What’s the optimal approach to renting a vehicle in Panama before embarking on a cruise?

All good things require some level of planning and this includes cruise vacations. Your cruise to Panama will have you landing in PTY airport and if it departs from Colon, you may be considering car rentals. You’ll need to consider renting a car for many different reasons including local driving comfort-level, cost and safety.

Renting a car from the airport in Panama City (PTY) and returning it in Colon appears to be an option. It’s important to take into account the road conditions in Panama. Navigating the streets in urban areas and near big cities can pose a challenge for individuals who are not accustomed to the traffic flow of the area. Also the places you intend to visit during your three day stay could impact your choice. If these places can be reached easily by car and you feel driving on unfamiliar roads renting a car might be a good choice.

Many tourists choose more convenient transportation options due to the chaotic driving conditions in Panama City and safety issues in Colon. Traveling to Colon on a shuttle for instance can provide a relaxed experience enabling you to savor the picturesque drive without the need to focus on driving.

Where to Look for Hidden Charges When Renting a Car and Ways to Prevent Them

When you decide to hire a car in Panama it’s crucial to keep an eye out for any charges that might pop up unexpectedly as they could really bump up the overall rental expenses. One way rental drop off charges can sometimes be quite high. For instance, fees for dropping off a car in a different city can range from $200 to $300+. Make sure to reach out to the companies directly or visit their official websites for the most up to date fee details.

Avoid surprise charges by renting through the corporate or worldwide sites of rental companies, as they tend to have clearer pricing including mandatory liability insurance and other fees. Know that rental cars in Panama are legally required to have liability insurance, even though rental companies typically charge an additional $10 to $20 for an existing policy.

Furthermore, different rental companies have different policies concerning collision/damage/theft coverage (CDW/LDW). Checking with your credit card company is a smart move, as they may provide this coverage free of charge if you use their credit card to pay for your rental. That means you could avoid paying for the coverage offered by the rental company.

Tips for Staying Safe While Driving and Renting a Car in Panama

When renting a car in Panama, safety is important. Violent crime in Colon, the city with the highest level of crime, is particularly bad. If you drop off your rental car in Colon, make sure it’s in a safer area. Your Google Maps search may take you to a drop-off location near Colon’s Free Trade Zone (Zona Libre de Colon). This is good because it may very well be the safest area. Just keep in mind that Google Maps generally doesn’t work very well in Panama. Waze is a much better navigation app to use while driving here.

If you are a visitor, or simply two men aged 41 and 39 travelling, it is essential to concentrating when driving in Panama – particularly on little-known roads. Travel only on popular routes and stay away from dangerous areas that would not be safe at any time of the day.

By having someone else drive the car to the ferry in Panama, you don’t have to. That will allow you to relax, knowing the car will be delivered to a seaport in Panama City. For me, this means not having to drive in an area that is less safe than most to a sketchy part of town (it probably wasn’t really sketchy, but I was alone and didn’t want to do it alone in a rental car) but more importantly, not having to navigate to a part of town I didn’t really know.

In short, while renting a car in Panama can afford you flexibility in your travels, it comes at a cost: and not necessarily just financially. Detailed research, careful planning and the use of more reliable transportation can ensure you enjoy your journey to Colón and the beginning of your cruise.


What is the real price I should expect to pay for renting a car in Panama?

When calculating the expenses for renting a car in Panama make sure to factor in the starting price along with any extra charges, like drop off fees, taxes and insurance expenses. The charges for returning a car at a different location, such as from Panama City to Colon can be quite high. One effective method is to compare the rates provided on the companys official website or its global page as they usually present pricing that is clear and comprehensive. Please also confirm if the quoted price covers the required liability insurance and any additional fees.

Where is the best place to hire a car in Panama without getting hit with drop off charges?

If you’re picking up your vehicle in Panama, minimise your chances of being squeezed by bad drop-off fees by renting from one of the major international rental companies, particularly if you’re crossing back out into another country. Do the math and compare the one-way rental offerings of a couple of the majors, as they might offer you a route with a dramatically lower or a completely waived drop-off fee. You’re more likely to see this information clearly on the rental company’s corporate or worldwide website than on national sites for a company with plenty of vehicles inside Panama. If you rented at one location and want to return the car at a different location, that can trigger (sometimes many hundreds of dollars’ worth of) firmness fees, so try your best to match up the return location with the pick-up location.

Could you share some safety advice for driving in Panama?

You also need to know local driving customs and conditions to drive safely in Panama. That is why using a navigation app like Waze that is current for Panama is much better than Google Maps, which is very outdated in Panama. Use well-travelled well-lit roads, especially if you don’t know the area well. If you drive through an area with higher crime like Colon, don’t drive through risky neighbourhoods. Lock your doors. Don’t go through dangerous neighbourhoods if you can avoid it, especially at night.

When is the ideal moment to reserve a car for your upcoming journey to Panama?

The earlier, the better. Renting a car for your Panama trip should be done as soon as you have the dates for your trip. Rates tend to be better and there a larger selection the earlier you book. It will also give you more time to research and compare the different rental companies and their policies and prices. Keep an eye out for promotions some rental companies do for booking early.

What’s the best way to figure out which insurance to choose when renting a car in Panama?

When it comes to renting a car in Panama it’s important to grasp the insurance choices on offer. Having liability insurance is a must, by law. Is typically not factored into the initial rental cost. Make sure to inquire with the agency regarding the pricing for this insurance. To get collision, damage or theft coverage (referred to as LDW or CDW) check with your credit card provider to see if they provide this type of coverage which might be a budget friendly option. Just a heads up rental companies might put a hold on your card if you rely on your credit card insurance.

Navigating One Way Car Rentals in Panama; A Must Read Handbook for Travel Enthusiasts

4 thoughts on “Navigating One Way Car Rentals in Panama; A Must Read Handbook for Travel Enthusiasts

  • 4 January 2024 at 11:01

    Taxi to Colon, safer choice.

  • 4 January 2024 at 19:17

    Book early for savings.

  • 7 January 2024 at 15:37

    Ill grab a taxi to Colon. Feels safer, you know? Traffics crazy these days. Gotta be careful.


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