Current location: Studio apartment, Bocas Town, Colon Island, Panama


Price of beer in a bar: You usually end up paying US$1.00 or US$1.25
Song currently stuck in my head: Red Eyes and Tears (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club)

Expats here like to drink; not just in Bocas del Toro, but throughout Central America and perhaps throughout the world. The combination of cheap booze, beach town tranquility, lots of time to kill and the oft oppressive heat create a perfect storm of perpetual inebriation. You’ll hear over and over again that “you’ve got to watch it” because even the most casual drinker can easily slip into an unhealthy habit without noticing. Personally, I arrived a heavy drinker (and I was in good company in that respect) and keeping close tabs on all of our spending now allows me to quantify our drinking in a way I never could before. I had to make some estimates for times where the record shows only vague allusions to “several rounds at multiple bars” and such, and I ended up excluding New Year’s Eve all together because the record of it was thin and the margin of error huge, but for the most part I have a solid idea of what we’ve drank and where.

All in, we averaged about 1.94 drinks per person per day (less than I’d have guessed). That assumes that The Girlfriend and I drank the same amount, which is hard to estimate but very close to true. That number comes from US$1,662.85 being spent on 1675.5 “drinks” over the 432 days of our trip. A “drink” was 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor, a 12 ounce beer at 5% alcohol or a 5 ounce glass of wine. A 750ml bottle of 70 proof liquor, a common site in these parts, equals 14.8 “drinks”. That comes out to just under US$1/drink. I don’t know how we skewed so high; 750ml of can run as low as US$2 in Nicaragua. I guess those US$2 beers really add up. By city, here is a comparison of our 30 day experiments. Placencia was excluded because our records there are a little too vague; we were still honing our note taking skills at that point.  Drinking, like most things, is more expensive in Placencia, Belize than elsewhere in Central America.

Here are the number of drinks, per person, consumed over the 30 day period and the total cost of them.  This represents a mix of alcohol purchased at stores and bars/restaurants. Click to enlarge.

The amount of booze we ingested was highly dependent on mood, price and the availability of non-booze related activities, but we can draw some broad generalizations.  For one thing, it’s cheap to drink in Central America in general and especially so in Nicaragua.  Also, we drink more in beach towns (and it certainly feels like everyone does).

~2 drinks per day puts us on track with medical recommendations for reducing the risk of heart disease, but our pattern of drinking does not.  I’ve dug for some useful info on this and mostly what I run across is fear mongering (“binge drinking is risky because you might do something risky while binge drinking”) and vague references to numbers.  The best I can figure, and I am not a doctor nor am I dispensing medical advise here, the healthy limit (that’s limit, not recommendation) is 4 drinks per day or 14 per week for a guy like me.  We were right around that 14 per week limit on this trip.


4 Responses to “Current location: Studio apartment, Bocas Town, Colon Island, Panama”

  1. V Says:

    No entry on the 3rd — bummer! You gave plenty of notice that your posts would be ending soon, and we just arrived in Bocas yesterday — I didn’t think I’d be so disappointed not to see a new entry today! We’ve started our search for an apartment, hoping that we are as fortunate at finding a place as you were. In just one day of walking around, I’ve seen several of the places you took photos of. Thanks again for your blogs – they’ve been great, and I’m looking forward to reading whatever else you decide to share going forward.

    • cgearhart Says:

      My fault, V, I had a post scheduled but hadn’t told it to post. It should be up now. Since I won’t have a Bocas Summary out for at least another couple of weeks, check out The Rip Tide (bar and restaurant) to run across some local gringos. We ended up at Bocas Condos (mixed bag, but overall good).

  2. V Says:

    I actually got in touch with Tyson earlier today, he’s got some places on Carenero we may check out Wednesday – I’m not sure how easy it really will be to get from there to Bocastown. Tyson also suggested the Bocas Condos to us, but what he quoted is out of our price range– he said he’d see if he can negotiate something lower.I’ll definitely add the RipTide to our list of places to check out — we’ll be here for 6 weeks, it looks like that will be enough time to visit almost everywhere, at least once!

  3. cgearhart Says:

    Carenero to town is super easy; you’ll see. The only drawback on Carenero is the sand flies. They’re vicious.

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