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“Pipeline Road Tour” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Almiza Tours by My friend Mario

Almiza Tours by My friend Mario
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Discover the Panama culture with local guides and the best you will pay our local price (Half price than our competitors!!!) We have the best friendly guides with 10+ years experience with tons of information and history details. We are in the business since 1994.
Useful Information: Activities for older children, Bathroom facilities, Activities for young children
Southampton, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
18 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“Pipeline Road Tour”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 29, 2014

We had an excellent bird watching tour with Mario 3 on Pipeline Road just outside of Panama City. He was extremely knowledgeable about all sorts of things besides the birds, and was very helpful and kind. Although the tour did not include a meal, he went shopping before he picked us up and made us a lovely brunch. He also gave us his telephone number in case we had any problems on our Canal Transit tour the next day (which, but the way, was fascinating and very enjoyable). We paid the extra to go into the Rainforest Reserve and climb the observation tower and it was very worthwhile as we saw lots of birds at tree top level as the sun rose.
I can thoroughly recommend both this tour and our super guide, and the full canal transit tour.

Visited January 2014
Helpful?
Thank Jane T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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268 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
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  • Any
English first
San Francisco
Level Contributor
31 reviews
17 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
“Outstanding Guide!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 26, 2014

Mario Wong (Mario #2) is one of the best guides I have encountered in my travels to 60+ countries. He made the places we visited truly meaningful by supplying the historic context, leaving me with a deep understanding of Panama's history and the events that shaped it. He always had maps at hand to illustrate the information, which was extremely helpful.

I took a private tour with him, visiting Colon, San Lorenzo fortress and the Gatun Locks. I also took the train through the jungle from Panama City to Colon - highly recommended. Mario picked me up in the morning and drove me to the train station, then met me again in Colon. (I like that the tour company didn't mark up the train fare - they just let me buy it myself - $25.)

Mario kept me supplied with snacks throughout the day, and never rushed or hurried me. In fact, after a couple of hours at the Gatun locks - which are fantastic, and much less crowded than the Miraflores locks - I asked him how much time was allotted there, and he said, "Stay as long as you want!"

I thought the pricing was very reasonable for the entire day, and it included everything - admissions, food, guide, transportation. I appreciated that.

FYI, My Friend Mario is actually a tour company with 10 guides; 4 are named Mario. So when you email them, you are communicating with the company, not an individual, despite their sign-off, "Your Friend Mario." (That was a bit confusing to me at first.)

This tour was a real highlight of my visit to Panama, thanks to Mario Wong. I would definitely work with him again!

Visited January 2014
Helpful?
Thank TravelWriterSF
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Moscow, Russia
1 review
“exellent guide”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 23, 2014

Rainforest (Watching Birds and Monkeys) + San Lorenzo Fort + Gatun Locks
Good organization.
Mario 3 is intelligent gentle guide,which promotes Panama and successfully!

Visited December 2013
Helpful?
Thank Dmitry K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hillsboro, Oregon
Level Contributor
12 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Great for the airport transfers...but tour not as advertised!”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 12, 2014 via mobile

We just returned from a quick trip to Panama and, after reading the glowing reviews here on Tripadvisor, decided to use them for our airport transfers as well as the Canal/Rainforest/Fort tour that is described on their website.

Despite a lengthy wait to get through customs at the Panama City airport, Mario Sr. was waiting for us in the terminal with a sign that had my name on it. He drove us to our hotel in a nice SUV and we really enjoyed the conversation with him along the way--excellent first impression!

