Getting Legal in Roatan – Part 1

Here in Panama, we have developed a small legal problem. You can only drive here for 90 days without obtaining a Panamanian driver’s licence, which you cannot get unless you have some type of residency status. Andrea does the driving here and as such runs out of time she can use her Canadian driver’s licence on 12 February 2017. As a Canadian, she can stay in Panama for six months from the date of entry, without a visa by just showing her passport. That is the same for Australia, US, and Great Britain passport holders. For the rest of the world, we are told that most countries must get a visa before entrance that will be for a maximum of 90 days.

So what are we Australian, US, British and Canadians to do if you need to drive and you are here longer than 90 days? The common solution is to do a border crossing out of the country for three days and when you return, you receive a new updated date stamp in your passport that effectively restarts the 90 days for your ability to drive.

OK, where should we go? After a little looking around and a subscription to http://OfertaSimple.com, a local discount provider, we decided on a four-day trip to Roatan, Honduras with airfare at half price. Oh good… a vacation from the vacation!

2016-JKH-Panama Trip

The flights were by Air Panama on Fokker 100, 100 seat jets. This was an aircraft that I was not familiar with. A little checking determined that Fokker made 283 of these rear engine jets from 1986 to 1997. And Air Panama bought their first two in 2009. They now run nine Fokker 100s and are looking for more. Air Panama’s base is the Marcos A Gelabert International Airport in Albrook (PAC).  It is on the site of the former US Albrook Airforce Station.

We were efficiently processed by pleasant English-speaking staff and waited in the departure lounge to board the aircraft. Now we have friends who had recently experienced an Air Panama horror story while travelling to Bocas del Torro. They went on at length describing the flight delays and lack of information provided, enough to make us somewhat wary of Air Panama. Our experience was the opposite. As we and the other ten passengers were quickly loaded onto the 100 seat aircraft, we found a clean comfortable aircraft equipped with comfortable leather seats that still smelled new! Our seats were in row five which was pleasantly quiet due to the rear engines. The cabin service throughout the one hour and fifty minute flight was good.

The airport at Roatan, in the former British Honduras, is located in a scenic town called Coxen Hole. Roatan is part of a group of islands called the Bay Islands. This is also the site of the cruise ship docks where three to four ships arrive almost each day of the week.

We arrived at the airport minutes after a United 737 had dumped a full load of passengers from Houston which put us at the end of a long line to get through customs. Eventually we got through and boarded our transportation to our hotel, called Mr. Tucan in a small town called West End about twenty minutes from the airport on the opposite side of the island.  The West End is the feature photo at the top of this post.

The first impression of our island reminded me of a lush green Caribbean scene where the roadway never ventures far from the beach. We arrived at Mr. Tucan and were shown to our room. The small hotel is new, only opening last October and is right across the street from the beach.

2016-JKH-Panama Trip

2016-JKH-Panama Trip

Next on the agenda was lunch. Not knowing much about the area we wandered looking for an appealing place which we quickly found. The Lighthouse Restaurant is built out over the water and, of course, specializes in seafood. What a perfect location for a relaxing meal in the cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean.

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