Ride or Drive?
Panama has a great public transportation system throughout the entire country. With a very few exceptions, it has buses of all different colors and sizes! Whatever area is not covered by buses is accessible by taxi. Taxis are supposedly very inexpensive and they are all over the country.
The Real World
From our 10th floor condo, the world does not look all that huge. Yes, the Pacific Ocean is huge and the world’s 2nd largest swimming pool next door looks big; however, looking into the countryside where we will have to do most of our shopping, it looks a very short distance to get into the next town, which is Rio Hato.
Bus or Taxi?
Actually, Rio Hato is very close to our condo, just approximately 5 KM. About 2KM of the route is a very narrow road with high traffic feeding the resorts along the waterfront. This small road leads into the Pan American Highway to get to Rio Hato, approximately another 3 KM down the road.
Since walking on the road from our compound to the Pan American Highway was nothing we wanted to deal with, we hired a taxi to take us to the Rio Hato bus stop on the Pan American Highway. The fare for this distance was $3.00. By the time he dropped us off at the bus stop, we had 5 people in the cab. This system works well for the passengers, not having to wait for a taxi without occupants. Anyway, we waited less than 5 minutes for a bus, a clean 20-seater, loaded with at least 30 people. I still don’t know exactly what the fare was, but when I dropped a quarter into the attendant’s hand, he seemed to be happy with it.
But for shopping???
Anyway, shopping, even just for groceries,is very interesting and brings you in contact with people. While we were filling some good-sized shopping bags, there was a fierce thunderstorm, flooding the sidewalks going back to the bus stop. This huge rain caused the buses to be even more crowded than before. We decided to take a taxi all the way back to our condo to keep the food we just bought . This didn’t work, since there were many other people who had the same idea. We finally got into one of the buses to share a seat with a few other people. This was absolutely not very comfortable, not just for us, but for the people around us…we had these big, wet shopping bags all over us. It was just a short ride back to the road that goes to our condo. The taxi service was available at that moment, but at a higher price. I did not feel that I should stand in the rain and negotiate a lower fare. These taxi drivers know their business very well!
Coronado is the most well-known beach town in all Panama.Services like hospitals, major banks, hotels, restaurants, casinos are available at the highest quality level. Bistros and baked goods give the food scene an impression of some European country. Several grocery stores offer foods from all over the world!
The next morning, on my way to the beach, I met a gentleman who lives and works in the same buiding as we do. He offered me a ride to (but only to) Coronado. This was exactly what we needed to get groceries, food and drinks you don’t get in a small country store. Coronado is approximately 35 minutes away from our condo towards Panama City. In Coronado, most of the beach properties are gated and only accessible to property owners. The town itself was developed along the Pan American Highway. This place is extremely busy and building cranes are part of the landscape. Several groceries offer foods from all over the world and a newly opened wine store offers a selection of wines and champagnes from the best regions worldwide and a beer selection that can compete with the best in Denver!
Shopping in a place like Coronado is fun…it is also much pricier than in these small grocery stores out in the country. We spent a lot of time just looking at what is available and planning for Christmas dinner. The more time we spent shopping, the more packages we had to carry around, since we did not have a vehicle to drop all the packages off. This is a convenience we hadn’t thought about at all. Getting overloaded with shopping bags does not happen at home…either we drop our packages in the car or they will be delivered to the car or to the house. The biggest problem came on the way home: squeezing into a crowded bus with shopping bags all over me and some other people! The freshly baked bread was sticking out of the bag and was right under the most of some hungry-looking passenger. After returning from this trip–it was a trip and very exhausting, with all the cargo in an overcrowded bus–we deserved a nice cool drink, enjoying the view from the 10th floor. We had a short conversation to determine that we would need an automobile, if not for the entire 7 weeks, then at least during the time we would have visitors and also for trips to different parts of Panama.
The World Looks Different From Your Own Car!
It is just amazing how we can survive without an automobile. Since we have had this rental car, we have made numerous trips we never thought about during the days when we didn’t have a car. We did not just go shopping once a week any more. No, we had to look for all the bargains that pop up in different areas. There are huge shopping malls stretching from Panama City all the way west to David (towards Costa Rica) and there are wonderful farmers’ markets offering healthy looking produce and delicious tropical fruits. It is just amazing how quickly we got used to our vehicle!
Not just what to drive: how to drive!
We got so used to it that we did not need any more time to discuss how long we wanted to rent this car…this car had to stay until we left Panama!
Driving in Panama is relatively convenient if you are used to traffic in countries like Italy, Spain, Germany or Mexico. The speed is under control; however, the temper of many drivers is not! As long as you understand that you should not challenge other motorists, you are in good shape. Don’t forget, bus drivers have the right of way on the highway! Driving in Panama City can be like moving from one parking lot to another, which should change for the better after the first segment of the Panama City metro (subway) is completed. Besides the traffic problems, our major problem was finding places and addresses. In such a situation, a knowledge of the Spanish language is a great help.
At one time, we got stuck in an area of Panama City for over an hour, driving around in circles. Our help was the Police Force! Once these gentlemen understood where we wanted to go, they drove ahead of us through Panama City and led us to our destination. They even showed us to a convenient parking lot! Yes, these gentlemen went out of their way to help us get out of some chaotic traffic and to make it to our appointment.
During our time in Panama, we have appointed certain people our heroes. These two fine police officers were definitely our heroes!
DO NOT GET DRYDOCKED. ASK AND WE WILL DO OUR BEST TO GET AN ANSWER FOR YOU.
If you have a question of general interest, please send it to us at email@example.com and we will answer it in one of our future editions.
Are you closing your office in Denver? from JS
No! We have been working with many people over the past 20 years in Colorado and we will continue to be available and to help whenever our help is needed! We can be reached by phone and/or email no matter where we are. Our office is organized so that we can work from anywhere in the world, as long as we have an internet connection!
What are travel costs like from Dallas, TX to Panama City?
That’s a great question and we invite input from other readers, if you know about deals. Right now, the rates from Dallas run anywhere from $407 to $818. When we have travel dates, we check almost daily for several weeks to find the best fare. More and more airlines are applying for non-stop routes from major cities in the US, Canada, Germany and Holland. More competition should stabilize the airfare to Panama–we hope!
Will you continue to rent a condo or are you looking for a house in Panama City?
Currently we like the location of our condo at the beach. We always keep our eyes open for an opportunity in real estate. However, I stick to the advice I give to my friends and clients: Don’t buy immediately! Check it our and live there for a time before making a major decision.
This Month in Panama:
Mr. Juan Carlos Varela was sworn in as the new President of Panama for the next 6 years–no re-election! He was sworn in on July 1. His election took place on May 4, 2014.
July 1 was declared a national holiday for the people of Panama to spend the day at the beaches and to party with the new President Varela in the evening. Everyone was invited to the party, which was held along the Cinta Costera, a beautiful park on the waterfront in downtown Panama City. Free music and free food for everyone! No background checks, no IRS or NSA involvement and no secret service. How great would it be if our folks in DC would get in close contact like this with the people of the US?