We are more than happy to help you personally via our toll-free phone or email; however you may want to first check below for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions and great travel tips for your vacation in Panama.
We have broken this up into 4 sections; just click on the link that you are most interested in, or scroll down to view them all.
Q: Why should we book our activities with you rather than our travel agent?
A: We are the tours and activities specialists. We have traveled all over Panama meeting with tour operators and choosing the best activities that we think our clients would be interested in. We also work directly with local private guides to customize any tour to fit your needs. We leave the hotel and airfare (aka: the not so fun part of your vacation planning) to the travel agents, and we stick to our expertise; tours, activities, sightseeing, adventure tours, yacht charters and anything fun to do on holiday!
Q: Is it safe to book with you rather than the tour operator directly?
A: Not only is it perfectly safe to do so, we provide a higher level of customer service and support throughout the entire country. When booking through each operator individually, you would have to contact several different offices to make each reservation, to resolve any inquiries or concerns, or make changes necessary. When you book with The Real Deal, you can reach the same office no matter where you are or where you want to visit throughout your entire vacation via our toll-free phone number, local phone number or email. As a bonus, our representatives speak English, Spanish, French and a variety of other languages thanks to our international staff.
Q: Is it safe to book on the internet? I am a bit nervous about providing my credit card information online.
A: Your reservation is much safer online using our encrypted server than purchasing in person or sending copies of your information via email or fax which is required in Panama. With our secure payment program, no human eyes will ever see your information, it is 100% protected from any outside source.
Q: How do I contact you once I arrive?
A: Since everyone carries a smart phone these days and Wi-Fi can be found in nearly every café or boutique throughout the country; send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as we can. If it is urgent, you can reach us via our local number in Panama (507) 836 6036, or our direct VOIP line from your US cell 210-858-6353. We are open from 8am to 8pm daily.
Q: I don’t understand how the cash discounts work, what is the final price I will be paying?
A: Let’s break it down using an example of a tour with the regular public price of $100. If you book in advance with us by leaving a deposit, you can bring that price down to $90.00. We collect only the required deposit to hold your space via credit card, so using this example if we required a $25 deposit, if paying cash you would pay $65 on the day of the tour. If you need to pay credit card, then the balance would be $75. That is a $10 savings if paying cash! Not to worry, there are cash machines on every corner and in Panama they use US currency.
Customer: Why can't I pay for it all now in advance?
A: There are a few reasons why we opted not to accept full payments, one is that with all the competition out there, many operators are reluctant to let companies offer discounts that cut out of their own sales, or affect contracts made with previous sales brokers to not let others offer lower sales online. By offering 'Cash' discounts, we are able to work around this and offer discounts on many tours that other companies cannot. The other reason is the Banking in some Latin countries are not as easily accepting of e-commerce and do not have the same protections you do in the North American or European banks. Many operators do not have bank accounts that accept online payments without copies of passport and signatures making the booking process itself a huge pain. By us collecting the deposit, both your reservation and your money is secure. When you arrive you will have to pay the balance in person; which is the safest and easiest transaction accepted by all banks.
Q: I don’t feel comfortable carrying that much cash around with me, are you sure it is safe?
A: This is understandable of course, but we would not ask you to carry cash if we did not think it was a safe option. There are cash machines within walking distance of most hotels and on every corner of the larger tourist areas, so you can grab cash right before your tour. Panama uses Balboas, but primarily for coins, the rest of the currency is in US dollars. If travelling from another country, most hotels offer decent exchange rates if you cannot get to a bank. If you wish to pull the cash out the day prior, we suggest leaving it in your hotel safe. If you go out for the night, do not carry a lot of cash with you especially if out drinking alcohol, this tends to invite problems. The last option would be to ask the driver of your tour if they could please stop off at a cash machine along the way so you can pull out the sufficient funds. In most cases this is not a problem with the operators, but it is better to be prepared ahead of time.
Q: How will I know my balance that I need to pay when I get there?
A: We understand you are on vacation so the last thing you want to do is to think about math or anything complex for that matter. We try to make it easy on both you and the operators by putting the balance due in both cash and credit card right on the voucher that you will receive within 24 hours of placing your reservation. This voucher will have your name, date of the tour, number of participants, meeting on time and instructions, and the balance due in both amounts depending your form of payment (Please note in some cases only cash is accepted on the day of the tour, so you may be asked to call ahead to pay the balance with your credit card). This voucher is for you to print up and take with you to present on the day of the tour. This is basically your boarding pass and you need to have it with you. If you have a smart phone with internet, they do accept a screenshot as well to save on trees. It is a very simple process we have been using for years, however if you have any questions, the voucher also has contact information for you to call both before you leave, and a local Panama number for when you are already traveling, for any last minute questions or issues. We are here to help you throughout your trip so you can relax and enjoy your holiday.
Q: I have a large group of people; do you offer extra discounts for groups?
