The majority of expats who live full-time or part-time in Panama drive their own, personal car.
And why not.
The highway system is being improved every year. There are thousands of miles of brand new, smooth asphalt to drive, and often there are few cars to share the road with.
Cars in Panama are relatively inexpensive and there is a good used car market (Please see our previous articles on purchasing a used car in Panama).
Living Without A Car
However, not everyone who moves to Panama wants a car. There are some very good reasons for not owning one.
Probably the number one reason most people choose not to own a car is the expense. As in the US, owning and operating a car requires that you purchase, and maintain your car. You need to buy fuel. You need to register your car. You need insurance. You need to buy new tires, wiper blades, etc…etc… Plus, you need to be financially capable of paying for the occasional major repair. This can be expensive as well as being stressful.
The most obvious reason for not driving a car is that cars are very destructive of the environment. Regardless of your beliefs about irreversible global warming due to burning fossil fuels and the emission of huge amounts of carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we can all see the vast impact that our use of the car has on our planet. Can you believe that people have been here for six million years or so, and that cars have only been around for a little over 100 years?
The Taxi Alternative
So, if you are on a tight budget, or you just want to do your part to preserve the environment, there is good news. You can simply “grab a cab”.
You will find the typical yellow-painted 4 door Toyota, Hyundai, or Kia cabs circulating throughout Puerto Armuelles all day, and much of the night as well. It shouldn’t take more than a minute of two to hail a cab on the street in Puerto Armuelles, or anywhere in Panama.
Taxis Are Cheap
Another bonus. The ride is cheap.
Puerto Armuelles Example
Most destinations in our town can be reached for less than $1.00. Even to get out to the beach at Corazon de Jesus might set you back $2.00. When you first arrive in town, you might find that cab drivers overcharge you a bit. However, once you learn the fares, you won’t have a problem. Everyone pays the same price, expats and Panamanians. Shared taxi rides (where they pick up other people on the way) are less expensive than your own exclusive ride.
Although Betsy and I drive a car, I still maintain contact information for 3 or 4 cab drivers in my phone. Good to have for emergencies, or just if you want something picked up and delivered.
If you don’t have a car, and you always want to be confident of having reliable transportation, you might want to keep as many as 6 or 7 cab driver contacts. That way, you can have phone numbers of favorite cab drivers who drive during the day, and numbers of favorite drivers who work the graveyard shift.
If you wish to go to David, the current price for one passenger is $30-$35. It’s the same to the international airport in David. Or, you could take the bus to David for $4, and then take cabs in David to do your shopping. Then return to Puerto by bus, or by cab one-way. Alternatively, if you have a lot to accomplish in David, you could take a bus, run errands by cab, and spend the night in a hotel (See article on a good hotel in David). Then return to Puerto, fully rested, the following day.
In Panama City, there are even more alternatives like its many buses, its subway, taxis and more. Uber is particularly popular in Panama City. It is not offered anywhere else in Panama yet.
Combination of Transportation Modes
My curiosity has been piqued by the big boom in the use of electric bikes in Seattle. One might employ some combination of bicycle, electric bike, or scooter, and taxi cab in your daily life. This way you could easily cover all of your transportation needs in Puerto Armuelles. One could enjoy a flexible, economical, and convenient lifestyle this way.
If you like being green, you should check out our Living In Panama house, an affordable non-air conditioning dependent home.