Tips for fly and drive vacations: Self drive adventures in Panama

In order to be independent and maximize your holiday experience, we recommend self-drive in the western region of Panama including the provinces of Cocle (El Valle), Los Santos (Azuero Peninsula) and Chiriqui (Boquete). This allows the flexibility to stop whenever you see something interesting. Compared to its neighboring countries, the main roads in Panama are in very good conditions. Do bear in mind that Panama is a mountainous country, roads can be curvy and signage is generally poor once outside the main cities. However, full directions are provided by our staff when you receive the vouchers and the vehicle.

We generally recommend a Group C vehicle, Toyota Yaris or similar. We have selected National Car Rental and Budget Rent a Car as our suppliers in Panama. They have offices in Panama City downtown, Panama City – Tocumen International Airport, Panama City-Albrook Domestic Airport, David Airport located in the Chiriquí Province. Therefore vehicles may be picked up in one place and dropped off at another. Drop off charges in the event of returning your vehicle to a different point from which it was collected and this is included in the cost of your holiday (not payable locally may be paid locally).

A valid driving license (international is preferred), passport and credit card are required when collecting the vehicle along with a security deposit of (this depends on the amount of days the car is rented and the type of rental car). Check the car over carefully and note all dents and scratches before accepting the car. If the car is returned with dents or scratches, or other damage that was not previously noted, you will be charged and your deposit will not be refunded.

The general policy (unless advised otherwise) is to receive the car with a full tank of fuel and to therefore return it full on drop off. If you forget, your credit card will be charged automatically and at above-market fuel prices.

Unlimited mileage, roadside breakdown assistance, local taxes and Collision Damage Waiver are included in the company name car hire rates. Minimum age for renting a vehicle is 23. The CDW covers you for damage of your vehicle and any third parties arising from ‘normal’ use of the car. The vehicle must be returned to the office on time otherwise extra charges will apply (payable locally). Reconfirm the drop off time and place of return at the time of collecting your vehicle. There is an extra charge for a second driver is $6.00 -8.00 per day (payable locally).

As in other countries, never leave valuables in the car such as cameras, handbags and suitcases as they may attract thieves. In the event of getting a ticket for speeding or other infractions, do not offer money to the highway patrol officer. All tickets must be paid when you return the car. If the car is towed away, you will have to go the transportation authority’s office and a pay a fee to get your car back. Please note that we do not recommend you drive at night on the Pan-American Highway.

Approximate Driving Times / Distances in km

Panama City – El Valle: 2 hours/ 124km approx.

El Valle – Boquete: 6 – 7 hours/ 405km approx.

Boquete – David: 1 hour/ 35km approx

Boquete – Almirante harbour: 3 hours/ 197km approx

Boquete – Paso Canoas (border with Costa Rica): 1.5 hours/ 88km approx

Boquete – Chiriqui Archipelago (Boca Brava): 2.5 hours + 30min boat/ 56km approx

Chiriqui Archipelago (Boca Brava) – David Airport: 1.5hrs + 30min boat/ 21km approx

Chiriqui Archipelago (Boca Brava) – Azuero Peninsula (Pedasi ): 3.5 hours+ 30min boat/350km approx

Azuero Peninsula (Pedasi ) – Boquete: 4.5 hours/ 371km approx

Azuero Peninsula (Pedasi ) – Penonomé: 3 hours/ 265 km approx

Azuero Peninsula (Pedasi ) – Las Tablas:1 hour/42 km approx

Las Tablas – Chitre: 45 min/ 32 km approx

Chitre – Santiago: 1.45 hours/ 73 km approx

Santiago – Boquete: 3 hours/ 280km approx

Panama City – Colon: 1.5 hours (1 hour by train) 2 hours/80km approx

Panama City – Portobelo:2 hours/80km approx.

Panama City – San Lorenzo: 2 hours/92 approx.

Panama City – Boquete: 6 hours/473km approx

Panama City – Azuero Peninsula (Pedasi ): 4 – 5 hours/324km approx

 

Approximate Flying Times:

Panama City – Achutupo (San Blas): 45mins

Panama City – Azuero Peninsula (Pedasi): 35mins

Panama City – David: 1 hour

David – Bocas del Toro: 35mins

David – San Jose: 1 hour

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