Planes, Trains & Automobiles in Panama
In the city it’s typical to pay less than $5 for a taxi ride to just about any reasonable distance from your hotel including the regional airport. In the small communities of Boquete and Bocas taxi fares drop to $2 or less. Although the town of Bocas is small dragging luggage down Main Street in the heat and humidity can be a pain. Here te taxis will typically charge 50 cents to take you to your hotel.
For getting around the country you can go back-packer-frugal and get from one end of the country to the other for under $20 but the best way to get around is by air.
Panama has two regional airlines – Aeroperlas and AirPanama. They flit around the country to dozens of locations each day and for a pleasantly low amount. A week ago I took a taxi from the Atlanta Airport to a hotel in Suwannee, about a 30 minute ride. The one way fare was over $100. In Panama I can fly all the way from Panama City to David or Bocas del Toro, about a 1 hour flight, for just $75!
On our first visit we were focused solely on Bocas del Toro. While perusing the EscapeArtist website I discovered some really exciting articles about getting rich growing Teak & Noni while living the good life in the Caribbean. If you read my letter about Bocas at LearnAboutPanama.com you now know it was a scam. However, the scam artist himself did give us one good piece of advice. He suggested that if we were coming to see Bocas we might as well check out the rest of the country. He recommended a town called Boquete in the mountains, said is was lovely and quite different. If that suggestion had not been made we would never have discovered our piece of Panama Paradise. That led us to create our Panama Travel Triangle. We would fly from Panama City to Bocas then across to David and return to Panama City from David. It really is a very convenient way to explore most of the country in a short period of time. PC to Bocas costs $75, and Bocas to David $39 inclusive of taxes.
Another adventure is taking the train from Panama City to the Port of Colon – the Freezone. The train leaves Panama from the Corozal terminal around 7AM. It takes about 45-60 minutes to get to Colon. The return leaves Colon at 5:30. The last time I checked it was about $35 round trip and $20 one way. It’s a good idea to buy your tickets in advance as the train is often booked full by Cruise Ship passengers. This railroad was originally built to connect the city of Colon on the Atlantic (Caribbean) to Panama city on the Pacific. This was the very first transcontinental railroad in the Americas. A cautionary note – an entire day is a long time to spend in Colon. Although you can get some great deals in the Freezone this is one of the worst parts of Panama for crime. I suggest you plan ahead to get out of Colon City as quickly as you can. You might want to explore the beautiful Caribbean communities and islands on the coast. Look to Portobello or even a day on the beach at Isla Grande.
The Pan-American Highway (Carretera Panamericana), commonly known as the Inter-Americana, stretches from the Costa Rican border in the west across the country into the heart of the Darien province. There it stops about 50 miles from the Columbian border. The Darien Gap is this area along the border between Colombia and Panama. It is a lush rain forest with one of the highest degrees of bio-diversity in the entire world. The Pan-Am Highway is a real treat by Central American standards, and in some cases even North American standards! It is well maintained and there are plenty of food and gas stops all the way across the Isthmus. The trickiest part of driving in Panama is in the cities and getting out of Panama City itself. Be sure to read my directions at LearnAboutPanama.com Taxis are so cheap I recommend getting about by cab within the city and then picking up your rental car when you are just ready to leave.
Buen Viaje! Happy Tavels!