Panama has 2 very distinct seasons: the dry and the rainy. Regardless of when you choose to visit, you will find that the city stays lively year-round and rarely lets the weather affect the activities. Dry season runs from mid-December – mid-April. This is peak tourist season too though and while you do not see much rain, the forest areas remain moist and covered with clouds. Rainy season starts late in April and goes as far as November. Certain activities only occur in the rainy season, like river rafting.
Direct flights from the U.S. to Panama City include United Air Lines, American Airlines, Copa, and Spirit Airlines. Other airlines with a few stops and cheap flights to Panama City are offered by Aeromexico, KLM, TACA, Air France, Avianca, Air Canada, Lufthansa, and Turkish Airlines.
Tocumen International Airport is the largest airport in Panama, and the one Americans use when traveling to the area. In 2017, the new south terminal is expected to open, which will make getting through the airport a little easier. To get over to city center, you have a few options available right from PTY.
The airport has a few public bus routes that run from the airport to central Panama City. The journey time is slow, taking about 60 minutes, but the fare is very reasonable at just $1.25 USD per trip. Most buses accept only a Metro Bus card except the large white buses with ‘Tocumen’ written at the top. Since these cards are not sold anywhere at the airport or in the vicinity, visitors often pay locals in cash and request them to swipe the card for them
The free airport shuttle goes from the airport to the Metro Mall and takes just 15 minutes. Hotels in the area also have free shuttles that go to-and-from the airport but wait times can be lengthy.
The city heavily regulates all taxi services from the airport. You can find pre-purchased fares to the city center for about $35 USD and it takes about 20 minutes to reach downtown.
Plan ahead and look for deals on car rentals with momondo.
Panama is an exciting, modern capital city. Therefore, you will find plenty of public transportation options to take you around. Once you are in the city center, you can expect it to take only 15 minutes to get from one end to the other, and explore most of the city on foot.
Taxis are the easiest and safest way to get from your hotel to any place downtown. Most rides will cost anywhere from $5 to $10 USD per trip, and there are no taxi meters. You must remember to negotiate the price before you get into the cab. Note that hotel taxis cost more than the ones you flag on the street.
Uber does operate downtown in Panama. Download their app ahead of time so you can request a vehicle. The price, however, depends on how many people will share the ride and how far you are going. Uber will often cost more than taxis.
City tour bus
The red double-decker buses stop at all major attractions around town including the Miraflores Museum, Panama Canal, Albrook Mall, and Casco Viejo. You need a 24 or 48-hour pass to get on and off the bus, but it is the best deal for seeing everything in Panama City. While there are multiple deals and combos available on these tickets, a 24-hour pass purchased directly from City Sightseeing Panama is $33 USD per adult while the 48-hour pass is $35 USD per adult. For children between the ages of 4 – 12, tickets are at $20 USD per child.
Bus and subway
The city’s bus and subway are crowded; therefore, they are not recommended for tourists. The Metro Bus only visits one attraction, which is the Albrook Mall. The subway fares, however, are affordable at just $0.35 USD per ride, but you will need a $2.00 USD ride card to start.
Rental cars are another option in the city, but the rental agencies are all at the airport. You can choose between National, Thrifty, and Dollar Car Rental, but remember that you will be dealing with heavy traffic and different road rules than what you are familiar with in the U.S.
U.S. nationals do not need a visa to visit Panama for up to 180 days. However, they need a Tourist Card for $5 USD at the time of purchasing their travel ticket. For other nationals, please check the Embassy of Panama in the USA website.
Panama is the heart of Central America. Home to the famous Panama Canal, it is a lively city that is perfect for a weekend getaway. Whether you want to embrace the nightlife of the Latino culture or just explore the sights, you have a few attractions to consider.
Panama City has a reputation for being safe overall, but also sketchy at times. If you stick to the tourist areas, you do not have to worry about venturing into unsafe areas.
Mind the weather