The joy of needing to use the facilities in Panama
by Gary Stamper, CPC. MSIP, DSPS
Having been in Bocas Del Toro 2 weeks shy of a year, I now know where there are available restrooms all over town. The okay ones are in some bars and restaurants, and the better ones are in some of the hotels. Forget stores and markets. Non-existent except for the largest store in town which is home to the first "public" restroom I found in town and where I learned about carrying my own toilet paper. Forget about washing your hands, there are no soap or paper towels there, either. Fortunately, there is hand sanitizer at the entrance.
Now, these stops are in remote small towns, and the restrooms and the restrooms rarely show any evidence of being cleaned, toilet paper, paper towels, soap. and often have sinks with no running water. You're really on your own, here, and when you're done, you can order food, if you'd like. But I saw no evidence of any restaurants having separate washrooms for employees and the latex surgical gloves that many wore were of small comfort to me.
One of the worst restrooms was owned by the bus company. While it did have toilet paper and a working sink, it did lack two things: hand towels and a light bulb. I had to use my phone flashlight to light my way.
So why did I use the bus? Why wouldn't I just fly to Panama City and back? At the time there was only one flight a day departing to Panama City and one flight a day arriving from Panama City. That would have meant flying in one day, taking care of my business the next day, and flying back out the following day. Cost? About $140 each way, three days shot and two nights in a Panama City hotel. With the bus, I could sleep most of the way, arrive, take care of my business, and be back for the night bus to Bocas, and sleep my way back. Cost? About $28 each way period.
I came for the Caribbean beaches of Bocas del Toro, the laid-back Jamaican vibe, and the people - ex-pats and native Panamanians - and the bus experience gave me valuable insight into Panama and I would never get that on a flight to and from Panama City.
For me, it's all about the experience.