During the last 10 years or so, there were not many rules or regulations in tourism here in Panama. The ones that do exist mostly date back to 1976, appear to be somewhat haphazard and implementation can be lackadaisical. Being a tourism guide is one of those. Officially, you ought to do an exam to become a registered guide and officially, tour operators should only use registered guides. In practice, almost no one pays attention to this rule. Partly because it is not easy to do the exam. Until recently you could only take the exam once a year and you almost had to harass the Authority to find out when and where.
But things are changing. The word is that in the near future the government will be stricter. But therefore, they are also promoting the examinations. When we heard that there would be examinations in Santiago, we managed to get enough people in our area interested for the exams to be held in Mariato too, so that people could take the exam here.
Loes also searched the internet for the topics of the examination, another thing that the Tourism Authority has kept carefully hidden. But with a bit of research and the help of someone who passed the exam a few years ago, we more or less cobbled together what we (thought that we) needed to know.
You need to know a lot of history, about when Panama was founded, when it was sacked and by whom, when the canal was built, the date of the Torrijo-Carter Treaty and a lot more. Then you need to know something about the political organisation of Panama and, of course, a lot about the national folklore and culture and the various National Parks. And yes a guide should know what attractions her/his own province has to offer (know at least 5) and that other provinces also have attractions (at least 2). So geographical knowledge of Panama is a must!
All in all it is not an exam you do easily without study. There are 200 points to be scored in total and you must manage 162 of them. Up to these latest examinations, so far in Santiago, only four out of sixty-three passed the exam… We think that our group has a better percentage, but we will only know by mid-November, when the results are in.