Typically a trip to Panama’s Tocumen International Airport means finding a REALLY nice friend to drive or shelling out $25 for a cab ride there. But if you want to save a ton of money you can try this “travel hack” by using the Metro Bus to get to the Panama airport and pay only $1.25. Here’s what you have to do:
From the airport to Panama City
Step 1: Exit the airport and head to the right
Walk towards Restaurante Selles.
Step 2: Enter the hallway next to the restaurant
The airport has installed ZERO signs that say this leads to the pedestrian walkway going to the main road. At first, it will look like you are entering somewhere that you are not supposed to but this is the correct way.
Continue through the back hallway and outside.
Step 3: Cross the street
Once you reach the end of the walkway, you need to cross the street to get to the bus stop with busses heading back to Panama City.
Step 4: Get on the Tocumen-Corredor Sur bus
They DO NOT sell Metro Bus cards at the airport. If you are a tourist trying to use the bus you will need to kindly ask someone if you can pay them a $1.25 to swipe you through with their card. Wait for the Tocumen-Corredor Sur bus to arrive and DO NOT get on any of the ones that say Via España because it will take forever to get back to the city. Alternatively, you can get onto one of the large white buses that say Tocumen on them, and these accept cash. Once you are on the bus, you can get dropped off anywhere on Avenida Balboa or take the bus all the way to the Albrook terminal and transfer to another bus or hop on the Metro.
From Panama City to the airport
Step 1: Board the Tocumen-Corredor Sur Metro Bus
You can either board this bus on Avenida Balboa on the side of the road closest to the ocean or take the Metro or Metro Bus to the Albrook terminal and transfer to the Tocumen-Corredor Sur bus. I live in San Francisco, so I take the Cinta Costera-Panama Viejo bus to Multicentro Mall and then use the pedestrian bridge to cross the street and catch the bus at that bus stop. The cost of the Tocumen-Corredor Sur bus is $1.25 instead of the standard .25 cent fare because it uses the highway. Do not use the Tocumen busses that do not say, Corredor Sur, because these go a long way and it can add hours to your travel time. Alternatively, you can use the white buses that say Tocumen on them, and these accept cash.
Step 2: Get off at the airport stop
The bus ride from Multicentro to the airport is approximately 30 minutes and if the voice recordings that announce the stops are working you need to get off at the stop that announces “Aeropuerto.” It’s the stop that has a covered walkway right in front of the airport.
Step 3: Continue on the walkway
The walk from the start of the walkway to the airport is around 7 minutes, and it’s pretty straightforward.
You will go through a parking lot and then after that go through this entrance and follow it until the end.
The hallway ends at the entrance of the airport.
Step 4: Head up to the second floor
The pedestrian entrance leads to the level with arriving flights so just head up to the second floor to check into your departing flight.
My total travel time for walking out the door of my apartment to arriving at the doors of the airport was 1 hour and 15 minutes, so it’s longer than taking a taxi, but it’s worth the savings. Here is a breakdown of how long each step took so that you can better plan your trip:
2:00 pm – Arrived at the bus stop closest to my apartment
2:05 pm – Bus arrived
2:20 pm – Arrived at Multicentro and crossed the street to wait at the next bus stop
2:45 pm – Tocumen bus arrived
3:15 pm – Arrived at the airport
I would recommend leaving your house extra early if you are trying to catch a flight or even do a trial run a few days before your flight to see how long it takes.
Also, this is NOT a trip you want to do with large luggage (I think they won’t let you on the bus with a giant suitcase). It’s best to do this for short trips where you just have a small carry-on bag or suitcase.
Remember, using the bus is only recommended if you have small carry-on luggage. Otherwise, I recommend paying the extra money for a taxi or uber.
Enjoy the savings!