My husband and I are going to Panama in a couple months to see whether it’s someplace we’d like to live, so I’ve been spending a lot of time planning our scouting trip.
Not surprisingly, not every little hotel in the country has a website (at least, not in English). Since we don’t want to stay in tourist hotels, travel and tour companies are of no help. So what’s a future expat to do?
Turn to your social networks. I’ve been doing that — a lot.
I started with some of the larger expat forums including:
By posting questions, following links and even answering a few questions from other people I’ve been slowly getting the information I’ve needed.
There’ve been some serendipities. One forum member answered, “I can’t help you, but email my friend Glen who lives there.” Glen turned out to be a gold mine of information, and we’re planning on meeting him when we’re in town.
Somebody else suggested a forum I hadn’t found that’s proved to be the best resource of all. It’s the Panama Forum, and it has the most active and helpful group of any of the websites I’ve used.
So far I’ve gotten help with information about:
- Transportation within the country
- Places to stay and how to make reservations without a convenient website to do it on
- Towns to visit
- People to meet with for coffee or a drink while we’re in town
Other Helpful Social Media Sites
LinkedIn has been a good source of information for me because I already have expat contacts there. Through LinkedIn, it’s easy to contact people directly to ask questions.
Did you know you can search Facebook for keywords? My search for “Panama” turned up a lengthy list of pages about the country and the band.
I can “like” pages that look promising and see what shows up in my News Feed. Liking the page also gives me the ability to post on the page’s wall.
Twitter is also searchable, so I’ve searched for “David, Panama” and “Las Tablas, Panama” since we plan to spend several days in each place.
I use HootSuite to view my Twitter feed. It lets me add a column showing the search results, so I now have columns for both Las Tablas and David on my page.
Yes, email definitely counts as social media! I’ve used email to correspond with people I’ve met through the forums, to make reservations, and to arrange meetings.
Travel Review Sites
There are lots — and I do mean lots of travel/review sites. Here are just a few that I’ve found helpful:
- Trip Advisor
- Lonely Planet
- Virtual Tourist
- Concierge (if your budget allows you to enjoy the higher end of the travel spectrum)
- Nomadic Matt
Do you have a favorite social media site for travel planning? Let us know by adding a Comment.