For the past two and a half years that I have lived in Panama I have not had a car or driven a car, nor do I ever want to here. I’ve learned how to adapt to a lifestyle of walking and taking public transportation, which is not something that I ever did when I lived in Kentucky – mainly because everything was so far apart. But Panama City is pretty small area wise and it’s possible to get by without a car. Here’s my top 3 reasons why you shouldn’t get a car in Panama:
1. Traffic: The traffic, also known as “tranque” by the locals, is insane in Panama City. There’s a million simultaneous construction projects going on right now squeezing cars into one lane making it take at least an hour to get anywhere. I walk an hour home from work everyday and I laugh as I stroll right past all the cars sitting there stuck on Calle 50. But I think that everyone is pointing their finger at construction as the cause of the traffic problem instead of pointing at themselves. Did you know the amount of cars in Panama City is close to doubling since 2010? (La Prensa)
If people keep buying cars at this rate the traffic problem is going to be never-ending. So if you are thinking of getting a car in Panama, please don’t, you will just be another addition to the traffic problem. You’ll also find it’s much less stressful to walk an hour home and get some exercise than to sit in your car for an hour in traffic.
2. Cheap Public Transportation: The cost of using the Metro Bus is .25 cents for routes in the city and $1.25 if it gets on the highway. The cost of a taxi is $2 – $3 anywhere in the city. Between using the bus and taxi I would say that I spend about $30 a month at the most on transportation. Compared to the cost of gas, using the corredor, car insurance, a car itself, repairs, and paying “Bien Cuidados” the money saved by not having a car is significant. At the moment, Panama does not have the best public transportation but I have seen it greatly improve since I have been here. We went from having crappy U.S. school busses called Diablo Rojos to transitioning to nice Metro Busses to having our first Metro line opening soon. It’s been rough to be living through the transition of all this (I used to wait an hour for the Metro Bus to come by) but it is much better now.
3. Parking: If you have a car, you have to park it, which is not easy to do in Panama. There’s always cars parked on top of sidewalks and you may have to circle around the grocery several times to get a spot. Try going to Casco Viejo on a Friday night to find a parking spot and your only option will be valet, which is sometimes full as well. Also, I have seen places like Multiplaza Mall start to charge for parking so that will be a new added cost. It’s definitely easier to take a bus or taxi somewhere than have to deal with parking.
So those are my top 3 reasons why you should not get a car in Panama. I also want to address one of the main things that can make a car free life easier and that is LOCATION. Pick a location to live in Panama that is near your job, close to a grocery store since you will need to carry groceries, and has easy access to public transportation. I live in an apartment in the San Francisco neighborhood that is right next to the grocery store and a bus stop and I have several restaurants and a mall within walking distance. Besides San Francisco I think that El Cangrejo, Obarrio, Avenida Balboa, and Marbella are the most accessible neighborhoods without a car. Avoid Costa del Este unless your work is there because the bus only operates there for a limited time and taxis never want to go there.
I am interested to hear your opinion so leave a comment below whether you think Panama City is a car free place to be or am I crazy for being the only pedestrian on the street: