When coming to Panama, everybody talks about flights, where to stay, what to do, and so on. This is okay for those coming for short periods, since their priority is to be able to enjoy most Panama’s attractions in a short time. However, for those staying longer, it’s convenient to know more information than just the cost of certain hotels or trips.
To ensure having a pleasant time and saving as much money as possible, it’s necessary to learn the basic principles of transportation in Panama City. Why? This way, for example, instead of paying $10 in a taxi, you can just pay 0.25 cents in a bus to go to a desired location.
Taxis are not bad, lots of Panamanian use it on their daily life. Even those who regularly use the bus, sometimes have to take taxis to get to a specific location out of reach for a metrobus. In example, those living in remote areas can find taxis to their front doors for one dollar or less. There are also the famously known “taxis pirata”, which make recurrent solicited trips for the maximum number of passengers (4) and each one pays just $1 instead of the normal fare that could be even $3 a single passenger.
Metrobuses are the official Panama City’s public method of transportation. To get familiarized with metrobuses is not only knowing their rate and learning the bus stops, but also learning the principal routes, which depend on the city structure of streets and highways.
There are two main regular routes leading to the city: “Via España” and “Tumba Muerto”, colloquially speaking. The actual names, respectively, are: “Ave. Jose Agustín Arango” and “Vía Ricardo J. Alfaro”, this is how they are found in Google Maps, however, these names are not used by many Panamanians and some others don’t even know them. In the buses are used the colloquial names.
The fare of this routes, departing from any location inside Panama City, is 0.25 cents each trip. They also offer the option to make a bus switch inside the same route to another further location. For example: one worker is going back to his house in Mañanitas from “Via España”, but the bus is taking too long so he decides to take another destination that goes closer by. He goes off the first bus, first validating the card at the exit tourniquet and then waits for his correct bus. The time between buses is up to 45 minutes and it can be done twice only. After that, the fare will be charged again. The example shows how this option is used on Panamanian’s daily life, but for a foreigner visitor it’s also convenient; in case of choosing the wrong route, he could just get off the bus and wait for the right one at the next bus stop.
There are two other routes, considered highways, with a higher fare (currently it’s 0.75 cents). These two routes are "Corredor Sur" and "Corredor Norte". They take passengers through longer distances for a shorter time. It’s important to remark that there are no bus stops in the middle of “corredores”.
Read more about different routes on the official Metrobus Panama website.
“Metro Panama” is the project that managed the construction of Panama City’s metro, which is a train with two working lines, that goes through the city to further areas towards the east.
Line 1 goes from Albrook to the final station in “San Isidro”, and has 14 stops on the way at important areas such as: “Via Argentina”, “Iglesia del Carmen”, “Santo Tomas”, “Fernandez de Cordoba”, etc. These areas are well known among visitors since they hold the majority of hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs in Panama City. The price per trip is 0.35 cents.
Line 2 was made to connect the city with the eastern area which is where most Panamanians live and is where the International Tocumen Airport is as well. This goes from station “San Miguelito” to “Felipillo”. The price is 0.50 cents.
Which means a complete trip in train from one edge of the city to another is just 0.85 cents. Isn’t it great?!
For both the metrobuses and the train, it’s required the use of a rechargeable plastic card. The card has to be placed as indicated in the tourniquets found on the metrobuses and the train stations before entering. There are many places in the whole city where the card can be recharged and purchased: most supermarkets, all the train stations and designated sale points located in the central areas of the city. Without the card is not possible to pay the fare of the mentioned transportation.
But as we mentioned, sometimes taxis are needed to go to specific destinations hard to reach without a car. We recommend using public transportation on a daily basis to move from the hotel or apartment to the nearest supermarket or a fun point in the city, however taxis and Uber are recommended, instead of public transportation, depending on the occasion and place to go. Many young people that go out for a club night, prefer using services of Uber since they are safer. Also, if having short time to reach a destination, the trip on a taxi is way faster than using the bus, since the taxi driver doesn’t have to make stops and is able to take shortcuts or faster ways without traffic.
Besides the well-known Uber, an emerging platform in Panama City is Cabify. Many say prices found in this platform are often cheaper than Uber and the service is equally good, but unlike Uber, it’s area of reach is small and just limited to the city.
Editor’s tip: We recommend downloading the application “Mi Bus Maps Panama” which offers a detailed live information about buses location, nearest stops and directions.