getting around bocas del toro panama
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Getting Around Panama: Your Panama Transportation Guide

Last updated on April 5th, 2022

Panama has a well-connected and organized transit system, which helps to make it easier to get around. You can commute around Panama by metro, bus, taxi, plane, boat, bicycle or walking. While there are many forms of transportation to use to commute around Panama, there are no transit maps available other than a map for the Panama City metro. You can use this transit guide to assist you in getting around Panama.

If you need additional help when in Panama, you can ask locals, and they may be able to guide you; they were helpful during my visit to Panama; just be prepared with a translator app if you don’t speak Spanish. Have fun, go with the flow, and plan ahead whenever possible for your transportation. 

If you need an itinerary for your trip to Panama, check out this 7-day Panama Itinerary that I used for my trip. 

Trying to Leave Panama Airport 

When I arrive in a new country, I try to experience transportation like a local. I challenge myself to find ways to arrive at my accommodation from the airport without taking a taxi and paying extra fare because I’m a tourist. Most of the time, this includes taking public transportation such as a train or bus. 

Panama was especially challenging to leave the airport, as you cannot use public transportation without a transit card, and you cannot buy a transit card at the airport. Determined, I waited at the local bus stop outside the airport, waiting to see how I could ride the bus. 

While waiting at the bus stop, I met two of the most wonderful locals who helped us ride the bus. We paid them the bus fare, and they tapped their transit cards for us. We rode all together to the Albrook Mall, where I bought my metro card. They joined us for dinner as a thank-you for their help from the airport to the Albrook and for making sure we got our transit card okay. 

How to Get To Panama City & Albrook Mall from PTY Airport

So you’ve landed in Panama City and are ready to leave the airport. Begin by walking out of the airport arrival doors and look to your right. Looking right, you will see signs directing you to the bus platform. Walk towards the signs. To travel towards town, you need to cross over the highway crossing. You will head to Albrook Mall, the national bus terminal that can get you anywhere in Panama.

Once at the bus stop, you have two options to take the bus. Option one, you can pay a local $1.25 to take a city bus direct to Panama City’s Albrook Mall. Option two, you can take a private bus for $1 to San Miguelito metro station and pay a local to tap their card from there to get to Albrook Mall.

You cannot buy a metro card at the airport. The only way to ride public transportation from the airport is by paying a local to tap their card on the bus for you. Once you have a metro card, you can use it to get around Panama and back to the airport for your departure. Here is a metro map for Panama City, Panama.

If you cannot ride public transportation or choose not to, you can take a taxi from the airport for about $25-40, depending on your taxi destination. 

During my trip, I experienced multiple modes of transportation. I rode buses, water taxis, and taxis to travel around the various regions of Panama.

How to Get a Bus Card in Panama

You can purchase a transit card at a metro station or Albrook Mall Terminal; you cannot buy one at the airport. 

Tip: You only need one transit card, regardless of your group size. You can tap multiple times, paying once for each person, as you pay per trip. There are no unlimited day passes in Panama.

How to Get to the Panama Canal from Panama City

From Albrook Mall, head to the area with the local buses. Walk down D platform until the very last platform. Look for a bus heading to Miraflores, the bus you need to get to the Panama Canal. The cost is $0.25 to ride the bus from Albrook to the Panama Canal. If you are unsure, you can ask one of the terminal attendants on the platform, and they will guide you. 

How to Get to Bocas del Toro From Panama City

The best way to reach Bocas del Toro is by riding the night bus. The bus departs from Panama City’s Albrook Mall in the evening for the overnight journey to Bocas del Toro, Panama. The trip costs approximately $68.70 for two people each way and includes a bus ride and a water taxi. 

Note: There is a taxi required to transfer from the bus to the water taxi; not included with your ticket.

