San Blas is an exquisite Archipelago not too far from Panamá City. These tropical Caribbean islands are sprinkled off the coast of the Comarca Guna Yala (sometimes referred to as "Kuna") and are the official and sovereign territory of the Guna Tribe. If you are travelling on a budget expect to pay approximately $50 per person to enter into the Comarca, catch a boat and camp on an island. Plan on staying at minimum one night or maximum a week.
You will have to pay an entry fee into the Comarca Guna Yala and present your official Passport. This is a very strict check point so be prepared. You will have to pay for your vehicle as well as each person that enters the territory. Vehicles are currently $10 and each person must pay $3. You will also have to pay out a small registration sheet that you will present at the small port.
Once you arrive to the small port be prepared to give your registration document to an official and pay to park your vehicle. This area is safe to leave your car but be smart and do not leave valuables behind like you would in any other place in the world.
The port does have some places to eat, clean bathrooms and a place to stay the night if needed.
Setting up a tour:
The dock is always busy with passenger boats arriving a leaving. If you have not planned a tour ahead of time you can easily find a local tour guide who will give you options for places to stay and a ride to and from the island you choose. Every island is similar in that they have white sand, crystal blue water and plenty of coconut palms. The islands differ in places to stay and quantity of visitors. Every island is owned by the Guna Tribe so no matter where you stay there will be locals living on the island.
Do not be deterred by the "informality" of setting up your tour and stay. Hundreds of International and Domestic travelers visit San Blas every month.
You will pay at the end of your stay, be sure to include a tip. All money made by the tour guides is reinvested into the local Kuna Tribe.
Boats are safe and drivers are seasoned. You will be provided with life jackets.
Be clear of what you want: cabaña to sleep in, camp ground, food to purchase, place to cook your own food, snorkeling/scuba diving, etc. Your tour guide will be able to set you up using his local connections very easily.
Bring food to eat. You can bring in any outside food you desire including ice chests. Most islands do not have running water or electricity.
Useful items to bring: Flashlight/headlamp; Matches; Toilet Paper; Handsanitizer/ soap; large jugs of water; inset repellant; sunscreen ; towel; hat
If you plan on camping bring a tent, sleeping bag/sheets and/or hammock. Caution: It often rains heavily at night.
Food: Locals often sell freshly caught fish, lobster, shrimp etc. from boats. Your guide can help you get set up with purchasing additional items to eat during your stay on the island and can also help you cook it. Be clear of what you want and be prepared to pay for this at an additional cost.
Bring trash bags to put any waste in. You will leave with what you came with including trash. PLEASE BE RESPONSIBLE AND CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF.
Exchange numbers with your guide and any other person you meet. Cell service is not always reliable, the provider Más Movíl often has the best signal.
Know where the families on the island are if you choose to go to a less-crowded destination.
Have a simple first aid kit.
There are times of the year when venomous jelly fish come through. Be aware of your surroundings and ask the guide for more information.
Bring lots of water and oral rehydration salts.
Be careful around the coconut palm trees. Falling coconuts can be very dangerous and deadly as well as their large leaves. Look for trees that have young green coconuts to take refuge under and those that do not have yellowed/browned leaves.
Your guide can set you up with additional tours that include water-based activities. General equipment may be available but it is recommended to come with your own.
The Kuna celebrate various traditional holidays. Look up "Top Travel Panamá" for more information.