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“Most amazing experience of my life!!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Habla Ya Spanish School, Bocas del Toro Campus- Day Classes

Habla Ya Spanish School, Bocas del Toro Campus- Day Classes
South Corner of 9th Street and G Avenue, Bocas Town, Isla Colon 0101, Panama
507 757 7352
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Ranked #4 of 19 activities in Bocas Town
Type: Classes/Workshops
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Attraction Details
Fee: Yes
Owner description: Habla Ya offers different types of Spanish courses: from group lessons (4 hours per day, maximum 6 students per class) and private classes.
Asheville, North Carolina
1 review
“Most amazing experience of my life!!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 3, 2012

I experienced two weeks at Habla Ya in August this year and had the most amazing time of my life! The professors are amazing and the administration really has it together! They are so well organized and also made me feel like I was apart of the family! I will have friends for life now! Thank you Diogenes for being the most amazing Spanish professor I could ask for! He was so patient and went at my pace! This school is the best, so you don't need to look any further!!

Visited August 2012
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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80 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
  • German first
  • Spanish first
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English first
Bocas del Toro
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“This Habla Ya student is a HAPPY student :-)))”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 27, 2012

I am a resident in Bocas Del Toro and take regular classes at Habla Ya to improve my daily use of spanish. I cannot say enough positive things about this school.

Firstly, and I think most importantly, the quality of the teaching is incredible. I am extremely happy with the progress I am making to become an advanced and hopefully, eventually, a truly fluent speaker. Being a resident, attending the school every week I also see and chat to students at the school who are just here for a short time and, without exception, everybody I have spoken to is impressed with the school and the teaching. I love the friendliness of the school and in between classes I like to chat in spanish with students who a week earlier could only say "Hola" "Por favor" and "Gracias"

What else? Well the school is set in attractive gardens, centrally located within Bocas town. The building is spacious and well-presented with plenty of space for students to hang around between and after class to practise spanish with fellow students or access the free wifi. Lessons take place in spacious classrooms fitted with air-conditioning and over-head fans. Believe me, we need them as it gets pretty hot over here!

I was extremely surprised to read the previous reviewers comments regarding the management and administration of the school as I have always found them extremely attentive and professional and I wholly disagree with the remarks regarding tour prices. I have been on several tours with Habla Ya which I could not find cheaper elsewhere.

To be honest, I am writing this review from the balcony of Habla Ya as when I became aware that my favourite language school had received such a negative review here on Tripadvisor I felt compelled to leap to their defense. I also feel dutybound to comment regarding the Tungara Hostel as I have had visiting friends stay there who have enthused about the atmosphere at the hostel and all the new comfy mattresses that have been invested in. I can't help but wonder why the previous review is so out of kilter with all other reviews??? This reviewer seems to have attended a different school altogether!!!!!

I whole-heartedly recommend studying spanish with Habla Ya. You WILL learn to speak spanish and you WILL have fun while doing so.

This Habla Ya student is a Happy student :-)))

Visited August 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Skokie, Illinois
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
4 attraction reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
“Best find ever for my 17 year old”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 27, 2012

I wanted to let everyone know the wonderful experiencer my 17 year old daughter had at Habla Ya Panama. The program provided everything promised and more. It was a "scary" trip for me to decide to let her participate in mostly because of the travel; however, the staff made me feel that they were always on top of the travel arrangements and were easily reached during her travels to Panama to let me know the progress of her reaching Bocas del Toro. Before her trip, they were so helpful in being sure I was comfortable with the travel arrangements which had been made.

The 4 weeks she spent at Bocas del Toro will be remembered by her as some of the most fun, educational, enlightening and interesting times she has had (and she is a well traveled teenager who has had a lot of amazing adventures). She felt that the level of the teachers (both Chris her class teacher and her private tutor) was way above what she expected. Both instructors were interesting, engaging, personable and able to teach just to the level that she required. She was able to ask them specifically what she was interested in improving, and they made an effort to be sure to include this in their teaching plan. When she started back at high school last week she was asked in AP Spanish class to "talk" in Spanish about her summer and she amazed both the teacher and her class with her comfort and fluency in Spanish while she told about her adventure in Panama. In addition, the host family that they placed her with was warm, fun and caring. They added so much to her stay. Finally, the other young adults that are attracted to the program were a great bunch of kids who allowed her to fully enjoy her free time. I think she will maintain friendships with them for a long time. I recommend the program to anyone who asks.

