When we booked flights from Ecuador to Panama a few weeks in advance of our arrival we researched all of the Covid specific travel requirements. Besides presenting a negative Covid test to fly into Panama City, we were good to go. Even better, our good friends Clara and Nestor agreed to fly to Panama from DC to meet us and spend a long weekend there.
To our surprise (horror), just a few days before we were scheduled to fly, Panama issued some new restrictions; since we were flying there from South America we would be required to take a Covid test before we boarded our flight, take a second test at the Panama City airport, quarantine in a hotel for three full days, and then take a third and final Covid test before we would be free to leave the hotel…
For a seven day trip, spending three days locked in a hotel room didn’t seem like a great idea. Luckily we were able to extend our stay in Panama by pushing our departing flight out of the country by about a week, which gave us a total of two weeks in Panama. While a quarantine didn’t seem great, it seemed much more palatable for a two week trip rather than one, and plus, our friends were flying to meet us there so we couldn’t exactly cancel the trip. The other part that eased the pain is knowing we wouldn’t have to pay for the three days in quarantine (the Panama government would cover our hotel). Our friends arriving from the US also didn’t have to quarantine, and could fortunately shift their flights back a bit so they weren’t waiting around for us for three days. This line of thinking was correct, as we did end up surviving the quarantine, but man it really tested us.
We had a very early morning flight and arrived in the Panama City airport around 7 am. Upon receiving our second negative test in two days following a two hour wait in the airport terminal, we made our way through customs and were immediately escorted to a waiting area for our transportation to the government issued hotel. Adding insult to injury: I left my only sweatshirt (and only PSU hoodie) on the ground at baggage claim in my haste to keep things moving quickly on our way out of the airport. A short bus ride later and we arrived at our accommodations for the next three days, an older, probably-was-nice-10-years-ago hotel. We were put in a separate room down the hall from Chris and Elizabeth, and given our first of many airplane meals, the only food available during our stay.
To make a long, long story short, we spent the next three days in our hotel rooms (or on our balconies) eating airplane meals and sitting on the bed watching television. One of the few bright spots came when we successful ordered snacks (including a box of wine, which apparently was not actually allowed?) from a local delivery service. It took some finagling, including my risking everything by going down to the lobby in the elevator to meet our delivery man and waiting as the police officer literally looked in our bag to inspect what we were bringing into the hotel. He gave me a small, sympathetic head nod, and handed the bag over to me to return back to the room. This delivery of snacks and goodies may have single-handedly saved our time in quarantine.
Our biggest feat during our three day quarantine is without a doubt the shear quantity of movies we watched via the hotel cable. Without much to do, we sat on our bed and watched whatever movies we could find in English. The internet didn’t work great so we were at the mercy of what was playing on the cable movie channels. Fortunately we were able to text and alert each other to what was on at any given time. All totaled we enjoyed 22 movies and several episodes of Game of Thrones Season 2. See the gallery below for a list of said movies.
After three long days (72 hours almost exactly) we received our third Covid test in as many days. Once we got the call that our tests were negative we grabbed our (already packed) bags and made for the elevators as quickly as possible. We hustled out of the hotel lobby and within a minute of being in the fresh air saw a beautiful site: a huge white van piloted by our friend Nestor and co-piloted by his fiance Clara. We were free!