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Travel Information

American Airlines Special Offer

International Living Event attendees can take advantage of a  discount of up to 10% on American Airlines airfares. Please refer to the individual event pages for details of this discount including the dates you can avail of it and other terms and conditions.

For all your travel needs (including flight assistance and insurance) please contact your travel agency of choice.

Agora Travel is more than happy to help you find the lowest available airfare from your home city.

Please book your flights early! To check airfare from your home city, please call Mickey at:  +800-926-6575 or +561-243-6276 (ext. 102).

You may also want to consider one of the many companies that specializes in online reservations and travel assistance, like: www.orbitz.com, www.travelocity.com; or www.expedia.com. We also suggest you sign up for free e-mail alerts from your preferred airlines, via their websites. In addition, numerous websites -- including www.travelzoo.com, for example -- offer free e-mail alerts highlighting regular specials for a wide range of airlines. Many of these websites offer tips for getting the best flights, such as being flexible with travel dates and airports if possible.

To protect your travel investment, we strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance. Travel insurance protects you from all the unexpected events that can disrupt or cancel your travel plans.

COUNTRY INFORMATION

PANAMA

Time Zone: Panama is on EST (GMT -5) and doesn’t observe daylight saving time, during which it’s on GMT -6.

Electricity: 110/120 volts, the same as US voltage and electrical outlets.

Currency: The US dollar.

Financial Issues: Major hotels and restaurants accept credit cards, which you can use to pay for any incidental expenses, you may incur. You will want to have cash if you eat at some smaller restaurants and for taxis. Traveler's Checks are not accepted in most places. You will need to cash them at a bank, that will charge you a fee.

Customs & Immigration: First of all, bring your PASSPORT! And be sure you have at least 6 months until it expires. You will need a tourist card, which costs US$5, is purchased before you get on the plane by the airline company or when you arrive to Panama in the airport. You will also need US$20 cash as a departure tax when you leave Panama.

Clothing: Although this is a tropical region you might want to bring a sweater because many restaurants and other places are often very cold from the air conditioning. Other: As this is a tropical region bring sunscreen and bug repellent. It is not necessary to get shots or vaccines to come to Panama.

MEXICO

Time Zone: Mexico is on Central Standard Time, one hour behind EST and two ahead of PST.

Electricity: 110 volts, same as in the U.S.

Currency: Mexican peso. You can usually get these from your bank in advance of your trip, or upon arrival at the airport. You will see booths there that change currency (usually called Cajas de Cambio.) An easy way to get pesos is by using ATMs. They provide the most current exchange rate. The exchange rate is approximately 10.8 pesos to $1 USD. A good rule of thumb is to use a 10:1 ratio. Therefore, if your ATM daily limit is $300, you can withdraw 3,000 pesos. Note: in shops you will see a $ before the price. This is usually used to refer to pesos. A hamburger on a menu, for example, may say $30. This is in pesos - about $2.50 USD. In some shops , you may see prices marked in USD. (If unsure, ask.)

Telephone: You can easily call the U.S. from Mexico but it is more expensive than long distance calls within the U.S. And, of course, all hotels worldwide tend to add surcharges to phone bills and Mexico is no exception. If you need to make a call back to the U.S., the best option is to ask for an ATT or MCI operator (they are bilingual) and bill your call to your ATT or MCI account, or to your credit card. In Mexico, the access number for an AT&T operator is 01-800-288-2872. Another option is to purchase Telmex cards (available from almost any shop or farmacía) and use them with pay phones, found everywhere. If you have a cell phone you may want to check with your cell phone company about plans regarding roaming charges and service in Mexico to make and receive calls.

Clothing: Temperatures are warm during the day. Casual attire is fine, although it should be noted that Mexican men and women hardly ever wear shorts…and certainly never while doing business. Evening temperatures here are delightful, and it is doubtful that sweaters or jackets will be necessary. But if you chill easily (from ocean breezes or air-conditioned rooms), you may want to pack a light sweater or long-sleeved shirt. In the evenings you may want something a bit dressier…slacks or jeans and collared shirts (no ties, please!) for men, nice slacks or skirts for women. Don't forget bathing suits for the beaches, pools, etc. And don’t forget your hats and sunscreen.

