+507-6807-2764 reservaciones@sanblasfrontera.com

Getting ready for your San Blas Island visit with San Blas Frontera

Nuedi

(or thank you in English) for making your reservation with us! We will soon be welcoming you for a few days to the San Blas Islands and we want to make sure you are best prepared. In the following you will find info about:

  1. How to prepare and what to pack
  2. Getting to the San Blas Islands
  3. What to expect 

Of course, you can also always reach out to us with any questions!

We are looking very much forward to your visit! 

Your San Blas Frontera team

How to prepare for the trip

1. To-Do: send information latest 5 Days before the trip

In order to prepare your trip, we need the following information from you (via email): 

  • Full name of all guests, passport numbers and birth dates: to register all guests with the local government. Please do not send photos of your ID. Thank you for your understanding.
  • Name and address of your hostel/hotel in Panama City
  • Local phone number or WhatsApp Number with country code (+XX…) in case the driver needs to contact you
  • Any dietary restrictions or allergies
2. Payment

We currently offer three payment methods: 

  1. Payment in cash (US dollars) on the day of the tour to the driver
  2. Payment via PayPal, for a 6% charge. Please reach out if you prefer paying via PayPal, we have a limited contingent. 
  3. Online transfer via local, Panamanian payment options such as Yappy or Nequi. 

Payment via credit card is currently not accepted. 

For larger groups or certain bookings we might require a deposit payment. 

3. What to Pack

For a full day out on the water and in the sun, please dress accordingly and bring the following:

Mandatory:

  • Passport: checked by police upon entering the Comarca of Kuna Yala (San Blas), copies are not accepted
  • Sufficient cash: in US Dollars to pay for the trip & governmental entrance fee in cash, to buy drinks, snacks, souvenirs on the island (small bills of 1 USD and 5 USD recommended) – no credit cards, no ATM in San Blas

Recommended:

  • Sun protection: for the island and the boat ride (sun blocker, hat, T-shirt with sleeves, towel)
  • Drinking water: please bring sufficient or purchase on the island
  • Snacks
  • Swimming gear
  • Sandals, flip flops
  • Wetbag or plastic bag for your valuables in case of a wet boat ride or rain
  • Snorkeling equipment 

Additionally, for overnight stays & multi-day tours:

  • Flash light
  • Towels (not provided)
  • Soap, Shampoo(not provided)
  • Sweater/long pants at night
  • Power bank

Wrap sensitive items and put them in a waterproof bag during the boat ride. Keep your passport and cash with you during the car ride for the passport check and entrance fee payment.

4. Other useful info

How much luggage can you bring:

We advise you to bring only as little luggage as necessary on the trip because space in the cars and the boat is limited. We recommend a maximum of one luggage item plus a small carry-on. While suitcases are not impossible, they can be harder to handle, especially when navigating sandy terrain.

We don’t provide luggage storage facilities in Panama City or at the dock in Cartí, San Blas. Often, you can make arrangements with your hotel/hostel in Panama City to leave your luggage there. If this is not possible, you can of course bring your luggage with you on the trip.

Internet/Phone reception:

The islands don’t have WiFi. If you’d like to stay connected, you can get a local SIM card & a data pass. The following providers have fairly ok network on the islands: Tigo, Más Movil.

Drinking Water:

We strongly recommend bringing sufficient drinking water to stay hydrated and buying this beforehand. You can buy water by the gallon in any supermarket. Some guests also prefer using drinking water for brushing their teeth as the water on the island can contain salt water. The drivers usually make a stop at a gas station where a few necessary items can be bought but this stop might have to be skipped if the gas station is too busy or essentials might be sold out.

How much cash to bring:

On the islands you can purchase beverages, snacks and souvenirs. A small bottle of water or a can of soda/beer is usually sold at $2-3 USD. Remember: change is rare so ideally, bring small bills (1, 5, 10 USD). Souvenirs to buy range from a few dollars to upwards of $50-75 USD (for mola artwork), so plan accordingly.

Don’t forget to bring your passport – going to the San Blas Islands is practically like visiting another country and there are passport controls by the police at the entrance to the Comarca Kuna Yala

Visit the Mola Museum in Panama City

Interested in learning about our unique Kuna culture? Visit the Museo de la Mola in Panama City, which displays over 200 mola pieces and gives exciting insights into its meaning for our culture, our spiritual world, rituals and cosmo vision.  

Free entrance, open Tuesday to Sunday! (Mondays closed)

Getting to the San Blas Islands

Transport from Panama City to the San Blas Islands and back is organised by us and included in your package. It is a ca. 2.5h car ride out of Panama City and through the San Blas hills to the dock in Cartí, where you’ll switch into the boat for your tour/stay. 

Pickup in Panama City: 5-5:30am at your hotel. 

Where can you be picked up from? Any hotel in Panama City. Recommended areas: Casco Viejo, Cinta Coaster & Caledonia, Punta Paitilla, Obarrio, San Francisco. Extra charges (+1h earlier pick-up) apply for Playa Bonita/Veracruz as well as Gamboa Rainforest Reserve/Summit Rainforest Resort. 

Important: 

  • The car ride is a shared car ride with up 6 guests, possibly of different tours. If you prefer a private car for your group only, extra charges apply (e.g. private car for 2 people: +$250 USD)
  • The transport between Panama City and Cartí is NOT conducted by our company directly, but by independent drivers licensed by the local Kuna government. These drivers are loosely organised by a drivers’ organisation with which we work closely together but where we have only limited control. Any issues or complaints regarding the transport will be forwarded by us to this organisation and handled by them. 

Other helpful info: 

  • If you easily get motion sick, we recommend taking a pill for the drive through the San Blas hills
  • The port can get a bit busy, expect some Latin Chaos and bring some patience with you. Everyone is doing their best to coordinate the arrival of several different cars and boats to get everyone on time into the boats and to the islands

 

What to expect

Undoubtedly stunningly beautiful and home to a fascinating indigenous culture, the San Blas Islands deserve their place as one of the top places to visit. But, a growing number of tourists and a lack of waste management infrastructure threaten this fragile ecosystem. As a company, we are working on eco-friendly solutions to protect our home and minimize the environmental, cultural and economic impact. As a visitor, there are a few ways how you can also support in these efforts:

Packaging: We kindly ask you to minimize the amount of packaging that you bring to the island and, once you return to Panama City, take it back with you. San Blas does not have a functioning waste or recycling system for packaging and you can help by returning packaging with you and properly disposing of it in the city. If you purchase drinks on the island, we recommend to purchase cans since those are the only things actively collected and recycled.

Respecting nature: Do not touch the starfish or take them out of the water. Starfish are very delicate and touching them can do severe damage. Also, please do not stand on or touch corals – evens slight touches can cause irreversible damage.

Open mind: These beautiful islands are home to a unique indigenous culture with a way of life that is different from most and one whose standards may be different than your own. Bring an open mind and appreciate different lifestyles and you will have a wonderful time in this paradise.

Local Art: On some islands, you can buy Mola handcraft. This is very intrinsic work and prices range between $15-25/35/50+ USD, depending on size and details. Kuna women often work up to 3 months on just one of these pieces. You can use these back home for pillows (especially the ones with animals make lovely gifts for small children), frame it and put up on the wall,… Selling Mola is often times the only source of income for many of the locals who otherwise are fully self-sustaining so your contribution will directly benefit the local community.

Get in touch!

Feel free to contact us at any time in case you should have further questions. We are looking forward to welcoming you in Kuna Yala (San Blas) soon!