Getting around Panama City, Panama is WAY more convenient with the launch of several car hailing smartphone apps!
Normally getting a taxi off the street in Panama is not the most pleasant experience. They often stop to ask where you’re going then say “no voy” (I don’t want to go there) and drive off, they stop for other passengers on the way, AND they are unmetered so if you don’t speak Spanish and don’t know the correct rates you will probably get overcharged at least once.
Try out one of these apps below the next time you need to get around Panama:
Uber is the worldwide household name of transportation apps and is my preferred app to use in Panama or anywhere else I travel. The app allows you to hail an Uber driver based on your location using your smartphone and then the fare is calculated on distance and time it takes to arrive to your location. The cars are brand new and they include bottled water! Payments are managed through your stored credit card and you can even split the cost of rides with your friends that also have the app on their phone. The rates are extremely affordable in Panama, especially with the recent launch of their more affordable Uber X service, which has rates close to the cost of a street taxi. With Uber X I typically pay $3-$5 for a ride and with normal Uber $4-$8.
If you are a tourist visiting Panama I really recommend using Uber or the Tu Chofer app that I mention below because traditional taxis will definitely try to rip you off.
Enter promo code UBERPTYLIFE to receive $10 off of your first ride.
Tu Chofer is a basically a local version of Uber and I use it interchangeably with Uber based on which has a closer car to where I am. It’s the same concept where the driver comes to pick you up at your GPS location and the driver arrives in a brand new shiny black car wearing a suit.
Then the smartphone becomes a “taxi meter” and the fare is calculated based on the distance and time it takes to arrive to the location so there is no need for bargaining for a taxi fare. Then the payment is taken from a credit card stored on your account.
Tu Chofer has also launched a more economical service that brings the price close to using traditional taxis.
Enter promotion code PTYLIFE10 in the app to receive a $10 credit.
I made an account, used the GPS to show my location and then hailed the cab. A difference with this app is that I didn’t get to choose the taxi. It sends a notification to all of the taxi drivers who have the app and the first one to accept it will come.
Like the other app, it does show the location of all the nearby taxis and when I used it there were only two on the screen. It’s a new app so I think more taxi drivers will start using it soon.
Anyway, the driver arrived in about 5 minutes and I watched his location the entire time I waited. It also showed his name and taxi number so I knew which taxi to get into when he arrived.
This uses a traditional taxi so rates are unmetered and it’s cash only.
This app is specifically for the Yellow Car Taxi service in Panama which in my opinion is the best one. All cars are brand new with AC and they seem to do a good job with screening their drivers before hiring.
So to use the app I needed to click login at the bottom of the screen and create an account. The account information included my name and phone number which the taxi driver can use to contact me to confirm my location.
After logging in I clicked “New Booking” and then it uses the phone GPS to pinpoint my current location. After that I just dragged the arrow to the location that I wanted to go to and then the map shows the exact location of all the taxis around me. Then I clicked on the closest taxi and clicked “Hail”. A notification then pops up on the taxi driver’s smart phone and he can either accept or deny the request. Mine accepted it and I immediately received a phone call from the driver and he confirmed my exact location. The name of the driver and his taxi number pop up on the screen so I can easily identify the taxi when it arrives. He got there in about 3 minutes and I was able to see his location the entire time.
The guy did charge me a little more compared to if I had gotten one of the street – it was $3 instead of $2 – but it’s expected to pay a bit more when you call them.
Now that these apps are around and we have an improved public transportation system I actually rarely use a traditional taxi off the street anymore. During the day I prefer the cheaper (and set rates) of the bus and metro and then at night I ALWAYS use Uber or Tu Chofer after having a few bad taxi experiences. The drivers on these two apps are background checked for safety and the rates are metered so you will pay less than what a night taxi driver will try to rip you off with.
What is your experience with using these apps compared to traditional taxis? Leave a comment below…