Food & Water: Hotels provide bottled drinking water in the rooms. Please ask for more if you need it. We love the food in Mexico...an abundance of fruits, exquisite fresh juices (try them all!), fresh vegetables and excellent seafood. Most of the hotels and restaurants here are very careful to serve food that has been specially washed and prepared with health concerns in mind. It is very doubtful that you will get sick, but please don’t take a chance and do not drink the water from the tap. (Also brush your teeth with bottled water.)

Financial issues: Major hotels and restaurants accept credit cards, which you can use to pay for any incidental expenses you may incur. You will need to have cash if you eat at small, homey restaurants. Local street artisans accept only cash so if you plan to shop, come prepared! Note that most small shop owners cannot change large bills so make sure you have plenty of pesos in small denominations.

Tipping: In Mexico, it is not customary to tip taxi drivers, unless they have gone out of their way to accommodate you. In restaurants, the customary tip is 15% on the before-tax total. It is customary to tip a bellman 10 pesos (or $1 USD) per bag. It is also customary to leave 10-20 pesos ($2-$3 USD) on the pillow for the maid who cleans your room each day. You can chose to tip her at the end of your stay, if you prefer.

Customs & Immigration: Bring Your Identification! Mexico requires U.S. travelers to have a passport. On the plane over, you will be given a form, a tourist visa, to fill out. Keep it with your ID, you will be asked for it when you leave Mexico. If you are a lone or single parent or custodian traveling with a child, your child will need a passport, or you will be required to show specific documents that you have custody of or are allowed to travel with that child. Ask your travel agent and/or airline for this information. Clearance through customs and immigration is smooth and easy. Bags come easily and quickly. Secure a cart if necessary. Walk through the Customs area where you will be asked to push a button. If the light flashes green (which it usually does) you will move on through. If the light flashes red, you may be asked to open your suitcase for inspection by the customs agents. This is strictly regulation, so don’t worry. You are allowed to bring just about anything you need for your personal use, including prescription medicine, cameras, laptop computers, etc.

ECUADOR

Local time: GMT -5 (same as EST in the U.S.), with no Daylight Savings

Country phone code: 593 (from the U.S., dial 011 before the country code)

Area codes: Quito 2; Ambato 3; Guayaquil 4; Manta 5; Esmeraldas 6; Cuenca 7; Loja 7; Vilcabamba 7; Machala 7

When using these area codes, prefix them with a “0” when dialing from within Ecuador, but use them alone when dialing Ecuador from overseas. For example, when calling Quito from the U.S., dial 011-593 (2) 222-3456. When calling from within Ecuador, dial (02) 222-3456. Electricity: 110 volts/60 cycles (same as U.S.), with same plug configuration

Entry requirements: None for U.S., Canadian, and EU citizens. You are normally granted 90 days upon entry, but extensions for an additional 90 are routinely approved. Exit fee: $44 upon departure from Ecuador

Business hours: Hours vary. U.S. business hours are becoming more common, but long lunches are still the rule, usually from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Soccer matches and fiestas can cause late openings and/or early closings.

Embassy of the United States in Quito
Patria and 12 de Octubre Avenues
tel. (593)2-256-2890 fax (593)2-250-2052
emergency tel. (593)2-223-4126
Mondays through Fridays 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m

Canadian Embassy in Quito
Av. Amazonas 4153 and Unión Nacional de Periodistas

Eurocenter Building, 3rd Floor
tel. (593) 2-245-5499 fax (593) 2-227-7672
Mondays through Fridays 9 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Food & water: Most hotels provide bottled drinking water in the rooms. The food in Ecuador is great…an abundance of fruits, exquisite fresh juices (try them all!), fresh vegetables and excellent seafood. Most of the hotels and restaurants here are very careful to serve food that has been specially washed and prepared with health concerns in mind. It is very doubtful that you will get sick, but please don’t take a chance and do not drink the water from the tap. (Also brush your teeth with bottled water.)

Financial issues: Major hotels and restaurants accept credit cards, which you can use to pay for any incidental expenses you may incur. You will need to have cash if you eat at small, homey restaurants. Local street artisans accept only cash so if you plan to shop, come prepared! Note that most small shop owners cannot change large bills so make sure you have plenty of $1 and $5 dollar notes. If you plan to use your ATM card, be sure you know your PIN number. Tipping: A tip is not required in restaurants. A 10% service charge-which should be shared among all employees – is included in most bills. Many restaurants and bars, however—including some owned by expats – fail to pass the money on to the employees, using a variety of excuses. Therefore, if restaurant service is good, you can give something directly to the service person. 10% is adequate. For airport porters and hotel employees, $1 to $1.50 is an adequate tip for handling your bags. Taxi drivers are not tipped but will often claim not to have correct change. Carry plenty of $1 and $5 bills when using taxis. Taxis are inexpensive in Quito, usually no more than $1-$3, although you will pay more from the airport – usually about $5. Nature guides, boat captains, and private tour guides are usually tipped based on performance: $5 to $10 per day.

