The Bus Home from Panama City to David

Joel is home! I took the bus to Panama City on Saturday to meet him at the airport. We spent the night in a hotel and took the bus home together on Sunday. This was my fourth bus trip this month so I’m beginning to feel familiar with the bus, but it was Joel’s first. Taking pictures from a moving bus does not produce the best results so I apologize in advance for the quality of some of the photos, but I wanted to share a bit of our experience.

A bit of basic info first, for those who might be planning to take the bus. The bus costs $15.25, leaves every 1 – 1 1/2 hour (and may or may not match the posted schedule). It takes about 7 1/2 hours. You need ID (passport) to buy a ticket. There are assigned seats so check your ticket for your seat number (asiento = seat). In Panama City you will also have to buy a card (Rapi Pass, sold at various spots along the corridor) which will allow you to pass through the turnstile to the boarding area. It’s $1.25, $1 for two passes and $.25 recharging fee, if I understood correctly, and they will ask for your ID. It might also get you in the bathroom but I just put a quarter in that turnstile. You can check your luggage at the side of the bus but save your ticket. You will need it to reclaim your baggage at the other end.

Of course, as usual, I was excited to see the canal even if only for a moment!

I enjoy being able to look out and see some of the countryside along the way.

Half way there! The Santiago stop.

The bus is not as fast as the plane but it is certainly much more affordable. If you can work it out with your schedule, I would certainly recommend that you consider it. I think it also reflects life in general in Panama. You will see a variety of people and all of them, even the children and babies, are calm, quiet, and relaxed. There was minimal fussing and noise from even the smallest children and there seemed to be nothing brought along to entertain them. They sat quietly in their seats, on parent’s laps, or looking out of the window.

The terminal in Panama City is a big building with a food court and shops along the corridor, and kiosks in the middle.  In Santiago, besides the cafeteria, there is a farmacia which sells all sorts of things including snacks and sweets,  and there are also carts selling snacks, sweets, handcrafted items, and other things. I met a guy once who was spending his day encouraging religion while selling candy and gum to passengers getting back on the bus. This weekend there was a beggar that would board every bus as they were getting ready to leave to plead her case and ask for donations.

In David there is also a building full of shops of every sort, and other carts on the sidewalk selling snacks and sweets. I noticed there is a man who greets every taxi and car that pulls up, and if you need help with your luggage he will handle it for you, including taking it to the bus to be checked in. The hardest part for me is getting your luggage back at the end of the trip. They take suitcases and packages out of the bus one at a time, holler out the number on the ticket, and wait for the owner to come forward and present their matching ticket. There is a crowd of people in front of the baggage area all hoping to be able to get close enough to grab their luggage when their number is called. In Panama City you are on your own, but there is space for everyone on the sidewalk.  In David the taxi’s are parked close enough that you can enlist a driver, and he will help you with your luggage when you get your hands on it. But, there isn’t as much room for the crowd next to the bus.

In general though, I find that the buses are like most things in Panama. They do their best to take care of their customers. There is a man on the bus in addition to the driver to assist with tickets, movies, and anything else that is needed. And, as people are getting on and off the buses, there is as much assistance as space and circumstances will allow. I definitely plan on using the bus for future trips because it works quite well.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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15 Responses to The Bus Home from Panama City to David

  1. indacampo says:

    Home again, home again, jiggety-jog;
    To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
    Home again, home again, market is done.
    ~ Mother Goose ~

    In your case to retrieve your “hunny bun”. Welcome home, again!


  2. glad to hear you all made it home safely :)…great post , really liked the photos and all the info you provided.


  3. Annelised says:

    I’m traveling vicariously thru you 🙂


  4. I just love the information. And, your pics from a moving bus are quite impressive. Thank you!


  5. Thanks for the bus ride! I enjoyed it simply because I’ve been on that bus to Panama City before and I didn’t have to wear a blanket while reading your post. Why is it so frigidly cold on those buses? We flew out of Panama City once and since they bumped us from our scheduled flight, we had a couple hours to wait until the next flight. I was amazed that no kiosks in the airport sold any reading material. But, the nice thing was, we got vouchers for an international flight anywhere in North, Central, or South America. My husband arrives tomorrow. I can’t wait for him to come home. I know how glad you must be to have your hubby home.


    • Kris says:

      I’ve heard about the cold too, but I was comfortable on all my rides in jeans and a sweater. Maybe they have changed that a bit?
      I never thought about reading material since I bring my own. But come to think of it, I don’t remember people reading on the buses. They seem to sleep, look out the window, or watch the movie.
      Yes, I am happy to have my husband home. Tomorrow you get to celebrate having yours home with you! How nice to have relationships where we are happy to have them back 🙂


  6. Anonymous says:

    I took the bus and liked it.


  7. Bob says:

    I took the bus and liked it. I didn’t know about the Rapi Pass and so when it was time to board they wouldn’t let me through. I was lucky that a wonderful lady behind used her pass to let me through.


    • That Rapi Pass trips up a lot of people who don’t know about it, especially since it’s not needed in other bus terminals. If you can’t understand Spanish in a very noisy environment it’s even harder. But, like your experience, people here are very good about helping you out. I’m glad that was the case for you too. We like the bus also, and it sure beats driving and then ending up in that crazy city traffic.


  8. Sharissa says:

    Hi! I’m traveling to panama in a couple weeks and need to get from panama city to David! Is it easy to find the bus station from the airport or are there buses that run from the airport directly? Which bus company do you use? I’ve been researching but can’t find any answers! Thanks in advance if you have any info! 🙂

    My email is


    • You will arrive at Tocumen airport which is east of the city, and the bus terminal is at Allbrook which is on the west side of the city. There are no buses from Tocumen to David so you have to go across the city to the bus terminal. That can be done by bus but I don’t know the bus systems in the city so I can’t advise you on that. There will be plenty of cabs though who can take you for around $30-33 (there are tolls on the way which the driver has to pay so it’s more expensive than most cab rides) You may find this post helpful about the bus terminal and getting on the bus.


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