Galapagos Islands on Budget – 10 days for $1500 with 4 Dives/ 2 Tours and Flight included

 

Things to know immediately before leaving to Galapagos (Ecuador operates on the US Dollar)

  1. Before you leave airport you will pay $20 for immigration form required to enter
  2. When you arrive at the islands you will need to pay $100 CASH Galapagos Islands entrance fee
  3. You will need small bills or coins handy for buses and ferries immediately after your flight
  4. Each island can tack on an additional $10-20
  5. Traveling from one island to the next will take 2 hours, costs $30, 4 islands can be visited.
  6. You can only arrive by plane.

These estimates are from traveling to Galapagos alone. Please note that Galapagos accommodations are only private rooms. So you can travel with a someone and split accommodations to make things even cheaper for each of you.

Expenses

Round trip plane from Quito, Ecuador – $400

01/26 Quito/Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos – Day 1 Arrival

As mentioned above You’ll need to pay $100 (cash only) to enter – $100

(550ml) bottle of limón tea at the airport waiting for the bus – $2

Upon arrival, you will want to take the public bus to the canal. After you cross the canal on a ferry you have reached the hub for all taxis and buses and this is the cheapest way to get to your hostel on Santa Cruz in the Puerto Ayora region (which is the region every tourist goes to)

Bus to canal cost: free

Ferry to cross canal – $1

Bus to Puerto Ayora – $2

Internet speeds on my T-Mobile plan are 3g, not bad for an island in the middle of Central America (* I also experience 4g speeds around the food tables on Puerto Ayora.)

When you start your trip to the north of the Santa Cruz Island it resembles that of a dry arid desert. However, as you start to go south you’ll notice the air cooling and look out the window to find a lush jungle while you go through the highlands. Enjoy it, as it comes and goes as you head to the south tip of the island.

After I got situated in my hostel (The flightless Cormorant Hostel – $25/night) and got lunch I decided there was enough day left to go Tortuga beach, a mere 35-minute walk from my hostel. I did manage to see one juvenile giant turtle on the way however the beach is mostly inhabited by marine iguanas.

Ribs, French fries salad, water lunch – $12

Doritos, Gatorade, and Coke Cola – $6

12 eggs – $3

bag of lollipops – $3

queso pan – $0.65

gum for $1

accommodation -$25

Total: $155.65 

01/27 Santa Cruz – Day 2

Breakfast from hostel – $5

Went to Tortuga bay to go snorkeling (poor visibility)

Went to Darwin center

 

Accommodation – $25

Liter of Powerade – $1.75

Awful Hamburger with French fries – $5

large smoothie – $3 (splurge)

Purchased large coke for – $2.50

Bottle of water for – $1

Natural limeade – $3

Pizza – $10

Total: $55.25

01/28 Santa Cruz – Day 3

Walked around town

Hotel breakfast – $5

Accommodation – $20

Large bottle of water – $1.75

Lunch leftover pizza from yesterday – $0

6 Eggs(purchased yesterday) for dinner – $0

Total: $26.75

01/29 Santa Cruz/ Isabella – Day 4

Hotel breakfast – $5

Accommodation – $20

2 bottles of water and Powerade juice box – $2.50

Boat ride to Isabella – $30

Entrance fee – $20

Lunch (Rice with Chicken) – $8

Smoothie – $3

Fresh Juice – $3

Dinner (soup, teriyaki chicken, jello, juice)  – $8

Coke – $3

Total: 102.50

01/30 Isabela – Day 5

Breakfast – $6

Tintoeros Tour – $45 (more about this below)

Lunch – $6

Dinner -$8

Accommodation – $20

Total: $85

 

01/31 Isabela – Day 6

Rented bike and went to Galapagos National Park and Wall of Tears

Bike rental – $20 (full day)

Breakfast – $8

Accommodation – $20

Water bottle – $1

Apple juice – $1

Big water – $2

Ice cream cone – $2

Lunch – $8

Dinner soup salad chicken with rice and jello dessert with juice – $8

Total: $70

02/01 Isabela – Day 7

Tunnels tour – $110 (more about this below)

Breakfast – $8

Accommodation – $20

Water – $2, Coke -$2

Lunch (free on tour)

