Public Transportation & Rental Cars


BIENVENIDO A PANAMA!

This info is about as accurate and up-to-date as possible. One thing you can depend on in Panama is that rules change! No changes are ever “earth shattering” mind you. A nip here….a tuck there. Also, herein there are tid-bits of advice. Some things I just had to learn the hard way. You don’t have to be as stubborn as me…..so, please read on.  It’s just always good to know these things. 

U.S. tourists are allowed to stay in Panama for 180 days, without extension. This changed from 90 days in 2010. However, your ability to drive with a U.S. driver’s license and your U.S. passport will expire after 90 days in country. This has not changed. To legalize your driving status again you need to leave the country for 3 days. Upon re-entry you will be able to legally drive again and also your VISA is good for another 180 days from that date. Hence, the border (or fronterra) of Costa Rica is an extremely popular place for expats living here without “pensianado” status.

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All majors service Panama. COPA is Panama’s international airline and partner of Continental Airlines. Delta has daily flights from Atlanta as does American from Houston and other departures. Airfares are rather cheap and can be even cheaper if you fly a regional carrier such as Spirit Airlines. Spirit flies the Caribbean and offers fare from Florida to Panama City, Panama (PTY) for far less than $200.00 one-way. If you’re a budget traveler and don’t mind arriving in Panama at 3am then Spirit Airlines is the way to go.

When in Panama you will use our domestic air carrier….AIR PANAMA.



Air Panama
Marcos A. Gelabert Airport
Albrook- National Airport
Tel:   +507- 316-9000
e-mail:  reservaciones@airpanama.com

Customer Care & Service
Tel: +507- 316-9069// 9070
email: servicio.al.cliente@airpanama.com
email: fatima.delcid@airpanama.com
https://www.flyairpanama.com

Albrook Airport to Pedasi one way is $68.00 departing at 3pm on Wednesday, Friday & Sunday. They depart Pedasi at about 4pm back to Panama City.

Taxis from Tocumen Airport into Panama City are $20-30, or you can share a mini-bus with other passengers at a reduced cost of about $11-15. A nice little trick to get a cheaper taxi fare is go outside of the terminal of the PASSENGER DROP-OFF area instead of the PASSENGER PICK-UP area. Those drivers are dropping people off for departure and will be more than glad to negotiate a lower fare (and easy pick up for them) than to drive off empty. Another way to cut costs is to share a taxi with 1 or 2 other people.

Ah, yes. While we’re at it……………The Taxis:

Taxis come in all shapes, sizes and levels of condition. They all come in one color: YELLOW. This is the LAW. A law that states no car but taxis can be yellow. If you have a vehicle you wish to import keep in mind you will need to either get a permit to keep it yellow or paint it. I know. I know. It’s Panama. Anyway, taxis are all privately owned but owners are now strictly regulated. The BIG NUMBER you see on the side of every cab is its unique registration number. That number is what you will need if, for some reason, you need to report the Taxista. It is also “seen” by the $13 million city-wide camera system the Policia Nacional installed a few years ago. That big number keeps them “honest” as at one time taxi drivers were committing or, at least, helping to commit a lot of tourist fraud and other not so savory acts. This has changed drastically over the years since the registration laws were passed. Someone in government got wise and realized this practice was going to hurt one of Panama’s lucrative industries; tourism. The measure has worked quite well.

Most cabbies are very flexible here. If you find one that with whom you can communicate and are comfortable with then, by all means, ask for his cell number. Most are very happy to be your semi-personal driver. Which will bring us to another blog: CELLPHONES. They’re a Panamanian staple.Several years ago I hired a cabbie to give my brother, son and myself an “all day” tour of Panama City. It did not end up being “all day” but 6-7  hours for a mere $35 negotiated beforehand. I sprang for a good lunch at a Alberto’s Italian on the end of Amador Causeway as well. He took us to Panama Viejo, the canal, Casco Viejo, Santa Ana (where my brother was born) and everywhere in-between. We got out and walked and talked, had ice cream and basically had a pleasant relaxing day with our new amigo; the “Taxista”. At the end of our little tour my brother shot him an extra $10. The cabbie was very pleased that day. He joked saying he was just happy to not have to: “fight all the other taxis for customers”. I don’t think he was joking but it was worth a good chuckle. My point is most taxi drivers are very helpful and will negotiate. You just have to ask.

Taxis are simply everywhere in this country and they are all pretty inexpensive. Some will try to overcharge you. The way to avoid getting in an overcharge situation is to negotiate before you even get into the cab. If they won’t talk to you about fare before you get into their taxi then that’s probably not a taxi you want anyway. Don’t worry….another will come along in a minute. Or you can call that guy you got the cell number from earlier. See how this works?

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Buses
La Gran Terminale de Transporte de Panama
(The Grand Terminal)
Located at Albrook Mall next to Marcos A. Gelabert.
Airport better known as Albrook Airport.
Albrook, Ancon
Tel: 303-3030 / 303-3031    Fax. 303-0070

Panama City has one of the most  modern bus terminals and systems in all of Latin America. Not only is there a huge world-class shopping mall onsite there are also showers! This place is really quite impressive. The bus system is quite extensive, inexpensive and surprisingly efficient. Buses of the national system actually run on time. They are modern, clean and comfortable. Video: Panama City Terminal & Albrook Mall

Although to a newcomer witnessing what might appear to be mayhem it’s actually quite easy.  So, just relax and enjoy.

