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Bill Hamilton of Bill Hamilton – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Capira, Panama road – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIf you live in Panama City, you probably do not need to own a car because taxis are cheap and buses are frequent. However, I personally wouldn’t be able to survive without a car in Panama. There are so many places to go and it is much more convenient if you want to drive anywhere. And if you want to stop somewhere, you just stop.
 
The actual cost of licensing here is incredible. They do not do it the same way as they do in Europe and probably in the States. You have to have your vehicle tested every two years in Europe, depending on the car's age. They check the brakes, the tires, and the windshield wipers. Over here, you take your car in. They take photographs, and you apply for your new r plate because you have to change your plate every year. It costs you US $50, and then you get a new plate. That’s the total cost for the year. US $50 for everything.
 
The road in Capira, Panama, pictured.)
Robert Adams of Retirement Wave – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
I live in Panama City so I don’t need a car. Cars are very expensive, as far as I am concerned. I also don’t like to have to hassle the traffic. I have a taxi driver here. He takes me around.
 
There are subways in Panama City. The first subway line is in place and the second is about to begin construction. The third one is in the planning stages and that will have an even greater impact.  The last time I took the subway, it was 35 cents. I think they plan to raise it to 65 cents now.
 
We have Uber, which is a private taxi service. It is very popular in Europe and North America. They are like taxis, only more expensive and they come specifically for you.
 
I walk a lot. I enjoy walking. I don’t live far away from the supermarket, movie theaters, and restaurants. I can go to most places on foot. When I can’t, I just take a cab. It costs me US $1 or $2 to go to the places I’m interested in. 
 
People often have cars in Panama City, but like any city in the world, they have to find parking and battle urban traffic at rush hour. If you don’t mind that, fine.
 
If you’re in the countryside, you need a car. When I go to the country, I go with friends who are headed that way. A lot of people take the bus.
 
The buses are fine. They just take a little longer to get to where you are going but many Americans and Canadians have gotten into the habit of using buses here when they don’t have cars.
 
Panama is a small country. You can get to anywhere in the country in only 6 or 7 hours. Once in awhile, I wish I had my own car but that’s very rare.  It only happens once every two or four months and I just deal with it.  
Alexandre Moreno  of EPA Español en Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
In Panama you have different options of transportation.  Which one you chose depends on your status and the way you feel about transportation in general. In Panama you can use public transportation such as the subway and buses. Some people prefer to have their own car. In my opinion a car gives you the freedom to take your car and feel free to go to the destination or place that you want. Comparing the prices of the cars in Panama and other countries. I would say that the prices in Panama are reasonable. 
Barbara Socarraz of Panama Vida – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
I have lived in David since June and still have not bought a car or see any real need to have one.  The taxi services are cheap and the driver knows how to get to wherever I want to go.  Maybe in the next year or so I will consider purchasing one, however, right now the taxis are perfect.  It also helps if you can acquaint yourself with a driver that you trust and call him in advance to take you to the different places you need to go.
Eliecer Vera, Jr. of EQUUS VILLAGE – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
In Panama, as in most other places, it is always good to have your own car for emergencies.  Having your own car just gives you more alternatives and more security.  Panama is a safe and secure country, but just like any other country, it is best to be prepared.
 
In Panama you can buy used cars in good condition at a great price.  I recommend this option, and I did it myself, so I did not have to get into debt with high interest bank loans.
 
Greetings and I hope my answer will be helpful.
Dennis Dean Smith of DennisDeanSmith – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

I would like to expand on what Judith and Lourdes have correctly said. Here is a list of general panama, panama city, driving, metro, arraijan, el chorrera, motorcycle, traffic – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingconsiderations about driving, cars and getting around – focusing mainly on Panama City and the Panama Province.

  • Traffic is heavy, especially during rush hour. Think of it as a battle. Don't expect courtesy or turn signals, etc. Panamanians love their horns too. They beep in road rage. They beep when running red lights or approaching an intersection. They beep at pedestrians who have the right of way but don't get it.
  • The streets tend to be narrow (but new infrastructure improvements are helping that). Basically streets are passable but watch out for 'tire killers' like deep pot holes and missing man-hole covers. Along the same line, make sure you know what streets to use as some can be confusing. There is one major street in the Banking District which is one way, except for one little block which is two way, for example.
  • You can get a temporary 3-month license. A long term takes time, patience and red tape – if you qualify. Best to get a Panamanian to help guide you through.
  • Make certain your car and insurance (now required) papers are in order. And that you don't speed. The underpaid traffic police can stop you for no reason and ask for a 'donation'. Start at $5 and if you can settle at $10 or $20, it is cheaper than going to traffic court. Be aware that if there are more than one police persons involved, your donation will probably be per head.
  • If you want to import your car, you can duty free if you have proper permissions such as a Retiree Visa. You will have to pay shipping and handling though. And, customs are customs in any country and Panama is no exception. If your car is impounded for some reason, you will have to pay a per-day fee to get it out.
  • New car prices are reasonable, second hand can be really cheap. The best bet is to buy Japanese or Korean as parts and repair are easy to find.
  • Gas tends to fluctuate at around $4 to $5 a gallon, depending on type.
  • There are alternatives to owning a car. Taxis are cheap. In Panama City, the Metro bus service and some parts of the Metro subway are open. There are also the 'Diablos Rojos' (Red Devils), which are used by the locals. These are converted American school buses. The fare is next to nothing but they are usually hot and crowded. If you want to go to outlying areas such as Arraijan or El Chorrera, there are air conditioned mini buses (Chivas) and pirate taxis (private car owners), which are inexpensive. If you want to go to the interior provinces, all the major car rental agencies are in Panama – Hertz, Avis, Dollar – and day rates are cheap.
  • If you like motorcycles take extreme care. The average driver here is simply not accustomed to watching for bikers.

I hope this helps. FYI, I sold my Jeep Cherokee years ago. Less hassle.

Lourdes Townshend of Multimodal  & Logistic Transports Magazine – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Whether or not you need to own a car in Panama depends on how do you feel about it, and previous experience in other Latin cities.  For first time visitors driving is little complicated as streets are not properly marked, and traffic is very heavy, due various projects that affect traffic.  A good recommendation would be to bring a good road/city map, in order to be a little better prepared.
 
Public transportation, hotel and regular taxis are available all over the city.
 
But if you are a resident, you definitely need a car, especially after you know your way around, and found that patience is a very good virtue.
Judith Tovar of Easy Travel Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
If you are a newcomer to Panama I do NOT recommend you buy a car just yet.  Driving in Panama City is a bit hectic right now more than ever because there is a Metro being built and a lot of overpasses as well.  Once all this is done traffic in Panama City should be much better than it is right now.
 
What I recommend my customers is to take taxis until you get to know your way around Panama City.  Then you can buy a car and start driving on Sundays, when the traffic is much lower. Then little by little you can start driving the other days of the week.
 
If you want to drive towards the Panama beaches on the Pacific coast...there you can rent a car if you want...and driving in that direction is not hectic at all.
 

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