FAQ

  • Reservations
  • Travel
  • Spanish classes
  • Accommodations
  • Activities
  • Volunteer
  • Preparation & practical issues


Not a complete beginner? Please do a placement test here.

Reservations

It’s possible to start at any given day. Group classes start every Monday. Sometimes it is possible to join a group even if you start on a different day than Monday.  You will need to arrive at the school the day before starting the class and do an assessment test. If you don’t fit in, you will be advised to first take some private lessons until it is possible to join the group. Private and mini-group (max 2 persons that sign up together) classes can start any day of the week.

Most activities can be arranged on the spot, but when you would like to do volunteer work, we advise you to book at least four weeks in advance cause we need to receive your CV and motivation letter (in Spanish!), apply at the receiving organization and take care of administrative procedures.

Once you make a reservation and we confirm lodging, classes and other services, we cannot guarantee refunds for cancellations. However, if changes are necessary, please consult with the reservations team (info@spanishatlocations.com) or once at the location, with the School Manager, to see if changes in your reservations are possible. If we do make changes, a $15,- administration fee may be charged.

The simplest way to pay would be prior to arrival. We can give you our bank account information by email.  You are also welcome to pay upon arrival. You should pay no later than the first tuesday of your stay with us.

Travel

Panama City: Book your flight to Panama City when coming from abroad or when coming from San Jose (capital of Costa Rica). You can also take the bus with X.  When travelling from Turrialba or Puerto Viejo, it would be best to travel to San Jose first and then take the flight to Panama City (air panama or natureair). From Bocas del Toro, you can take the night bus from Almirante,  El Cruce. For this you need to leave the island at 6 pm by boat to Almirante. Then continue to El Cruce to catch the bus that travels from Changuinola to Panama City. From Boquete, you first travel to David (just half an hour) and from there you take the bus from David to Panama City. In Panama City, when travelling by bus, you always arrive at the main bus station called Albrook.

Boquete: First travel to David and from there take the local bus to Boquete. To get to David: from Panama City,  various buses leave from the Albrook bus terminal to David.  From Bocas, take the boat to Almirante and then take the bus in El Cruce that travels from Changuinola to David.  From Turrialba, you should go first to San Jose and then to David.  When travelling from Puerto Viejo, it would be better to first cross the border and make it to Changuinola, from where you can take the bus to David.

Bocas: From all locations you can travel to Bocas by bus. From Turrialba you first travel to Siquirres (buses are leaving at 6 am and 8 am), in Siquirres you walk around the soccer field to another bus station. From there you take the bus to Limón where you also need to walk a few blocks to take the bus to the border. From Boquete you travel first to David and then to Almirante. There is also a shuttle bus leaving from Boquete every morning at 7:30 for $30 (including the water taxi to the island that costs $6). We can book this shuttle for you at our location in Boquete. From Puerto Viejo it is a short trip to the border. Once you cross the border in Panama, you can get on a tourist shuttle for $10, take a private taxi or a shared taxi to Changuinola and afterwards a shared taxi or bus to Almirante. In Almirante you take the water taxi to the island. There is also a possibility to book the shuttle bus leaving from Puerto Viejo for $25 (including the water taxi to the island). We can book this for you at our location in Puerto Viejo. From San Jose you take the bus to the border. You should take the 6 am bus from Transporte MEPE located at the Terminal Atlántico Norte, Avenida 9, Calle 12. Phone +506 2257 8129. On the other side of the border you need to travel through Changuinola and reach Almirante from where to take the water taxi to the Island. From Panama City you can fly for about $120 (Air Panama) and from San Jose for about $300 (Natureair) to the island.

Turrialba: From San Jose take the bus from the Transtusa bus station located Avenida 6, Calle 13.  It basically leaves every hour. Take the “directo” and it will take about 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to the main bus station in Turrialba.  From Panama City you take the bus to San Jose from the Albrook terminal. Once in San Jose you need to get the Transtusa bus station to take the bus to Turrialba. From Puerto Viejo you travel to Limón followed by Siquirres and afterwards to Turrialba. You can also take the bus from Puerto Viejo to San José and get off the bus on the highway near Siquirres (this way you avoid having to change buses in Limón).  From Bocas you take the water taxi to Almirante from where you can either take a tourist shuttle ($10) or a private taxi ($25) to the border. You can also take a bus ($1.50) to Changuinola and afterwards another bus or shared taxi ($1.50) to the border. Once in Costa Rica you will walk to the bus station from where you can take the bus to Limón or to San José. If you take the bus directly to San Jose it is a bit more expensive but you don’t need to change buses in Limón. The route is: border – Limón – Siquirres – Turrialba. If you choose to take the bus to Limón you will need to change bus station here, as well in Siquirres. If you take the bus to San Jose, the bus stops on the highway (you need to ask for this stop!) and you need to walk into the town of Siquirres (5 min walk). Don’t travel late (the last bus from Siquirres to Turrialba leaves at 7:00 pm). From Boquete you take the bus to David from where you take the Transtusa bus to San Jose. It leaves at 8:30 am. Once in San Jose you need to take a taxi to the Turrialba busstation (Avenida 6, Calle 13) and take the directo to Turrialba.