A: Yes, in many cases we can customize a tour for your group and maximize on the amount of money you can save. We have a department devoted to group reservations and private customized tours. If you have a large group (15+) and you would like a quote, just send an email with your request to our Group Manager email@example.com and we will customize a tour for you.
Q: I have a group and I saw something online that I do not see on your website, can you still help me with a quote?
A: Absolutely! If you see something online that we do not offer, we can still check into offering you a private quote at a discounted price. Just send us the information and we will do our best to find a solution for you. In fact, if you are not even part of a group and there is something that you are interested in, let us know and we can look into adding it to our site for everyone in the future.
Q: I work for a student organization and we are going to be traveling to Latin America this year. Can you help set us up with all of our activities?
A: We are happy to you set up not only your activities, but we can assist you with lodging and transportation as well. We know that student travel is very popular in Central America and we have a wealth of resources that we can look into here. As we are an activity based company, we do not offer everything online, but we have access to a lot of resources geared for group travel.
Q: Do you offer additional discounts if we book more than one tour?
A: The prices online are as low as we can go publicly. We offer discounts on ALL tours for everyone whether you book one tour or 15 tours, so we cannot offer additional discounts all the time to everyone. We can however suggest that you get on our mailing list or follow our social marketing pages which offer additional discounts and promotions to our fans and previous customers. We are offering new promotions all the time so you will want to check back occasionally to see if there is an offer that fits your itinerary.
Q: How will I know you have received my money and my reservation is confirmed?
A: Immediately after making the payment with your credit card, you will receive a receipt for your payment showing the amount received and which tour you booked. Within 24 hours you should receive a second email from us confirming your reservation and a voucher you will need to print up and take with you on the day of your tour. The voucher should have all of the necessary information regarding your tour time, date, and meeting instructions. If you have questions about either of these emails upon receipt, please contact us immediately as it is much easier to fix any errors immediately rather than scramble on the day of the tour and risk missing out.
Q: I paid for the deposit and received my voucher, so how do I get the Cash Discount price?
A: On your voucher, there will be 2 prices listed of the remaining balance to be paid directly to the operator on the day of the tour. One price is the balance if paying in cash which is the discounted price. The second price is higher because if you choose to pay with a credit card upon arrival the discounts no longer apply in most cases. Not to worry, there are and abundance of cash machines in Panama so finding access to cash should not be difficult.
Q: What if I want to change or cancel my reservation?
A: We are happy to assist you with making any changes to your reservation so long as we receive ample time to do so. In general, you can cancel or make changes to your tour time or date up to 36 hours prior to the meeting time of your tour. There are some exceptions that apply that are noted per activity such as overnight tours and private boat charters. Please refer to our Terms & Conditions for complete details.
Q: What if I am arriving on a Cruise Ship and it arrives late or not at all?
A: We honor the same ‘No Port No Pay’ policy that your cruise ship offers. If your itinerary changes at the last minute without prior notification to you, we will refund you in full. This is very similar to the same guarantees that your cruise ship’s offer you while sailing. Prior to the ship’s sailing, we still require the 36 hour notification. For more details, check out our Cruise Ship FAQ’s.
Q: How safe is Panama?
A: For anyone traveling outside their home country, this seems to be the most commonly asked question. Panama is as safe as any city in your own country. However; just like just about any country in the world, petty theft is an issue to be aware of while traveling. There are always precautions you can take to lessen your personal risk. Take caution when out in public to ensure your belongings are secure on your person. Only bring with you what you absolutely need. Keep your electronics such as cell phones, iPads, cameras, etc. out of sight except when being used rather than hanging around your neck or sitting out on a table. If renting a car, never leave anything out in the open. If you are carrying large amounts of cash, store it in multiple places on your person. After dark, it is always best to be with a group. If you are traveling alone, we recommend taking a taxi. Excessive drinking can lead to recklessness and invite danger. In a nutshell, use common sense and you can prevent putting yourself at risk.
Q: What type of Currency is accepted in Panama and where can I exchange money?
A: Although technically the Balboa is the national currency of Panama, the US dollar has been adopted as the actual currency used for any banknotes while the coins are Balboas. What does this mean for you? If traveling from the US; zero hassle! Of course if traveling from other countries such as the European Union, you will want to do your homework about the rates and exchange money before you arrive. However, since credit cards are widely accepted in most tourist destinations, we do not recommend bringing a lot of cash with you. Every tourist destination in Panama has at least one or 2 cash machines that dispense up to $500 per day, and in larger cities you can find a bank or cash machine on nearly every corner. Don’t forget to report to your credit card company that you are traveling to another country or they may block your card for security, leaving you stranded without cash!!
Q: Do I need to carry my passport on me to the tours in Panama?
A: It is required to have a copy of your passport with you at all times when traveling in any foreign country. Panama has several highway checkpoints where on occasion they will ask for everyone’s information, even if on a tour bus. It is best for both you and the tour operator to have this with you to avoid any fines (or worse, deportation!). We suggest you make a copy of your passport as well as your entry stamp and carry that with you and store your actual passport in the safe of your hotel. For tours that are departing Panama and passing into Costa Rica or Columbia, you will want to take your actual passport with you of course.
