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Car Rental in Panama

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Renting a Car in Panama

When visiting Panama, renting a car can be a convenient and efficient way to explore the country. However, it’s important to understand the local driving laws and requirements before hitting the road.

Driving Laws and Requirements

In Panama, the minimum age for renting a car is 21 years old, although some rental companies may require drivers to be 25 or older. It’s also important to have a valid driver’s license from your home country, as well as an international driving permit if your license is not in Spanish. Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers, and talking on a handheld cell phone while driving is prohibited.


When renting a car in Panama, it’s important to make sure you have the necessary insurance coverage. Most rental companies include basic insurance in the rental price, but it’s a good idea to consider additional coverage for peace of mind.

Road Conditions

While major highways in Panama are generally well-maintained, some rural roads may be in poor condition. It’s important to drive cautiously, especially during the rainy season when roads can become slippery and prone to flooding.

Top Tips for Renting a Car in Panama

  • Make sure to inspect the car for any existing damage before driving off the lot, and take note of it on the rental agreement.
  • Fill up the gas tank before returning the car to avoid additional charges from the rental company.
  • Be aware of toll roads and have some cash on hand for tolls.
  • Consider renting a GPS or using a navigation app on your phone to help navigate the roads.

By understanding the local driving laws and requirements, as well as following these top tips, renting a car in Panama can be a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Rental Requirements

Age Limits

To rent a car in Panama, the minimum age requirement is typically 21 years old. Some car rental companies may have higher age restrictions, so it’s important to check with the specific company you plan to rent from. There may also be additional fees for drivers under the age of 25.

Driving License Requirements

In Panama, you will need a valid driver’s license from your home country to rent a car. An International Driving Permit (IDP) is also recommended, although not always required. If you plan to stay in Panama for an extended period of time, you may need to obtain a local driver’s license. The duration of time you must have held a valid driver’s license can vary by rental company, so be sure to check their specific requirements.


When renting a car in Panama, you will typically need to present a valid passport, a credit card in your name for the security deposit, and a printed copy of your rental confirmation. Some rental companies may have additional documentation requirements, so it’s best to confirm what is needed before you arrive to pick up your rental car.

Insurance Information

When renting a car in Panama, it’s important to understand the insurance options available to ensure a safe and worry-free journey.

Basic Insurance

The basic insurance typically includes Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Protection, which are essential for covering any damage or loss to the rental vehicle.

Additional Insurance

In addition to the basic insurance, there are options available for additional coverage such as Personal Accident Insurance and Supplemental Liability Insurance. These can provide extra protection in the event of an accident or injury.

Insurance Tips

For travelers renting a car in Panama, it is recommended to check existing travel insurance policies to see if they already include coverage for rental vehicles. This can help avoid paying for duplicate coverage and save money on insurance costs. Always read the terms and conditions of the insurance policy to fully understand the coverage and any potential exclusions.

Local Driving Laws and Regulations in Panama

General Traffic Rules

Driving Side: In Panama, driving is on the right side of the road.
Speed Limits: The speed limit is typically 25-40 mph in urban areas, 50-60 mph on rural roads, and 60-75 mph on highways.
Other Useful Info: Keep an eye out for speed bumps, especially in residential areas.

Overtaking and Lane Usage

Overtaking Rules: Overtake on the left and yield to oncoming traffic.
Lane Discipline: Keep right except to overtake on multi-lane roads.
Other Useful Info: Be cautious of motorcycles weaving through traffic.

Seat Belt and Child Safety

Seat Belt Laws: Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers.
Child Safety: Children under 5 years old must be in a child seat or booster seat.
Other Useful Info: Car rental companies typically provide child seats for an additional fee.

Use of Mobile Phones

Mobile Phone Restrictions: It is illegal to use a handheld phone while driving.
Other Useful Info: Use a hands-free device if you need to make a call while driving.

Alcohol and Driving

Legal Blood Alcohol Limits: The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.08%.
Zero Tolerance Policies: There are no specific zero-tolerance policies for certain drivers.
Other Useful Info: Designate a sober driver if you plan on drinking.

Tolls and Charges

Toll Roads: Panama has a few toll roads, and payment is typically in cash.
Congestion Charges: There are no urban congestion charges in Panama.
Other Useful Info: Check with your car rental company about toll road transponders.

Roundabouts and Intersections

Navigating Roundabouts: Give way to vehicles already on the roundabout.
Intersection Rules: Right of way is typically given to the vehicle on the right.
Other Useful Info: Be cautious at intersections, as not all drivers follow traffic rules.

Headlight and Windshield Wiper Laws

Headlight Usage: Use headlights at night and during rain.
Windshield Wiper Rule: There is no specific requirement to use headlights with wipers.
Other Useful Info: Check that your rental car’s headlights and wipers are functioning properly.

Emergency Vehicles

Right of Way for Emergency Vehicles: Pull over to the side of the road and stop for emergency vehicles.
Other Useful Info: Be aware of ambulances and fire trucks using sirens and lights.

Driving Tips for Panama

Road Conditions

In Panama, the road conditions can vary greatly. While major highways and roads in urban areas are generally well-maintained, rural roads can be narrow and in poor condition, especially during the rainy season. It’s important to be cautious and drive carefully, especially in rural areas.

Urban vs. Rural Driving

Driving in urban areas in Panama can be hectic, with heavy traffic and aggressive drivers. In contrast, rural driving may require more attention due to the condition of the roads and the presence of pedestrians and livestock. It’s important to adapt to the driving style of each area and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Navigational Tips

When driving in Panama, it’s recommended to use GPS or maps to navigate, especially if you are not familiar with the area. While major cities are well-marked, rural areas may have limited signage, so having a reliable navigation system can be very helpful.

Other Useful Tips

– Be mindful of speed limits and traffic signs, as they are strictly enforced in Panama.
– Keep an eye out for wildlife, especially in rural areas.
– Be prepared for toll roads on major highways, and have cash on hand for payment.

Overall, driving in Panama can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to be aware of the road conditions and driving habits in different areas. With these tips in mind, you can have a safe and enjoyable driving experience in Panama.

Roadside Assistance and Emergency Procedures

Breakdown Procedures

If your rental car breaks down while you are in Panama, the first thing to do is to safely pull over to the side of the road. Turn on your hazard lights and put out any warning triangles or cones if you have them. Contact the rental company’s roadside assistance immediately to inform them of the situation.

Emergency Services

In case of an emergency, dial 911 for police, ambulance, or fire services. Save these numbers in your phone for easy access. Additionally, make sure to have the contact information for the rental company’s roadside assistance program readily available.

Rental Company Policies

Most rental companies in Panama offer 24/7 roadside assistance and towing services as part of their rental policies. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the specific support offered by the rental company you choose to rent from.

Where can you Rent a Car in Panama?

You can browse all the city locations below, sorted alphabetically. Use Ctrl+F (or Cmd+F on a Mac) to quickly find the one you want to explore.