Panama Bus Travel

Authors experiences Panama Travel

We decided to try Panama’s bus travel while snowbirding in Panama, since we discovered it was widely available, efficient and very inexpensive. We had to get from Boquete to Panama City, which would be a 7 hour drive if we rented a car. The main bus terminal is in David, so we took a $2 “school bus” ride from Boquete to David, then another fancier tour bus from David to Panama City, which has air conditioning and a movie playing in Spanish with sub-titles.

School bus line at the strawberry stand.

Because we had several big suitcases, we actually took a taxi from our AirBnB apartment to the Boquete bus station stop. It’s really not a station but a pull off in front of a fruit stand for “everything” strawberry. It is a well oiled machine, because when the taxi arrived at the school bus, the man there opened the back of the school bus and quickly hoisted our suitcases safely into the back of the bus for storage there! The school bus does NOT have air conditioning, which is fine for the cooler Boquete area, but as you get into David (+30C), you rely on the open windows… This bus takes a leisurely route through the neighborhoods and picks up and drops off passengers along the way with Latin music playing. They charged US$2 for each of us, and no extra charge for the baggage, and you pay just before you get off the bus to the conductor guy who somehow keeps track of the on/off stops for each passenger as he stands in the open bus door! There are actually two bus lines that serve that 1 hour drive, the other one is a full sized tour bus with air conditioning. They seem to alternate every hour or so.

Photo Gallery (click photos for full sized version in a slide show)

Once we arrived in David, it took a bit of figuring to buy a $15 ticket for the trip to Panama City, because the bus station is really more like a strip mall of various bus line companies and routes; this is where knowing some Spanish is very helpful The only way to purchase tickets in advance is to have someone physically go to the station and buy the tickets ahead of time – not on internet. It turned out that our bus was only half full, but that is not always the case.

The route we took for the 8 hour trip, uses the four lane Pan-American highway which stretches from the bottom of South America, all the way up North to Alaska! There was a 30 minute rest stop at the mid point, so the driver and his ticket assistant can have lunch and rest. There were a few other random stops for locals to get on or off along the way. The rest stop was well designed for a quick stop, with a buffet style restaurant and washrooms, and an ATM.

Arrival in Panama City was at the main bus terminal which is part of the huge Albrook Shopping Mall. Since we had big bags we were not able to explore the shopping mall, and grabbed a $10 taxi ride to our hotel.


We will likely use the bus system again. We actually planned to take it from Panama City, to our Airbnb in Gorgona, but it turned out to be better to just take a negotiated (cheap) taxi ride directly, with our luggage. The driver was very friendly and happy to have our business. He even stopped half way there and ran into a convenience store and bought us a “surprise”, which turned out to be a local cheese type ice cream (LaParada Obligatoria – which translates to Obligitory Stop).

George, our friendly taxi driver

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