How to legally drive in Panama
As a foreigner, you can legally drive in Panama using your foreign license for your first 90 days in the country. After this period, foreigners will need to obtain a Panamanian driver's license. If the tourist becomes
As a foreigner, you can legally drive in Panama using your foreign license for your first 90 days in the country. After this period, foreigners will need to obtain a Panamanian driver’s license.
If the tourist becomes a temporary resident, he or she can apply for a driver’s license immediately. (Even if the 90 days have not elapsed). The government has a contract with a private company called SERTRACEN, to examine candidates’ applications and issue driver’s licenses.
The minimum driving age in Panama is 18 years.
Process to obtain a driver’s license in Panama
Certify the driver’s license at the Embassy or Consulate of the Country where the license was issued.
Authenticate the Certification of the Embassy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Deliver original and copy of passport.
Deliver original and copy of the immigration document.
Deliver original and copy of the foreign license.
Deliver the health certificate of the blood type test, issued by one of the certified medical laboratories. (If the license shows the blood type, this test will not be necessary)
Present visual and hearing exam at the office, where the application is being processed.
Being on good terms with the Panama Transit Authority (do not have any traffic fine pending)
Pay $ 40 USD in cash (includes visual and hearing exam), this must be made at the Panama Transit Authority. Cash registers are located in the SERTRACEN office, where the license is being processed.
The first step in applying for a driver’s license in Panama, is to have your current driver’s license certified by completing a notarized affidavit of your driving history at the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the country from which your license was issued. This step may include scheduling an appointment in advance depending on the regulations of each embassy, as well as paying fees.
Certifications must provide the following information:
The terms “Certify or Declare” or “Certify or Establish”.
The name of the Consul or the person in that position, who validates the information.
The applicant’s name and passport number, as marked on the applicant’s passport
The number of the license to be validated and its expiration date.
The place or country of issuance of the license.
– Ministry of Foreign Relations of Panama
The Ministry of Foreign Relations (located on Avenida Ricardo J. Alfaro in Plaza Ventura), must authenticate the Affidavit issued by the Embassy or Consulate, and a copy of the original driver’s license from the country of origin.
– Blood Type
If the original driver’s license does not reveal the driver’s blood type, you must go to a medical laboratory, certified by the Panama Transit Authority (ATTT). The clinical laboratories that have valid license and operating permits by the public health technical council, are authorized to issue laboratory results for driver’s license procedures.
You must get an online appointment on the SERTRACEN website, by clicking this link. Please note that the website is in Spanish.
Bring the medical report of the blood type, your passport, the original driver’s license, the immigration or residence document (If applicable), the notarized sworn statement and the documents issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to a SERTRACEN Service Center. If you want support or any information, please contact SERTRACEN through their phone number: (+507) 315-6500.
The cost to apply to the application for the Driver’s License in Panama is forty ($ 40) US Dollars.
At the SERTRACEN Service Center, you will be given a visual check to determine if it is necessary to wear glasses or contact lenses to drive. If you do not pass this checkup, you will need to obtain the corresponding vision formula and buy a pair of glasses to perform the visual checkup again.
A hearing check will also be performed, to determine if you can hear vehicle horns and other noises while driving.
The SERTRACEN website offers practice runs for these tests: Visual and Audio
Once these medical check-ups are approved, a photo will be taken, and your residence address information will be requested.
The Panama driver’s license is valid for a period of 4 years for permanent residents and 2 years for temporary residents.
Expired or not a current foreign license?
If you do not currently have a driver’s license from your home country, or your license is expired, there is a chance to still obtain a Panamanian driver’s license.
You will have to attend a driving school class and be certified by an approved one. Take a practical driving test in a car that you provide, and pass a written exam to demonstrate your knowledge of the road laws.
You can go to the driving school nearest you and take driving classes to get a certificate and the test questions to study for the written test. The written test is composed of 10 multiple choice questions with only 60 seconds per question. The test can be taken in Spanish or English.
For the driving test you are required to demonstrate 3 parking skills:
1) Pull into a designated parking space
2) Parallel park
3) Back into a designated parking space
Once you complete the written test and the driving test and you have your blood type, then you can continue to SERTRACEN to do the vision and hearing test.
Renewing your Panama license
You will need to renew your Panamanian driver’s license every 4 years, unless you are 70 years old, then it will need to be renewed every 2 years.
To renew your license, you do not need to go through the authentication process again. You will only need to take a vision and hearing test to renew it If you are over 70, you will also need a doctor’s authorization to drive.
We remind you that Outlier Legal Services is open to answer any questions you may have about the process.