Panama: Local Travel Info
Miami of the South
Internal Flights and Major International Airports in Panama City
Tocumen International Airport is located 35km east of the city centre. As Panama's main gateway, Tocumen is serviced by a number of international carriers. It is currently the only airport in Panama with two runways for use and is also the largest airport in the country. Tocumen International is also one of the busiest airport in Central America, regularly servicing flights to and from the Caribbean, South America, North America and Central America. Some major European cities, such as Madrid and Amsterdam, are also periodically available.
Getting to and from the Airport in Panama City
The airport is readily accessible by road and there are several regular transport services into the Panama City. Buses marked España Tocumen run frequently from the airport to the city centre, though journey time is about two hours. Taxis also serve the terminals, and are a much quicker, but costlier, alternative.
Travel Costs in Panama City
Panama City has an extensive network of public buses, though unfortunately it's confusing and at times daunting if you don't speak Spanish. As a result, most visitors prefer to take taxis, or even trek on foot around the city centre. However, if you feel like braving the public buses, destinations and prices are posted on the front windshield. Although there are few formal bus stops in the city, do as the locals do and queue up along major routes. Special tickets and passes are not available for visitors, though this isn't a problem as bus fare is extremely cheap. Panama has an extensive and efficient, yet confusing to tourists, form of public transportation consisting of colourful painted buses colloquially known as diablo rojo. A diablo rojo is usually "customized" or painted with bright colours, usually depicting famous actors, politicians or singers. It is now popular all over the city (and also in neighbouring towns) for bus drivers to personally customize the interior and exterior of their diablo rojo. Panama City's only transportation problem includes frequent traffic jams due to the high levels of private transport ownership. Public transport generally operates between approximately 05.00 and 22.00. However, it is safer to take a taxi during early morning and late night hours. Taxis can be hailed on the street, though drivers are surprisingly reluctant to pick up passengers and may even protest if your destination won't result in a high fare. Drivers will almost always leave the meter off in an attempt to charge you more, though fares are never more than a few dollars. Car Hire is also available throughout the city and all the major car companies are catered for.
Renting Cars in Panama City
The major car rental companies are represented in Panama City, both at the airport and downtown: Hertz, Budget, Thrifty, and Dollar all have offices in and around the city. Either a driver's license from the traveller’s country of origin or an International Driving Permit are acceptable documentation.
To book car rental in Panama online, view our Car Hire section for Panama. We offer Ok Bravo users the latest special offers and best rates available for car hire in Panama. We advise you book your Panama hire car in advance so you can pick it up and drop it off directly at the airport.
Drivers License Requirements in Panama City
Visitors wishing to drive must possess an International Green Card, a valid Driving Licence or International Driving Permit.
Driving Rules in Panama City
Traffic conditions can be tricky. Many vehicles are not well maintained, including buses and taxis, so driving can be hazardous. Effective use of brakes and signalling by Panamanian drivers are often both notoriously absent. Add to these factors dense traffic, poor or nonexistent signs or traffic signals, neglected street repairs, and many uninsured motorists (insurance is not mandatory in Panama), and you have a situation that should give pause to many travellers considering self-drive auto rental. The maximum speed limit in Panama City and towns is 40 km/h and 60 km/h on country roads and highways, unless signs indicate otherwise (25km/h in school areas). Drivers and adult front seat passengers must wear seat belts. Children must wear seat belts or a suitable child/infant restraint, in both front and rear seats. It is an offence to drive whilst under the influence of drugs. If you are involved in an accident you must stop and phone the Police for the correct course of action. Failure to do so is an offence.
Buses in Panama City
A bus system services all accessible areas of the country. It is easy to travel from Panama City to any of the major cities in the interior, such as El Valle, Col ón, David, or Aton, requires going to the new Gran Terminal de Albrook, located near the downtown area. Buses leave throughout the day at hourly intervals or less, depending on destination. It is not a rapid form of transportation, but it is fairly comfortable and dependable. Travellers can take an overnight bus from Panama City to Bocas del Toro, Chiriqu í Grande, and Changuinola. This service is offered by Union de Buses Panamericanos, whose office is situated on Via Fernandez de Cordoba, next to a restaurant called Felicidad. The buses are air-conditioned and full service. Urban buses are easily recognised, painted in bright, colourful schemes. Most are the fairly unadorned, with seating that is sometimes lacking in comfort and air-conditioning, but they service almost every part of the city. Passengers pay a flat fare at the turnstile when boarding.
Taxis in Panama City
Throughout the suburbs and centre of Panama City, taxis are regular, convenient and easy to flag down. Large taxi ranks can always be found at all railway and airport links as well as busy areas of business, tourism and commerce. Taxis charge around $2-3 per km and tipping is common; but not mandatory. Extra charges are made for waiting time and luggage not carried in the passenger compartment. Taxis can be hailed on the street, though drivers are surprisingly reluctant to pick up passengers and may even protest if your destination won't result in a high fare. Drivers will almost always leave the meter off in an attempt to charge you more, though fares are never more than a few dollars.
Cycling in Panama City
Cycling through Panama City is an exciting and rewarding experience with world class stops and an opportunity to experience some stunning sights cycling along the Panama Canal, from Panama City to the Caribbean coast. Bicycles are a very common form of transportation in Central America and hire shops are affordable and easily located throughout the city. The ease of bicycle ‘parking’ and the many cycle paths around Panama City make cycling faster and more convenient over short distances than either buses or cars. Panama City’s surroundings make it the perfect city for cycling with its many extensive and scenic bicycle paths/cycle lanes. Some buses also allow you to attach bikes to their roof, giving you greater flexibility as you travel around a scintillating city couched along some glorious coastline.
Hitchhiking in Panama City
Although hitchhiking is a popular method of transport for travellers in Panama, the potential dangers are huge and cases of violence and abduction not unheard of so it is not a recommended form of travel.