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  • Writer's pictureCari Mackey

Is it easy to travel to Panama?

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

Panama was next on the list. It was just 10 years ago, and it was not a popular tourist destination. Heck, there wasn't even any whitewater kayaking for us to do and we were terrible surfers. Actually, we weren't surfers at all. We tried to get some decent beta on the country like where to go, what to do, and could we enjoy ice in our cocktails? But, not many of our friends had been there and there wasn't much information online at the time. It was time to check it out. SteriPen (water purifier) in hand, some vaccinations, inflatable SUP boards packed, great friends, and a "No Expectations" attitude, it was time to investigate a new country to build our amazing little Eco Resort. We had our travel books but in reality, we didn't really try that hard to plan ahead. Arriving in Panama City from the frigid Winter of Colorado, we were blasted at the airport with the thick hot and humid air. We hastily threw off our down jackets and stuffed them so far in the bottom of our luggage so as not even to touch them. Between the four of us we had enough Spanish words to filter through the sea of taxi drivers to secure a ride to our hotel and order an icy cold beer. Success. Thank you little Spanish phrasebook. Wait, they put an ice cube in my beer. Now what? Am I going to get sick? Can I use my SteriPen in my beer? That's not a good idea; it kills everything, it might kill the buzz! It turns out, in Panama, you can drink the water everywhere except the islands. At first we used our purifiers to be safe but found out pretty quickly there was no need for that. The water is safe to drink and it's good in most places, especially Morrillo Beach Eco Resort. As usual, we went to the currency exchange counter at the airport for cash to pay the taxi to get to the hotel. To our delightful surprise, we found out Panama uses the US dollar so there was no need to exchange currency. Never has this ever been the case for us before but we were so happy to learn this as it would make our travels significantly easier. Initially, I thought this was really strange. Why would Panama use the US Dollar? Following their independence from Columbia in 1904, they switched from the Columbian Peso to the Balboa in honor of the Spanish Explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa. This currency was all in coins at the time and essentially evolved alongside the US coins in size, metal content, and value. For a hot minute in the 1940's Panama printed their own paper currency that was very similar looking to the US Dollar. That lasted all of 7 days when there was a presidential coup, the paper money was burned and the US paper dollar continued as their paper currency. So, since 1904 Panama currency has been directly tied to and backed by the US Dollar. That was also conveniently when the United States took control of the construction of the canal making it much easier to pay workers in the established canal zones. I didn't realize how many countries around the world use the US Dollar as their official currency. It's the most common world currency and also the world's reserve currency. The main benefit being its economic stability and why many countries have abandoned theirs for the US dollar. Putting economy 101 on the back-burner it's really just another great reason its so easy to travel to Panama. Cold cocktails are safe to drink and you don't have to do any math to figure out how much they cost. Your Friends in Morrillo, Cari and Ryan Mackey

Owners and Hosts

In case you find that you might have some extra American Bills lying around, these two great guys and the baby sea turtles at the Sea Turtle Conservation could use a few. Go ahead throw some their way and save a few hundred baby sea turtles.

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