Panama City
capital of Panama
North America > Central America > Panama > Central Panama > Panama City
For other places with the same name, see Panama City (disambiguation).
Panama City is the capital of Panama. Sitting on the Pacific end of the Panama canal it has long been a point of transit for travelers and freight and these days Tocumen Airport has become the busiest in Central America and one of Latin America's most important transfer hubs.
Panama city at night
Understand
Panama City is a very multicultural place, with large populations from many different parts of the world. Spanish is spoken by most, and many speak some form of English. Customer service is slowly improving, and surprisingly dismal in hotels. However, on the streets, Panamanians are for the most part extremely friendly and helpful and would love to give you some advice.
There's great shopping, from high-end stores in the malls around Paitilla and in the banking district around Via España, to veritable bargains around La Central (Central Avenue, now turned into a pedestrian walkway) and the Los Pueblos outdoor mall. You can also find many ethnic stores (mostly Chinese and Indian), in certain parts of the city.
Climate
Panama City
Climate chart (explanation)
JFMAMJJASOND
 
 
 
29
 
 
33
19
 
 
 
10
 
 
34
18
 
 
 
13
 
 
35
18
 
 
 
65
 
 
35
20
 
 
 
225
 
 
35
21
 
 
 
235
 
 
34
21
 
 
 
169
 
 
34
21
 
 
 
220
 
 
34
21
 
 
 
254
 
 
33
21
 
 
 
331
 
 
33
21
 
 
252
 
 
33
20
 
 
105
 
 
33
19
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation+Snow totals in mm
Source: w:Panama City#Climate
Imperial conversion
JFMAMJJASOND
 
 
 
1.2
 
 
92
65
 
 
 
0.4
 
 
94
65
 
 
 
0.5
 
 
95
65
 
 
 
2.5
 
 
96
67
 
 
 
8.9
 
 
94
70
 
 
 
9.3
 
 
93
70
 
 
 
6.6
 
 
93
70
 
 
 
8.7
 
 
93
70
 
 
 
10
 
 
91
70
 
 
 
