How to Get Around in Panama

by | Feb 14, 2022 | Panama | 1 comment

Getting where you need to go can be a stressful part of traveling and getting around a new country. Knowing how to navigate public transportation and renting or buying a vehicle is very important before landing in new unexplored territories. Luckily, Panama has many efficient options to move around the country with ease.

The Metro System

Metro de Panamá by ...between twilight by Ian Mackinnon
Metro de Panamá by …between twilight by Ian Mackinnon

The Metrobus system is an ongoing project in the greater Panama City area.

An expansion all the way out to the suburb of La Chorrera is underway, which will enhance the life quality for those who spend hours in rush hour traffic each day getting to and from work.

For now, you can take the metro all over the Panama City area. You must buy a $2 Metrobus card at the Albrook bus terminal or the Metrobus Stations and you can load the card with $5 and that should last you a while, as the cost is just $0.25 for each ride.

The metro buses run regularly, so you never have to wait too long for your bus.

Uber in Panama City

Uber is another type of transportation that can only be used in Panama City, for now. Although, I see it expanding to other popular tourist destinations soon. It is the easiest way to call a ride because you know exactly what you are going to pay, and you don’t have to know Spanish to speak with your driver, because they already know your destination. It’s all right there on the app.

Taxis in Panama

This universal way of transport is pretty straightforward. The only issue you will have here is if you don’t speak Spanish, since you will need to say where you want to go and negotiate a price. It is easy to get stuck with the “gringo” price, when taxi drivers see a foreigner and raise the cost of the trip. It’s always best to agree on the cost of the ride before getting in the taxi. The price depends on where you are in the country, you can expect to pay more in Panama City. Taxis do not use a meter system, so it is difficult to calculate the cost. To give an example, it shouldn’t cost more than $5 to move around downtown Panama City. To get from the airport to downtown will cost you around $30.

Public Buses in Panama

1436 Panama 08-05-04 by Ian Mackinnon
1436 Panama 08-05-04 by Ian Mackinnon

I used the public bus system during my first two years in Panama to travel all over the country. At first, it seemed quite difficult to understand, but I got the hang of it quickly.

Every bus has the name of its start and end destinations on the front windshield, and a worker, called the “Pavo”, beside the driver or hanging out the bus door, who manages the money and helps passengers on and off the bus.  Again, you will want to know Spanish to advise the worker to let you off at your destination.

You can find out the local bus schedules from locals, other bus passengers, at the bus terminal, or from the driver or “Pavo.”

This option takes some time to figure out if you plan to travel to many locations, but it is a safe, reliable, and affordable means of transportation here. I would estimate $1-2 per one-hour bus ride.

Rent a Car in Panama

The major car rental companies in Panama are quite expensive because you must buy daily insurance besides the rental cost. You can estimate around $500 a week for a small SUV. You may find a deal of $1,000 a month for a rental car through a smaller private rental company. You can rent a car at the major airports in Panama City, David, and in larger cities around the country. Use Waze or Google Maps to help you navigate the roads.

Buy a Car in Panama

When buying a car, keep in mind the major brands in the country, so it will be easy to find parts and get maintenance in the future. If you are looking at second-hand vehicles and know little about cars, hire a trustworthy car broker to help you find the best car for you at the right price.

Now that you know how to get around Panama, what’s the first place you’re going to visit? Let me know in the comments.

by: Megan Thompson