Navigating the Streets of David, Panama
Organizing walking/bus tours in David has been interesting, in a good way. One question that keeps coming up from those new to the area is “What advice do you have for navigating these streets?” When I thought about it, I agreed it was somewhat scary to walk the streets in Panama City when I first arrived. However, for me the experience reminded me of some Caribbean countries. The truth is, after one month in Panama City, I felt as if I was risking my life every time I crossed the street. Any street! Extreme traffic, honking horns and the uncertainty of your whereabouts can throw you off anywhere. In Panama, it’s a definite. Many think that once they get accustomed to maneuvering around Panama City, the interior will immediately be a piece of cake. Not necessarily.
Panama City is of course the highest populated area in the country. After all, it is a city. It’s busy day and night; a lot of cars, trucks, busses, motorcycles, etc. all going in different directions, loud music, lots of pedestrians, construction, barking dogs, etc. The good thing... they maintain order even though it seems like chaos to outsiders. Once you leave the city, you will experience much of the same on a lesser level. The more rural you go, the easier it is to make your way around. However, in David, many have described their expectations of this small city to have little traffic and to be organized (as they’re used to). In David you’ll have your familiar crowded streets, construction, honking horns and impatient drivers. The added element is that the streets are narrow and one-way streets are not always easily identifiable. Street names are not always displayed.
As a driver... it’s best to learn the streets. Know where to avoid driving during certain times of day. Learn alternative routes. Remember that not all streets are labeled with street signs. You will have to learn which streets are one way. Obey the traffic rules, like anywhere else but don’t rely on having easily marked roads. And be careful... pedestrians cross everywhere. David is a small city, so it is relatively easy to learn, but it will take some time.
As a pedestrian... walk with caution. Simply being on the sidewalk is not reason to drop your guard. Keep your eyes on the ground. The sidewalks are uneven and often damaged. The tiled entrances in front of most stores can be super slick when wet (from rain, spilled drinks, etc.) Also, we often walk with umbrellas here. With narrower sidewalks it’s sometimes a tight squeeze. Dodging umbrellas in the sun and rain can often be a game of chance. When crossing streets, relying on “pedestrians have the right of way” may not be your safest bet.
As a passenger... enjoy the ride. Leave the stress to your friends or to the bus or taxi driver. They know where they’re going and the best way to get there. You get to check out the sights and learn your way around. Establish your landmarks. Because David is only 68 square miles, with the city core significantly less, most places are very accessible by walking or public transportation.