Q: What Happens in an Emergency, Will Panama Accept My Health Insurance?
A: Forget about your own health insurance, Panama offers 30 days of free health insurance to those visiting their country. Panama allows you to explore their country and live out your adventures worry-free!
Q: What is the Weather like in Panama? How Should I Pack?
A: Mother Nature controls the weather of course, but she really seems to have a sense of humor boggling everyone’s vacation plans with a random mix of rain, sun, clouds, humidity, cold winds (no snow here) subject to change without notice at any time of the day. Welcome to the Tropics!
In general, we recommend you should really prepare for all climates by bringing layers and a good rain jacket or poncho. Most excursions bring you out into the jungle or other exposed elements, so sun and bug protection is important as well as a change of clothes. We suggest packing good sturdy shoes or secure sports sandals, both long pants and shorts, and cool lose fitting clothing along with layers to protect from the rain. Don’t forget some of the essentials such as bug spray, sunblock, sun hat, rain poncho and some handy items such as hand wipes or sanitizer gels, a small flashlight or lamp and a sarong is handy as a towel or a spot to rest.
Something else to consider is which regions in Panama you are planning to visit. In Panama City the weather always fluctuates, but for the most part the temperature remains between 20-32 degrees Celcius (70-90 degrees Farenheit). Boquete on the other hand gets really chilly in the evenings as it is located in the highlands. Both Bocas del Toro and San Blas maintain balmy warm climates and as they are both archipelagos, shorts are pretty much your main clothing staple rain or shine.
Although all the regions in Panama receive their share of rain, it seems to come and go disturbing very little in the way of the tours. All tours here run rain or shine, and you can usually take a change of clothes with you on most any tour, so it never seems to upset travellers much.¿
However, if you rise early with the birds and the sun (which is shining bright by 5:30am), you have several of hours of sunshine to enjoy any region before the rains hit in the afternoon. Even then they come in quick showers, not downpours that last all day. You can always consult online weather services, however keep in mind that if it shows rainy and cloudy, that is normal, just don’t expect it to last all day. Pay more attention to the temperatures listed instead for a better gauge on what to expect.
Q: How safe is it to travel on your own across Panama? What is the recommended mode of transportation?
A: It is very safe traveling throughout Panama. Most highways connecting major tourist destinations are well maintained and travel times vary between 4-8 hours depending traffic and distance of course.
There many options for traveling throughout the country depending your preference:
Renting a car: Probably our least recommended route to take. Car rental in Panama is basically the same as it is in most countries; they offer you a low rate, and then kill you with required insurance that triples the final cost and you get credit card shock at the end of your vacation. Second, if you are staying anywhere near Panama City, you will not want to drive during the traffic rush….which is probably some of the worst in Central America. So, unless you are staying in regions well out of the city such as David or Playa Bonita, forget the car and take a taxi.
Shuttles & Private Van Services: For those who are not comfortable driving their own vehicles, or would just rather relax and enjoy the scenery, we recommend using a private or shared shuttle service. Aside from a public bus, the shared shuttle service is the most economical way to move around the country. We are happy to arrange shuttle service for you using one of our trusted transportation providers around the country, just Contact Us
Public Buses: For those independent travelers that are not afraid of public transportation, the Public Buses reach nearly all land destinations and are relatively comfortable and easy to navigate. You will need to buy a Metro Pass in order to board however which makes it a little more difficult. Destinations are written clearly on the reader on the front of the bus, but if you have questions, simply ask the driver. Generally the driver or someone near you will understand enough English to assist you. You can view the routes and find out more information at http://www.mibus.com.pa/rutas/
Taxi: Taxis in Panama are cheap, and a great way to get around within the city. Please note, the taxi services are not private, the service will be shared with anyone going in the same direction as you. If you do not want to share with anyone, then they charge a much higher price since they cannot collect additional fare from other passengers. They put up to 4 passengers if one is a child, but typically it is one person in front and 2 in back. Not so bad to get across town for 3 bucks! For more info; check out our blog.
Air: If you are short on time, but still want to be able to reach out to some of the distant destinations, Air Panama offers some great deals on flights daily to all the major tourist destinations and even some of the more remote locations such as the San Blas Islands. You can also jump to San Jose on one of their daily flights. The only catch is that you cannot book more than 60 days in advance. So if you have big plans for New Years or Christmas Holidays that require a flight out, be ready to make your reservation the exactly 60 days prior to your trip or spaces may be full. Hopefully they will fix their booking system in the future, but until then you have been warned.
All in all, Panama is a great destination full of lots of adventurous things to do and amazing places to see. At the Real Deal Tours, we just want to ensure that we help you get the best experience on your holiday. If we did not answer your questions here, please use our contact page to send us detailed inquiries and we will do our best to find answers to all your concerns.
We are here to assist you!!! Our team visits these countries often to be sure that we bring you the most current and updated information on accommodations, activities, restaurants and more.
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