As Travel Expands in Panama, Its Capital Gets a New Metro

by  Alex Schechter | Oct 7, 2013
Panama City
Panama City / SL_Photography/iStock

According to Reuters, Panama's $33 billion economy will grow 8.5 percent this year. Last month, two trendy hotel brands (Starwood's Aloft, and Ace Hotels) announced new properties in the capital city. And next summer, the Panama Canal will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Clearly, a lot is contributing to the rising status of Panama as one of Central America's most in-demand destinations.

Good thing, then, that the city is making an effort to expand its somewhat lacking public transit system. Though locals have long relied on an erratic (and, some would argue, unsafe) system of re-purposed school buses, known colloquially as diablos rojos, or "red devils," the new 8.5-mile metro line is set to the change all that.

Touted as Central America's first-ever metro line, the $1.8 billion project has taken years to come to fruition, and by December of this year, locals and tourists alike will be able to start using it.

So, where will it take you?

The starting point for the new line will be the Albrook bus terminal, which isn't exactly downtown, but close enough to it. From here, you can access Casco Antiguo, the city's historic center (and the eventual location of Ace Hotel), in under five minutes by taxi, as well as the central thoroughfare of Avenida Balboa, which connects Casco Antiguo to the more residential Punta Patilla area.

Immediately surrounding the subway terminal is Albrook Mall – not particularly exciting, though it remains one of the city's busiest retail hubs – and Albrook International Airport, which isn't as big as the central Tocumen International Airport, though it does offer service to destinations in Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and other parts of Panama.

From the looks of it, this new metro line will be most beneficial for locals getting in and out of Panama City's suburbs. For tourists, whose main interests will be sightseeing in Casco Antiguo, visiting the Panama Canal, and exploring local parks, the subway will have less relevance, though could prove handy as the city stays on its path of rapid expansion.

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