Buying, Driving a Car
Like on the rest of the continent, Panamanians drive on the right-hand side of the road. Traffic in the city is infamously bad, due to the exceedingly rapid economic expansion and wealth trickling down, meaning that the number of cars double every three-four years. This is one of the reasons why (former)President Martinelli embarked on a number of road projects to try to “catch up” and improve the traffic flow. It is hoped that with the implementation of the new Metro system, beginning in early 2014, the traffic headache will at last be relieved.
But it is an unfortunate fact that many of the older roads in Panama were poorly made, with a severely taxed road drainage system augmenting the problem.
Another sad fact is that Panamanians have the nasty habit of littering and the drainage system just can’t cope with all the plastic bags, foam rubber cups, food containers and drinks cans being chucked out of windows or just left on the side of the road by pedestrians. So, in the rainy season, whenever there is a heavy downpour, parts of the city are regularly flash-flooded due to blocked drain pipes.
It is therefore advisable to buy a SUV vehicle, preferably diesel (they don’t get affected as easily by water).
The Japanese or Korean brands are the most popular, because they just last longer and their spare parts are easier to come by and also cheaper. For road trips into the interior an SUV is highly recommended.
The Japanese or Korean brands are the most popular, because they just last longer and their spare parts are easier to come by and also cheaper. For road trips into the interior an SUV is highly recommended. Experience has taught that Toyotas are highly reliable. The main Toyota dealer, Ricardo Pérez, is huge in Panama with a number of very sophisticated workshops where they service and do general repair work. Nissan is also very popular (particularly the X-Trail), as are Hyundai and Kia. Cars in Panama are relatively cheap because of the low duties and taxes that apply.
The salesperson normally will assist the buyer with the licensing of the vehicle. The license (and the actual number plate) must be renewed every year, in the anniversary month of first registration. It is essential to show valid insurance on the vehicle, and to obtain a roadworthy certificate, in order to have the license / plate renewed. The company DuraLlantas on Calle 50 (opposite Arrocha pharmacy) delivers a convenient service if the roadworthy test is done with them, of also collecting the number plate from the Municipality.
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