Renting a car in Panama: the most complete guide

renting a car in panama
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Renting a car in Panama will always be a good choice if you visit this country, whether as a tourist, if you go shopping or on business. Car rental will guarantee that you can have your own itinerary. You can visit the places you want without being subject to schedules or waiting in bus stations, or suffering the inconvenience of traveling by public transport with people you do not know. On the other hand, car rental in panama will guarantee you to make a trip with comfort and safety.
For Renting a car in Panama, you basically have to follow the basic procedures and tips that you need to rent a car in any other destination in the world. However, like everything, it has its peculiarities. In the following list we offer you best panama car rental advise in a series of steps based on real experiences that will guarantee best panama car rental in real experiences.

Tips for renting a car in Panama

First make a comparison of different car rental companies in Panama and compare what car models they offer. Be sure to compare the prices for the date you will be traveling (prices vary from season to season).
Above all, check user reviews to get a clear idea of ​​the company’s reliability as well as the quality of its services.
RENTING THE CAR ONLINE WILL REPRESENT YOU A SIGNIFICANT SAVINGS
If you are extremely cautious, you can contact the company to verify that they have the model you have chosen in stock. There has been the case of people who rent a model and when they arrive at the company’s offices they have been given a similar model, because that model has been exhausted or because they were never in existence at that company office.

Check for hidden taxes or extra charges

When you go to a company’s website to rent a car, you may be surprised by low rates like $ 3 usd per day, depending on the season and type of car. However, DO NOT BE FOOLED. The total cost of the rental could be up to 30% more expensive since some companies – not all – usually apply extra charges that will not be visible initially on the page that shows the cars with their prices.
How to check it? Through the same Panama car rental company web site simulates a reservation. Choose the car of your preference in the range of dates in which you plan to make your trip. Follow the steps for the reservation choosing the insurance and accessories you need and verify the final price of the rent. Print the voucher or keep it in your email. You can also contact the company by phone or email to verify that this is the total cost of the rent, and and thus they don’t surprise you when you sign the contract with extra charges.

Liability insurance is mandatory for car rental in Panama

By law, Liability insurance is mandatory in Panama, so you must make sure when you fill out the income form that it is selected. Normally, this box is checked by default on the rental form, but if not, make sure that it is so, so that the final cost of the rent includes this insurance and thus you have an accurate idea of ​​the amount to pay.
The law also requires that this insurance be contracted from a Panamanian company, so that buying an insurance package online from a foreign company will not be useful.

See Road Rules and Regulations for driving in Panama

Check what insurance your credit card covers

Some credit cards, for example Visa or Mastercard, can cover some types of insurance when you rent a car. The most common insurance covered by this type of credit card is Collision Coverage. If you want to save a few dollars and rent a car cheaper in panama, check with your credit card issuing company what insurance your card can cover and if this applies to car rental in Panama. Then contact the company where you will hire a car in Panama and ask if you must carry any special documentation that supports it from the credit card issuing company.

Plan well the days you will be in Panama

If after hiring a car in Panama for a certain period, you change your mind and decide to stay a few more days, the company may charge you a higher rate for each extra day, so it is best to plan your trip well. If you think you may want to extend your stay then try to get the rate for extra days in writing from the company bureau.

If you travel to several distant destinations, rent a four-wheel-drive car

If your intention is to visit different destinations in Panama and especially if you are traveling to rural areas, renting an all wheel drive vehicle will be a great alternative. This, for example, is valid if you rent a car in Panama city or rent a car in Panama airport and travel to destinations such as the Panama Canal, or the city of Colon.
Renting a 4×4 in Panama will be very useful if you decide to enter beach areas such as Playa Venao or jungle areas. Also for safety reasons, since especially in rural areas it is common to find potholes in the road or steep curves.
If you are traveling on a tight budget or if you do not intend to leave the city of Panama, you do not necessarily have to rent this type of car, but otherwise, it will be well worth it.

