The transport system in Panama City is a very easy and cheap way to get around. There is a great number of metro buses and metro lines that can bring you everywhere. You only need a metrocard and you’re ready to go!
1. How to get your metrocard
You can buy metrocards at the airport in the arrival hall next to the exit. There is a machine where you can buy the card for 5$. This includes 2$ for the card itself and a 3$ credit. You can pay the machine by credit card. If you don’t have time to buy the card at the airport or you already are in the city you can buy metrocards in every metro station as well.
2. How to use the metrocard
The first step is done – you have your own metrocard now. With this card every bus or metro ride costs only 0,25$ no matter how long you are going. You can also use one metrocard for a couple of people. When entering the bus you need to hold the card at the sensor and enter through the turnstile afterwards. You need to activate the turnstile seperately for every person. When you get off just go through the turnstile without holding your card to the sensor unless you want to change the bus. Hold the card to the sensor if you want to transfer to another bus. This way you don’t have to pay again in the next bus. But the method only works if you don’t share your card with others. If your credit is depleted, you can recharge the card at the machines in every metro station.
3. How to get from Tocumen Airport to city center for less than 1$
The easiest but also most expensive way to get to the city is by taxi. Taxis to the city center cost around 35$. The next, cheaper way is by uber. You can pick your driver with the uber-app, the ride will cost ~15$ depending on where you exactly go. But 15$ is still quiet much when you are low-budget backpackers. Even cheaper is the airport bus that leaves right in front of the arrival hall. It is a bus with luggage space especially for tourists that brings you to the city center for 1,75$.
But as the title already reveals there has to be a cheaper way! The cheapest way to go to the city center is by public metro bus. You can’t pay with cash but with your metrocard (see point 1). This way you will only pay 0,25$ for the whole way. These buses don’t leave directly in front of the airport, you need to go to the main road (see map). But you don’t have to walk along the mainroad as shown in the map, there is a pavement as well. To get to the pavement, turn right after leaving the building and keep going straight ahead. Where the road ends there is a tiny alleyway that looks unofficial but it’s right! After exiting the alleyway just follow the pavement and go to the marked bus stop (B). All buses at that bus stop go to the city center. Just show the bus driver where you want to go and he’ll tell you if it’s the right line.