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Various sources claim that it's impossible to get a Metrobus card for the bus from Tocumen to Panama City. However, these sources are old enough to mention the Red Devil buses.

What is the current situation? How can one get a Metrobus card and thus pay far less than a taxi from PTY to Panama City? Are there other comparable options?

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The METROBUS Card can only be purchased in the selected Point of Sales and Recharge (POS). Unfortunately, at the time of writing, according to the METROBUS website it would seem that there is no METROBUS POS at Tocumen Airport. Here is an up-to-date list of these POS from the METROBUS website. However this online newspaper article from La Prensa dating 2013 mentions a that the sale of METROBUS cards at the airport is a service which has long been delayed and seems to be available now:

Al menos ya se cuenta con la venta de tarjetas y centro de recarga dentro de la terminal aérea, servicio que fue demorado por bastante tiempo.

Personally I wouldn't know which source to believe more seeing as there is a general lack of information available online regarding public transport in Panama.

Note that there are indeed buses from Tocumen to Panama City. See the Spanish version of the Public Transport page on the airport website for more details. The cost of a full-fare ride into Panama City is of 0.25PAB for the slow buses (Troncales), which run on toll-free roads and take longer (ca. 2h) to reach Panama City, as opposed to 1.25PAB for the faster buses (Corredores), which take toll roads and reach Panama City considerably faster. See the Tarifas page of the METROBUS website for more details.

Turns out you can't board a bus without swiping your METROBUS card first. What other websites suggest is to ask for locals to swipe theirs for you in exchange for a bit more than the nominal bus fee.

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The above answer is correct. You cannot get on the bus without a metrocard swipe. But if you get on the highway (take a bus to the nearest hotel/pay a cab to drop you), then start walking towards the city, the bus drivers will honk at you and pick you up.

The cab fair is generally $30 - never pay more than that. You can also use Uber.

Even if Uber says that there are no drivers available, when the cab drivers ask you for a cab, show them the uber price, which is generally $16 or less and offer $25.

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