Last time I was in Panama City, I was an inexperienced travel noob and took the taxi everywhere which was ridiculously expensive. It was $25-$30 taxi ride from Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport to Downtown Panama City and vice versa which added up to quite a bit! A few months ago, I wrote Why You Should Rent a Car in Central America.
Introduction to Panama City
LAX Flagship Lounge at American Airlines Terminal 4
American Airlines MIA-PTY 737-800 Business Class
My Experience Renting a Car in Panama City
Aloft Panama City Hotel Review
The Sights and Sounds of the Panama Canal
The Sights and Sounds of Casco Viejo in Panama City
Panama City Airport Tocumen Royal Saloon Airport VIP Lounge
Panama City Airport Tocumen Airport Club Lounge
American Airlines PTY-MIA 737-800 Business Class
I was only in Panama City for less than 24 hours and I didn’t want to go through the expensive taxi route again, so I decided to rent a car from Sixt Rent a Car for $4.99 a day.
I already knew that there’s no way my final bill would be $4.99 because there’s a daily $15 mandatory SLI insurance ‘scam’ on top of that. It’s not really a ‘scam’ since they won’t let you even drive away without paying for it. See 5 Common Car Rental Scams in Central America. The total came out to be $21.80 for 1 days’ worth of renting a car including the mandatory supplemental liability insurance (SLI).
I inspected my rental car for any kind of damage and took pictures of all the scratches, nicks, and dents. I also took a video (highly recommended) just in case you receive a large bill after returning your rental car.
Be aware that when driving in Panama City, you will encounter a lot of tolls on the Pan American Highway (Corredor Sur) . I recommend to ‘NOT’ buy a toll pass from the rental car company because they sell it at an inflated price. I bought my “La tarjeta del Corredor Sur” from the toll booth operator and loaded it with $15. Every time you pass by a toll booth, you just stick it up to a ‘sensor’ and it automatically deducts money from the card.
Don’t pick up strangers by the toll booth as they seem to be hitching for a ride.
Driving in Panama City was quite delightful and it was basically like driving in the U.S. The roads were in great condition and the signage was clear. During rush hour, I was pulled over and wrote My Experience Giving Bribe Money to a Corrupt Police Officer in Panama City. Here are some Car Rental Tips for Driving in Central America.
Most gas stations in Panama City are ‘full service’, meaning that someone will fill up the tank for you. I went to a Texaco gas station and filled up 15.73 liters worth of gas ~ $18.00 USD.
Overall, I ended up spending $21.80 for the rental car, $15 for the toll pass, and $18 for gas which amounted to a total of $54.80 which was still cheaper than taking taxis to and from the airport and vice versa. I also didn’t have to take expensive taxis to get from downtown Panama City to the Panama Canal as well since I had the leisure and freedom of driving everywhere. It’s definitely worth it to rent a car in Panama City despite my incident giving bribe money to a corrupt police officer.