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  #1  
Old October 8th, 2008, 04:32 PM
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Question Taxi in Colon

We are going to be in Colon in January on the carnival Freedom -

Has anyone hired a taxi at the pier and just gone to the locks to view and then a small tour of the area before heading back to the shopping area at the pier.

Carnivals' excursions are very pricey and we really only want to see the Panama Canal and a little of the area. I have heard that Colon is not very safe and we are hoping that hiring a taxi would be a safe and cheaper way to go.

Any help/advice from someone who has done this would really be appreciated.
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Old October 8th, 2008, 07:00 PM
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We are going to be in Colon in January on the carnival Freedom -

Has anyone hired a taxi at the pier and just gone to the locks to view and then a small tour of the area before heading back to the shopping area at the pier.

Carnivals' excursions are very pricey and we really only want to see the Panama Canal and a little of the area. I have heard that Colon is not very safe and we are hoping that hiring a taxi would be a safe and cheaper way to go.

Any help/advice from someone who has done this would really be appreciated.

We were in Colon in Feb 07 and saw a taxi or two. We have traveled all over the world to some pretty remote and non-tourist locals and found Colon to be a tough city. From what we did experience, I do not think there is too much to experience in the city.

This was the only port that we have ever taken a cruise ship excursion. Now that I have been there I think I would try to go on our own. I have heard great things about My Friend Mario. He does excursions that are smaller and less expensive.

If I we to take a cab, I would study area maps and locations before I went. This way I knew exactly where I wanted to go etc.

Hope this helps! Have fun exploring the canal!
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Old October 8th, 2008, 07:02 PM
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Don: Thanks we too have traveled a lot and Panama seems to be more of a challenge than some of the other areas we have traveled.

After a lot of research we only want to see the Locks and then back to the ship, I am hoping that there is some way to tell the govt regulated taxi vs the non-regulated.


Thanks for your help, hoping more people will respond with their experiences as well
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Old October 9th, 2008, 10:58 PM
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In Colon I think your best bet is to take a ship tour.

Regards, Richard
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Old October 10th, 2008, 08:11 AM
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In Colon I think your best bet is to take a ship tour.

Regards, Richard
Hi Richard: I was hoping you would respond. Our concern with a ship tour is that they are expensive and involve a lot of other things. All we want to do is see the Locks, and then shop at Cristobal pier (for about 15 minutes) and then head back to the ship to relax.

The cruise tours are very long and don't offer just a trip to the Locks. Would we be safe to do a taxi on our own, like hiring a driver for about 2 hours?
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Old October 10th, 2008, 12:01 PM
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I think you could find a cab to take you to Gatun Locks and there is a small observation platform there were you can watch the operation. Only go to Cristobal pier if there is a ship docked there because the Indian vendors aren't generally there unless there is a ship. I'm not sure they will let you on the pier with another ship's ID, but you can give it a try.

Taxi cabs by law must be yellow . . . don't take the first one, but try and find one with an English speaking driver. Since there are lots of West Indians in Panama, many of them speak English as a second language. Be clear on what you want, set a price first, a cab should run you $15 to $20 an hour . . . the further you get from Colon . . . say Miraflores and the Visitor Center, the longer the ride back. It can take 2 hours plus, depending on traffic and construction, to get back to the ship from the Visitor Center at Miraflores Locks.

Enjoy . .. and come back! Regards, Richard

Regards, Richard
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Old October 10th, 2008, 02:35 PM
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Richard:

Thank you so much, I am confused about one thing.

Is Miraflores where we will go and see the Canal, this is two hours from Colon? excuse my ignorance, I have never been to Panama and there is limited info on the area

Thanks again
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Old October 10th, 2008, 09:14 PM
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Richard:

Thank you so much, I am confused about one thing.

Is Miraflores where we will go and see the Canal, this is two hours from Colon? excuse my ignorance, I have never been to Panama and there is limited info on the area

Thanks again

Richard would know best, but I think Miraflores would be a better canal experience. It has a visitor center that has a nice history of the canal, small museum, and two observation areas - one from the roof of the visitor center and one at ground level.

It is a ways from Colon. We took the train, so I do not know what the drive woulds be. Not to far from there is the Bridge of the Americas. The only thing linking the Americas.

Richard, what are your thoughts?
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Old October 11th, 2008, 08:26 AM
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Don Mar is correct that Miraflores has the better vistor facilities. On the down side it is about 2 hours from Colon on road that has construction and a good deal of traffic at times. Gatun Locks is the closest to Colon, once you get away from the port area, it's not much more than 20 minutes away. The facilities at Gatun are much more basic, an observation area and (when I was there) someone to provide an explanation of the operation.
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Old October 11th, 2008, 09:13 AM
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Thanks Don & Bill - I did not realize it was so far away. I've been cruising for year sand this is the first time we have had such a difficult time with excursions or things to do. we are excited to see the process of the Canal but it certainly is not easy organizing a trip there

Don did you to the coast to coast train excursion? How was that, it seems so silly to be on a train for so long

Bill - what did you guys do when you were in Panama?