There is a bank of  windows on either side of this great hall and each window handles it’s own destinations. Displayed above each window cashier (or “caja”) are the destinations and in the window are the schedules of departure. You simply go to  the window of your destination and pay for your ticket. They will then tell you which number to go to that corresponds with the parking spot where your bus awaits.

If you have large bags you will give them to the baggage clerk tending your bus and he will give you a claim ticket. You then board, find a comfortable seat and enjoy the ride. It really is as easy as that.

Food and drink are permitted and yes, there are restrooms on the bus.

One word of caution, however; if you are taking a night express (non-stop) bus you might want to consider bringing aboard a sweater or jacket because they almost always have the air conditioner cranked so cold you could hang meat. I was warned and I didn’t listen the first time. It was a miserably cold ride from David to Panama City…6 1/2 hours. You have been warned. Pillows and blankets are permitted and are a good idea.

Bus To Pedasi: You will do the same as described above. However, there is no direct bus route to Pedasi from Panama City. You will buy a ticket to Las Tablas (which used to be window  B6)  The fare is $10.00 and it takes about 5 hours. Once off the bus in Las Tablas you can either take a “local” bus onto Pedasi or a taxi.

Pedasi-Las Tablas Buses:
This is not nearly as difficult as one might think. In fact, it’s extremely easy. This route has several buses serving the 2 towns and run every 25 minutes from 6am to 5pm.  The buses have Pedasi-Las Tablas painted on the front or somewhere on them so you just get on it and enjoy the 40 minute ride. Pay the door attendant $2.00 when you exit the bus. Yes. that is TWO dollars.

Taxi to Pedasi from Las Tablas:
If there is not a taxi already waiting there will be one soon enough. Patience. The going rate is about $20.00. Don’t be shy about negotiating… $20 is a very fair and good rate for that ride here although it sounds extremely cheap to North Americans and Europeans. Please, don’t overpay. It is in this bloggers opinion that the practice of expats/tourists overpaying is what helped hurt the economy and ultimately the locals of Boquete. But, that discussion is for another blog altogether.

If you don’t like either of those options let me know ahead of time. I will arrange transportation from Las Tablas for you. Email me – Roger… at pedasivacationrentals at gmail dot com.

Rental Cars

I’ve always used Dollar Rental Car whenever I needed a car in Panama. They’re cheap and provide good vehicles and service. I highly recommend to buy any rental company insurance AT THE PICK-UP OFFICE as neither your own car insurance nor your credit card company insurance will cover any damage to your rental. If you book your car rental online THAT INSURANCE WILL NOT COVER YOU EITHER …..so don’t waste your money online. It’s some obscure Panamanian law. In 2010 when visiting Panama City I learned  the hard way when someone hit-and-run me while I was inside eating at a restaurant. This small dent and broken tail light cost me $980.00! So, buy the insurance they offer when you pick up your rental. It’s cheap and will save your skin if something happens.

Gas prices fluctuate, of course. But the prices are pretty much in line with the average found in the United States. Frequently, it’s up to 0.50 cents cheaper but very rarely higher than that of North America. Gas stations are abundant, “full service” and sell by the U.S. gallon. You don’t pump your own gas here. Do watch the meter as sometimes the attendant might over-charge you a dollar or two. It’s never happened to me personally but I know it’s happened to others. Just watch is all. I also recommend keeping your tank at least 1/2 full. There are rare instances where fuel can run short outside of Panama City and into the interior. Sometimes the reason is a holiday and sometimes it’s because the Panamerican Highway is blocked for one reason or another. As I said; it’s very rare but it has happened and never longer than just a couple of days. Don’t sweat it.

Pedasi does have a Thrifty office and a small fleet so you may wish to book with them if your plans are to stay in the area or have a “one-way” booking for “drop-off”. The Pedasi office shares a building with the bus terminal.

Thrifty Panama City
Vía España 0832-01161
WTC, Panamá, Rep. de Panamá
Tel:  507- 204-9500 / Fax: (507) 204-9515

Thrifty Pedasi
 Tel: 507-832-2316

There are many others servicing Panama with many offices in all major towns. You can find them online. If you are away from internet connection just ask a local or taxi driver. Taxi drivers are a GREAT source of information.

Dollar Rent A Car
Tel: 00507-270-0355
www.dollarpanama.com
dollar@motoresdelaguardia.com

  •  Alamo Rental Car
  • Avis
  • Barriga Rent a Car
  • Budget Rent a Car
  • Discovery Rent a Car
  • Hertz
  • National Car Rental

ENJOY & WELCOME TO PANAMA.

Oops, I mean; “BIENVENIDO A PANAMA”!

Comments

  1. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.
    I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you
    would have some experience with something like this.
    Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

    • Roger says:

      No, I do not. Yes, great idea. If I run across one I will let you know. Thanks for stopping in. Hope to see you again! Rog

  2. Excellent website you have here but I was wanting to
    know if you knew of any community forums that
    cover the same topics talked about in this article? I’d really like to be
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  3. Rob says:

    Hi, I’m thinking of flying into Pedasi in March and then going to David and Bocas. Can I rent a car in Pedasi and drop it off in David or Almirante? If not, I’m assuming I can get a bus out of Chitre to David or Bocas? Thanks

  4. Roger says:

    There is a Thrifty Car Rental here and one in David at the airport. Not sure about Almirante. Yes, you can do a drop-off. Those do cost more as I’m sure you already know. One word of advice; which I learned the hard way….. DO NOT buy the insurances online. Buy the insurance at the pick-up office. The online insurance will not cover you.

    When you come and need anything just give me a heads up. I’d be glad to help with whatever I can.

    HAPPY TRAILS!

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