Puerto Viejo: From San Jose, From Panama City, From Bocas, From Boquete

From San Jose you take the bus from Transporte MEPE located at the Terminal Atlántico Norte, Avenida 9, Calle 12. Phone +506 2257 8129. From Panama City, Boquete and Bocas, you can best first travel to Changuinola. From Panama City you take the bus from the Albrook terminal, from Boquete you first travel to David and then to Changuinola. From Bocas, you take the water taxi to Almirante from where you can either take a tourist shuttle ($10) or a private taxi ($25) to the border. You can also take a bus ($1.50) to Changuinola and afterwards another bus or shared taxi ($1.50) to the border. You can also take a bus ($1.50) to Changuinola. From Changuinola to the border by bus or shared taxi. Once in Costa Rica you take the bus to Puerto Viejo.

Of course, if you prefer not to travel by bus, we can arrange taxi transport  from the airport to all our locations. 

General information

  • Panama is in a time zone of +1 hour to Costa Rica.
  • Direct buses always cost a little more than the local buses, but it is really easier and a shorter way to travel.  The direct buses have AC and it can be really cool on the bus, so bring extra clothes.  The direct buses also have restrooms on board and will stop for meal breaks.
  • When you cross the border, you are required to pay $3 on the Panama side.
  • Bring evidence of your departure plan from the country in which you are entering. You are not permitted to stay longer than 3 months in Costa Rica and 6 months in Panama. However, if you leave the country for 72 hours, upon your return, you renew your permission to stay for the same period of time. This is a good website to make a reservation for an onward ticket: FLYONWARD.COM

For travel information we refer to the former post How to travel to Panama City, Boquete, Bocas, Puerto Viejo or Turrialba. 

If you have more questions about travelling, you can always ask us by e-mail, use the printed travel information available at the Locations or ask one of the School Managers, they are happy to assist you!

 

Costa Rica’s public bus system is excellent, cheap and quite frequent, even in remote areas. Taxis regularly do long- as well as short-distance trips and are a fairly inexpensive alternative to the bus, at least if you’re travelling in a group. Car rental is more common here than in the rest of Central America, but is fairly expensive and driving can be quite a hair-raising experience, with precipitous drops in the highlands and potholed roads just about everywhere else.
Domestic airlines are reasonably economical and can be quite a time-saver, especially since Costa Rica’s difficult terrain makes driving distances longer than they appear on the map. A number of tour operators in San José organize individual itineraries and packages with transport included, well worth checking out before making any decisions about heading out on your own.

We highly recommend you to write on your to-do list, “buy a Metro Bus card” because you need a card to pay the fare, as they don’t take cash. You can buy a card at the bus terminal in the Albrook Mall or some supermarkets. The card cost approx. $2 which you can put up to $50 in credit and when you scan your card on the bus, there is a screen that will let you know how much credit you have. One reminder, at night it is very difficult to find a place where you can put more money into your card since supermarkets aren’t 24/7 or open late at night. Besides that, you can of course always use a taxi.

Spanish Classes

If you don’t know any Spanish (or just a few words), you don’t need to do a test since you will start in level A1, week 1. If you know more,  you can do our online tests before arrival.  Start with PLACEMENT TEST 1 (when you pass this one, your level is A1 and you will start working in level A2), we will grade it and let you know if you should continue with PLACEMENT TEST 2. If you haven’t done our online test, you will do it on Sunday 5 pm at our location. Always (even if you have done the online test before arrival) you will do an oral test at this moment since our estimation will be more based on comprehension and conversational skills, than on reading and writing skills.