13
 
 
91
69
 
 
9.9
 
 
91
69
 
 
4.1
 
 
92
67
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches
Get in
By plane
Panama City used to be the de facto headquarters of the US control over the Panama Canal and as the canal was and is of vital strategic and military importance, there were a bunch of military airfields built to defend the canal. The Americans have greatly reduced their presence, and Panama turned its former military airports over to civilian use, giving Panama City three airports:
By train
The only train service is between Panama City and Colón on the Panama Canal Railroad. It's mostly a freight train, but it has a very nice passenger car. The train ride offers excellent views of the Panama Canal and the tropical rain forest. In a way it is the only "transcontinental commuter rail line" in the world as some people live in Colon and work in Panama City or vice versa and commute using this train. Trains arrive at
4
Corozal Passenger Station (Estación de Pasajeros de Corozal) (in western suburbs near Albrook Airport). 
By bus
Panama City has one of the most modern bus terminals in Latin America, the
5
Gran Terminal Nacional de Transporte (commonly referred to as "Albrook")
 1 
. It's the main hub and well organized. The bus terminal is next to the Albrook airport (the domestic airport), part of a shopping mall of the same name, and it is very easy to find a bus here.
The long(er)-distance buses leave from the eastern side of the terminal on the ground level and you have to go through turnstiles by paying $0.10. Arrivals are usually on the first floor above the terminal building. All of the international buses ("tica buses" too) start and end in this terminal which are:
The metrobuses serving the bus terminal arrive and leave from the western side of the bus terminal (between the bus terminal and the Albrook Mall).
Within the terminal, you can buy a "RapiPass 3en1" card which can be used in the metrobus, metro and terminal ($0.10 terminal fee at turnstiles and toilet use). The card costs $2 and needs to be topped up. Turnstiles can only be accessed with this card (no cash payment possible), however people are generally very helpful and you can ask someone to swipe you through and giving the $0.10 to that person instead.
There are two food courts in the terminal, one at the southern end and one at the northern end. There are many drinking water fountains throughout the terminal. Toilets cost $0.25, are clean and can be paid with a $0.25 coin or with the RapiPass. Access to the metro station is via a bridge in the center of the terminal.
By boat
Get around
Map of Panama City
Miraflores locks, Panama Canal
By metro
A Metro opened in 2014, and is by far the preferred method to get to the places it serves. However there are still many places of interest not served by it. Line
 1 
is roughly equal parts elevated and underground with the part from Albrook to El Ingenio being the underground section. Line
 2 
, serving the northern suburbs, opened in 2019. There is a grand plan for many further lines which are hopefully going to enter service as the 2020s and 2030s progress.
A single ride is 35 cents regular price with discounts for the elderly and students. The last train leaves at 10PM all week, with the first train leaving M-Sa at 5AM and Su at 7AM.
By taxi
One of the easiest ways to get around town is by taxi. Taxis do not have a meter. Fares are set by the authorities, and are determined based on what section of the city you are starting at and what section of the city you are going to, with a surcharge for every additional person. The cab driver should have a table (which may include a map) that will show the costs for the fare, and they are required to show it to you if you ask or you can check Autoridad del Tránsito y Transporte Terrestre.
Fares are around $1.25 for travel within one zone, and the longest fares within the city at about $5. The former Canal Zone is in a different section, and it will be at least a $5 fare. The surcharge for additional passengers should be $0.50/additional passenger, and there's also a $0.40 surcharge if you call a cab (at least these were the prices a few years ago). A taxi to or from the international airport typically costs $30 including tolls if you take the Corredor Sur highway. A taxi to the Amador Causeway costs $5-10. Cab drivers do not expect tips, and they may pick up additional passengers along the way. The rule is that unless there's little to no deviation from the first person's route, the first person picked up is the first person dropped off, otherwise they will ask if it's ok to pick up the other fare. Cabs can also be rented for the day, and the fares again are set (probably around $20-25). In this case, they will expect a little extra (tip and/or lunch).
Beware, taxi drivers will frequently try to overcharge visitors, sometimes up to many times the actual price, and will not have or know about any table as mentioned. If you are clearly a visitor and asking for the price, chances are the driver will say whatever they think they can get away with and you can try haggling down. It can help to ask locals what the price should be then negotiate based on that.
Uber is also available in Panama City.
Panoramic view, Casco Antiguo
By bus
Diablo rojo
Getting around by bus is also cheap and convenient. Fares are $0.25 and the destination of the bus is written across the front windshield in large letters. Buses are privately owned and drivers usually compete with each other for passengers. For this reason, buses have colorful decorations to attract customers. During rush hour some buses can get crowded, and it is not unusual to see 3 people seated on a 2-person bench and lots of people standing along the aisle. It is not advised to use buses during these hours.
In 2013, the "red devils" were phased out from the main city routes, but they still connect the city with outlying suburbs.
Metrobus
The city has begun replacing the flamboyant "red devils" with modern, air-conditioned city buses ("MetroBus," look for the orange sign to find stops), but the red devils are still around. The MetroBus buses do not accept cash, so make sure to buy a fare card at one of the city's many malls before using them.
Bus fare is $0.25 for regular route and $1.25 for corredor route (Corredor Norte and Corredor Sur) and the same prices for transfer. You can buy and recharge MetroBus card at many places around the city (Puntos de venta).
There are no maps or schedules at the stations so using the bus system can be frustrating without knowing the common name of the destination and/or adequate Spanish for inquiring.

