While tourist shuttles are a convenient way to get around one of my best ways to save money is by taking local transport everywhere. I then reward myself after a long day of travels with a fancy meal somewhere, because… I’ve earned it. All around Panama there are a number of tourist shuttles offering to take you from Panama City to Santa Catalina Panama and other locations for $35+ USD. But what if I told you, you could skip the shuttle and take local buses for less than half the price and it doesn’t actually take that much longer? Wondering how to get from Panama City to Santa Catalina or Santa Catalina to Panama City? Here’s your step-by-step guide.

step 1: uber or local bus to albrook bus station

No matter where you’re staying it’s pretty easy to get around Panama City in Ubers. And they’re very affordable. The 20-minute drive for me cost around $5 USD. Buses in Panama City are really cheap ($60c a ride) however definitely not as convenient. Ask your hostel which way they recommend for you to get to Albrook.

QUICK FACTS: Cost: $1 – $5 | Time needed: around 30 mins

STEP 2: Bus from Albrook bus terminal to sona

Once you arrive at Albrook bus terminal ask someone for the bus to Sona (Donde Esta el bus a Sona?) If you’re struggling to find it it’s with all the little bus booths to your right, where the Uber will drop you off. Depending on the traffic in Panama city, this bus journey can take between 5 – 6 hours. Unluckily for me, we hit traffic and it took 6 hours. You’ll stop off a number of times on the way. However this bus was relatively empty and quite comfortable, however, they blast the air conditioning so I’d recommend bringing a jumper for this Panama City to Santa Catalina bus journey.

QUICK FACTS: Cost: $11 | Time needed: 5 – 6 hours

STEP 3: Bus from Sona to Santa Catalina

The bus from Panama City will drop you off at the bus terminal in the tiny town of Sona. Hopefully, there will be a bus to Santa Catalina waiting for you once you arrive. However, they don’t run very frequently so you may have to wait 30 minutes to an hour. But don’t fret there are a few local restaurants around and the bus terminal has free WIFI. Winning! The bus from Sona will drop you on the main street (or should I say the only street in Santa Catalina) from here you’ll be able to walk to your hostel or hotel. Or if you’re lucky enough and your hotel is before the bus stop just yell out ‘parada’ and they’ll take you to your doorstep.

QUICK FACTS: Cost: $4.5 | Time needed: 1.5 hours

TOTAL TRIP Panama City To Santa Catalina: COST: $15.50 | TIME: 6.5 – 7.5 hours

Please note this price doesn’t include your transport to Albook bus station. You can also find the complete schedules for all buses here.


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