Figuring Out If Bocas Del Toro Is Safe

Since I arrived in Bocas, one thing I noticed was how people kept saying “be careful” and “be safe” etc because apparently there are a lot of muggings especially on this island and Isla Bastimentos.

In general on this island though, it’s meant to be ok if you’re by yourself before around 11 (when the streets empty out), and at night it should be fine if you’re with someone and you don’t have anything obviously expensive on show. It’s advisable that you don’t bring a bag to the beach because a lot has been stolen from there, and at night as well, because if you have a bag then there’s presumably a camera or something expensive in there.

I never bring bags anyway because they’re annoying and my shorts all have decent pockets so I have my phone (rubbish £20 one), money (only like $20 max) and camera in them normally. You can see a bulge in the pockets from the phone and camera if you look, but I guess you wouldn’t see from a distance so it’s not as bad as a bag.

So far I haven’t really felt in danger and I’ve walked home (for about 30 seconds) from a bar at midnight once by myself, and back from a bar at 2am for about 5 minutes with 2 other girls.

Main Street (I don’t know what it’s actually called in Spanish) is where most of the souvenir shops and restaurants for tourists are, so it’s always kind of light there because the restaurants are lit up etc, so I doubt much would happen there and I haven’t heard any stories of anything happening there. The hostel I live in is on the next street (parallel to main street) but that’s way darker and more local – it has a fruit man in a little hut, a local snooker bar and stuff like that.

Anyway the main point of this post is to say that a girl from my hostel was walking on our street at 3am the other night, but she was walking with a friend, a tall muscly male tourist, so according to what we were told (walk with someone), she should have been fine. There’s a little barber shop on our street (it’s so cute, every time I pass it I tell myself I have to take a picture of it next time) with only one seat, and instead of a door it just has a door-shaped gap in the wall. When they were passing that barber shop, a guy with his face covered jumped out of the door-shaped gap and held a knife to her stomach. She wasn’t carrying a bag or anything and she told him she had nothing, but he didn’t believe her so he felt in her pockets and in her bra (!!!!!!!!!) because some girls keep money in there. Oh by the way, the guy she was with ran away while this was happening. What a great friend! Eventually the mugger realised she had nothing so he moved the knife and she ran back to the hostel.

The reasons this scares me are because 1) she was carrying nothing and 2) she was with a big guy and 3) it’s the road our hostel is on. The only thing we can learn from this is maybe it’s best to walk home via main street then at the last minute cross over to our street, rather than going down our street all the way from the top because there are more people on main street.

They rarely hurt people because all they want is money etc, and as long as I have my life then I’m happy I guess, but I think it would be a scary experience and would maybe stop me going out for a while. Also I’ll be really annoyed if my camera gets taken because I don’t think there’s anywhere on the island where I could buy another one and obviously I want to take pictures because I’m in a different country with new friends etc.

Tonight I want to go to the weekly reggae night on Isla Bastimentos but people have said you have to be careful there and should probably only go with guys, but I doubt any guys will want to come with me and Melinda (a girl from my hostel). I don’t really know what to do because you can’t just stay in the hostel all the time. You have to take some risks and enjoy your life (like I did by travelling to Jamaica by myself), but because I don’t know this country or these islands, it’s hard to decide what’s a sensible risk to take and what’s a silly one, and I love reggae/dancehall and I think that’s the only night specifically for that in the whole of Bocas Del Toro so I really want to go!

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