The Best Way to Enjoy Panama!
There is no doubt that the best way to explore Panama is by renting a car, planning your own itinerary and making an adventure out of your stay here. It is a beautiful country, with lots to see and do. If you’re arriving in Panama City and want to travel the length of the country to the Costa Rica border you can either take a 30 minute flight to the city of David in the province of Chiriqui or travel on the Pan American Highway which traverses the country from the Darien jungle to Costa Rica.
The drive from Panama City to David takes approximately 6 hours. Between Panama City Santiago the Highway is in pretty good condition but from Santiago to David the Highway is one lane only each way and parts of the road have deteriorated slightly. Road works, road damage and speed limits are not as clearly marked as some other parts of the world so be careful when you are driving somewhere for the 1st time. Once you get off the beaten track you will find rougher conditions and it’s a good idea to enquire in advance if you are not sure about the road conditions to your destination. In some cases you may find that a 4×4 is required.
Renting a Car in Panama
Most travelers to Panama have heard that everything here is “cheap” and they expect to be able to rent a car for next to nothing! Contrary to this belief, short-term rentals in Panama can be expensive, although long-term rental rates can be quite reasonable.
One of the most popular places to visit – by both tourists and those looking to retire/live in Panama – is the town of Boquete in Chiriquí Province. Situated 45 minutes from David Airport, Boquete is home to a large Expatriate community and also appeals to the tourist looking for mountains to climb, incredible bird-watching, canopy tours, deep sea fishing, relaxing on a beach an hour away… you name it!
You have a choice of car rental companies in Boquete and – to those in the “know” – Value Motors Boquete is the place to go! Catering to the Panamanian and Expatriate communities, Value Motors has gained a reputation as the “Go To” Rental and Car Sales Company. Value Motors will pick you up at the David Airport, drive you to the rental lot, set you up and see you on your way! A great start to your Chiriquí experience.
Some Panama Driving Tips:
Panama law requires the use of a seat belt by both front seat passengers. Failure to comply will result in a ticket and a fine. Paying the fine could be a problem (requiring showing up at a certain time and a certain place) and would definitely put a damper on your enjoyment.
You could experience regular police checks but this should not cause any problems as long as you have your rental and personal identification papers with you.
In Panama, there are NO U-turns … anywhere! And you are not permitted to pass on a hill which, to you may look like a slight incline, but to the police is considered a hill.
Other common sense rules to keep in mind:
Adhere to the speed limit as much as possible
Never leave valuables visible in the car – lock them in the trunk or leave them in a safe at the hotel
If you are stopped by the police for a supposed traffic offence, a good attitude will work best, even if you don’t speak Spanish. In the past, underpaid traffic police were known to ask for compensation in order to waive a citation and avoid the hassle of having to pay the fine. However, this is less frequent now and one should never offer money!
In closing, Panama is a beautiful country and the people are as diverse and welcoming as the landscapes. It is helpful to have at least a smattering of Spanish since English is not widely spoken. Regardless, if you approach your visit with enthusiasm and a sense of adventure you’ll have the vacation of a lifetime!