Visited July 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
“Very disappointed”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 18, 2012

I had really high hopes for Habla Ya, unfortunately I was disappointed on MANY occasions by the owners and the management of Habla Ya.

On more than one occasion, they made me feel as though the only thing they cared about was money. The school and the education really didn't seem to be much of a priority, or at least it seemed to be no where near as important as profits.

For example:
- The school will set you up with a driver to pick you up from the airport --- this "shuttle" is at least $5 - 10 more expensive than if you set it up on your own. I later found out that the driver is either related to or close friends with the Habla Ya management.
- There are many hidden costs with the "shuttle" service - for example, they will offer you tours of the Panama Canal, etc, what they don't tell you is that they will charge you $90+ for such tours
- The hostel that they recommend in Bocas del Toro, Tungara, is RUN AND OWNED BY THE OWNERS OF HABLA YA. They tried to tell me that the hostel is run by another party, but if you look at Tungara's website, it very clearly states that Carlos Cabrera is the owner. This hostel is infested with bed bugs and they CONTINUE to recommend it to their students without any attempts at cleaning/fumigating/obtaining new mattresses. They simply don't care if their students get bed bugs as long as they are making money. Additionally, the private rooms in the hostel are approximately 2x more expensive than any other hostel in Bocas del Toro.
- They offer "tours" and excursions to the students (who are already paying >$225/wk for Spanish lessons) that are, again, at least $5-10 more expensive than other operators in town -- some of these tours are 2x more expensive than other operators! It seems like students who are paying for classes should get a discounted rates for tours, but that business concept is lost on the management of Habla Ya.

Additionally, at both the Boquete and Bocas del Toro campus, there are some serious issues with the accommodations that Habla Ya sets up for it's students:
- Tungara Hostel is both over priced and infested with bed bugs. The owners of Tungara completely disregard any guests who break the "hostel rules" this is true for minor infractions, such as guests who make noise and party after the 11pm quiet hours, but unfortunately this is also true for VERY SERIOUS problems such as blatant drug use by guests.

With these, very serious, problems stemming from the management, I would very, very strongly urge anyone looking into Spanish classes abroad to find another option besides Habla Ya. The classes themselves are fine, the teachers are good and kind, but they do not make up for the absolute unprofessionalism with the management and owners.

Visited July 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
panamajoules, Owner at Habla Ya Spanish School, Bocas del Toro Campus- Day Classes, responded to this review, August 25, 2012
Dear Mitchell491,

We have a reputation of providing top quality customer service (as indicated in many reviews on this and other sites), and are always open to receive constructive feedback to improve, but when someone decides to write inaccurate information just because the person did not receive a refund after threatening to damage our online reputation we have no other option but to respond by stating the facts.

Please allow me to answer the following:

- Yes, we offered you a private airport pickup from Tocumen Airport and quoted $35. You accepted our quote. Your flight had a 4 hour delay, and your driver was waiting for you until you arrived. Regular taxis who charge $25 obviously don't do that. First of all, they don't wait for you with a sign with your name on it. And second of all, a taxi would have easily charged you $10 more per hour to wait for you. You even said yourself in your email on July 8th that "thankfully Enrique was still at the airport waiting on me. I just felt terrible that he waited so long." It's completely outrageous that you complain about an over priced airport pickup.

We never hid the fact that you can also take public transportation. It's stated in the first email you receive and it's in every section of our website about getting to the school . We offer the shuttle because many students feel safer when they are picked up by our partner company.

- There are no hidden costs in our shuttle service. The cost is $35 as stated on our website, and in the emails you have received. If you asked the driver of that OTHER company to give you an additional tour to visit the canal, obviously it will cost extra. Nobody works for free. If you have taken a canal tour, you have done so willingly accepting the price of the service. Habla Ya quoted you for the shuttle service only, not the tour.