Water – $2, Coke -$2

Dinner (soup, teriyaki beef with beans salad rice and fries) with dessert – $8

Agua bottle at dinner – $7

Total: $157

02/02 Isabela / Santa Cruz – Day 8

Agua bottle $2.50, Coke $2

Dinner (chicken breast), water and coke – $13

Bag of lollipops – $3

Accommodation – $20

Total: $40.50

02/03 Isabela – Day 9 

Diving Galapagos

Beagle and Daphne Dive – $175

Sweet tomato juice – $1

Lunch free with dive – $0

Water and coke – $2

Dinner – $4.50

Accommodation – $20

Total: $202.50

02/04 Isabela/Santa Cruz – Day 10 

Cafe – $3

Accommodation – $20

Seymour and Gordon Rocks Dive – $175

Lunch included with Dive

Water, coke- $2

Dinner – $5

Total: $205

Accumulated Total: $1,100.15 

including flight expenses$400

Grand Total $1,500.15 keep in mind this is including 2 days of diving with the most highly rated Scuba company (scuba iguana) at some of the best places in Central America. As well as 2 of the best tours on Isabela Island.

02/05 Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos/Quito – Day 11

Taxi to bus terminal – $1.50

Bus to ferry terminal – $2

Ferry to Isla Baltra airport island – $2

Bus from Ferry to airport: – $0

Total: $5.50

Splurge Notes

Now if you want to make the experience truly worthwhile there are tours that I hope you will agree are financially justifiable given the rare opportunity.

Isabela Island

Los Tunnelos (Tunnels) tour

Highly rated on Tripadvisor, you will see blue-footed boobies, snorkel with white tip sharks and sea turtles.

Los Tintoreros (Sharks) tour

Snorkeling with turtles and sleeping sharks in caves. We saw a Seahorse, penguins, boobies and much more.

However, there are many amazing things to do that are 100% free.

Here is a list of free activities

Santa Cruz Island

  • Walk to Tortuga bay (you can surf here)
  • Swim near Tortuga Bay
  • Check out active fish market (sea lions and pelicans begging for food is very entertaining to watch)
  • Learn about evolution at the Darwin center (get your passport stamped!)
  • Learn how they power the island at the Renewable energy center
  • Watch the Eagle rays and Sharks at night at the pier.
  • Los Gratis (technically not free as you will have to pay taxi .80 cents each way)

Activities for $20

Kayaking around Tortuga bay

Bike riding to the crater

Isabela Island

  • Swim with Sea lions in Pearl Concha (penguins have been spotted here)

  • Wall of Tears (built by prisoners who once lived on island)

  • Enjoy the beautiful beach

  • Hang out with Giant Turtles

Activities for $20

Renting a bike to visit the Wall of tears.

Kayaking/ Paddle Boarding

Snorkeling

About Food

Santa Cruz Tables 

El Velero Galapagos located at the end of the food tables area (closer to pier) $5 dollar meal below

Isabela lunch specials

Many places can be found where the advertise soup, salad, rice, beans, chicken and dessert with Juice for $8

Photo Album

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Top 5 tours in Medellin

a quick and dirty guide to awesome tours offered in Medellin, Colombia.

 

  1. Pablo Paintball tour
  2. Guatapé tour
  3. Comuna 13 tour
  4. Pablo Escobar tour
  5. Cable cars and other tours to consider (2000 meter decent tour, botanical garden)

*You may notice that I start with number 1 instead of 5… that’s because I value your time, hate that reverse order crap. As if information is a grocery store, they put the stuff you want in the back… anyway

1. Pablo paintball tour

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On this tour, you paintball on the property owned by the infamous Pablo Escobar that was destroyed by Los Pepe’s years ago. The property now stands as a scorched and hole-ridden tourist attraction owned by a former employee of Pablo. Upon arrival, you will eat lunch. Afterwards, half will paintball the other half will explore the property (switching later on) and learn not only about Escobar and the property but how it was like to grow up in Medellin during the peak of cartel violence. Mentioning things such as how people would drive with their interior cabin lights on at night to prevent being confused with someone who was to be assassinated. Paintball takes place at the stables where you will find a very nice “call of the duty” apocalyptic environment.

