Things I now know about driving in Panama!
I recently got my car towed by the police! What I found out on that fateful day has been a real eye opener that I have decided to share, as many people, including me, will not be aware of these facts…
- Firstly, you must have your original driving license with you every time you drive, whether this is your Panamanian driving license or whatever original driver’s license for whatever country you are from.
- If you are driving on your original license from another country, you are only allowed to do this for 3 months and you must carry either your passport with you or a copy of your passport and a copy of the passport page that shows the date you entered Panama.
I have a full Panamanian driver’s license, however, my original had been previously stolen and I was using a photo copy, which I now know is not valid…and now you know, too! So I was given 3 days to replace it.
That painful day, after I watched my car being towed away, I was then sent to Chame to receive my infraction…which ironically the police could not give me at the roadside because I didn’t have a valid license…apparently! So the police at Chame gave the infraction to my husband instead!
I then had to make a trip to La Chorrera, obviously with my husband as chauffeur as I did not have a valid license! You’re getting the picture I’m sure!
Now the fun starts. My husband is not allowed to go into the offices in La Chorrera to pay the fine as he has shorts on, not trousers…so I go in and pay the fine…all ok so far…albeit expensive, but now I am told I have to go to the Sertracen in La Chorrera to replace my license which is somewhere entirely different, so off I go again with my chauffeur!
At the Sectracen, guess what? Security will not let me in because I am wearing a dress without sleeves! (Strappy.) We already know that my husband, Rob, won’t be getting in, so I dash back to the car and demand his T shirt so that I can get this over and done with! Images of him sitting topless in the carpark were the highlight of the day!
So…I’m in! I take my ticket…and wait…and wait…and someone jumps in front of me…and I wait…finally, I get up to the counter, explain my predicament, but…apparently there was something else I didn’t know…
- Since getting my Panamanian driving license, I had gone from having my permanent residency card, to now having a Cedula, which meant I needed to change the number on my driving license to match the number on my Cedula…Easy! Yes? Or not!
I am told it will take 3 days to process, and before I return I have to visit the Municipio in La Chorrera and get a document and bring it back to the Sertracen…Ok, I can do that, not great, but ok…Noooo…Today I went to the Municipio…I found the correct department (Transito) and I am told I need my original car registration documents! Why? I don’t get it? Oh…
- Here is another fact I learnt just today, my car is registered in my name, under my passport number, but, your car has to be registered under the same number as your drivers license! And my new license has to be under my Cedula number as your Cedula, supersedes your permanent residency card! How many of us bought our cars when we first moved here and then went on to become permanent residents and get our Cedulas but are still driving around with our car registered to our Passports?
Guess I will be making another trip back to La Chorrera sooner than I had planned or wanted to!