We use the materials of Aula Latina – Curso de espanol (Editorial Difusión) for the levels A1, A2 and B1. An important feature of this material is that the information provided is related to Latin America instead of Spain, which we think is important since most of our students will travel in Latin America. A manual with grammar information, exercises and space to write down your personal notes is included and can be taken with you after completion of the course.  This manual is printed on recycled paper. For the levels B2, C1 and C2 we use a combination of different course materials, completely suited to your needs and interests.

Bring a pen, pencil, maybe a notebook (although we also provide space for notes in the manual that we include in the course), a dictionary (although today most people have this on their smartphone) and (empty) flashcards are great as well!

You can do a test at the end to prove your level A1 till C2. A large part can be done without a teacher, but the oral will be done one-on-one, so unless you are taking private lessons, you should order one private hour,  $15 per hour. If you want to do the test, we should know with five days notice. The test has no international value but forms an accurate assessment, so you can use it on your CV without hesitation.

Our teachers are trained in a certain way and also bring in their personal teaching styles but you are free to ask the teacher to include certain topics and even to teach in a certain way. Especially in private classes we can be very flexible.

It is very important that, when you feel you are not placed in the correct level or not learning, talk to your teacher and also to the School Manager. The sooner we know, we can make adaptations and make sure you don’t lose time and will always be learning!

It might be possible to change locations without having made prior reservations for this transfer, but we can’t guarantee this possibility. Please ask the School Manager or write our Reservations team at info@spanishatlocations.com.  If we do make changes, a $15,- administration fee can be charged.

Every day the teachers keep a record of what you do in classes, what your homework is and other specifics about your learning process. At the end of your study period at one of our schools you receive this record and you can keep it if you don’t travel to another school, but need to take it with you to the following school, if you continue with us.  The School Manager of the school that you leave also sends information about your progress to the School Manager of the school where you will continue.

Although learners vary in their learning styles (which means: some needs to read, others to hear, others to touch or do something and most of us apply a combination of these possibilities), we strongly believe that for you to learn Spanish there are three essential conditions that we need to meet:

You should be:
1. provided with exposure to the target language (written and spoken in put like texts, conversations, etc.),
2. provided with opportunities to use the target language in real communication (use of the language to do things),
3. motivated to engage in the language process (to listen, read, speak and write the language).

In order to meet these conditions, we adopt a certain approach (theory behind the method that we apply), a certain method (series of steps to acquire a certain knowledge) and certain materials (authentic material like flyers, recorded conversations, etc.) and materials particularly written to support teaching: including textbooks, printouts and handouts).

Our approach: Communicative. This approach has proven one of the most successful in providing confident learners who are able to make themselves effectively understood in the shortest possible time. It is the teacher’s responsibility to create situations which are likely to promote communication and provide an authentic background for language learning. Grammar is hidden within the body of a lesson and highlighted and focused upon once the context has been set. First you try to communicate and in doing so, you’ll learn it!

Our method: Task based learning. In task based learning, tasks (activities where the target language is used by the learner for a communicative purpose) will be used as the central focus. The aim of the task is to create a real purpose for the language use and provide a natural context for the language study.

 

 

 

 

Contents different levels:

A1: abecedario, datos personales, números, saludar y despedirse, el género, presente de indicativo (-ar, -er, -ir), verbos: ser, tener, llamarse, expresar intenciones, expresar intereses, hablar de motivos, pronombres personales sujeto, verbos y preposiciones, el artículo determinado, expresar existencia, expresar ubicación (verbo estar), describir y definir lugares, personas o cosas, artículos indeterminados, cuantificadores, el clima, concordancia, preguntar y responder, el superlativo, númerales, referirse a objetos (demostrativos), el/la/los/las + adjetivo, qué + sustantivo / cuál-cuáles, expresar necesidad, hablar de preferencias, de compras, aspecto fício y carácter, gustos e intereses, relaciones personales (posesivos), verbos reflexivos, días de la semana, la hora, situar en el día, secuenciar acciones, expresar frecuencia, yo también/tampoco – yo sí/no, verbos irregulares en presente de indicativo; verbos poner y traer, generalizar: la forma impersonal con “se”, bares y restaurantes, pedir y dar información sobre comida, las comidas del día, pretérito, marcadores temporales para halbar del pasado, empezar a + infinitivo, relacionar acontecimientos del pasado, hablar de la duración, ir-irse, cuantificadores, expresar gustos: resaltar un aspecto, pedir información sobre direcciones, dar información sobre direcciones, describir el pasado; el imperfecto.

