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Getting around Panama by bus is comfortable, cheap, and straightforward. Panama City is the main transport hub. Services to towns all over the country (and to the rest of Central America) leave from a huge terminal/mall in Albrook with shops, ATMs, Internet access, and restaurants. To get to smaller cities and beaches, you need to catch minibuses out of regional transit hubs.
Long-distance buses are usually clean and punctual. Routes are operated by many different bus companies, and there's no centralized timetable service. Call the bus company or go to the terminal to get departure times. Rates are not set in stone, but estimate $1 to $2 per hour of travel.
You can reach Panama by bus only from Costa Rica. Services cross the border at Paso Canoas. The Darién jungle causes a gap in the Panamerican Highway, meaning bus travel to Colombia is impossible.
Ticabus is an international bus company connecting all of Central America. Air-conditioned coaches leave Panama City daily at 11 am and 11 pm and takes 16 hours to get to San José, Costa Rica. One-way tickets cost $55 for the more comfortable "executive service" daytime departure and $40 for the nighttime departure. Ticabus continues to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico.
Panamanian company Expreso Panamá operates air-conditioned coach service from Panama City nightly at 11 pm arriving at San Jose, Costa Rica 16 hours later. The one-way fare is $40.
Expreso Panamá (507/314–6837. www.expresopanama.com.)
Ticabus (507/314–6385. www.ticabus.com.)