Travel Passport

Why carry an IDP while driving in Panama?

Your IDP is a valid form of identification in more than 150 countries worldwide and contains your name, photo and driver information in the 12 most widely spoken languages in the world – it is understandable to most of the local officials and authorities of the countries you visit.

It translates your identification information into 12 languages — so it speaks the language even if you don’t. Panama highly recommends an International Driving Permit.

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1. Apply Online

Start your application for International Driver's License Get the IDP.​​

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2. Upload Photos

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Top Destinations of Panama

Panama is widely recognized for its attractive tourist sites and phenomenal natural scenery. With an adjacent border nearing the Caribbean coasts and the azure Pacific, it is no surprise that thousands of tourists per year have frequented the iconic shipping waterway found within its region. Aside from this, the country is also famously known for the Panama canal - an artificial aqueduct that serves as a commercial transport system for large cargo vessels going to the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean.

Among the countries in Central America, Panama has been one of the most exciting places to visit. From the towering mountain villages and coffee plantations to the crystal clear beaches, there is always something that will surprise in this place. But if you ever plan to visit this place someday, you surely would want to do it via car.

With an International Driving Permit in Panama, you get to enjoy and experience the country’s rich culture and heritage. So, if you are ready to head on to your first Panamanian trip, consider visiting these famous locations.

El Valle de Anton

An attractive getaway vacation with an idyllic setting, this little Panamanian Village is located within the Cocle Province of Central Panama. It is regarded as one of the best places to visit in the country. Moreover, It has been famous for its uniquely captivating ancient calderas that have continuously paraded the beautiful towns in the location. For decades, it has been known as a local tourist site where families could enjoy climbing and swimming activities.

If you are going to ask about El Valle de Anton, most of the locals will take you to the numerous canyons and spectacular ridge trails surrounding the region. The best time to visit the place is between April, March, and February, where the warmest temperatures are recorded. You can generally enjoy outdoor activities during these months.

Driving Directions:

  • From Panama City, head northeast on Calle Nicanor de Obarrio toward Calle 54.
  • Enter Route 1 ., then turn to Route 4.
  • Take Route 71, then turn right to enter Anton Valley.

You can also locate the place by looking into its zip code online. Before you head to El Valle de Anton, make sure to secure an International Driver’s Permit for Panama from the website of the International Drivers Association. If you have more queries about an International Driving Permit for Panama, you may contact the office number of IDA.

Pearl Islands

The Pearl Islands are known as a cluster of islands located southeast of the capital. The location highlights its crystal clear beaches and forested islets featured in some reality TV shows. If you want to have a unique travel experience, you can also visit the isolated Contadora Islands, where you can find two luxury tourist resorts.

You can relax and do sunbathing activities in the area while exploring the old shipwrecks found in Playa Larga. Interestingly, the ideal time to visit Pearl Islands is somewhere between April and February. It is recommended to visit the place during these months as the weather is perfect for island hopping activities.

Driving Directions:

  • From Panama City, head to Route 71.
  • Enter CA-1, then head on to the Saboga Islands.
  • Take a ferry to the Pearl Islands.

While traveling, you may ask yourself: do you need an International Driving License in Panama? Well, the answer is yes! Before you are permitted to drive, you will need to present your identification cards, travel documents, and International Driving Permit!

Gulf of Chiriqui

The Gulf of Chiriqui is located in the Pacific coastline between Costa Rica and the Azuero Peninsula. The place is also famously known for its booming tourism due to its tropical rainforests and towering mountain ranges. Tourists can do various outdoor activities, including hiking, trekking, scuba diving, snorkeling, and sightseeing.

If you are an adventure lover and like water rafting activities, you should definitely visit this place. Generally, tourists are advised to visit the region during the hot weather months of December and July. Consequently, it is recommended to refrain from any outdoor activities during the cold month of October since it is the time when there is an expected heavy rainfall.

Driving Directions:

  • From Panama City, go to Calle Nicanor de Obarrio.
  • Turn right, heading to Calle 56 Este, then head on to Autopista Arraijan-La Chorrera.
  • Take a quick left turn and head on to Route 1.

You cannot travel to the Gulf of Chiriqui if you don't have an International Driving Permit with you. For your convenience, you can apply online for an International Driver’s License in Panama and fill out the application form from the International Drivers Association website.

Boquete

The Boquete village is located proximal to the Chiriqui province in the western Pacific region. Tourists frequent the location due to its magnificent coffee plantations and luxury spas. Widely recognized as the “The Land of Eternal Springtime,” tourists can enjoy a plethora of pleasurable outdoor activities ranging from zip-lining to white water rafting. If you are up for a fun-filled adventure, then you should try visiting this place.

Ideally, it is best for tourists to visit the location via land trip during the warm months of mid-December to mid-April to experience the resplendent sceneries and captivating sights fully. Although you can visit the place anytime you want, it is best to avoid going there during the coldest months of the year.

Driving Directions:

  • From Panama City, drive your way to Calle 54 Este.
  • Turn right, heading to Calle 56 Este, then head on to Route 41.
  • Head on a quick left turn to Calle 5a Sur, then turn right to Av C Oeste.

