Overland Panama Travel

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[edit] Entering Panama with a Car or Motorbike

Correct as of: May 2012

[edit] Required Paperwork

[edit] Process at border

(For people, see Panama Visa and Passport requirements at the World Travel Guide)

  • The owner of the vehicle gains entry at immigration (migración), including a stamp in their Passport.
  • Insurance for the vehicle must be purchased. (see below)
  • The owner must show the new passport stamp, drivers license, the original vehicle registration and vehicle insurance to customs (aduana).
  • The owner is issued a temporary import permit for the vehicle.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: If you plan to ship your vehicle out of Panama, make absolutely certain that everything written on your temporary import permit is correct. A single digit wrong in your VIN number or date of vehicle manufacture will be a problem later when you try to ship the vehicle. DO NOT let the customs people convince you it will be OK. It won't.

NOTE: You may encounter locals offering to help you with paperwork to get across the border. See Border Crossing Helpers for advice.

[edit] Cost of entry


[edit] Permitted length of stay

90 days for people, the vehicle only receives 30 days, though.

[edit] Extension of stay

Renew Vehicle Papers in Panama City

[edit] Storing a vehicle and temporarily leaving the country

Vehicles can be stored in a government bonded facility while the owner leaves the country. The import papers are suspended while the vehicle is stored for as long as you like. When you return, the import papers simply resume. Options include

  • Panama City at the Panama Central Terminal. Ave. Ascanio Villalaz, Curundu. Apdo. 0843-00405 Panama, Rep. de Panama Tel: (507)232-6915 http://www.pct.com.pa for approx $8.00 USD per day.
  • Chiriqui, David for approx $1.00 USD per day.

[edit] Exiting with a vehicle

[edit] By land to Costa Rica

  • The registered owner is stamped out of Panama at immigration.
  • The registered owner presents the temporary import paper to customs, where it is cancelled.

[edit] By Ship, probably to Colombia

See Crossing The Darien Gap for details.

[edit] Driving in Panama

[edit] Insurance requirements

Insurance is mandatory in Panama and you will be forced to buy it at the border before you are allowed to enter. There are always agents at the border to buy from.

[edit] Cost of insurance

$15.00 USD for 3 months for a 4x4. (Accurate as of April 2012)[1]

[edit] Where to purchase insurance

Right at the border. The customs guys will tell you exactly where to go.

[edit] Driving license

Technically an International Driving Permit is required.
In reality, showing a license from anywhere in the world seems to be good enough.

[edit] Driving side of road

Right hand drive vehicles are permitted without problem.

[edit] Mandatory items in vehicle


[edit] Roads

[edit] General Road quality

Roads in Panama are generally of good quality, except in some of the smaller towns where the pavement is cracked and broken. Lesser roads are gravel and can be mud pits in the rainy season.

[edit] Road signs

Road signs are mostly common and clear.

[edit] Toll roads

The major highway from Panama City to Colón is tolled.

[edit] Bribery in Panama

Police bribery is not common in Panama, but it certainly does happen.
See the bribery tips page for advice.

[edit] Checkpoints

Police checkpoints are not common in Panama, though you may encounter them. You'll be asked to show your Passport, Vehicle registration, drivers license, vehicle insurance and the temporary import permit you were issued at the border.

[edit] Traveling with pets

As with all borders in Central America, be ready for bribery if you have a pet.
According to travelers in 2012, you need: [2]

  • A Health Certificate for the animal in Spanish (updated at least every four months)
  • A vaccination record (the European Pet Passport works well)
  • You will likely have to pay around $15.00 USD

[edit] Gas and Diesel price in Panama

Last updated: June 2012

Currency and unit to display:

Gasoline Grade Price
Regular €0.80 EUR per Liter [3]
Super (90)  ??
Premium (95) $4.40 USD per Gallon (US)
Ultra (97)  ??
Normal Diesel $0.72 USD per Liter[4]
Diesel (low sulfur)  ??

