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Panama – Driving

Panama is a beautiful country with a diverse range of landscapes, from pristine beaches to tropical rainforests. If you plan on driving in Panama, it’s important to be aware of the local driving rules and regulations. In this article, we’ll cover road safety, required equipment, road accident protocols, driving rules, road signs, traffic lights, traffic info resources, and parking rules.

Road Safety in Panama

Road safety is a top priority in Panama, with the government investing heavily in road infrastructure and safety measures. However, there are still some challenges, particularly in rural areas where roads can be narrow and winding.

The quality of roads in Panama can vary, with major highways and urban roads generally in good condition, but rural roads can be less well-maintained. Local driving standards can be different from what some expats are used to, with drivers sometimes exhibiting reckless behavior. It’s important to be patient and drive defensively.

Required Equipment

When driving in Panama, there are certain items that you must carry in your car. These include:

  • Warning triangle: You must carry a warning triangle and use it in the event of an accident or breakdown.
  • Fire extinguisher: You must carry a fire extinguisher in your car.
  • Spare tire: You must carry a spare tire in your car.
  • Reflective vest: You must carry a reflective vest and wear it when outside your vehicle on a public road.

Road Accidents

In the event of a road accident in Panama, drivers are required to follow certain protocols. If anyone is injured or there is damage to property, you must stop and offer assistance. You should also contact the police and exchange details with the other driver.

If you’re involved in a hit-and-run accident, you should report it to the police immediately. Failure to stop at the scene of an accident is a criminal offense in Panama.


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Driving Rules

When driving in Panama, there are certain rules that you need to follow. These include:

  • Drive on the right side of the road: In Panama, you must drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Give way to the right: When approaching an intersection, you must give way to traffic coming from your right, unless otherwise indicated.
  • Stick to the speed limits: The speed limit in built-up areas is 40 km/h, on rural roads 80 km/h, and on highways 100 km/h.
  • Don’t use your phone while driving: It’s illegal to use your phone while driving, even if you’re using a hands-free device.

It’s also important to be aware of pedestrians and cyclists when driving in Panama, particularly in urban areas. Pedestrians often cross the road without using a designated crossing, so drivers must be vigilant.

Road Signs and Traffic Lights

Road signs in Panama are clear and easy to understand. Here are some of the most important ones to look out for:

  • Stop sign: This is a red octagon with the word “STOP” written in white letters.
  • Give way sign: This is a red triangle with a white border and the words “CEDA EL PASO” written in white letters.
  • No entry sign: This is a red circle with a white border and a black diagonal line.

Traffic lights in Panama follow the standard red, amber, and green sequence. However, there are some unique aspects to Panamanian traffic lights. For example, some lights have a flashing green light to indicate that you can proceed with caution.

Traffic Info Resources

If you’re driving in Panama, it’s important to stay up-to-date with traffic information. Here are some useful resources:

  • Transit Authority website: The Transit Authority website provides up-to-date information on road works, traffic incidents, and travel times.


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