If I could re-title my blog, it would actually be called travel on the cheap. I try to travel by local buses, walk, and eat at supermarkets. I remember summer 2004, when my friend and I actually bought salami, cheese, and bread from a French supermarket, and I was counting out the slices of salami and cheese for our meals. She never forgave me for that incident. 🙂 Back in my backpacker days more than a decade ago, I used to stay at the cheapest hostels of each country I’m visiting (like bunk bed in 22-person co-ed dorm), take overnight trains, buses, and redeye flights to save on one night’s accommodation. I think that part of me has not changed some one decade later. At the end of the day, what am I suffering for? It is easy to suffer, when I remember that every dollar I save goes into paying for my next trip, and it allows me to see more of the world that we walk through.
So, getting to Miraflores Locks for cheap.
I took the metro from Iglesias Del Carmen to Albrook. It is not necessary to take other inter-state buses, which involve buying a rapidpass, and tapping through the bus turnstiles. The MiBus, which runs the Panama City bus system, actually has a bus that goes to Miraflores. Just head towards the platform with the sign for Entrada F (northern end of Albrook Bus station). You will see one stand that’s attached to the bus station, and one that’s closer to the mall, where there are lots of taxis. Stay on the side that’s still part of the bus station, i.e. don’t cross the street to where all the taxis are. The buses to Miraflores don’t come by that often – I waited for over 20 mins, but when it comes by, it would actually flash “Miraflores” on the bus, so that should be self-evident. You can check out the route here. The Miraflores Locks in the last stop, and you will hear Escuela Miraflores.
Albrook Bus Terminal
The bus costs 0.25 USD, you need the metrobus pass to pay for it, and it takes 15-20 min, and drops you right in front of the visitor’s center, so there is no extra walking involved. At the ticket booth, they usually list the times that ships will be passing the locks (usually up to 11 am, and mid-afternoon). One of the nice things about the Miraflores Locks is, your ticket is good for the day. So, if you happen to come by at the wrong window where there are no ships, you can always come back later in the day. Just be aware that they close at 4.30 pm. Their website is pretty good; entry for adults costs 15 USD. They do take credit cards, so for those trying to charge their cards for points, this is awesome. I had luck getting them to acknowledge my student card, and sell me a discounted student ticket at 10 USD. The English movie runs every hour, i.e. 12 pm, 1 pm, 2 pm.
They do have a cafe, a restaurant, and a gelato place on site, and also free wifi on the ground floor. The cafe (Botawa coffee house) prices are very competitive with Panama City prices, and serves beans from Boquette. It is a decent spot to hang out for a bit (grande Cafe Con Leche – 3.20 USD). I arrived at 12.30 pm, and it was a wait for ships to come by, but I decided to make a day of it working by the Miraflores Locks. How many people can say they wrote part of their dissertation sitting by the Miraflores Locks? 🙂
Miraflores Locks looking out to the Pacific
Locomotives towing in Ever Delight of Evergreen Lines
If you are at the museum walking around, and fear missing out on a ship coming into the locks, no worries, they do make announcements every time a ship comes by the locks, so that visitors won’t miss it. Announcements are in both Spanish (first) and English.
Public transport: 1.20 USD
Entrance: 10 USD
Coffee: 4.45 USD
Dinner: 3.95 USD
Accommodations: 5000 Hilton points
Total: 19.60 USD