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Panama City - Canal transit and taxis

Panama City - Canal transit and taxis

Old Oct 8, 15, 9:32 am
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Panama City - Canal transit and taxis

I have booked myself a short trip (3 nights) to Panama City in early December. As I will only have a few words and phrases of Spanish (and a phrasebook) this is a bit out of my comfort zone. Iíll be grateful for a bit of advice from those in the know.

1. I want to book a Canal Transit Tour, preferably the full transit so I can say Iíve done it. The only company Iíve found offering a full transit on my dates is Grayline (there are a couple of other operators but I think they are probably just reselling space on the Grayline tour). The most promising partial transit trips look to be with Panama Canal Tours and pmatours. The Grayline one offers pick up from certain hotels and that seems an attractive option to me.
Anyone know if these companies would be ok?

2. I keep reading that the taxis the hotel will get for a person are a rip-off and it is better to go out on the street and get a yellow taxi. I am discounting Uber because Iíd have to find out how to use them and my data roaming charges are ridiculous. Given that my Spanish is close to non-existent I am thinking it might just be simpler to pay over the odds and let the hotel do it for me. I suppose what I really want to know is how much of a rip-of is it?? I know I will have to find my way back to the hotel on my own but maybe I will try not to stray too far from the metro.

Thank you.
Iamnotlost is offline  
Old Oct 8, 15, 2:39 pm
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The cars I've taken from my downtown Panama City hotel back to the PTY airport were parked outside and quoted a flat rate that wasn't much different than the ones I got from walking up to the counter in the arrivals area of the airport. If I recall correctly it's about $20 US each way.

At least in my limited exposure to drivers, I've always had ones that could speak basic English, and could understand my basic Spanish. Many spoke English better than I can speak Spanish so I wouldn't worry about your language skills for the airport to center city run. I haven't ventured outside the city, or hailed a cab on the street yet.

I found my Spanish was more beneficial during my trips to Columbia, Nicaragua, and with a driver in Mexico City who spoke no English.

Panama City, San Jose Costa Rica, Cancun Mexico, and Barcelona Spain are places where I found that it was easy even for non-Spanish speaking folks to get around, but that's just my experiences in urban areas.
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Old Oct 8, 15, 8:14 pm
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Use the Wifi at your hotel for Uber. Much, much less expensive.
To the canal from my hotel was about 8.00 but taking a taxi back was just a bit over 20.00. I only grabbed a taxi when I couldn't not get a wifi signal somewhere.
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Old Oct 9, 15, 2:30 am
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Thanks for info. Useful to know the sort of prices to expect.
I hadn't thought about using wifi to get an Uber car (which demonstrates my lack of tech savvy quite nicely). I will study how it works.
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Old Dec 10, 15, 6:54 pm
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I thought I would report back in case anyone else is researching these subjects in future.

The Canal Transit. The tour was actually run by Bay and Canal Tours. I booked through Grayline partly because I had heard of them and partly because their booking site seemed fairly secure. They picked me up at the hotel though they did arrive early - a scenario I was not expecting. I now think that there is just the one tour and everyone is selling space on the same boat.

Taxis - I got a taxi from the airport which cost $30. It was all very organised and I was accosted by a man in a green "uniform" shirt and ushered into the first taxi in line. I got the hotel (Doubletree) to organise a car back to the airport because I am a wimp. It cost $35 and I had the option of paying the driver in cash or paying the hotel. I was happy with that. The man was there waiting at the appointed time and it was a nice, clean car.

I wish I had made more use of taxis as the road layout was incomprehensible!
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Old Dec 12, 15, 3:08 am
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How was the canal transit tour? How long was the trip? Thanks.
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Old Jan 10, 16, 3:38 pm
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Might be a bit too late with this answer - in which case, apologies.

However, the canal transit was good. Not exactly a white knuckle ride but interesting. I got picked up from the hotel about 5.30am by a bus which eventually amassed about 20 passengers. We went to a pretty chaotic check-in facility on the Amador causeway. The boat was much better organised than the check in. Clean restrooms. Breakfast, lunch and afternoon cake. All the coffee and soft drinks you could drink (help yourself). Plenty of seats inside and out (inside became important when it chucked it down with rain).

Lots of people did the partial transit and got off after lunch. I got the impression most of them were doing another tour in the afternoon. Not much happened going across the lake apart from the rain though there were a few massive ships to admire. The locks were interesting and I was glad i did both sets. Decent narration in Spanish and English. There was also German but I think the German narrator had come with a particular group.

There were buses waiting at the end to take us back to Panama City. That was a a complete shambles. The bus driver had no idea of which hotels he should take people to but luckily the narrator was on our bus and collected hotel names and then figured out a route with the driver. I think I got back to the hotel about 8pm.

Hope this isn't too late to be useful.
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Old Jan 10, 16, 3:44 pm
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Thanks very much for the reply. Very helpful. Hoping to take my father down there sometime in the next few months.
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