $5-$10 bucks. So you don’t have to worry about getting marooned on an island you don’t like (unlikely but nice to have options). You can stay with more than one family so you if you find one you like during your tours, speak to the family you are with to arrange the transition. The community profits directly from tourism so they do not mind sharing tourists with a fellow native.

TOURS: You can make any tour to get to know other islands or the indigenous community, ask for Pali and will help with the cost of the tours that are paid directly on the island. Tours start from $15 per person.

G0166370.JPG

Drink costs I can recall

Balboa beer can 1.50

Coca-Cola can 1.50

Closo Wine – 10/box? (surely not 10 bucks a glass right?)

Total Costs

How much does it cost in total? Below are figures that the Tour Company does not include in your total. Make sure to bring cash with you as It does not seem like they take VISA.

NOT typically INCLUDED:

–  Entrance Fee to San Blas $20.00

–  Port Taxes $2.00

–  Any Types of beverages: Water, sodas, beers, etc. (Your driver will stop at the Grocery Store on the way).

IMG_1734.jpg

Total Breakdown of one person

a 4×4 trip to and from Guna Yala Port: $60

Boat ride to and from San Blas islands: $30

Entrance Fee/Port Tax: $22

Total including Entrance Fee/Port Tax/RoundTrip Transportation= $112

…Then it’s just a matter of how long you want to stay.

$26 dollars a night for shared cabin (includes 3 meals a day)

+$18 more per night for Private which will most certainly put you directly on the beach with ocean view. 

I recommend you stay for at least 5 days. The hardest part is getting there so soak it up while you can.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0004.JPG

My money saving TIP: Keep in mind I booked a shared cabin and received an empty cabin so depending on the time of year couples may not have to pay more for privacy. You can always change your reservation on the island (given its available) so you may be able to get by booking shared and upgrading based on the population of the shared room.

Are you a picky eater? Great, I am too. Youll is happy to hear its mostly edible. The scariest thing was a fried fish (where it looks like it jumped out of the ocean and into a deep frier). They have options for lobster as well for those of you who want to splurge.

What did I eat?

Breakfast: fried egg on Untoasted bread served with tea and coffee

Lunch: fried fish with rice and vegetables served with tea and coffee

Dinner: fish and papa fritas (french fries) served with tea and coffee

Try the cinnamon tea it’s amazing.

How will you know when it’s time to eat?

A man blows a Conch! The island is small enough you will definitely hear it!

Additional info about the Gala/Yala Kuna community

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 12.19.16 PM.png

As you can see, San Blas will remain informal until the Panamanian laws are effective in the region of San Blas, and no one can force them to change their laws because they are independent, the government of Panama may require that they must respect as his first law, the Constitution of Panamá.

Mandatory Documents Requirements: DON’T FORGET YOUR ORIGINAL passport, Migration and Border Police will review all passports before arriving in San Blas and out of San Blas. Must travel with your original passport or cedula Panamanian as will go through a review of migration and border police, will review the entry stamp to our country, and no one can be illegal crossing borders to go to Colombia or arriving from Colombia (ORIGINAL passport – DO NOT ACCEPT COPIES – THERE IS NO EXCEPTION).

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0003.JPG

Drone footage: Despite the Drone footage you may see on my page. Please be advised Drone footage is strictly prohibited on the Franklin Island. I found out the hard way. The drone footage you see was taken during the brief moments I did not know about this policy. I took down my drone immediately upon learning of violation and implore those who go in the future not to mimic my behavior.

Pictures of indigenous people: There was a moment when a man was paddling his canoe down the river, I grabbed my phone to take the shot and was informed by the boat driver not to. It’s easy to forget about sensitivity and privacy (especially when you grew up in North America) however it’s always a good idea to ask permission before taking shots of people on and around this community.

Starfish: Never bring starfish above water, you can kill it this way.

Contact info to arrange San Blas Trip from Panama City

I recommend using WhatsApp as Judy is very on top of it, she responded quite promptly to my messages starting at 8:30pm. Her English is exceptional and she made Booking this trip a breeze.

Judy E Lam

www.lamtourspanama.com

USA: 1 (704) 469 – 9146

Panama: 507 395 – 7105

WhatsApp: 507 6706 – 2810 | 507 6088 – 9000

E-Mail: info@lamtourspanama.com

You found this helpful please remember to subscribe to my youtube and social media channels so you can learn more about great places like San Blas.

TrekWithTech PreFlight Tip #1 Do you need Proof Of Onward Travel for ONE WAY TICKETS?!

This video answers the question of “Do you need Proof Of Onward Travel for ONE WAY TICKETS?!” with a clever new age solution thanks to an innovative company who won’t break the bank.

 

PreFlight Tip #1 Do you need Proof Of Onward Travel for ONE WAY TICKETS?!

This video answers the question of “Do you need Proof Of Onward Travel for ONE WAY TICKETS?!” with a clever new age solution thanks to an innovative company who won’t break the bank.