 A2: presente de indicativo; verbos refelixivos + verbos irregulares más frecuentes, hablar de la duración, hablar de motivaciones, hablar de intenciones, hablar de problemas y dificultades en el aprendizaje, hacer recomendaciones, expresar gustos, expresar coincidencias, material, sin-con-de-para, ubicar, comparar; superioridad-igualdad-inferioridad, aspecto físico, identificar, hablar de parecidos, hablar de relaciones, estar + gerundio, pedir cosas, acciones y favores, pedir y conceder permiso, dar excusas (justificarse), saludos y despedidas, hablar de horarios, hablar de experiencias en el pasado: presente perfecto, ya + pretérito/ todavía no + presente perfecto, hablar de intenciones y proyectos, formas impersonales, conectores: y/ pero/ además, pronombres personales de objeto directo (OD), ser-estar, pesos y medidas, hablar de experiencias en el pasado, expresar el deseo de hacer algo, valorar, partes del cuerpo, hablar de dolores, molestias y síntomas, dar consejos, ser y estar, imperfecto, marcadores temporales para el pasado, marcadores temporales para el presente, argumentar y debatir, ya no/ todavía + presente, pretérito, pretérito-imperfecto, marcadores temporales para relatar, imperativo, algunos usos del imperativo, la posición del pronombre, describir una escena, futuro simple, marcadores temporales para hablar del futuro, recursos para formular hipótesis sobre el futuro, expresar una condición.
B1: hablar de la duración, marcar el inicio de una acción, localizar una acción en el tiempo, ya + pretérito, todavía no + presente perfecto, perífrasis, estar + gerundio, expresar prohibición, expresar obligatoriedad, hablar de hábitos, cuantificadores, expresar impersonalidad, al teléfono, transmitir mensajes de otros, estrategias de comunicación, hablar de géneros, relatar en presente, pronombres de OD y de OI, presente de subjuntivo, expresar deseos y reclamaciones, expresar necesidad, valorar situaciones y hechos, cuando + subjuntivo, proponer soluciones y reivindicar, narrar acontecimientos pasados, referencias y relaciones temporales en el pasado, recursos para contar anécdotas, hablar de causas y consecuencias, expresar intereses y sentimientos, mostrar desacuerdo, suavizar una expresión de desacuerdo, contraargumentar, frases relativas, hablar del funcionamiento y de las características, valorar, superlativos y otros gradativos, recursos para formular hipótesis, otros recursos para expresar grados de seguridad, creer-creerse, construcciones pasivos e impersonales, anticipación del complemento, referirse a un tema ya conocido, verbos de transmisión, el condicional, aconsejar-sugerir, opinar sobre acciones y conductas, evocar situaciones imaginarias, expresar desconocimiento, pretérito imperfecto de subjuntivo.

 

Yes you will receive a certification stating the number of hours, names of teachers and level worked. If you do a test at the end to confirm your level, that level will also be stated on your certificate.

Accommodations

Yes, we do recommend this. Our hostels and other hotels fill up especially in the high season (the middle of December until the middle of April and the middle of June until the middle of August).

Yes, this is possible. You can stay at our own hostels, with a host family or at another hostel or hotel. Even an apartment, condo or fully equipped house are among the possibilities that we offer.

Please ask the reservation team at info@spanishatlocations.com or the School Manager and he or she will tell you what possibilities there are. If we do make changes, a $15,- administration fee may be charged.

The accommodations to recommend depend on  how much privacy you wish to have (a private room at our hostel or another hotel or an apartment-condo or house is more private than a shared room in our hostel or a room at a host family) and how much you would like to spend per night. The least expensive option we offer are the dorm beds. Then there are private rooms at our hostels (with at some of our locations a private bathroom as an additional option), hotels, apartments-condos and luxury houses.

Yes this is possible. Everybody can use the accommodations at our hostels. Obviously it is important to know that we are also a Spanish School. In other words we are not a party hostel (although  there are exceptions and we organize a party once in a while) but we attract mostly travellers that are interested in courses, activities and volunteer work.

Activities

Yes this is possible. There are several different activities that you can do, which vary from location to location. During the week, when you have Spanish classes, you can only do half day activities but in the weekend you can also choose to do full day and overnight activities.

This depends on the activity, and even the same activity can sometimes be done on a half day, a whole day or an overnight.

