Getting Around by Car, Uber,Taxi and Bus

What kind of car is best? Should I import my car?

The best cars for Panama's roads are Asian. We don't know why but Asian cars just take the heat, wet, humid climate and potholes of Panama City far better. It's also easier to get car parts and servicing for major Asian car brands.

For safety, the best kind of everyday car is an SUV. Due to the chaos of the city there are many fender benders so you'll feel safer in a larger car. An SUV also gives versatility on rougher roads outside Panama City.

If you don't have a car, we recommend you buy one in Panama. To import one is quite expensive and a hassle with legal paperwork plus expensive with shipping, import and other taxes. If you have a retirement visa, you're exempt from the import tax, but other taxes apply.

The most popular SUV in Panama is a Toyota Land Prado and that speaks for itself. There are other excellent, less expensive options like Hyundai's Santa Fe or Tuscon SUV's.

Getting Around Panama City Initially: Take Taxis or a Hire a Personal Driver

Until you know your way around, we recommend taxis or hiring a personal driver. You can rent a car, but driving around the city is very difficult if you are a newcomer- chaotic streets, unpredictable drivers, few street signs or direction signs and lots of fender benders.

Taxis are cheap, usually safe and can be hailed from almost anywhere. However, we recommend not getting into taxi with two male persons in the front seat. If you are a woman, we recommend you not go alone in a taxi. You can also call a radio taxi to your home or office which is a safe option although it is often hard to get someone to come. If you speak Spanish you can negotiate a price for the taxi to take you around for several hours or all day. If you don't speak Spanish, have someone write a note in Spanish to the driver about where you need to go and what you want.

Another really pleasant choice is to avoid these hassles and hire a personal driver- not expensive by US standards. We recommend Judy Tovar of Easy Travel: easytravel@cwpanama.net Tel: 6617.4122.

Driving in Panama City- Uber is best

Driving in Panama City really takes getting used to-it's chaotic and confusing. Few streets are clearly marked, traffic signs are confusing and often basic traffic laws aren't followed. You'll see at least one fender bender a day. Avoid all that stress and go around with Uber. One exception would be the airports—both the international and local airport in Albrook always have taxis waiting outside.
If you are going to live here, It will take some time and patience to learn your way around and get used to the relative chaos.

Driving Outside Panama City

Most of the Panamerican Highway is four lanes, easy to navigate. The feeder roads to major cities and destinations are also excellent.

The Metro Subway & Buses-In Panama City and Around Panama

The Metro Subway begins at Albrook Mall and from there takes you downtown through the hotel district. It then goes to series of neighborhoods you have no reason to visit. There are also Metro Buses but they don't go directly to tourist attractions.

Bus transportation is a good, inexpensive option for getting to places outside Panama City . Buses to major cities like David or to Costa Rica are air-conditioned and fairly comfortable. A good option is the midnight express—you can sleep for six hours and arrive in David. in the morning. Fares for these buses are between $4 and $20 one way.
Fares to Costa Rica are around $80 round trip.
All buses leave the nice Albrook Bus Terminal adjacent to Albrook Mall.

Driver"s Licenses

As long as you have a tourism visa, you can use your country of original drivers license- no problem. Once you have a residency visa, you'll have to get a Panamanian drivers license. The office is in Albrook- Sertracen- right near the El Rey. You will have to take a written test and have an eye exam.