[edit] Gas and Diesel / Frequency

Gasoline shortages in Panama are not a problem.
Typically gas stations are not more than 100 - 200km apart.

[edit] Gas and Diesel Quality

Accepted to be good quality.
Sulfur content of diesel is unknown.

[edit] Safety and Security Considerations

[edit] Driving at night

Driving at night is not considered a huge problem in Panama, though it's not recommended due to road hazards that can not be seen in the dark.

[edit] Vehicle parking

Parking vehicles on the street in smaller towns during the day is typically OK. Find a secure parking lot in big cities and at night.

[edit] Special driving considerations


[edit] Security advisories and information

[edit] Camping in Panama

Camping is becoming more popular with local Panamanians and hostels in touristy areas have camping to cater for backpackers.

Being far away from major roads is preferable for wild camping.

[edit] Camping guide books

No specific book exists, though the usual backpacker guide books mention when a hostel has camping facilities.

[edit] Drinking water

Tap water in most of Panama is not safe to drink, though many hotels and hostels in Panama City advertise that it is safe. Every corner store sells 1 and 2 liter bottles, and 20 liter bottles can be bought at most large grocery stores.

[edit] Navigation

[edit] Paper maps

Purchase maps before arriving in Panama.

[edit] GPS Maps of Panama

  • Open Street Map: Appears to have good coverage.[5]
  • Cenrut: Free Open Source GPS map of Central America. Coverage is occasionally better than OSM. [6]
  • Garmin: Apparently no map of Panama.
  • TomTom: No map of Panama. [7]

[edit] GPS co-ordinates for camping, propane, gas, repairs, etc. in Panama

[edit] Special Overland Travel interests

[edit] Travel Guide Books

[edit] Vehicle Maintenance

[edit] Dealers

4x4s / Trucks


[edit] Local Garages

Add known good mechanics here.

For helpful information while in Panama, ask on Club 4x4 Panama forum. They can recommend good mechanics, places to find parts, and even places to camp or find camping supplies. They have been known to help out overland travelers.

[edit] Buy or sell a car or motorbike in Panama

Describe how a foreigner can buy a vehicle. List any difficulties or limitations on where the vehicle can be driven.

Selling a car in Panama is relatively easy assuming you can find a buyer.
We were able to conclude the sale in a day.
You will need:

  1. A bill of sale or transfer of the car, (you can type one up yourself). It should include the make, model, year of the car, the VIN and the buyer and seller's full name and address and ID numbers
  2. Original title of the vehicle and the 'rodaje' or temporary import permit that was given to you at the border by customs
  3. Notarized copies of the seller's passport, the buyer's passport or ID, the vehicle title and the bill of sale and the 'rodaje'
  4. Once you have agreed on a price and gotten all the documents written up and notarized you then drop the car off at a bond warehouse where it awaits customs valuation. They will keep the car title at the bond warehouse and give you a document stating that the car has been consigned to the bond.
  5. You then go to the customs office where the Gerencia or Administration department will review your paperwork to make sure it is all in order before directing you to the Vehicular Control department where you can get your passport stamped allowing you to leave the country.
  6. You should probably arrange to receive the cash payment for the car before dropping off the car at the bond warehouse.
  7. The buyer of the car then has to work with a corredor de aduana to get the customs paperwork and legalize it in Panama. This can take up to 20 days. The buyer assumes all responsibility for paying the customs duties and taxes which will be a minimum of $1,500.00 USD no matter the value of the car (as of 2012)

[edit] References

  1. Costa Rica to Panama Border Crossing | Life Remotely
  2. Central American Borders and dogs
  3. gasoline-germany.com - International Gas / Petrol / Diesel prices - Panama
  4. fuel price - anybody ? - The HUBB
  5. OpenStreetMap Panama
  6. Cenrut Mapping Project
  7. TomTom Map availability

[edit] Helpful External links

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