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Included 

Less than desirable breakfast

Bus ride to Guatapé

Good Lunch

Tour of the property and history of Pablo as well as how it affected those living in Medellin during the time.

Boat trip down Guatapé

Paintball (4 rounds altogether if you run out of paintballs, you can purchase more)

Visit Peñol rock (REALLY COOL)

Coffee in the town of Peñol

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Town of Peñol gathered around street performers

2. Guatape tour (and Peñol Rock)

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Guatapé is an unforgettable experience. The thing that stood out the most to me was how vivid and saturated the colors seemed to be. The green plant life in contrast with the bright orange dirt that touched the glassy blue water was stimulating to the eye. Jet skiers can be found exploring the seemingly endless coves. It’s no surprise Pablo bought himself along with every member of his family property here within view from his own. I went here 3 times. Similar to (#1) Pablo Escobar paintball tour you will receive lunch, a boat trip through Guatapé, coffee in Peñol, visit Peñol rock. The boat trip and time spent at Peñol Rock is longer. Perfect for those who don’t care to paintball and want to spend more time exploring Guatapé. If you want to kick up the excitement a notch you ride a motorcycle from Medellin to Guatape. Look at the bottom of this page.

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Peñol Rock is located in Peñol which is in the larger area of Guatape.

3. Comuna 13 tour 

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Comuna 13 was once a very dangerous place but now it is safe and you can even go there without a guide if you prefer (brief history here).

Brief History

The 1980s-’90s: The neighborhood was controlled by groups loyal to Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug lord who lived in Medellín. Illegal activities remained rampant after his death in 1993, as drug cartels sought control of the area.

2002: One of the most pivotal events was on Oct. 16, 2002, when the Colombian military carried out the controversial Operation Orión, a strike to overthrow all rebel groups in Comuna 13. Over 1,000 policemen, soldiers, and aircrew in helicopters attacked the area (comprising of roughly 100,000 inhabitants). Nine people were killed (three children), and hundreds were wounded. The siege made it impossible to seek medical attention for the wounded, and the community took to the streets in solidarity flying white rags. With that action, the fighting stopped.

Post-2002: Residents voiced their discontent and anger with the violence that occurred in 2002 through art and community events. Striking street art around the neighborhood depicts scenes with the white rags raised for peace and solidarity.

Today: Residents are no longer afraid to leave their homes and their quality of life has changed positively. As we walked through the narrow roadways, kids were playing soccer in the streets, vendors were selling fruit and empanadas, and we laughed with friendly shopkeepers who let us sample their signature green mango ice cream topped with lime and salt. We felt comfortable visiting the area. However, a full transformation of this neighborhood will be slow and gradual, spanning decades. The situation is still tenuous and there’s still work to be done.

source of history can be found here

Now it serves as an artistic tapestry that stretches across a portion of the province. The graffiti art on the walls was done by people from the community, some of which you can follow on Instagram such as @chupa_13. The wall is constantly changing.

Outside escalators were installed recently to allow you to enjoy the area with ease.

Below is a video shot with my drone with some local and a friend from travelundertheradar.com

4. Pablo Escobar tour

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Of course, you knew I would mention the Netflix original narcos. Did you know that the guy who plays Pablo is actually Brazilian? Thus he speaks Portuguese and not Spanish? He doesn’t roll his r’s and this explains why he is a man of few words in the show. Colombians hate this, haha. Anyway, I really enjoyed hearing and seeing the real story. During the tour, you will visit the prison Escobar built for himself (pictured above) Afterwards you will go to a soccer field Pablo bought for the people of Medellin during his “Robin Hood era”. You will visit a fortified clubhouse Pablo had built right across the street from a club that rejected his membership (coincidence?…no). Attempted bombing was made on his fortified clubhouse, thanks to the reinforcement you could never tell. You will even see where Pablo, Gustavo, Límon, and The Black Widow (featured in cocaine cowboys) are buried. I will say that the highlight of this tour was the prison but, personally, I really enjoyed what I learned during the paintball tour more from the guy who was a kid in Medellin during the time mentioned much more factual history about Pablo.

