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GPS-ing Your Way Through Panama

When the hubs and I lived in the states, we didn't use a GPS unit. However, we did have an oldlarge one before GPS apps for smartphones became as advanced as they are now. We didn't really think about this until after we moved and we wanted to get around Panama City because we always used our phone back home. Luckily, one of us did pack it!

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The first time we headed to the city to go shopping, we grabbed our massive 2005 Garmin out of our luggage and stuck it in our "new to us" truck. We turned it on and it started searching for our location! It still worked after all this time. We we're really proud of that GPSfor about 3 more minutes. At 3 minutes, it still said it was searching for our location. We said to each other that it probably needed to "re-calibrate" or something and decided to give it a couple more minutes. Nope. The thing had been on for 10 minutes and was still searching for our location.

Neighbors sat on their porch next door, watching us as we shook the giant GPS while holding it out the truck window, got out of the truck and stood on our tippie toes to get it as close to the sky as possible, and finally getting back in the truck, cursing our amazing electronic gadget we we're so proud of only moments before.

We grabbed our in-law's GPS, also a Garmin, but much much newer. It came with many tips from the in-laws to let it lead you to the proper destination. We learned that not everything is available on the GPS and you need to search for things that might be nearby your destination (like a mall, or a McDonald's). Considering we did not know what would be near our destination, the trip into the city became a family affair. As we drove into the city, I noticed there weren't any street signs but the GPS had the names of the streets. How did they know what the street names we're to program it into the map?

After talking about the whole situation, we found out they had purchased the unit in the states but bought an SD card with the map in Panama City on an exploratory trip before they moved permanently to Panama. They we're right, the unit is good for getting you to major points of interest, but not much else. You need to drive around and hunt for the specific place you want. It doesn't help that there is no address system here either. If there is one, I would like someone to clue me in on that secret. I see our bills arrive in the mail at the house, but not much else.

We decided to hold off on buying an SD card for our clunky beast to see what other options we're out there. Not being able to live without a smartphone, I got one within days of moving to Panama. I immediately pulled up the BlackBerry Map app to no avail. Being an app hoard, I started downloading all my favorite apps all over again and came across Google Maps. It couldn't hurt to see if it worked, and that it did!

We go back and forth between using the GPS map in the BlackBerry and using my in-law's Garmin. They both work well inside Panama City and out. The BlackBerry seems to have more trouble being able to detect our actual location. It always says the blue dot could be up to 1,800 meters off! Both are great as maps when traveling towards the interior. I notice the BlackBerry Google Map app is more up to date on places we might want to stop and see. Since the Garmin SD Card is programmed with the map, you will have to purchase a new one every so often to keep up with the changing country.

From our GPS experiences in Panama, I have a few tips for you to enjoy your stay (whether it's temporary or permanent):

1. Bring your GPS unit from home.There are a ton of stores that sell the SD Card maps that are coded for English and Spanish. Many car rental companies will charge you $11 $20 per day to use their units. If you're stay is a week, you've already spent enough to buy another GPS! If you're moving here, buy one before you leave the states. GPS units are more expensive here and you don't get the same variety.

2. Don't have a GPS unit to bring? If you're vacationing and have a smartphone, call your mobile provider and find out about their international data plans. International data plans are usually much cheaper than voice calls. You will be able to use your smartphone as your GPS while you're in Panama.

3. Don't want a GPS unit and you're moving to Panama? You can find out if your cell phone can be unlocked and get data service from a provider in Panama, or just buy a new smartphone with the provider you choose. After finding out about the plethora of Panama GPS map apps available (but sadly not on my beloved BlackBerry), you will have plenty to choose from on your iPhone or Android based phone. Not all the apps are free. Here's the link to one of the companies I found recently that offers a Panama map in their app store (Ndrive).

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Posted in Entertainment Post Date 02/14/2018