You can make a reservation through email or at the location. You can pay once you arrive at the location.

Sure, this is possible. Just let the School Manager know, and he or she will arrange it for you.

Volunteer

You can make a reservation for this through our website, or by contacting us at info@spanishatlocations.com. It is important to do this at least one month prior to starting your volunteer job.

We will make sure the organization is expecting you and you have an appointment your first day. We will also accompany you the first day and present you to the person in charge of introducing you to the company. You will receive a certificate of assistance upon completion. At the time of this writing we don’t charge for organizing volunteer work and don’t add any additional services.

Yes it is possible but you should contact us at least a month before the start date of your volunteer job.

Yes you are entitled to receive a certificate of assistance at the end of your volunteer job.

At most volunteer positions you won’t receive anything in exchange. If you volunteer at our Schools-hostels, you will receive a place to stay free of cost in exchange of 24 hours of work.

It will depend on the Visa regulations for you and that depends on your nationality. Normally you need to leave the country for 72 hours and you can re-enter and stay again for 3 months (Costa Rica) or 6 months (Panama).

Yes this is possible in most cases. Please contact info@spanishatlocations.com to get more information about that possibility for the specific volunteer option that you are interested in.

Please contact costarica@onstagelatijnsamerika.com for options.

Preparation & practical issues

In Panama City, Boquete and Turrialba you can drink the tapwater. In Bocas del Toro and Puerto Viejo you can’t. In Bocas you can refill your bottle with filtered water at a reduced price at various points.

This depends on your nationality. Most nationalities allow you to stay for 3 months in Costa Rica and 6 months in Panama. After this period you can leave the country for at least 72 hours after which you can re-enter and stay another 3 or 6 months. For this it’s best to check with your embassy.

It depends a lot on whether you cook for yourself or eat out. In Costa Rica, if you prepare your own food, you will spend between 5 and 10 dollars a day. If you eat out, it will be between 10 and 20 dollars a day. In Panama, preparing your own food, you will spend between 4 and 8 dollars a day. If you eat out, it will be between 8 and 15 dollars a day.

Yes you can rent a car in San Jose, Panama City, David or in all the tourist areas (we don’t recommend to rent a car in Turrialba).

Yes it is easy to use the public buses or rent a car for the whole period. There are lots of hotels that welcome children. Older children also like to stay in hostels where they can meet other travellers. There are lots of activities to do in both countries that children enjoy,  like horseback riding, rafting, snorkeling, hiking, zip lining etc. Always check if there are any age limits.

Yes it is safe to travel alone. Just like in any place in the world it is not recommended to walk alone, late at night at dark places.

Passport, bank cards, flight ticket, ESTA (or other Visa) when you change planes in the USA. Bring lightweight and light colored clothes (not too many, you can easily wash your clothes in tourist areas), rain jacket or poncho or umbrella, bathing suit, shirt with long sleeves and long pants, sweater, insect repellent, shoes for hikes, sandals and flip-flops, sun glasses, hat or cap, sunscreen, water bottle, camera, pen & notebook, flashlight.

 

Yes! By staying at our hostel and sharing communal areas like the living room and the kitchen, you will automatically get to know people to share activities with and maybe continue travelling with after finishing the course. If you decide to stay with a host family you will still meet other students during the Spanish classes or while enjoying the free social & cultural activities that are included in the Spanish courses such as yoga, movie night, cocktail workshop or the Friday night barbecue with happy hour!

We recommend contacting your local health organization. We have found that, although malaria prevention medication is often recommended, it isn’t necessary. Nevertheless, we prefer you to make your own decision based on information you will obtain in your home country.

We recommend that you to talk to our School Manager since he or she will know what to do. Your options will be either go to a pharmacy directly, get lab work,  go to the local physician (we know some good English speaking doctors), the local clinic or hospital, go to a larger hospital in the Capital or better go to your home country.

Our most reliable mail box is located in Turrialba. If you need to receive your mail at another location, please let us know and we will determine how to get it to you.

Spanish by the River – Turrialba
Aptdo 42 – 7150 TURRIALBA
CARTAGO / COSTA RICA

Discount offers:

White Water Rafting on the Pacuare River in Costa Rica:
only $65 for students and $80 for non-students!

PADI Open Water or ‘Advanced Cert’ on the Caribbean island of Bocas del Toro:
only $300!

More info ›

Especially for students that want to travel, learn Spanish ánd visit 4 of our amazing locations!

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