Sidebar: Just want to mention here that the Colombian people never praised Pablo during my time there. To me, it seems they look at him as a scar on their reputation as well as murderer causing much grief and terror. All Pablo Escobar represents now is a marketing effort for tourist.

I felt like the Pablo paintball tour guides did a better job of encompassing Pablo’s life and how it affected the life’s of those in Medellin.

5. Cable cars tour

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photo credit pinterest

I did not take this tour personally, however, I heard good things from many who went. Aerial cars that ascend above and over the city for an amazing view of the vast city for a couple of bucks. You can pay additional to take the cable cars up to a park in the forest. I heard that the park isn’t much but the view over the canopy of tree for roughly 20 minutes makes it all worth it.

Worth mentioning…

Rent a motorcycle and do a day trip to Guatapé!!

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The big highlight of my trip to Colombia was taking a motorcycle to Peñol Rock. There is a guy named Jon who rents the coolest bikes in Medellin. You can find him debating which cryptocurrency to get onboard next at Rango hostel boutique. For around $40-50 dollars a day (depending on bike) you can have your pick between a 150, 250 or 400cc. They are enduro so they come with nice knobby tires. The trip from Medellin to Peñol Rock (as well as the city will take roughly 2 hours. I suggest you rent a smartphone cradle from Jon before you go so you will not need to stop along the way. Hostels can be found in Peñol at very affordable, however, they are often booked so make a reservation when you can.

 

2,000-meter Descent tour

Another tour for you thrills seekers is called the 2,000-meter decent tour. Where they take you all the way up a mountain and provide a nice “Trek” brand mountain bike you can use to descend.

Learn more about the tours listed above at Top10MedellinTours

They are very prompt and professional with inquiries.

Top 20 apps for Backpackers

The Top 20 apps on every seasoned backpackers phone

Apps you don’t leave home without 

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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.

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

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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.

 

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.

 

Gamboa Rainforest Resort (Jurassic Park minus dinosaurs)

Gamboa is located off the Gatun Lake where you can see thousands of tons of freight being moved, above sea level, through the recently (2015) expanded Panama canal.

Took the Bus from Albrook Mall Station

Vending Snacks while waiting

$1 can coke

$.40 crackers

$.60 Doritos

Bus from Albrook to Gamboa

$1.50 for bus ticket

…Additional 1 dollars paid to bus drivers for seemingly no reason other than white boy tax haha I gladly handed it over, still a great deal.

I stayed at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. A prestigious Hotel located in the heart of the jungle. There is nothing quite like it anywhere around it, which makes the view from your “River-View” room absolutely immersive.

This is not your typical “BackPacker Spot” as prices are inflated however not completely unreasonable especially if you keep reading and learn how to enjoy the Rainforest Resort on a budget.

First thing’s first. The Gamboa Rainforest Resort is located in a rather remote part of Gamboa. You will not be able to easily find restaurants, convenience stores and the like. Sure, you can take a bus or taxi to a place somewhat nearby, however, I recommend bringing a majority of your food and especially your drinks with you.

There are 2 ways to get food while at the resort either you can choose the all-inclusive breakfast lunch and dinner buffet (including drinks) for 80 bucks. The other option is to form the Monkey Bar which is open late but seemingly shuts down completely after 2am. I will take this moment to compliment the chef on a fine Angus burger by America standards, keep in mind it comes at a premium of $14 so savor your bites.

There is a 3rd option for the last minute backpacker, you will find the most affordable drinks and snacks in the gift shop, visible from the monkey bar.

Cokes, water, and Gatorade will be a dollar cheaper here than at the bar.

Couple prices I can remember off the top of my head

Total paid for three-night stay with promotion: $328

Monkey bar prices

Pizza $9 (pretty awful)

Angus burger $14

Lesser burger $9

Coke $3

Bottled Water $3

Gift shop

Coke $2

Gatorade $2

Water $2

Crackers $.50

Doritos (small bag) $1.00

Granola bars $.75

Tours

Safari night tour $0

They offer a boat trip down canal where you will see monkeys and caimans, tour of rainforest animal sanctuary featuring a sloth, and tours of dart frogs, butterflies, and native flowers…You can get the entire trip for $90. However, they do have options to break up the packages for the selective.

