picture of Smileys restaurant in Pedasi

Some Advice About Advice About Panama 7

I remember reading a great line once: Believe half of what you see, and nothing of what you hear. I can’t remember who said/wrote it – and I’m either too lazy to google it or I’m starting to fit in. Regardless, that line can easily apply to some advice about Panama you’ll receive too – so that’s not a typo in the title.

Before we left Canada, we read in forums and Facebook groups about the transportation options and where to go/what to expect from Panama City to Pedasi. We knew we were in for a bit of an experience and adventure. Here’s how it all went down…

We got a taxi from our hotel (in the San Francisco neighbourhood) to the Albrook bus terminal. The cost was $3.50  – pretty decent IMO, but I’m sure if I put that in a Facebook group someone will $#!T all over me and tell me I got ripped off. Such is life. Anyway, we got to the terminal, dragged our “overweight” luggage (minus one suitcase still) and bought our ticket, then we were flagged down to grab the bus. This is where you need to believe nothing of what you hear. The lady working the ticket booth wasn’t surly, but nor was she overly pleasant either – she was just there, doing her thing, possibly wondering how many commas gringos typically put in their run-on sentences. Anyhow, from there, the guys working the turnstiles were waving us over to catch the bus. One young guy had a rapid-pass (do not confuse this with the metro pass) and he scanned it for us to get through the turnstile. It was $0.20 cents. By the way, when did keyboards get rid of the cent symbol? Anywho, they took our overweight luggage and threw it below in whatever they call the luggage compartment below the bus. We then got on the bus, and off we went. Those guys seemed helpful to me, which we hear Panamanians typically aren’t.

En el autobus, there was a dude selling gold chains and trinkets and fandoogles and wazzles. He asked us where we’re from, we told him, and he left us alone. This made me wonder…Do Canadians have a rep for being A) Cheap or B) They never buy jewelry from a guy on a bus?

Halfway through the drive we stopped for lunch for 30 mins. A few hours later we arrived in Las Tablas. This is where you need to believe nothing of what you hear. Someone told us in an online group/forum that the bus to Pedasi is right around the corner from the Las Tablas bus “station” (it was a gas station where the bus stopped). In the words of Wayne Campbell and Garth Elgar…NOT! Wow, that’s just NOT cool to say anymore, and felt even less cool to type, whatever. My wife asked a local where the bus to Pedasi was. The local replied that it was down the street and around the corner and probably not walkable with our luggage. Now if you had a backpack, sure, you could probably just walk it. But we had our lives in three “overweight” suitcases to lug around. So we grabbed a taxi there for a buck and a half. Again, I’ll probably get $#!T on for paying a buck and a half, but again, whatever. If all you have to do in life is $#!T on people for how much they paid someone for a taxi, have at it hoss.

The taxi took us to where the “coaster” busses were. We got out and lo and behold, the bus to Pedasi was still there. When we walked over to it though, it was pretty much full, and there was no way we were getting on with our luggage. As we watched it leave though, another coaster bus to Pedasi pulled up. Sweet! This is where you need to believe nothing of what you hear. We had read they left every fifteen minutes. That’s 15 for those who cannot visualize text as numbers. Based on our internet research, and knowing the internet never lies – we grabbed a few groceries from a nearby store, packed our three overweight suitcases on to the coaster, and waited…and waited…and waited…and waited…and waited. Each previously mentioned “and waited” represents 10 minutes. Do the math Good Will Hunting, and you’ll see we waited 50 minutes. Now, if we were talking with someone, 50 and 15 are easily mistaken, so let’s chalk this one up to someone hearing it takes 50 minutes, and regurgitating it as 15.

The coaster bus stops everywhere on its way to Pedasi. Door-to-door service for a few school kids, some workers, etc. We got to Pedasi and our driver asked us where we wanted to parada (stop). We were having our lost piece of luggage dropped off at Restaurante Smiley’s, so we figured we would check if it had arrived and decided to stop there. Our luggage hadn’t arrived, so next step was to get a cab and get to our hotel. Now, this is where you need to believe half of what you see. In Panama City, there are taxis everywhere. In our brief stop in Las Tablas, we saw taxis everywhere. When we got to Pedasi, there were NO taxis anywhere. There was a taxi stand around the corner from where we were, and a phone number to call. There were no taxis at the stand. And when I called, there was no answer. We finally saw one, but he went the other way. As we stood outside Smiley’s for about 25 minutes, we opted to call our host and see if he had a “go to guy”, which he did. About 15 minutes later we were on our way to our landing spot for the night.

Restaurante Smiley's

Restaurante Smiley’s

So for whoever may have seen us out front of Smiley’s – believe half of what you see…you didn’t see two helpless Canucks arrive in Pedasi, waiting for over a half hour for a taxi to swoop them away to Shangra-La, but you did see two Canucks with three overweight suitcases waiting for a taxi.

Oh, and for those left hanging on the edge in suspense…fourth piece of luggage retrieved!

Later Dudes!

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7 thoughts on “Some Advice About Advice About Panama

  • Chris Powers

    Ha, sorry you guys went through all that. I hope I wasn’t the one who gave you the bad advice. I’ve always said, getting to Pedasi is kind of a pain in the ass. The first time I made the trip, I thought there would be a bus to Pedasi at the little Las Tablas terminal. I ended up walking to where the coaster buses wait. And yes, you’ll sit and wait awhile once you get on the bus and since the driver already knows where everyone in the area lives, you’ll get taken on a nice scenic route through every neighborhood along the way, lol. Everything you said is spot on. Hope you were able to enjoy Pedasi though. Or at least enjoy a big pitcher of sangria at Smiley’s. Welcome to Panama my briends.

  • Michael Drouillard

    Well Al, TIP (this is Panama), haha. Patience is definately a virtue in Panama? But you will get used to the convoluted info. Its a live am learn experience and believe me I have learned a lot. I love the transportation in Panama, but it is a learning process. Again welcome and some day we will have to meet ip here or there. OH and by the way the metro pass 3 in 1 works for rhe metro, the regular buses and the turnstiles. I have been on all a million times. Metro .35, bus .25 and turnstiles .10. Did you happen to take the metro, I love it and makes getting around PC very easy. Going back to the buses, I have to make a run for the border soon to paso canneo and will catxh a bus here to the frontera at a cost of $17 each way. Buses come by Coronado to everywhere about every 5 minutes. Any Buen venido.

    • shine Post author

      Michael, learning to move a little slower and taking on a new mindset of…”Well, what’s the hurry”? And yes, we’ll have to meet up one of these days!

  • allison

    FYI for future bus trips out of Las Tables, or is it Chitre (wherever THE bus station is), there is a place in the far left corner (when looking at buses lined up, and it’s a small hole in the wall) that has FANTASTIC fried chicken! Just ask a bus attendant for “el pollo frito” or something like that and you will be shown the way 🙂

    • shine Post author

      Allison, we went back a week later with some friends and had some great BBQ chicken. I think they do some pretty good chicken here in Panama!

  • Bea

    Gives me pause when my ship stops at Colon or San Blas that maybe I shouldn’t take “public” transit in smaller venues in Panama. Or maybe I can have one of those scenic route tours?

    • shine Post author

      If you have time and can make it to Panama City, they have a “hop-on, hop-off bus” which takes you around the city. If the cruise offers some tours it might be an option. I’ll ask around in some facebook forums to see what some good options are.