- YES Tungara is managed by our school staff, and as you say yourself, our website states this very clearly. Both Tungara and Habla Ya's website state it very clearly. Why would anyone of our staff tell you otherwise? Keep it real please.

- You say that the hostel is infested with bedbugs and that we do nothing about it. First of all, you only stayed in one room. People have stayed in that room right before, and right after your left, and they have had no bites. Our staff also IMMEDIATELY responded to your complaint and inspected your room, and couldn't find any bedbugs (they are about the size of a tick and are easy to spot). Since we took over this hostel, we have replaced MANY mattresses (as indicated in various reviews about Tungara). We do fumigate the entire hostel every month, and the rooms are cleaned and inspected.

If you were so afraid to keep getting bed bug bites, then why did you continue to stay at the hostel after we asked you to leave, and gave you a full refund for your lodging? If you had the money in your hand to book yourself in another place (as you mention there are cheaper places in town), why did you want to keep staying in a place that supposedly had bed bugs? Now we get it: you just wanted a free bed.

- About the price of the rooms: calling Tungara "overpriced" is your personal point of view, and you knew the price of the room before booking it. Obviously there will always be cheaper or more expensive options in town, but you chose Tungara. If $35 for a private room in downtown Bocas del Toro is too expensive for you, please provide travelers with a list of hostels that offer cheaper rooms.

- You say that we only care about the money. I believe that it is not fair for you to make such a statement, when you got a full refund of your stay at Tungara because you were not happy staying there.

- Yes we do offer tours in town, which may be more or less expensive than other operators, but we choose our partners according to their quality of service, not just the price. Anyone can do their research in TA forums and hear about the horror stories experienced by travelers when booking a random boat captain. If that is what anyone would like to do to save $5 or $10, they are free to do so.

- Yes students do get discounted rates for the tours that we offer. Prices are clearly stated on our website. Please compare the normal rates for the Catamaran Sailing Tour, Ziplining, Coral Surfing, the Cacao Plantation Tour, Surf Lessons and many others, and you will see that our students save money AND have access to the very best tour operators.

- About "hostel rules": After 10pm, we do not allow any noise, and when someone does not respect that rule, we call them out on it. The party you were referring to were people making noise in the street and in the building next door, which is out of our control, and that particular night we did everything we could to get people to party elsewhere which after 10 minutes we did convince them to do so.

- You mention "blatant drug use by guests" - you were the only one who supposedly witnessed such behavior, and the only guest complaining about this. We talked to the guests you accused, and inspected their room, and no such substances were found. We talked to other guests as well and not a single person said the same thing. The truth is, the rest of the guests were begging us to kick you out. That is exactly what we should have done.

It seems to us that you have a personal vendetta against one of the owners, and are not providing any constructive criticism. You review is based on baseless accusations, attempting a smear campaign against our establishment.

We are glad to hear however that you did enjoy Spanish lessons, liked your Spanish teachers and from what we've seen from many pictures taken during your stay, you seemed to have a great time in Bocas del Toro, both at the hostel, our school, and everywhere else
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Carmel, California
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“Amazing Spanish School!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 3, 2012

Habla ya offered top-notch spanish classes for my family and I. It really doesn't compare with any classes we've taken in the states because it was so much better. My daughters ages 14 and 11 basically had private lessons for 3 weeks. The class size is so small that you are really immersed into the language. My oldest daughter will bypass taking Spanish 1 at her school and go into spanish 2 because she learned so much in those 3 weeks. All of the teachers are kind and gently push you to your maximum potential. The office staff was very organized and flexible to make our learning experience work with our vacation. They offered all kinds of excursions as well. My daughter and I really enjoyed the yoga in Bocas. There was also a sense of community amongst the other travelers. We met people from all over the world. I highly recommend spanish classes at Habla ya. If you are looking for a high quality Spanish immersion program, do not hesitate. This program is fantastic! Bocas is a safe, fun atmosphere and a great place to vacation, I miss it!

Visited June 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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