Transportation in Panama, how to move around the country
Traveling to Panama means traveling to authentic paradises such as Bocas del Toro or the San Blas archipelago.
And to reach these idyllic destinations, sometimes it is not so easy or so cheap.
That’s why we want to tell you how you can move around Panama, using different transports and taking advantage of different itineraries to save time on your trip.
During our trip to Panama we visited places like Santa Catalina, Boquete, Bocas del Toro and the Guna Yala territory, San Blas.
Our point of entry and exit to Panama was its capital, Panama City.
You can take a look at the trip we made in this link, Panama Travel Itinerary in 17 days.
How to go from Panama City to Santa Catalina
Our second destination in Panama was Santa Catalina, a nice and quiet town with a unique place, the island of Coiba.
Well, if you want to get to this little paradise, or rather, the third largest marine sanctuary in the world, it’s not going to cost you much.
You have to go to the Albrook bus station in Panama City.
Once there, you have to look for the buses that go to Soná, since this small town is where you take the detour to Santa Catalina.
The buses that leave for Sona from Panama City do so before 10 am, so you will have to get up a little early.
The trip to Sona takes about five hours.
When you get to Soná, at the same bus station, it is small, there is the van that goes to Santa Catalina.
They have a sign that says so, and they usually wait for that bus to arrive from Panama City.
Please note, the last van that leaves from Sona to Santa Catalina is at 5:30 in the afternoon.
How to get from Santa Catalina to Boquete
This was one of the easiest journeys.
In fact, when we arrived at Santa Catalina, we weren’t sure how to get to Boquete.
We wanted to go to Boquete, since the thought of going from Santa Catalina to Bocas del Toro, without stopping in the middle, is too much.
Well, there we were told that not long ago, there was a company dedicated to making several trips around the country.
It is Hello Travel Panama.
They have very well conditioned and comfortable vans.
So, we did not hesitate, from the very lodging in Santa Catalina, they reserved the places for us.
However, these vans do not have many places, so try to reserve the places a couple of days in advance.
The trip takes about four hours.
How to go from Boquete to Bocas del Toro
Hello Travel Panama also makes this journey.
The driver who took us from Santa Catalina told us about it.
So we didn’t hesitate, and arrived at Almirante, where we took the boat that took us to Colon, the nerve center of Bocas del Toro.
How to go to Bocas del Toro, plane or night bus
If you decide to go to Bocas del Toro from Panama City, you have more options.
Exactly two, one expensive and one cheap.
One that’s a short trip, and one that’s eight times longer.
Well, from the Albrook bus station in Panama City there are night buses to Almirante.
Here’s a tip, take a sweatshirt, the air conditioning is on full blast.
This is the cheapest option, but the trip takes about eight hours.
That is, at night, so you can save a night’s lodging.
The fast and expensive option is the plane.
There is one flight a day from Albrook airport, which is quite close to the Albrook bus station.
This airport is also known as Marcos A. Gelabert.
Flights are to the Island of Colon, the trip takes one hour, and the price is over a hundred dollars each way.
If you want to make the trip by night bus from Bocas del Toro, you have to buy the tickets in the Colon Island, in Taxi 25.
In high season, try to buy it at least one day in advance.
We have more details in this link How to get to Bocas del Toro.
How to go to San Blas from Panama City
To reach San Blas in the Guna Yala territory, you have three options, totally different.
You can arrive by sailboat from the city of Portobelo, you can do it on your own, or in an organized route.
We choose the third option.
We didn’t have much time, besides, within this organized route, the accommodation and the return trip were included.
We chose the island of Chichimé, a paradise with little accommodation, therefore quiet and not at all crowded.
In our case, we did it through the accommodation where we stayed in Panama City, Machico Hostel.
But you can also hire directly to a Guna Yala family.
We stayed with the contact of the family that took us in their island, Chichimé.
Doing it this way, it takes about four hours to Carti (port from where the boats leave to the islands).
In our case, from Cartí to Chichimé, we took one hour, as it is one of the most remote islands.
If you do it on your own, you will take much longer.
You have to take a bus from Albrook in the direction of Cañita.
But you have to tell the driver to stop you at the crossroads of the road to Guna Yala.
Once there, you have to hitchhike to the port of Carti.
Keep in mind that in high season, the 4×4 vehicles are usually full.
The same happens on weekends.
When you get to Cartí, you will have to decide which island you are going to, and ask there if there is accommodation.
Another option is to go by sailboat from Portobelo.
These sailboats come from the Colombian city of Cartagena de Indias, and stop in Portobelo.
This is perhaps the most expensive option.
In Portobelo there is a hostel called Captain Jacks, the owner organizes this kind of trips.
And the last option is the plane from Panama City, specifically from Albrook airport.
The airline Air Panama is the one that takes you for about 150 euros each way.
It has only one flight in the morning, but there can be cancellations due to the weather.
You can take a look at this article, How to get to San Blas, Guna Yala, Panama, where we tell you in much more detail how to make this trip and the different options.