of Panama is business" and there is no better place to do business
than at the Colón Free Zone, one of the largest free trade
emporiums of the Western Hemisphere. Each year, thousands of businesspeople
from around the world visit the Free Zone to establish commercial
alliances resulting in the import and export of thousands of tons
of goods of every corner of the globe.
Zone is also a place for you. Hundreds of tourists include visits
to Colón in their itineraries, attracted by the Free Zone’s
Swiss watches, computers, and designer clothes, but most of all, by
its "zero tax" policy.
question is: how to get to Colón? There are many easy ways
to get to Panama’s "Caribbean capital" from Panama
City. Here are our recommendations:
Most, if not all of Panama City’s taxi drivers are willing to
take you to the Free Zone. You can hire them for approximately $60.00
one way. You can either contact a taxi company through your hotel’s
front desk or hire one on the street. Make sure to negotiate the price
before you board the taxi.
express buses to Colón depart from Gran Terminal de Transporte
An excellent service of large, comfortable buses links Panama City
and Colón, departing from Gran Terminal de Transporte, located
in Albrook (buses are air-conditioned and feature TV/DVD players and
other amenities.) Gran Terminal is a large, modern facility featuring
waiting rooms, stores, pharmacies and even shower rooms. Express buses,
which take approximately one hour, depart every hour. Regular buses
(no air conditioning) could take up to two hours to get to Colón.
The price of an express, one-way ticket is $2.00. (For more information,
is in the process of building a new bus terminal, since current facilities
are less than adequate. Please keep in mind that crime rates in Colón
are high. Therefore, if you plan to visit the city by bus, it is best
that you hire a taxi as soon as you arrive at the terminal. Dress
down and remove all valuable items from sight. The Free Zone –a
gated, high-security area—is only a few blocks away.
car: Traveling by car always gives you a higher degree of freedom
and control over your time. Colón is 80 km. northeast of Panama
City, approximately an hour’s drive from the capital. If you
choose to drive, the easiest way to get to Colón in a rented
automobile is via the Corredor Norte expressway. If your hotel is
located in the banking district, it is best to get on Vía España
and turn right on Avenida Martín Sosa, which will lead you
directly to the Corredor Norte’s toll booths. A series of road
signs will lead you to the entrance of the partly-finished Autopista-Panama-Colón,
a toll way which currently ends near the town of Chilibre. Speed limit
is 110 KPH. (When finished, the trip to Colón is expected to
last approximately 25 minutes.)
plane flight to Colón lasts approximately 20 minutes.
the Autopista merges into the Boyd-Roosevelt Highway, a winding, two-lane
road best known as "La Transístmica", where speed
limit is reduced to 80 KPH. Note that this road is used by a large
number of container trucks at all times. Traffic on this highway,
the potholes of which are being repaired in a number of areas, is
often congested during the morning and evening rush hours.
The Panama Canal Railway Company, the resurrection of the historic
Panama Railroad, offers a deluxe passenger service to Colón,
departing from the Corozal train station. The train leaves Panama
City at 7:15 a.m. and returns at 5:15 p.m. The price of a round-trip
ticket is $35.00 ($20.00 one way). Lasting approximately 55 minutes,
the train ride is a wonderful experience, offering beautiful vistas
of verdant tracks of rainforests and the Panama Canal. As recommended
in the bus-travel option, make sure to hire a taxi as soon as you
reach Colón. For more information, call: 317-6070.
Aeroperlas, Panama’s largest domestic airline, offers daily,
scheduled flights to Colón, departing from Albrook’s
Marcos A. Gelabert Airport, and arriving at France Field Airport,
near the Free Zone. Flights last approximately 20 minutes. For more
reservations, call: (507) 315-7500.
round-trip train ticket to Colón costs US$ 35.00
The Black Christ Festival:
and colorful traditions
town of Portobelo, in the province of Colón, will turn into
a sea of purple October 21-22, when many hundreds of pilgrims –wearing
the color of their revered patron saint-- will pour into the tiny
city to thank the Black Christ for the miracles performed during the
Christ festival, which has been taking place for almost three centuries,
is a mixture of deep faith and colorful popular traditions. Often
crawling and carrying heavy crosses, pilgrims from all parts of Panama
travel hundreds of kilometers for the festival, which starts at midnight
(Oct. 21) with a slow-moving procession through the narrow streets
of Portobelo in which the bearers of the statue take three steps forward
and two backwards. At the end of the procession, pilgrams engage in
a lively, Caribbean-style fiesta featuring loud music, and lots of
spicy foods at the town's colonial ruins.
Black Christ arrived in Portobelo during the 18th century.
many Panama-nians would do anything to get to Portobelo (before the
first roads were built to the area, many braved the rough seas not
to miss the celebration) no one actually knows how the Black Christ
got there in the first place. One legend says that, sometime in the
18th century, the statue was sent from Spain to Cartagena de Indias
(in Colombia). Bad weather forced the ship to seek refuge in Portobelo.
Each time they tried to leave, they were forced back again by the
weather, until crewmen, interpreting the phenomenon as the will of
the saint to remain in town, threw the statue overboard, where it
was rescued by local fishermen.
fiesta will be best enjoyed by the adventurer type of visitor. At
any rate, the celebration is a great opportunity for visitors to discover
the pristine beaches, islands and secluded coves of the Costa Arriba
(upper coast) region.
is located 99 kilometers northeast of Panama City. To get there, drive
66 km on the Trans-Isthmian Highway towards the city of Colón,
and then make a right turn at the town of Sabanitas. Buses to Colón
(a modern and comfortable service) also depart from Gran Terminal
de Transporte, located in Albrook. Good accomodations are found in
and around the city of Colón.