Planning a Trip
Getting There & Departing
By Plane -- The Aeropuerto Enrique Malek (DAV) is about 4.8km (3 miles) from the city center and is serviced by Air Panama (tel. 316-9000; www.flyairpanama.com), with flights to and from Panama City, Bocas del Toro, and even San José, Costa Rica. There are three daily round-trip flights from Panama City Monday through Friday, and two daily flights on Saturday and Sunday; the cost is about $200 (£100) roundtrip including taxes. There are flights from Bocas del Toro to David on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:35am, with return flights at 1pm. Flights from San José are on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 10am, with the return trip from David leaving at 9:30am.
Aeroperlas (tel. 315-7500; www.aeroperlas.com) has three daily flights from Panama City to David from Monday to Saturday, and two flights on Sunday; the cost is $206 (£103) round trip including taxes. From Bocas del Toro, there is one flight per day from Monday to Friday, leaving Bocas del Toro at 8:25am, and returning from David at 9am.
There is an ATP visitor center booth at the airport (no phone; daily 7am-3pm), manned by a helpful and friendly representative who has a limited number of brochures and maps. A taxi into town costs $2 (£1) per person.
By Bus -- The Terminal de Transportes is located on Avenida Estudiante. Daily service to and from Panama City is offered by the bus line Terminal David-Panama (tel. 774-2974 or 775-7074), with regular service leaving every hour daily from 6am to 8pm, and express service leaving daily at 10:45pm, midnight, and 3am. Padafront (tel. 775-8913) has regular bus service at 7:30am, 8:45am, 9:45am, 11am, 12:45am, 2pm, 3:15pm, 6pm, and 7:45pm; express buses leave at 10:45pm and midnight. Both companies charge $13 (£6.50) for regular service (7 hr.), and $15 (£7.50) for express service (5 1/2 hr.). Note that bus drivers on this route like to turn the A/C on full blast, so be sure to bring a sweater to stay warm.
Volcán-Cerro Punta-Guadalupe buses from David leave every 35 minutes from 5am to 7pm ($2-$3/£1-1.50); and buses to Boquete leave every 15 minutes from 4:15am to 9pm ($1.45/£75p). Buses to Costa Rica via the Paso Canoa border are available from Panaline (tel. 314-6383) and Tica Bus (tel. 314-6385); both companies charge the same price from David as from Panama City ($25/£13 one-way); they leave David for Costa Rica around 5:30pm daily. Note: Travelers to and from Costa Rica will need to show proof of onward travel. If you do not posses such proof, you will be required to buy a round-trip ticket.
By Car -- David is reached from Panama City via the Interamericana Highway (Pan-American Highway), which skirts the edge of town and continues on to the Paso Canoa border with Costa Rica. Personally, I find renting a car to be the best option, because it allows you to explore the Boquete/Cerro Punta region.
By Taxi -- Taxis are plentiful in David. The fare for a taxi from the airport to the city center is $2(£1) per person; to Boquete it is $25 (£13); to Volcán it is $40 (£20); and to Guadalupe it is $50 (£25). Around town, fares cost $1 to $2 (50p-£1).
By Car -- Rental vehicles are available at the David airport, including Alamo (tel. 236-5777; www.alamopanama.com), Budget (tel. 263-8777; www.budgetpanama.com), Hertz (tel. 721-3345; www.hertz.com), National (tel. 721-0974; www.nationalpanama.com), and Thrifty (tel. 721-2477; www.thrifty.com). If you'll be exploring the surrounding Chiriqui Highlands, I recommend you get a 4WD for difficult, unpaved road if you'll be exploring off the beaten track.
You'll find banks with ATMs on the streets around the plaza; Banco Nacional is at Calle B Norte and Avenida 3 Este/Bolívar on the plaza; Global Bank is at Calle A Norte and Avenida 1 Este; and HSBC is at Avenida 1era Oeste and Calle D Norte. Cybercafes are plentiful in David, and all hotels offer Internet service to their customers. Also try American Copy at Calle Este Norte and Avenida 1 Este; or Naveg@net at Avenida 2 Este and Calle A Norte. There are two excellent hospitals here, the Mae Lewis Hospital (tel. 775-4159) and the Hospital Chiriquí (tel. 774-0128). For the police, dial tel. 771-4231. The post office can be found 1 block northeast of the plaza on Avenida 4 Este and Calle C Norte, and is open Monday through Saturday from 7am to 5:30pm.
There is an ATP visitor center at Avenida Central and Calle B Norte (tel. 775-4120; Mon-Fri 8:30am-5:30pm), but it is largely useless except for maps, which are in short supply. The staff here oddly does not provide the public with much tourist information, nor does it seem to know David well enough to give recommendations.
The Feria Internacional de San José de David
The Feria Internacional de San José de David is the largest commercial, industrial, agricultural, ranching, and folkloric festival in Panama, taking place every year around the middle of March. The weeklong event draws 300,000 people, most of whom come to visit the booths of international companies and catch up on the newest technology, but folklore, culture, and handicrafts play a large role, delighting tourists, too. Check the website www.feriadedavid.com for exact dates.