Please note that you will need to make a deposit

If you reject the optional collision coverage, the car rental company will ask you to make a deposit on your credit card that generally exceeds $ 1000 usd.
But you should not worry, if after returning the car, it does not present physical damage, that money will be fully reimbursed.
If the car suffers collision damage, these will be deducted from the amount deposited.
In any case, make sure you have a copy of all the documentation associated with the procedures in addition to the contract.

Do a rigorous inspection of the car before signing the contract

Make sure to do a thorough review of the car before signing the contract. Take a good look at its bodywork for dents and scratches. Also check the interior: upholstery, accessories, etc. Make sure the accessories are working properly. Take pictures of the vehicle and if you take a video even better. This evidence will help you in case of claims for collision damage or other accidents.
Also check the condition of the tires for safety reasons. If your car has very worn tires then request a replacement, since this is a common problem in car rental companies in Panama.
Check out the windshield washers and that all the wheel nuts are present. Also check the air conditioning.

Make sure you have the company’s emergency number

When you rent a car in Panama, the agency will surely give you a phone number to call for an emergency or breakdown. Generally this number can be found on the company’s website. When you rent the car make sure this number works.

Check the fuel tank

When you rent the car make sure you have enough gas in the tank to get to your first destination. Some companies from the reservation form itself offer the option of delivering the car with a full tank. There are not many gas stations in the vicinity of the airport, so keeping an eye on this will be beneficial.
On the other hand, you should make sure to deliver the tank, at least with the same amount of fuel that you received it, to avoid extra charges.

Clean your car before returning it

Make sure your car is clean before you return it, especially if you are traveling through rural areas, jungles, beaches, or dusty roads. If you deliver the dirty car, you can be prepared to pay an extra cleaning charge that can be more than $ 70 usd.

Pros of Renting a Car in Panama

The pros of renting a car in Panama are pretty obvious. They essentially give you freedom of action. You can draw your own itinerary without being subject to limitations of schedules or pre-established routes.
Having a car at your disposal will give you comfort and security. You will not have to share your trip with strangers, or subject yourself to crowds at bus stations, or the inconvenience of these trips.
You can rent a car in Panama City and look for attractions outside the city, in rural areas or in more distant destinations. You can stop along the way and look for cafes or restaurants to eat. Or enjoy the view of a landscape that has caught your attention.
If you go shopping you don’t have to walk or take a taxi or bus carrying all your purchases.
Traveling by taxi, although it is an alternative, does not give you enough freedom, they are not always easy to find in the middle of the city and on the other hand, it is more expensive in the long run.

Cons of Renting a Car in Panama

Despite the obvious advantages of renting a car in Panama, not everything is good. It also has its drawbacks. If your trip is limited to the city then you will have other things to assess such as traffic. During peak hours, you can find frequent traffic jams that, in addition to being uncomfortable, can waste valuable time.
On the other hand, finding a parking lot depending on the time and place can also be difficult.
Traffic signs, especially in rural areas, are not entirely reliable and for a novice traveler on the roads of Panama it can be difficult to navigate and run the risk of getting lost. It is advisable to use GPS and, as far as possible, download a map of the region where you are going for greater security.
In rural areas, a problem is also the state of the roads. Potholes, dusty roads or embankments, stones, debris, brush, and other road obstacles abound. To enter remote or jungle areas, it is best to rent a four-wheel-drive car.

Requirements to rent a car in Panama

  • For hire a car in Panama, you must be at least 25 years old. A few companies set a lower limit but charge an extra fee for this condition.
  • You need to have a passport and a valid driver’s license. Keep in mind that if you opt for the additional driver mode, each person who travels with you and drives the car must also have a valid driver’s license. If you have residence in Panama you must have a driving license issued in Panama.
  • On the other hand, you will need a credit card to pay the cost of the car rental as well as the deposit required by the rental companies as a guarantee of possible damages.
Renting a car in Panama: the most complete guide

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