Driving in Panama

driving in Panama
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Driving in Panama is not very different from driving in any other Latin American country except for some specific regulations for Panama. In the following article we offer you a group of tips for driving in Panama. The best tips based on real experiences as well as answers to the most frequently asked questions on this topic. Here you will also know the main Road Rules and Regulations in Panama so that you can make a safe trip.

Requirements for driving in Panama

For driving in Panama you need your Panama Id and in case you are a foreigner your passport. You also need your valid driver’s license. Keep in mind that a foreign driving license is only valid in Panama for three months, so if your stay in that country is prolonged for a longer time you must acquire the Panamanian driving license. If you are a foreigner, you must also have the and International Driver’s Permit.
What other documents do you need to drive in Panama?
You must also have proof of having Liability Insurance. Your car rental contract should contain it in case you travel in a rental car. You must also have the vehicle registration.
The law also states that you travel with a driver’s manual in addition to an accident report form.

Main Road Rules and Regulations in Panama

  • To drive a car in Panama you must be at least 18 years old. To rent a car you must be at least 21 years old. Some rental companies allow you to drive with less age but in general they will charge you an extra tax for this exception. See rent a car in Panama.
  • The seat belt is mandatory for the driver and the passenger in the front seat.
  • Cell phone use while driving is prohibited.
  • Children under the age of 5 must be transported in a special infant seat. Most rental companies offer it as an extra accessory.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol is prohibited. Even low levels of alcohol in the blood are considered an offense, so it is recommended that you drink absolutely no alcoholic beverages, even in low amounts, before driving a vehicle in Panama. This is one of the most sensitive regulations that traffic police can become ruthless with when issuing a ticket.

Panama Car Insurance

Liability Insurance is mandatory, so to rent a car you must pay for this insurance.
However, it is recommended that you include other insurance if you rent a car in Panama so that you are better protected and travel safely. Most car rental companies in Panama include a Full Insurance package that includes liability insurance, collision insurance, theft insurance and others that vary from one company to another.

Speed ​​limits in Panama

  • The speed limits in Panama for a light car are:
  • Urban areas: 50 km / h
  • Rural areas: 80 km / h
  • On motorways: Maximum of 100 km / h although it varies by section depending on the corresponding traffic signal.
  • Panama has a series of highways that connect Panama City and other areas of tourist and economic interest. Among them, one of the busiest is the Inter-American highway.
  • When transiting through the highways you should keep in mind that you will find the toll highways as is the case of the South Corridor and North Corridor where you will have to pay a fee to pass.

What is the state of the roads in Panama?

In general, the state of highways and roads in urban areas is mainly good and they are systematically subjected to maintenance. However, depending on the region, you may find potholes in the road and open sewers, so you must drive with caution. The streets of Panama City do not have good drainage, so driving on rainy days can be dangerous. In rural areas you can find unpaved roads or embankments.
Due to the large number of constructions that are being carried out in Panama City, you can occasionally find roadblocks in certain sections, so you can find yourself involved in a traffic jam, especially during peak hours.

On which side of the road should I drive in Panama?

In Panama, as in the United States, in Latin America and in most European countries, you must drive on the right side of the road, using the left lane only to pass another vehicle only in the sections where it is allowed.

WAZE App for driving in Panama

Waze app will be very useful for driving a car in Panama. It is a very effective tool not only for Panama City but in any destination in the country. This application will allow you to know the speed limits in each section of the road, it will indicate the speed at which you are driving, in addition to guiding you via GPS and alerting you about the optimal route to reach your destination avoiding traffic and therefore traffic jams.
If you do not have this tool, it is recommended that you download and install it on your smartphone before traveling to Panama.

Parking in Panama

In most shopping centers, hotels and other destinations of interest you can find free parking. You may find parking garages – not always official – in some areas. They will treat you attentively and watch over your car for a small tip.
It is best to locate the official paid parking that are not only in the city but also in rural areas. These are best ordered and reliable.
You can get a parking ticket in Panama City. For this you must pay it in Panama City’s Municipality, which is located on Avenida Cuba.
In other areas of the city, however, Panama can seem like a total disorder of car parking. You will find cars parked in places with clear parking prohibition signs, however, do not risk it because you may not have the same luck and you will be fined.

Other considerations for driving a car in Panama

As for traffic lights, most of these are concentrated in large cities such as Panama City. In the rest of the country and especially in rural areas they are scarce.
Traffic police in Panama
Occasionally you will meet a traffic officer on the road. If you drive correctly and do not commit any infraction you should not worry. Compared with other Latin American cities, the corruption rates that were once alarming in these times have been controlled with the measures that the government has taken. For that reason, if you commit any infraction and they impose a fine, you will not pay it on the spot but you have several weeks to execute the payment at the corresponding offices. Never try to bribe a policeman, as he is punishable by law.

Emergency numbers in Panama

If you have an emergency you can call the following numbers in Panama:

  • Police: 104
  • Firefighters: 103
  • Ambulance: 911
  • Telephone Directory: 102

What to do in an emergency with my car in Panama?

If your car is rented you should call the company where you rented the car immediately. In case of breakages or accidents they have the preset mechanisms to help you.
In the event of an accident in which they have not been injured, it is recommended that you take pictures of the scene and the car. Then you should move the car off the road so that it does not obstruct traffic.
Fill out the accident report form so that you present it to the representatives of the company where you have rented your car. If you are the owner, the form will be used to present it to the insurance company from which you have contracted the service.
In the event that someone is injured, you should immediately call the police and medical services. If the vehicles are not a danger to others, they should be left in place.

Driving in Panama

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