Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Los Diablos Rojos de Panama

One of my favorite, most unique aspects of the city, that I have discovered so far are the Diablo Rojos - the buses! The buses here are privately owned. They are old school buses which have creatively been transformed into works of art by their owners who drive them around the city picking up passengers and taking them to their destinations. The drivers get to choose their own routes. But on the front of the bus s usually air-brush-painted the start and end destinations in which the bus goes to & from. It seems a little confusing to a new-comer but I am sure you would get used to the system if you lived here.

Most people in the city drive from destiation to destination - walking is not as common because of the heat (although I am loving walking around everywhere) ..& we do usually have access to a really nice vehicle to drive around in if we choose - which we sometimes do. But if you don't, the next best thing is the taxi service. Taxis cost only 1$ to get almost anywhere in the city - however, they may charge you more if they suspect that you are a tourist and don't know any different - it is very helpful to know Spanish here!!

I asked why people would bother taking the bus if taxis are so cheap - The bus's cost 25 cents to take and it often takes people 2 bus's to get to work or wherever they are going. I was told the average salary here is 350$ a month and the bus is half the price of taking a taxi. ..so it makes quite a difference if you are making the average salary or less. I love the bus's, I took so may pics of them!!! wayy more than I am posting here, this was just the 1st batch of pics - yikes, I am going camera crazy! Oh but I do want to add that the bus's seem to be a bit dangerous - like a lot of things in the city.

Probably because of the huge difference in incomes in the city; there is a lot of poverty!, the corruption n the city is Huge!!! You can bribe anyone here, even cops - no joke - ask for details in person!!! You could probably get out of a 75$ ticket (for talking on a cell phone while driving) by sticking 20$ in a passport over to the cop! I wonder how much the cops here really make?? I wonder how much $ is made under the table around here.
Oh & the windows in cars are rally really dark, I think much darker than we are allowed in Canada - like most cars you can not see into at all.
Is an interesting place - but you might want to leave your jewels at home - and have a 5 or 10 always kept aside in an empty pocket to pull out, just in case!

But back to my Diablo Rojos - this city is so colourful - it feels fun, despite the corruption, and full of life!! I love the artwork on the bus's - Can't afford a gallery to show off your work ? - thats ok, just get a bus to drive around!! Cool!

The pic beow is an actual Panamanian school bus. The public bus's (Diablo Rojo's) are old US schoolbus's wich are 1st painted white and then painted, usualy airbrushed, on top of.


HiHoRosie said...

I wish we had buses like that!

Robin 'Keiko' Gregory said...

Hi Rosie - Me to!! They're wonderful!
Oh & inside there is a person who sits on the right hand side (called a turkey, no joke!) who calls out to people to get on and where they are going etc.. its very lively and colourful.
Wish I could send the sounds along with the pics!!
Hugs, R

Antonio said...

Thay are starting to implement a completely new bus system since this one is very old and DANGEROUS for the people. Bus drivers are private and don't carry out any maintenance on the bus, plus they drive like dogs.
Many people suffered very serious injuries due to accidents where the so called RED DEVIL were involved, and in some cases dozen of people died.
For the new bus system, government promised to Panamenians that the price would have been kept USD 0,25.
So take great care next time you'd like to cacth a bus in Panama.
Ciao, Antonio.

Anonymous said...

Those diablos rojos buses are noisy and drivers don't know what courtesy is all about. If they would only paint them, it would be fine, but they remove the engine governor and speed faster than most vehicles on the public streets with no muffler what so ever, putting the public and other drivers in constant danger. I'm glad the government of Martineli is getting rid of that piece of junk buses.