Getting Around in Panama Has Never Been Easier

As a resident of Panama for the last decade, I’ve seen this country grow and develop. It’s become a place where getting around is easy…all the better for us to be able to explore everything that this country has to offer.

My wife, Susan, and I have a car here in Panama. The government has recently improved road conditions to accompany an influx of new vehicles, making it safer and more convenient to drive throughout the country. Where once there were dirt roads and decaying bridges, there’s now freshly paved asphalt roads and new bridges.

Having a car allows us the freedom to schedule trips throughout Panama. For example, we drove up an unpaved dirt road into the mountains near Boquete to photograph various species of birds and butterflies. We took another day trip into town to purchase fresh vegetables from a farmer who sold watermelons and honey from his truck. If you have a vehicle, you are not limited by the bus system. It gives you access to stores, gyms, restaurants, farmers’ markets, and beaches.

You’ll of course need a driver’s license if you own a car. Six years ago, when my wife and I needed driver’s licenses we were told it would take several months to process our licenses, nobody spoke English, and in the end our licenses expired before the procedure was implemented. But when we applied for our new ones last year, we had a whole different experience. The receptionist spoke perfect English and we had our new licenses within an hour.

A tip if you’re planning on renting a car in Panama City: The tollbooths no longer accept cash. So if you rent a car make sure the rental company has the PanaPass sticker on the window. This is the electronic toll collection system Panama uses.

If you’re in Panama City, it’s easy to get around using the new metro system. The Metro Cards are $2 and it costs just 35 cents per journey. You can buy the cards at the bus station. Susan and I found the Metro to be clean and easy to use, with simple directions on stations and departures.

Travelling to and from Panama is becoming easier each year. We leave Panama a few times a year to return to the U.S. We use Copa Airlines because it seems they have the best variety of options. The Tocumen International Airport in Panama City also continues improving. With English-speaking agents and airport clerks, our travel plans become a breeze.

With these improvements, Panama continues to be an ideal country to retire to or visit.

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