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Travel Guide: Panama Getting Around

12th Oct 2011 2:01am | By Editor

Fly out to the islands or jump on a chicken bus.

Getting there

By air

Panama City's international airport is Tocumen International Airport. There are direct flights between Tocumen and Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, Atlanta, Havana and all major cities in Central America and Colombia. Most of the major US carriers — including Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Continental and Iberia — fly direct to Panama.

By sea

Cruise ships leave from Miami and other US ports bound for Panama City.

By car

If you're doing a road trip through Central America, use the Pan-American Highway, which runs from Mexico to Panama. Crossing the border from Costa Rica can take a couple of hours. Speaking Spanish is essential to sort out the paperwork.

By bus

Buses link Panama with Costa Rica to the north. The border crossing is open daily — you'll either have to walk across the border to a connecting bus, or hand your passport over to the driver if you don't need to change buses.

Getting around

By air

Panama has two regional airlines, Aeroperlas and Air Panama.

As well as its international airport, Panama City also has a domestic airport servicing flights to the interior and the Las Perlas islands in the Pacific.

There are 365 islands in the San Blas Archipelago in the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Panama, of which 45 are inhabited. Aeroperlas has several daily flights from Panama City's Albrook Airport to the different islands. Round trip tickets from Panama City are around US$60.

By taxi

In Panama City, most taxi fares within the city are under US$3. Air-conditioned buses are available from Panama City to most other parts of the country.

By chicken bus

You haven’t really travelled in Central America until you’ve survived a journey on a ‘chicken bus’. Buses are the main mode of transport and Honduras has a two-tier system. Chicken buses are the cheaper, second class option and they’re hot, slow, cramped and usually suspension-shy. The good news is the journeys are usually short and you’re plonked right in among the locals who travel with everything from giant sacks of potatoes to squawking chickens. It’s a great way to sample some on-the-ground local colour.

No trip is complete without regular stops to buy frescos (drinks) that often taste as strange as they look. Buses often have salsa music reverberating around the seats, and sometimes American R&B music too.