By car
Car travel in Panama City is notoriously difficult. During weekday work hours, traffic jams are continuous. Many street intersections lack traffic signals creating right-of-way confusion. Short distances may be quicker on foot or other means of transportation. During holidays like Carnival the traffic can be expected to be worse.
Car rentals are available from major corporations like Hertz at Panama's Tocumen International Airport.
All taxis in Panama are must be painted yellow by law. Hitch-hiking is not uncommon.
Check points run by the national police occur at strategic locations to prevent the movement of illegal persons and goods.
See
Casa Gongora, Casco Viejo
Cathedral tower, Panama Viejo
Do
Learn
Buy
Crafts
Panamanian crafts High end crafts can also be purchased from shops in the Centro de Artesanias in Balboa neighborhood or in the shops of Mi Pueblitos. Indian stores on every major shopping district (El Dorado mall and surroundings, Los Pueblos, and along Via España) also sell many Panamanian souvenirs. Gran Morrison is also a place to find many handicrafts.
REPROSA Treasures of Panama. Since 1975 REPROSA has been dedicated to the promotion of Panama's history, cultural traditions, ecological beauty and ethnic diversity. All their handicrafts are hand-made in Panama by Panamanian artisans, and there is something for every budget. REPROSA has three locations: Costa del Este Industrial Park (271-0033), Ave. A in Casco Viejo (228-4913), and Ave. Samuel Lewis in Obarrio (269-0457). REPROSA also offers a tour of their award-winning workshop where visitors can see first-hand how the Treasures of Panama are made. Their factory is in the Costa del Este Industrial Park just minutes from Panama Viejo. Tour $10 per person, M-F at 9:30AM and 2PM. 
Eat
Check out Panama Restaurant Week, which doesn't happen every year, but when it does it is a fantastic option to try great restaurants at good prices. Despite its name, it lasts 15 days, with dozens of participating restaurants offering special participating menus at fixed, lower than normal prices.
Budget
There's several cafes along Via Argentina. The Spanish sandwich shops offer excellent sandwiches, coffee, and churros. Try Manolo's Churreria (don't miss the churros rellenos, pastries filled with dulce de leche and rolled in sugar) or Del Prado. Sandwiches should cost from $3-5. Also on Via Argentina is El Trapiche, serving traditional Panamanian food for under $12/person. They serve excellent breakfast food.
There's an abundance of Chinese restaurants, and some can be very affordable. Try some around El Dorado, they should be pretty authentic.
Mid-range
Splurge
Drink
Buy and try some Panamanian and Cuban coffee while you're here. It will be some of the best you've ever had.
Calle Uruguay is a neighborhood filled with bars and discos for wealthy Panamanians and foreigners.
Taberna 21 is a local hangout serving great cheap beer and Spanish tapas.
Sleep
This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
BudgetUnder $50
Mid-range$50 to $150
SplurgeOver $150
Budget
Mid-range
Magnolia Inn - Casco Viejo, 818 Calle Boquete (Calle Boquete and Calle 8va in Casco Viejo, behind Plaza Catedral), ☏ +507 202-0872. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. Magnolia Inn offers comfortable and spacious deluxe private rooms as well as luxury hostel rooms. The restored French colonial mansion is full of historic character, as well as modern conveniences such as A/C, orthopedic beds, free Wi-Fi Internet and safe deposit boxes. The Inn has a stylish social areas to relax and meet fellow guests. A fully equipped kitchen and sunbathed dinning room is available for guest use. $80-135. 
Splurge
Connect
You can buy SIM cards for Panama's 4 carriers at the Terminal (Albrook) and probably many other places.
April 2021 you can find a SIM card (called a "chip") at almost any convenience store for $1. Pay $5-$10 for a top-up card. One week of unlimited data for $5.
Stay safe
Areas
Be careful in Casco Viejo and the Panama la Vieja ruins area. There are tourist police aplenty in these neighborhoods but do not wander too far in these areas alone (even in the day) and certainly not in the evening (as of 2010 these areas are very safe, lots of activity and tourist traffic)
Stay out of El Chorrillo, Santa Ana, Curundu and San Miguel. It is very dangerous right now due to infighting between drug gangs. Tourists have been kidnapped right off the street. El Chorrillo borders San Felipe so it is very easy to accidentally walk into it. When driving, car doors should be locked.
The central neighborhoods of Marbella, El Cangrejo, Obarrio, San Francisco, and the Banking Area are generally the most safe. In any case, be careful of your belongings, even if sitting in a restaurant, as people have had things snatched without noticing it, especially when enjoying a glass too many of Panama's great wine selection. It is never a good idea to drink heavily and walk back to your hotel.
Taxis
It's always a good idea (in any country really) to spend a few minutes to find out exact taxi fares before taking a taxi and always have exact change for the correct fare. This avoids over-charging and problems with some drivers. Having to ask a taxi driver how much the fare is the equivalent to wearing a "kick-me" sticker on your shorts, as you're telling him you don't know. Some have paid $20 to get from El Dorado to Via Argentina, but the real fare for one person is $1.75.
Outside of Multiplaza, Albrook and Multicentro are some very good looking Taxis. The drivers wear nice shirts and the Taxis have proper signs on the roof. The drivers will most likely ask you if you are interested. never take these taxis. All they do is wait for foreigners and then charge 4x the price.
Some taxis at the main bus station prey on visitors. Never put your belongings in the trunk. Sit in the back seat along with your belongings and have your luggage firmly grasped while entering and exiting the vehicle; otherwise, they can drive away with your things while you are still trying to get in. Lock the doors once inside. Avoid and ignore anyone who approaches you to "get a taxi for you"; go to the curb to get one yourself. At best they will want money for this "service" amounting to half the taxi fare; at worst, they are setting you up to be robbed with certain drivers with whom they work. Lastly, the cabs are marked on the door with a unique registration number -- memorize it or write it down and secretly tuck it safely away on your person before entering any cab.
Never lose your temper with taxi drivers or police (or anyone else really) no matter how bad you may find a situation or service in some places. Exert your rights politely but firmly.
Other
Look both ways before crossing the street! Panamanian drivers are notoriously aggressive when the traffic allows and will not slow down for you even if you're lucky enough to find a crosswalk. There's only one way to cross the road here. Wait for a break in the traffic and walk. Once you start, keep going. Drivers will stop (99% of the time...). Otherwise you'll be stuck for hours waiting.
Cope
Embassies
Embassy of France, in the middle of the old city
Go next
This city travel guide to Panama City is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.

Last edited on 25 October 2021, at 22:38
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