My Experience Renting a Car in Panama City

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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1 Comment on "My Experience Renting a Car in Panama City"

  1. RIC ANDERSON | March 1, 2017 at 11:20 am | Reply

    first off….NEVER EVER EVER use Thrifty Car Rentals at the airport. I was on February 19th at 3am. I got a great rate online, and it was so good that I actually called the Thrifty Corporate line to see if it was true. I had been miss lead before in Costa Rica where they quote you one price, but when you get there they pull up all of these imaginary fees and deposits so i was extra careful to check. When i called the corporate office they cheeked the reservation number and recognized that it was Panama City, Panama and told me that the rate was true for $107.86 for a week., and the deposit would be an additional 20% above the rental. cool, less than $130. When I got to Panama City, the lady informed me that there was a mandatory $23.99 per day insurance that i had to purchase and now thew price was $274. Again, cool. Then she told me that there was a mandatory $2000 deposit required. I laughed and told her that I had called the corporate office and that is not what i was told. After a brief disagreement, she said that the minimum that she could accept was a $1000 deposit and this was the rule in Panama. I said, ” didn’t you just say that the $2000 was manditory? Now you’re just making things up”. She said that if I didn’t want to follow the rules, I could not get the car and called security. I went NEXT DOOR to the Dollar Car Rental and they wanted $290 for the week with a $600 deposit. I checked NATIONAL CAR RENTAL on the other side of Thrifty and decided to go with them $250 per week with a $450 deposit. LIARS LIARS LIARS

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