Santa Catalina

Santa Catalina is widely recognized as one of the country’s top tourist spots. Popularly known for its resplendent beaches and surfing activities, the place has become a significant landmark for nature lovers. If you want to enjoy sightseeing activities and spend most of your time with nature-themed attractions, then you should drive by Santa Catalina.

The most important thing to remember when visiting Santa Catalina is the onset of favorable weather conditions. It is recommended to visit the place during daylight and during the warm months of December and April to fully appreciate its facade. Avoid traveling here during night time as cattle can cause sudden dangerous roadblocks.

Driving Directions:

  • From Panama City, drive your way to the Vía Fernández de Córdoba.
  • Head to Route 4, then head on to Carr. 34.
  • Then, head straight to Calle Hacia Playa Estero.

Most Important Driving Rules

Driving in Panama is relatively easy if you know the most important driving rules. As a tourist, you must equip yourself with the most factual information about the country’s unique driving regulations and the varying road signs. But most importantly, you may also ask if “do I need an international driver's license in Panama?” The answer is Yes!

An IDP is required when you travel to an international border. Correspondingly, it is an unofficial translation of your domestic driver’s license, so you can easily drive your way to your planned trip. But before you head on to Panama, you must have your International Driver’s License for Panama with no test required, as well as your local valid driver's license.

Always bring your travel documents and your IDP with you at all times

When traveling to Panama, always remember to bring your travel documents with you at all times, such as your domestic valid driver's license. Moreover, if you are planning to have a car trip within the Panamanian border, it is important to bring your IDP with you. As a foreign driver, this will save you from any potential travel-related inconveniences!

Although you can drive in Panama with your local valid driver’s license for 90 days, it is still recommended to secure an IDP. If you still don’t have one, you can visit the International Drivers Association website and submit the International Driver’s Permit requirements for your travels in Panama. To help you, here is the list of the requirements needed for an IDP application, your foreign license:

  • Valid Government Issued Driver’s License
  • Passport Size Image of Yourself
  • Passport Copy (needed)

Since updates regarding the International Driving Permit for foreign drivers like you happen now and then, it is important to check on these things before heading on your trip. Most importantly, Panamanian authorities require their citizens to always carry their identification cards with them at all times. For tourists, a passport and a license would suffice. However, it is also okay to carry a photocopy of the documents if an original copy is not available on hand.

Speed Limits

If you are driving in the capital, the speed limit is between 25-30 Km/h and around 100 Km/h on national highways. Additionally, there may be alternative speed limits for the different residential areas, which may be posted in the different road signages. To know more about the country’s speed limits, you can visit the Panama site and office.

Driving Without a License

You could get into serious trouble if you are caught to be driving without a license in Panama. The fines and punishment for driving can cause unwarranted delays in your trip. That is why it is important to always bring your driver’s license with you at all times. If you are a tourist, always remember to obtain your international driving permit. This will serve as an official translation and document signifying that you have passed all other qualifications. Also, an IDP is needed if you are planning to rent a car in Panama. Always remember to bring your IDP with you at all times!

To visit Panama city, you will need to get your international driver’s license. You can do this by visiting the International Driver’s Association website. You can also check for updates regarding any changes in the international driving permit requirements for the said region.

Driving Under the Influence

In Panama, the acceptable Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.00%. This implies zero-tolerance for drinking, and anyone caught under these similar circumstances would be given a fine and corresponding punishment, such as having your car impounded. If you are planning to drive in the country’s capital, you should note that the local police authorities have set up checkpoints to assess if motorists are compliant with the law.

Seatbelt Laws

You must adhere to the seatbelt laws imposed in Panama to ensure your road safety. The driver and front-seat passenger must wear seat belts. Moreover, children under five years old must be seated in a special car seat in the rear.

Most importantly, if you have received a traffic ticket while driving in Panama, you must process the payment of the fine within a 48 hours time-frame at the Autoridad del Tránsito y Transporte Terrestre office. It is also a best practice for tourists to always check if they have their international driver’s permit for Panama with them as one of the driving requirements for fine processing.

Parking in Panama

You can easily park in Panama if you are in the designated parking space. Different road signages with color-coded designations like the red or yellow paint on the sidewalks assist motorists in parking properly. In Panama City, there are several hourly parking meters that can be found in different street locations. If you are given a parking ticket in the capital, the first thing that you should do is locate Municipio De Panama to process your payment.

You can also inquire about the parking restriction and regulations by calling the Panama City Police Department’s number (850-872-3100). They would help you have easy access and an instant credit card payment for your parking fines. However, always carry your International Driver’s License since they would most likely look for this during your transactions.

Car Insurance Policies

Every car in Panama must have 3rd party liability insurance. This means that the car being used is insured from any potential damages which may incur during your travels. You can look online for any recent updates regarding Panama’s car insurance coverages to know more about this. To be updated, you can also check the official website of Panama to check for additional information while you are still waiting for your international driver’s license for Panama.

Panama is a wonderful country to drive around. With relaxing beaches and charming villages, you’ll sure enjoy driving in this country, especially with your loved ones. Before you start your trip, make sure you have your driver’s license, IDP, and passport with you in case authorities need to check for identification. Get your IDP from the International Driver’s Association for faster processing!

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