If it’s nature you are looking for, you will not need a tour to find it. There is plenty of interesting wildlife readily available such as Agouti (jungle rat haha) and Capybara. When you are walking through a rainforest you will find life everywhere you look. We saw 3 different types of monkeys, toucans, Carmen, dart frogs, tamarins, amazing amphibians, insane insects and cool reptiles (thought I was going to use something starting with an “r” right?).

 

 

 

Overall I really enjoyed my time at this resort and will include a link to more amazing drone footage I was able to capture while here.

Gamboa Rainforest Resort Website

Trip Advisor Reviews

Where to go in Thailand

Typically you will want to hit the big 4.

Chang Mai – North Thailand, featuring beautiful, lush manicured rice patties field on topographic landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Bangkok – Needs no introduction, I dive deeper below

SouthEast Coast – Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Koh Sumai

SouthWest Coast – Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi

Mainland

Bangkok

Hard to choose right? Well, it comes down to what you are looking for. If you want to live a “Hangover 2” fantasy and sip vodka at the Ice Bar. Buy extremely affordable knock off beats headphones at Khao Son road and have your mind blown regarding the extended abilities of the female body at something called a “Ping Pong show” then Bangkok is the place for you.

All kidding aside Bangkok is a stark contrast from most of SouthEast Asia with its SkyScraper Buildings and sophistication compared to the rest of country. It really is the New York of SouthEast Asia. Littered with Tuk-Tuk in lieu of Taxis. Flashbacks of drivers always shouting “TUK TUK” rings in my ears. Like New York, Bangkok doesn’t seem to sleep and is what many would consider a “BeeHive” of activity and entertainment.

What you’ll find:

Tourists, Night Life, Cheap food, Great Hostels, Amazing Bars, Luxury, Excitement, Oddities, Pingpong Show, Ice Bar, Cosawn Road, Old crumbling Temples in the middle of the city.

Chang Mai

Chiang

I can’t speak at great length about Chang Mai since I have not personally been there, the matter has always left a hole in my heart. People typically make an effort to travel Chang Mai to embrace the serenity and seclusion. If you are looking for a getaway… the other side of the coin from a place like Bangkok, then this is your refuge.

The Islands – MY FAVORITE

SouthEast Coast of Thailand (Thailand Gulf)

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Koh Phangan – The party island

Howl at the Full Moon Party. This island is the mecca of all sorts of insanity and mischieve. Made popular in a movie called “The Beach” featuring Leonardo DiCaprio in the early 90’s. Where a group of teens finds a map to a hidden island in Koh Phangan.

What makes Koh Phangan so fun is the people it attracts. I describe it as the “The Cancun of that side of the planet”. Between the recent “Uni” graduates and traditional vacation time of certain countries, you will find plenty of English speaking people to talk to.

Koh Tao

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Said to be the “The Most affordable place to become a certified diver in ideal Paradise”.

Trip Advisor: Bans Koh Tao

I paid roughly $680 I believe (in 2015) That included a free stay for 4 nights and my open water training and Certification. Below is a video of my Dive and the experience you can expect diving in Koh Tao.

 

Koh Phi Phi

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Koh Phi Phi Island Tour

I spent almost 2 weeks in Koh Phi Phi. I look back on it as the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. The place is my idea of paradise. A roll-a-dex of pleasant memories come flashing to my head. This island is SO SMALL that you won’t find a motorbike on it. The accommodations are surprising, there is a variety of food from all cultures. As a picky eater, I never had a hard time finding a great meal here, pasta, American breakfast (or English), and tacos were easy enough to find.

In Conclusion

If it were up to me, I say don’t dare leave Thailand without checking out the beautiful islands. Bangkok is great for 3-7 days. Chang Mai is good for a little longer. The islands will make you consider never leaving. Every year that goes by Thailand will become more industrialized and inflate in price. Right now I would have to say it’s still a hidden Gem.

I intend on adding an in-depth blog post regarding places I stayed, restaurants I enjoyed and the things I enjoyed the most about each of the islands in future posts. Please let me know what you would like to know more below.