Tips for Travelling to Bocas del Toro 

  • When in the Albrook Mall bus terminal in Panama City, you will need a tri-pass to pay $0.10 to enter the private bus area, or you can pay a local to swipe their card. You cannot use a regular MetroCard to enter the private bus area. 
  • Once in Almirante, you will exit the bus and take a taxi to reach your water taxi. The taxi fare is not included and is $1.50 per person. 
  • After the water taxi, you have arrived at Bocas del Toro. Enjoy your time in Bocas del Toro.

How to Get Around Bocas Del Toro

To get around Bocas del Toro, you can walk, bicycle, bus, taxi, or use water-taxi. You will often need to use a water taxi to reach various hotels and other attractions to get from island to island. 

When you arrive in Bocas del Toro, if you follow other travellers when exiting the ferry station to find a water taxi, boat drivers will charge you $5 to Bastimentos. 

Tip: Shop around for water taxi prices as you may find a cheaper rate. I found Coopeguitour, along the main strip of shops, which charged $4 for each person per way, from town to our accommodations on one of the islands. 

How to Get to Starfish Beach from Bocas del Toro

You can get to Playa Del Drago from Bocas town by bus, taxi, or bicycling. The most recommended way to reach Starfish Beach is via bus. 

Take the bus in Bocas town for $2.50 per person, each way to Playa del Drago. From the Playa del Drago bus stop, walk towards the water until the end, and then around the houses. Past the houses, you will see a dirt path. Walk along the path with jungle vibes for approximately 15 minutes, and you will arrive at Starfish Beach.

Tip: Go early to avoid crowds. During our visit, we got lucky and had the beach almost all to ourselves. 

How to Get to El Valle de Anton from Panama City

You will need to head to Albrook Mall Bus Terminal to catch a bus to El Valle de Anton. Buses to El Valle de Anton from Albrook Mall start at 6:30 am. Bus drivers wait until all seats are full before departing. Arrive early to secure your spot and prepare to wait. The bus fare to El Valle de Anton is $4.25 per person each way.

You will need a tri-pass to pay $0.10 to enter the private bus area at Albrook Mall or pay a local to swipe their tri-pass card. A regular metro card will not work. 

To return to Panama City from El Valle de Anton, there are two different bus routes available. You can take the direct bus to Panama City or ride any bus out from El Valle de Anton and transfer buses in Las Uvas to catch a bus heading into Panama City. The bus driver will let you know where your stop is. The cost is $1 to take a bus from El Valle de Anton to Las Uvas and $3 from Las Uvas into Panama City. From either of the two bus routes will end up at Albrook Mall. During my trip, I transferred buses in Las Uvas to avoid waiting for the direct bus to Panama City.  

Taking a Taxi in Panama

To take a taxi in Panama, you will look for a yellow car, as all taxis in Panama are yellow. To get the attention of a taxi, wave them over, and they will stop. Taxis in Panama do not have set fares or meters.

Taxi fares are up for negotiation with the driver, so practise your negotiation skills. You can negotiate rates better for multiple passengers. Describe to them your destination, or show it on a map if you cannot describe it to negotiate your fare. During my visit, I found offline google maps helpful to show the driver where I wanted to go.

During my trip, it cost $10 to taxi from Albrook Mall to Casco Viejo, $5 to taxi from Casco Viejo to Albrook Mall, $6 to taxi from Albrook Mall to downtown Panama City, and $25 to taxi from downtown Panama to the airport. All fares mentioned included two passengers. 

Money Tip: The currency of Panama is the Panamanian Balboa, however, they also use USD as their second currency. All prices in this Panama transportation guide are in USD.

Hope this information helps you with getting around Panama. 

Happy travelling!

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4 thoughts on “Getting Around Panama: Your Panama Transportation Guide”

    1. So true! Negotiating takes some practice. It makes things simpler with fare meters and pre-determined flat rates.

  1. How weird that you can’t buy a metro card at the airport! That would seem the logical place to buy them.

    1. Right?! I tried to find one anywhere in the airport, and couldn’t find one. But my persistence paid off, I got out of the airport without a taxi. Hopefully one day they add them to be available at the airport, at least as an option for those who don’t want to take a taxi.

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