What to Pack: Packing is an art and everyone who travels has his or her own style. These points of advice, however, should help you bring the right combination of clothes for this diverse country. Quito is a cosmopolitan city, so you should bring at least one nice outfit to wear when you go out to dinner, although it doesn’t need to be too formal and you won’t need a necktie. Outside the cities, however, dress is fairly casual, so the key word is comfort—good walking shoes for exploring the markets, a sweater or jacket and warm pants for those cool highland evenings, and a hat to keep the equatorial sun at bay. (You could buy yourself a Panama hat when you first arrive—they’re made in Ecuador, you know!) If you are planning to visit the coast after the conference, bring warm-weather clothing (and don’t forget your swimsuit and sunscreen). The hottest time of the year at the beach is between January and May, when high temperatures often reach the low 90s. In the rainforest stick to natural fibers to stay comfortable when it’s humid. You’ll might want to bring a small, dependable flashlight, as well as a good guidebook and a Spanish/English dictionary. If you’d like an electronic pocket dictionary, the best we’ve seen is made by Franklin Electronics (www.franklin.com). It’s always advisable to make photocopies of your passport and plane tickets—keep one set with you, and leave a set with someone back home who can e-mail or fax them to you in case of an emergency.

Seminar Attire: We suggest business casual. Shorts are not recommended and we strongly recommend that you bring a warm sweater as the meeting rooms tend to be kept cold in many Latin American countries.

Altitude Sickness: Ecuador is home to some of the highest volcanoes and mountain peaks in the world. Quito is nestled in a long narrow valley between the lush hilly base of the Volcano Pichincha to the west and the precipitous canyon of the river Machángara to the east, and sits at 9,500 feet, (3,000 meters). Someone flying to Quito from New York City, for example, experiences an elevation change of nearly two miles in a little more than six hours. Abrupt changes in elevation such as this sometimes have ill effects on travelers. Altitude sickness usually manifests itself in insomnia, headaches, and/or nausea. In the event that you do experience symptoms of altitude sickness, in most cases, they can be remedied by drinking lots of water, getting lots of rest, and taking aspirin. Avoid alcohol and caffeine and try some coca tea, which helps to alleviate some of the symptoms. Your hotel will usually offer this. To combat the symptoms of altitude sickness such as fatigue, nausea and mild headaches, taking DIAMOX is an option. DIAMOX is a drug that increases oxygen profusion. You can buy DIAMOX, or its equivalent, in most major cities. If you forget to bring your DIAMOX it is readily available in Quito pharmacies, however it is advisable to start taking the drug a day or two before you get to Quito. Please discuss with your doctor. If you experience severe headaches or respiratory problems (including acute shortness of breath) consult a doctor immediately. If have high blood pressure or heart conditions you should check with your doctor as to medical precautions before traveling. One final note with respect to altitude, use sunblock. You may feel cool while high in the Andes, but because of the altitude – you are much closer to the sun – the risk of sunburn is greater. Use a sunblock level rated at least 15 SPF.

COSTA RICA

Time Zone: Costa Rica is on CST (GMT -6) and doesn’t observe daylight saving time.

Electricity: 110/120 volts, the same as US voltage and electrical outlets.

Currency: The Costa Rican colon.

Flying to Costa Rica has become easier in recent years, thanks to improvements in its airports and a growing number of airlines that serve them. Major airlines that fly from the U.S. to Costa Rica include Aeroméxico, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Copa, Delta, Frontier Airlines, jetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, Taca, United Airlines and U.S. Airways.  Airlines that fly to Costa Rica from other destinations include Aeroperlas, Air Berlin, Air Canada, Air France, Air Panama, Avianca, British Airways, Condor, Cubana, Iberia, Jetair, KLM, Nature Air, Sansa Regional, and TUIfly.

Costa Rica's climate is tropical, with temperatures averaging at 81 °F. The dry season spans from December to April and the rainy season from May to November. The weather is cooler in highlands.

Contact IL Events

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