On average, the Panama Canal receives 13,000 ships each year, which represents 3% of international maritime trade. Living up close the experience of knowing the wonders of the canal is possible from the Miraflores Visitor Center, here you can see the ships that cross this majestic architectural work and also learn interesting facts about this site. Let us begin…
To get to the center can be done in three ways, first by bus or taxi, both can be approached from the Gran Terminal de Albrook, second by Uber, DIDI or indrive, as well as by private car, although buses also arrive that organize packages of sightseeing tours. It is important to mention that free parking is available.
Having said this, we proceed to enter, here there are static and electric stairs, as well as an entrance for people with disabilities. Then a line must be formed to buy the tickets, but first the channel staff provides information in English and Spanish about the route, as well as points out the biosecurity protocols.
It should be noted that if you are accompanied by one or more people, only one can approach the ticket office, this in order to avoid crowds, the rest must remain in line. Prices for non-residents are $10 per adult and $5 per child, and for nationals and residents, adults and children over 13 years of age pay $11, retirees pay $1.50, children between 6 and 12 years pay $1.50 and students up to 17 years of age who present their card pay $1.50. Once you have the tickets, you go through a metal detector, later the tickets are scanned and the adventure begins.
As a first point, it must be clarified that before the pandemic, there was an exhibition room that for the moment remains closed. Here the history, biodiversity, the operation of the canal and its international importance were shown, however, when consulting the reason for its closure, Luis, who is part of the visitor center team, explains that the objective is to avoid crowds due to the new variant of Covid-19 because “from the center the most important thing is to protect the safety and health of those who come” and while this measure is maintained, they will be taking advantage of this time to make modifications to the structures of this space.
In total, there are four exhibition floors, the first is about the history of the canal that is open to the public, the second and the third are closed and the fourth is where the wonder of seeing the operation of the canal and the traffic of the boats is contemplated.
What do you find on the fourth floor?
As you pass the gate you can appreciate the beautiful landscape with a view of the Miraflores locks and a little further you can see the Cocolí locks, which is where the last expansion of the canal was carried out, which cost $5 billion dollars.
Likewise, on this fourth floor there is a stand where photographs are taken and a speaker who is in charge of describing what happens when the ships pass and disseminating data, for example, in the canal commercial ships pay $100,000 to $400 thousand dollars to cross this section and the great ones from $500 thousand up to 1 million dollars.
The entrance to the locks is one of the most difficult maneuvers due to the narrowness of the lane, the water currents and the wind. To do this, the maneuver for the ships to pass is done with small boats and tugboats.
This tour lasts about an hour and a half. When you finish visiting the fourth floor, you can go down to the first floor, where there is a souvenir shop and a terrace to enjoy a delicious snack or a soft drink, coffee or snacks that they have in the food vending machines.
Without a doubt, visiting the center is an enriching experience that provides a lot of information about the Panama Canal and all the effort behind its operation.
Astrid Chang has a degree in Journalism with an Emphasis in Audiovisual Production. Since 2018, she has been a journalist at La Estrella de Panamá. Her work in the newspaper was initially as an intern, where she developed in the area of sports, nationals, social networks and the web. Later, she was hired to lead the themes for World Youth Day and to be a presenter for the segment “Flash Economy.” She later became part of the Café Estrella team, a new content proposal by ‘La Decana’. In this booklet she has written articles on the environment, technology, health, sports, society, music, culture, sexuality, art, fashion and tourism. Likewise, she has organized and directed projects with visual artists for the International Book Fair of Panama. She too, was sent special to cover the Lima 2019 Juegos Parapanamericanos, and currently she is the coordinator of sports issues in the newspaper. She has training in journalistic leadership.