Panama has a great bus system but it can be a bit intimidating especially at Albrook, the big bus terminal in Panama City. Maybe a few photos and tips will help.
When you arrive at the bus station, probably the first thing you want to do is buy a ticket to your destination. We were going to David so we needed to find the window selling tickets to David.
The easiest thing is to hand the your passport(s) to the agent and request your tickets – dos para David, por favor (two for David, please). They need your name and passport number, and its easier to let the agent read the information than try to tell them through the window in a noisy place.
Your ticket will have some important information.
I have circled the most important parts. Bus 63, means you will be on bus #63, and this number will be painted on the outside of the bus. Asiento 50 means you will be in seat #50. As you go down the aisle look for seat numbers. If I remember they may also say Vent (window) and Pasa (aisle). Hora 10:00 AM means you are leaving at 10:00 O’Clock. Destino (destination) is Panama, and Salida (departure) is David. Monto is price. The words above mean – esteemed passenger, present yourself 30 minutes before your departure.
Now you need one more thing, the card to get you through the turnstile so you can get to the boarding area. This seems to be unique to Panama City, so you won’t need this in other bus terminals. (This card is also good for buses and the metro)
This place isn’t far from where you buy the bus ticket, just a bit down to the left from the David window. Again, give the agent your passport and tell her how much money you want to put on the card (I’m afraid I don’t remember costs but it isn’t much, maybe a dollar for the card and $.25 to get through the turnstyle?) One card can be used for multiple people so you only need one. Keep your card because it can be used again, and you can also have it recharged here. You will find bathrooms on either side of this window also, and this card is used to get through the turnstyles to the bathrooms. Any time you use the card, your balance will be shown in the turnstyle window where you swipe your card.
Yeah! Now you are ready for the bus. The next thing is to find the waiting room, which is between the David ticket window and the place that sells the 3 in 1 cards.
If you have baggage, go to the side of the bus. There will be someone there loading baggage underneath. He will stick a ticket on your baggage and give you the other half. Hang on to this ticket because you will need to present it at the other end to claim your baggage. (They unload baggage one piece at a time and call out the number for the owner to come forward and claim their item. When you claim yours you have to present your half of the ticket. It’s a bit chaotic but somehow it always works out).
Then, finally, you are on the bus, in your assigned seat, and ready to get on your way! One more suggestion though – bring a sweater or jacket. Sometimes they get the air conditioning cranked up to freeze level.
If you are arriving at the bus station, things are much less complicated.
The mall also has a big food court of you are hungry. It’s at the very end of the hall past all the ticket windows.
Hopefully this will give you some idea of what to expect at the Albrook Bus Terminal. Everyone is helpful and used to confused travelers, but I think you feel better when you are armed with a bit of information beforehand.