Taking the Diablo Rojo Bus in Panama!

By | October 12, 2011

Monday, October 26th, 2011

I’m on the Tocumen España bus to the Mamallena Hostel in Panama City. Screw the taxi, give me the authentic route! I looked at directions from the Mamallena Hostel website and it showed various ways to get to the hostel. You could either take a taxi, have the hostel picked you up, or take the bus. The site said that diehard backpackers would take the bus!!! I couldn’t not live up to that title!! LOL I mean taking a taxi just sounded too easy! I wanted an authentic travel experience on the bus.

It was authentic alright! So authentic, that I was the only tourist taking this bus from the airport. I exited the airport and walked left as the directions said and then turned right. Walking, walking……. Approached by men asking me if I needed a taxi.
“No gracias!” The look of getting off the airplane is green, lush and full of green living energies! The weather hot & humid. I walked through the car parking lot. There were no tourists, but airport employees walking around me. That’s authentic! They were all looking at me like where is this girl going?? lol Where am I? Am I the only tourist that will be on this bus?

El Diablo Rojo, Panama

I crossed the main road and continued reading the directions. Take the bus that is going to the left. I crossed once more with my small bright orange suitcase, holding the handle as it rolled, and a backpack on my back. These buses are so COOL. They are all graffitied up with art and bright colours on the outside. I got onto the bus. They are really old school buses from North America, but I mean really old. The bus is rattling, shaking and making lots of noise! There are two sides of chairs for people to sit on. It its very tight and cramped.

After sitting down and asking someone for directions, I saw someone in the first row get up to leave. That’s where I needed to be! I got up and moved to the first row and told the bus driver where I wanted to go. He is this big dark dude wearing a baseball cap and a polo shirt. He is sitting on a vinyl maroon seat that has sparkly glitter in it! LOL The entire decor is maroon with glitter on it! There are red feathered boas hanging as decorations in the front above the window. It’s like a bus, but all pimped out! LOL It’s a mixture of gangsta/Tony Montana styles. LOL Where am I? I really want to take a picture, but I am scared to take out my camera.

There is this bus worker on the right side standing on the step where the bus door opens. Actually the bus door seems to always be open, and he is standing on the step. He is more hanging onto the door handle like a little monkey carefree, as this Diablo Rojo bus is moving. This bus isn’t just moving, it’s moving in and out of traffic!!!!! He screams at each stop the route of the bus at each stop to let the commuters know where it’s going. He looks so relaxed on the side of the open door as it speeds away. Isn’t he afraid he is going to roll off and slip and kill himself? Is this job even legal I am wondering? This job in Canada would be soooooooo illegal!

I asked where to pay because no one came to me asking for money, and I was told I pay $.25 cents on my way out. What a cheap ride! This Catholic man came on the bus speaking words of Jesus. I asked the man next to me if if was asking for money, and he said no. He was just spreading the word. Everyone started clapping for him and his message. He left and then another man came on, but selling candies and candies.

After my hour journey on the bus, I finally made it to Mamallena Hostel. I met the owner named Stuart when I arrived. I spoke to him a few times before arriving and he was helpful in booking my San Blas Camping tour with Panama Travel Unlimited. I called Gloricel my co-worker/roommate/Panamanian Sister who I met while I lived in the Cayman Islands 6 years ago!!!! She asked me how I got to the hostel. I took the bus of couse!! ” Which bus did you take?, ” Gloricel asked me. “I took the local bus!,” I told her. ” You took the shuttle bus?, she asked with concern. ” NOPE, I took the local bus!!!” I said with a smile. She lost it! She started screaming and telling me that it is called the “Diablo Rojo” for a reason! She asked me to promise her to never take this bus again. LOL Why? It was soooooo cool! Apparently these buses never have service on them which leads to many accidents. The drivers are always speeding in and out of traffic. People get pick-pocketed on them! In general, they aren’t called the ” Diablo Rojo” which translates to the Red Devil for nothing!


Sophie Sarantakos on October 14, 2011 at 3:31 am.

Your bus adventure sounds like a scene from a movie! Can’t imagine getting on a bus called the Red Devil!


Elaine on October 16, 2011 at 3:52 pm.

I so needed to take a video of it, but I was scared someone might have taken my camera. It was a PIMPED bus!


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