The next day, our driver picked us up on-time in the hotel lobby for our tour. At first it was odd to discover that he spoke little to no English, but we quickly found out that our actual tour guide would be picked-up along the way in Colon (about an hour away). The car that was used for the entire tour was a small, rundown looking car with a few large cracks in the front windshield. Since our driver didn't speak English, most of the talking between our hotel and Colon was between my wife and I :) When we picked-up Carlos, our tour guide, he proceeded to tell us everything we've ever wanted to know about Panama (and then some!)...very friendly and personable though. We drove past the Gatun Locks portion of the Panama Canal and he said we would return on the way back when the ships were going through (which was appreciated). Next, we made our way through the rainforest on our way to the San Lorenzo Fort. This was the part of the tour I was looking forward to the most--the "45 minute walk/hike through the rainforest" (as described on the My Friend Mario website). Instead of walking through the rainforest, Carlos had our driver pull over at one point along the road so we could get out of the car and take a few pictures of some monkeys in the trees--that was the extent of our "hike through the rainforest"--bummer :( When we got to Fort San Lorenzo, we walked around and took a bunch of pictures and listened as Carlos did a great job explaining some of the history surrounding the fort. After the fort tour, we got back in the car and drove to the Gatun Locks which turned out to be our favorite part of the tour since we got to see the amazing process of how ships pass through the locks--from the visitors center viewing platform, you are REALLY close to the ships as they pass through--very cool to watch! After spending time at the locks, we got back in the car and made our way back to Colon to drop off our tour guide. Since we were near the Carribean Sea, my wife asked Carlos if we could stop somewhere and put our feet in the sea and he said yes. They took us to a spot in Colon that was basically a bunch of broken up concrete and trash along the water's edge--needless to say, we were able to put our feet in the sea. After that, we dropped Carlos off and made our way back to Panama City. Since it was an 8 hour tour and we were running about 90min. early, my wife tried to ask our driver if we could make an extra stop at the top of a small mountain in Panama City so she could get a geocache, but we found out from Carlos (via the driver's cell phone) that we would need to pay extra for that so we decided to have our driver drop us off at a local mall, 90 minutes before the tour was suppose to end. We had fun on this tour and found both our driver and Carlos (our tour guide) to be friendly and easy to work with. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a walk through the rainforest as well as the fact that our guides provided no drinks or snacks or even a stop for lunch (as described on the tour website), I have to say that both my wife and I were somewhat disappointed when it was over and we would probably continue to use My Friend Mario for airport transfers, but for tours we would look elsewhere.

Our driver for our transfer from the hotel to the airport was on-time and friendly, although the car he drove was a taxi (and he had no sign or note with my name on it) so I was initially suspicious at the beginning and wondered if he was the one who REALLY was suppose to take us to the airport. Someone from My Friend Mario called our driver's cell phone to ask me about my tour the previous day so I eventually knew for sure that our driver was from My Friend Mario.

Visited December 2013
Helpful?
Thank PDXPremier
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chicago
Level Contributor
42 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 46 helpful votes
“Great excursion, but company has some kinks to work out”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 7, 2014

We used My Friend Mario for a trip to the Embera Village. The actual trip - a canoe up the river to meet the friendliest group of natives you'll ever meet, preceded by swimming in a waterfall - was fantastic, and I would highly recommend the excursion if you're in Panama City. There were some issues with the company, however. Pickup from our hotel was late due to some confusion on the location of our hotel. Still, the driver was very chatty and friendly. On the way to pick up additional passengers, he took us to some off-the-beaten path viewing sites of the canal locks and had some interesting stories. Once we retrieved the rest of the group, he got lost on the way to the canoe dropoff...at least three times. He had to both call for directions and ask someone on the road for them. We then waited about 20 minutes at the dropoff (we made it!) while he fetched us some bottles of water and fruit. Water - and pop and beer! - was promised when we booked the tour, so we were surprised that we had to spend some more of our tour time waiting for water to be purchased before the canoe launch. This didn't stop our driver from asking us for a cash payment before we went anywhere. I certainly don't mind pre-paying, but considering how much time we spent either lost or waiting, I thought it might be natural to have a little bit of skepticism about the rest of the tour, and it could have been handled differently. The tour got an average rating for the tour to the village itself, but the highlights with the driver ended after what was a very good first impression.

Visited December 2013
Helpful?
Thank MidwestTrvlLvr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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