Thanks for your help guys
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Old October 11th, 2008, 12:13 PM
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"Bill - what did you guys do when you were in Panama?"

Actually I was working there. Really have not done many "ship tours" in Panama as it were, but know the area. The last time we were there was March of this year when we did a partial transit on the Brilliance, we stayed on the ship and went ashore at the pier in Cristobal. The Canal/Locks is where my interests are.
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Old October 11th, 2008, 12:35 PM
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Thanks, lucky you; spending time there and getting paid!

I am not sure where the Carnival Freedom docks, I do not think it is in Cristobal, but can I walk from the dock for Carnival to the Cristobal pier?
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Old October 11th, 2008, 06:15 PM
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While it is possible to walk from where Carnival usually docks, it really is not an area in which you would want to go, unless you were in a cab or on a tour. The Cristobal pier is directly across Colon from where the Colon 2000 pier is located. Richard in Panama has posted a map on this board as to the location of the Cristobal pier and Colon 2000 pier. Here is a link to his webpage that has the map. You'll have to scroll a long way down the page to find the map.

http://richarddetrich.wordpress.com/qa-for-cruisers/

The other problem you might encounter is that the vendors may not be at the pier if there is not a ship docked in Cristobal.

Hope you can get to Gatun Locks one way or another, I'm sure you would enjoy it. Be careful you just might wind up planning a Canal cruise!
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Old October 11th, 2008, 09:06 PM
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Don did you to the coast to coast train excursion? How was that, it seems so silly to be on a train for so long
Yes, we did do the coast to coast train. The rain takes you along the canal. It rides right along the canal so you can see most of the canal and some ships in transit between locks. The ride was not that long.

That being said - we had a good time, but I would have preferred to go on our own. We are not much for ship excursions. This is the only ship excursion we have ever done. You cannot book the train on your own - we tried.

I can sympathize with you, as we looked for a long time to see if there was a reliable and trustworthy driver before we settled on the train excursion.

I do know that last time Don (of DonMar) was in Panama in the 80s he had a driver - arranged through the ship transit agents. He was responsible for bringing a ship through the canal. Before we went in 2007 we looked for driver through ship agents - the people who process and rep the ships as they go through the canal. (I do not know if they have them anymore.) We were not successful.

You might want to try ship agents - to see if you can get a recommendation for a driver.

Have you looked into "My Friend Mario"?

Richard - do you have any other ideas for drivers or train?

Hope this helps.
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Old October 11th, 2008, 09:46 PM
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Hi! I suspect the ship's agents will want to support the ship tours. I know they seem and sometimes are "expensive", but Panama and Colon especially isn't a tourist-oriented city. It's main income is from the Free Port operation, and, unfortunately . . . drugs. Many Panamanians I know are down on Colon and not comfortable wandering around. Traffic between Panama City and Colon is a nightmare - two lane, under construction, new road still months away. All it takes is an accident and you can be very delayed and late. All of this seems to speak to taking a ship tour where the ship is in touch with delays and problems and will wait for a busload of people.

There are three lock areas - Gatun, nearest to Miraflores where there is a small observation area. Fine to see the operations IF a ship is in the locks (and there are long periods when there may be no ship in a particular set of locks). At Pedro Miguel, where there is one lock, there is a place to pull off the road and sit by the lock and watch. At Miraflores there is the Visitor Center and a nice museum and a great observation deck. But if you just want to see the locks, Gatun, nearest to Colon is fine.

I don't personally know any drivers in Colon. A lot of folks who live here (Boquete, near the Costa Rican boarder 6 hr drive or 1 hr flying time from Panama City) have drivers they work with when they go to Panama City, however, my experience is when I find a good guy when I need him his cell is changed, or off, or I have to leave a message with his brother's wife's sister's cousin . . . and it really isn't dependable.

You're spending all this money on a cruise. So why skimp on a tour? Spend a few hours less in the casino!

Some ports you can just sit back and soak up the ambience, or wander. Not Colon. Everything you WANT to see and SHOULD see takes some time to get there. And for heaven's sake don't stay on the ship! Get off, see some of Panama.

Regards, Richard
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Old October 12th, 2008, 08:48 AM
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Richard:

Thanks for your responses, we talked last night and we will be doing a cruise ship excursion! It is interesting to me how different Panama is to other ports we have visited and I am excited to see it for myself. Your points were very well taken and I do appreciate it; the last thing we need while on vacation is to have a "bad" experience or miss the ship - vacations are suppose to be relaxing

Don & Bill thanks so much for your responses as well, I hope some day I can return the favor

Happy Cruising
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Old October 12th, 2008, 01:34 PM
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DST, have a wonderful trip! Wish you were coming with me on the ZUIDERDAM! Sit back, enjoy your tour, and let the driver and the guide do the worrying! Regards, Richard
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Old October 12th, 2008, 04:27 PM
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Richard: I love the Zuiderdam, it's a special ship for me. It was the first time I booked a suite and got very spoiled

Again, thanks so much for your advice/direction. I do hope to see you on a cruise some day - first drink is on me!

Debi
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