Panama Driving Advice and Car Hire Info

Driving In Panama
Panama drives on the right on roads which are generally in good condition in towns, but will be less well maintained in rural areas. The roads in Darien Province are particularly poor and hardly any roads are paved.Driving can be stressful in urban areas due to dense traffic, undisciplined driving habits, poorly maintained streets, and a lack of effective signs and traffic signals. Many roads have poor lighting so you should avoid driving at night if you can. Night driving is particularly hazardous on the old Panama City – Colon highway. Flooding during the April to December rainy season occasionally makes city streets impassible and washes out some roads in the interior of the country.. Road travel is more dangerous during the rainy season and during holidays, especially from Carnival through to Good Friday. Carnival starts the Saturday prior to Ash Wednesday and goes on for four days. Road maintenance throughout the country is variable and drivers need to take precautions to avoid unseen holes and unfinished repairs. Most of the central Inter-American Highway is still only one lane each way and it is not well lit at night. There is often night construction on this road with few signs alerting drivers to the roadworks.

Panama Car Rental –
Hertz, Alamo, Europcar, National, Avis, Budget,Dollar,Thrifty,  have offices in all big towns. Also usually features on Car rental broker sites such as Argus Car Hire and Web discount sites such as There are also some local companies such as Shellanes Rent a car and Barriga rent a car but none seem to have a website so I’d steer clear of them in light of the fact that all the big companies seem to be present.

This company offer self drive but don’t have an English language website

This company suggest itineraries and provide cars for self drive tours..

Panama Self Drive Rules-
National and Budget don’t allow cars to be taken out of Panama. Europcar say there are restrictions to certain countries but don’t give details. The other companies don’t specify.


  1. Michael Brown

    Do I need a Panamanian License to rent a car or scooter in Panama? Or can I use my US license?

  2. Driver Abroad

    Hi Michael- your US Licence is ok to use for up to 12 months in Panama, you shouldnt need an IDP.


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