Many people visiting Panama rely on taxis to get around. This is the easiest way to ruin a trip. I’ve come to hate taxi drivers. Let me tell you why.
I own a car in Panama so I never used to rely much on taxis. My taxi experiences generally took place on Friday or Saturday nights when I knew that driving my own car was not the safest bet. After a fun night out at a Panama City bar, I would simply hail a cab and it would take me home. No problem.
Lately I have been taking a bus from the interior in to Panama City every week. That means I have to take a taxi from the bus terminal to my destination on Balboa Ave. The first issue that never fails to arise is that no taxi wants to take me from the Albrook area downtown. I usually have to ask about 15 taxi before I find one that is willing.
The next issue is the rate they try to charge. The government of Panama has enacted standard taxi fares based on zones. I know that from the bus terminal to Balboa Avenue the actual fare is $1.35. No taxi will take you there for that rate. I always pay at least $3. If there is heavy traffic I will pay $4. Many try to charge $7. I nearly got in to a fist fight once with a taxi driver because he threatened to kidnap me if I didn’t pay him $7.
Most tourist won’t be in the situation to challenge a taxi driver on the fares, since they don’t know the law. I have no problem paying a bit extra, since I think the government mandated fares are quite low. However, robbing someone blind is another story.
The other issue with taxis drivers in Panama City is that they are increasingly becoming involved in “express kidnappings”. At least once a week the local newspapers tell of tourists or locals being taken for an extended ride to a number of bank machines before they are released.
Or, they pick up other passengers who are in on the plan, and you get robbed by the other passenger.
In many cases taxis are a tourists first impression of Panama. This country needs to clean up the system before these rogue drivers ruin it for the bunch.
It would be great for tourists if taxis had meters installed. The only problem with that is the rates would likely be a lot higher than they are now, putting the price out of reach for many Panamanians.
|Written by Rebecca Tyre|
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