Hola y buenos dias a Panama!
We officially set off on our trip last Friday, after six weeks on the East Coast visiting friends and family, and getting everything set to go. Our first day got off to an early start — since we were unable to check in online we left 3.5 hours early for the airport. Trying to be budget conscious, we planned our route around public transportation: a 15 minute walk to the subway, subway to bus, bus to airport. Sounds simple, right? Add in a snowstorm and rush hour in NYC and it’s a good thing we left so early. Trekking through the snow with two packs each was the first challenge. Add to that a (very) long wait at the bus stop, followed by an unhelpful bus driver that resulted in getting off at the wrong terminal, and we finally made it with just under 2 hours to spare.
Once we got to the ticket counter we learned from the helpful Spirit agent that you actually can’t check in to one-way flight to Panama. We had assumed that either our tickets to the Galapagos in February or the flight home from Montevideo would satisfy the requirement for “proof of onward travel” that most countries require. Wrong. So, we handed over our credit card and the agent booked us on the cheapest flight back to the US. Tip: all US airlines are required by law to allow you to cancel a flight up to 24 hours after purchase with a full refund and no penalties. We would use our return flight tickets to get through customs, then cancel it so we can book the flight we really want, to Ecuador.
The flight down to Panama was pretty uneventful. Despite the many warnings on Spirit’s site about needing to pay for good seats the check-in agent had sat us together, and we even ended up close to the front of the plane on our first leg! With all the warnings I had read about Spirit’s customer service we actually had a great experience. She didn’t even charge us the $10/pp that the website quotes for checking in at the counter (though I wonder if this might have been because we had tried and were unable to complete our checkin online?).
Getting through immigrations / customs in Panama was easy enough — wait in line, get photo taken, scan all finger prints, etc. They didn’t even ask for our return ticket or question where we would be going next. Both of our packs had arrived safely, though Kyle found the lock on his pack safe was missing and presumably cut off. A quick search of the bag found nothing was missing, which was good, and I had brought an extra lock with me. Exhausted from the long day we gathered our stuff and caught a (slightly over-priced) taxi out to our hotel. Coming soon, our first Panama post on the first few days in Panama City.
Current location: Isla Bastimientos, Bocas del Toro, Panama