Planning a Trip
Getting There & Departing
By Plane -- Aeroperlas (tel. 315-2700; www.aeroperlas.com) no longer offers regular flights from Panama City to Colón. For information regarding charter flights with Aeroperlas, call 315-2770.
By Bus -- The Colón bus terminal is located at Calle Terminal and Avenida Bolívar. There is daily service to and from the Albrook Terminal in Panama City leaving every 20 minutes from 6am to 10pm; the trip is just under 2 hours and costs $2 (£1) one-way. Buses headed to Portobelo leave every 15 minutes from 6:30am to 8:45pm; the ride is 1 hour and costs $1.50 (75p). To reach Portobelo from Panama City, it is not necessary to transfer in Colón; instead, take a bus to Sabanitas and transfer to a bus headed to Portobelo (catch the transfer on the corner at the El Rey supermarket in Sabanitas). The fare is $3 (£1.50).
By Train -- By far the most picturesque journey to Colón is aboard the Panama Canal Railroad.
By Car -- Driving here can be a little tricky because most streets are not signed. There are two ways to Colón from Panama City: The easiest is via the Corredor Norte, which connects to the Boyd-Roosevelt Highway, also known as the Transístmica Highway, at Chilibre. The other, more scenic route is to go through Soberanía National Park and then connect to the Boyd-Roosevelt highway -- follow the Omar-Torrijos Avenue to the Gaillard Highway toward Gamboa, but continue straight rather than turning left at the park ranger's office and the sign for Gamboa and Summit Gardens.
Getting Around -- If you are not part of a tour and do not have a vehicle, a taxi (that fits up to four people) is your best bet. Taxis are not metered -- expect a driver to set a flat fee for visits to multiple destinations in the area. The Colón 2000 port has set rates for taxis, and even though you may be hiring one from the bus or train terminal, drivers like to adhere to these general rates for all tourists. Average rates are $60 to $80 (£30-£40) for Portobelo (3 hr.) and $120 (£60) for the Gatún Locks and Portobelo. Negotiate and you might get a better price. Most taxi drivers speak little English and are not tour guides. Considering this, you might want to stick with a bilingual tour.
General Tour Operators -- Reviewed tour operators can put together custom day and multiple-day tours in the central Caribbean region. Typical day tours begin with a ride on the Panama Railroad to Colón, and are followed by minivan transportation to the Gatún Locks and Fort San Lorenzo, a historical tour of Portobelo, and finally return ground transportation to Panama City. Ancon Expeditions offers a unique, 7-night "Camino Real Tour" following the old Spanish-built cobblestone trail across the isthmus. The tour involves several days of moderate trekking and overnights in tents and hotels. Ecocircuitos has a 7-night "Caribbean Escapade" with hiking in Portobelo National Park, snorkeling and kayaking, and overnights in Bananas Resort. Adventures in Panama has tours in the area with add-on extension trips to the San Blas Islands.