How to get to Panama

AS A COUPLE
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International flights arrive at Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama City. Services arrive daily from the US (most are routed through Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston or Miami) and other Central and South American cities; KLM and Iberia fly from Amsterdam and Madrid, respectively. Flights from San José, in neighbouring Costa Rica, often stop in David before continuing on to Panama City. The recently upgraded airport in David is expected to see direct international flights from and to the US at some point.

You can cross into Panama by land from Costa Rica, but due to security concerns it’s not possible to do so from Colombia. Instead, backpackers are increasingly booking passages by boat.

Land and sea routes to Panama

Panama has three land routes from Costa Rica: the main border crossing along the Interamericana is at Paso Canoas, while a less-frequented border outpost is at Guabito, on the Caribbean coast, which allows for access to the Bocas archipelago. There’s a rarely used border post in the Chiriquí Highlands at Río Sereno (8am–5pm; reached by bus from Volcán).

Though you can take local transport and switch buses at the border, the slightly costlier fares on international services run by Tica Bus (wticabus.com) give you a better shot at an efficient and hassle-free passage (though border waits can be long). In addition to official documents, travellers at the border crossing will often be asked to show an onward or return ticket. If you're travelling on a one-way ticket, migración is likely to require advance purchase of your bus fare back to San José.

Land and sea routes to Panama

Panama has three land routes from Costa Rica: the main border crossing along the Interamericana is at Paso Canoas, while a less-frequented border outpost is at Guabito, on the Caribbean coast, which allows for access to the Bocas archipelago. There’s a rarely used border post in the Chiriquí Highlands at Río Sereno (8am–5pm; reached by bus from Volcán).

Though you can take local transport and switch buses at the border, the slightly costlier fares on international services run by Tica Bus (wticabus.com) give you a better shot at an efficient and hassle-free passage (though border waits can be long). In addition to official documents, travellers at the border crossing will often be asked to show an onward or return ticket. If you're travelling on a one-way ticket, migración is likely to require advance purchase of your bus fare back to San José.

The Rough Guide to Panama and related travel guides

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Andy Turner
8/29/2020
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