Panama Transportation Guide & Booking Service
Panama’s small size and good infrastructure make it easy to move between destinations. There is a variety of ways to get from place to place, including domestic flights, private transfers, shuttles, rental cars, public buses, and ferries. When thinking about your transportation options, it’s important to consider your travel route, length of stay, and budget. You may choose only one type of transportation or include a combination of travel. The following guide covers transportation in Panama—reading through the options will help you better understand what is involved with each type of travel. As always, the choice is yours.
Frequently asked questions
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- What destinations offer domestic flights in Panama?
Panama currently has only one airline (Air Panama) that offers domestic flights. Domestic flights significantly cut down travel time and are a great way to travel.Domestic flights are available to the following places, most of which leave from Panama City: Isla Colón(Bocas del Toro, Changuinola (Bocas del Toro), Isla Contadora (Pearl Islands), Isla San José (Pearl Islands), David, Achutupo (Guna Yala, Playón Chico (Guna Yala), El Porvenir (Guna Yala), Corazón de Jesús (Guna Yala), Maultupo (Guna Yala), Bahía de Piñas (Darién), Sambú (Darién), and San José in Costa Rica.
- What is the Panama railroad like?
The Panama railroad runs between Corozal (just north of Panama City) and Colón. Some Panamanians use the railroad as a commuter service, but mostly travelers use it as a day trip from Panama City. The cars are attractive, with wood paneling, leather seats, and large observation windows. The ride takes about an hour and runs along the banks of the canal. It’s a fun, fast and unique way to see this historic part of Panama.
- Is Panama bike friendly?
No. Panama lacks bike lanes and roads within urban areas can be clogged with traffic. Aside from Boquete and Isla Colón in Bocas del Toro, there are not many bike rental shops. If you do decide to venture out on bike, stay alert and be on the lookout for speeding cars, especially when going around turns.
- What are the driving times between destinations in Panama?
Travel times in Panama can vary significantly depending on where you are going. If you are heading along a well-traveled route, it’s likely that the roads will be in good condition and your travel will be smooth and speedy. If, however, you are in more rural parts of Panama, such as the Darién or the southern Azuero Peninsula, you may encounter worse roads. The speed limit is limited to 50 km/h (30 mph) within cities and 80 km/h (50 mph) outside the cities. There may be bad traffic in urban areas; traffic jams are not uncommon.The following list is a compilation of general travel times between Panama City and popular destinations: Gamboa (45 minutes), Portobelo (1.75 hrs.), Playa Coronado (1.25 hrs.), El Valle (2 hrs.), Playa Santa Clara (1.5 hrs.), Chitré (3.5 hrs.), Las Tablas (4 hrs.), Pedasi (4.5 hrs.), Santa Catalina (5.5 hrs.), Boca Chica/Boca Brava (6 hrs.), David (6 hrs.), Boquete (6.75 hrs.), Cerro Punta (7.5 hrs.), Paso Canoa/Costa Rican border (6.75 hrs.), Bocas del Toro (8.5 hrs.).
- What are the roads like in Panama?
Most roads in Panama are quite good. The Interamericana (Interamerican Highway) runs down the country from east to west and is well paved throughout. Parts of the Interamericana in eastern Panama near the Darién turn to dirt roads, but on the whole the country’s highways are well maintained and without many potholes. Mountainous roads can be winding and small and may narrow into one-lane roads over bridges.Motorists use the right side of the road. Within the city, there can be heavy traffic and bad drivers. Generally there are good road signs throughout Panama, but in remote areas this may not be the case. We generally recommend taking private transports or shuttles during your first trip to Panama. Doing so will allow you to travel smoothly and without hassle.
- What are taxis like in Panama?
Taxis are plentiful, especially within urban areas like Panama City. All taxis are yellow and clearly marked. Most are small Japanese cars, although there are some trucks, especially in rural areas. The taxis in Panama do not have meters. The fares are either based on established prices for certain routes or on a series of zones established by law. The fares are usually pretty cheap (within Panama City, most rides cost around US$3) and tips are not expected. The fares are usually based on a single person, however, so group travel will cost more.
- Can I take public buses around Panama?
Yes. Public buses go nearly everywhere in Panama and are reliable, cheap, and fast. Buses are how most Panamanians get around and will give you a flavor for how the locals travel. Travel by bus is a great option for those with a flexible schedule or tight budget. Buses to major parts of the country run often and leave from the country’s largest bus terminal in Panama City.That said, buses take longer than other forms of transportation and may be less comfortable. Those who have less time in Panama may want to consider an alternate option, such as a domestic flight or shuttle.
- Should I rent a car in Panama?
Renting a car in Panama will allow you the freedom to go where you want, when you want. It’s great fun to be able to dictate the course of your trip—to stop for food at a small roadside café or take an unexpected side trip to a new destination.That said, driving in Panama is different from driving in the U.S. or Europe and should be given due consideration. The signage in Panama can sometimes be poor and make it difficult to following directions. Panamanian drivers can also be less cautious than some foreign drivers are used to, and rural roads can be challenging.
Depending on where you want to go, you may want to consider renting an SUV with four-wheel-drive. Remoter, more rugged areas will certainly require this, as the roads can have large rocks and require stream crossings. Four-wheel-drives are called cuatro por cuatro (four by fours) or vehículos con doble traccion (vehicles with double traction). Small, compact vehicles are also available for travelers that do not plan to go to rural areas. Rental car agencies are widely available in Panama City and most other large cities. The major companies are Hertz, Thrifty, Dollar, National, Avis, Budget, and Alamo. Gas stations are everywhere and most are open at both day and night. Gas prices are on par with the U.S.
You can rent cars for a maximum of 90 days. Drivers should be prepared to show both a driver’s license and passport. There is a charge of US$180 to drop a car off in a different city than the one it was rented in. Car rental agencies also do not allow drivers to take the cars to other countries.
- What are the baggage restrictions on domestic flights in Panama?
The weight limit on baggage for most domestic flights is 12 kilograms (26.5 lbs.), although the limit for Bocas del Toro is slightly higher at 14 kilograms (30 lbs.). This includes both checked luggage and carry-ons. Passengers are sometimes required to state their body weight as well.
Private transportation offers travelers a comfortable and convenient way to travel in Panama.
The safe, speedy shuttles can take you anywhere and are flexible enough to accommodate shifts in your schedule.
Domestic flights are a convenient option for travelers who are pressed for time or who want to experience different parts of the country.
Panama is scattered with small commercial airstrips and the flights are short — the longest is just over an hour.
Shuttles are a shared transportation service between popular destinations in Panama.
The air-conditioned shuttles run daily and typically offer door-to-door service. The whole process is seamless and easy.
Rental cars are a good option for adventurous travelers who want the freedom and flexibility to determine the course of their trip.
Panama has a solid infrastructure that includes high-quality roads and highways—for this reason, renting a car is a practical option for many travelers. From rugged SUVs to fuel-efficient compacts, there are many cars to choose from.