how to get your drivers license in panama

Living in Panama: Getting Your Drivers License in Panama

Last Updated on May 23, 2024 by Retire in Panama

drivers license in panama

The process is quite different than in other countries, and there are some essential things you need to know to get your license.

When visiting Panama, you can drive on your foreign license for up to 90 days. But, once you have established residency in Panama, you will need to get a Panama driver’s license. Once you have received your temporary residency visa card, your international license is no longer valid in Panama, even if you have only been in the country for a few weeks.

So, other expats or even some lawyers may tell you if you get stopped by the cops, just do not show them your temporary visa. Show them your passport and foreign driver’s license. Well, that does not always work, especially if the cop sees your multiple entry visa in your passport (which you receive while in the process of residency); they will know that you are a temporary resident; thus, you need a Panama driver’s license. You may be fined, and your vehicle towed and impounded—a costly mistake.panama drivers license

Either way below, the process of getting a driver’s license is not too complicated. Still, not much English is spoken in Panama government offices. Some of you may be hesitant to do it alone, so if you like some help, please contact Panama Expat Service, our sister company, which can assist both in Panama City and Chiriquí.

US Embassy in Panama 1

There are two methods of getting your driver’s license in Panama. The first is to get your existing foreign license authenticated by your home country’s embassy if your home country has an embassy in Panama. This is a relatively simple process,  and the US Embassy in Panama is by appointment only.

Appointments can be two months out, so unless you coordinate this well in advance and have the appointment already made in advance, near the date of your immigration appointment when you are picking you your temporary visa, this will not work for most people from the United States.

For Canadians, on the other hand, this process is quite simple; call the Canadian Embassy in Panama City. They will instruct you on what to send them by courier and have it ready for you in about five days to pick up. This will work fine when you start the residency process, as you will have your authenticated license back even before you get your temporary residency card. So, check with your country’s embassy to see what they can do for you.

After you have your authenticated license, you must take it to the Panama Foreign Affairs (Apointment Needed) office to stamp it. You will go to Foreign Affairs; they will send you a block away to Banco Nacional, where you will deposit $2 into the bank account they give you. Then return to Foreign Affairs with the deposit slip to continue the procedure. No appointment is necessary here, but we recommend a translator if you do not speak Spanish, as the process can be complicated. ***As of June 2023, they are requiring appointments and about a 3-day waiting period at Foreign Affairs

If you are over 70 years of age, you will need a certificate of good health from a Doctor in Panama authorized to issue them.

sertracen panama drivers licanse

Once you have your embassy authentication and the Foreign Affairs stamp, you will also need a blood type test from a lab authorized by Sertracen, unless your current license has blood type on it.

Then you can go to any Sertracen office (Panama’s Drivers License office) in Panama. They will issue the Panama driver’s license after an eye and hearing test. Currently, appointments are needed unless you are a jubilado (women over 55 and men over 60). The driver’s license they issue you will be valid until the same date as your temporary visa is valid. Once you receive your permanent visa, you return to Sertracen, and they will give you a 4-year license.

Your other option, which many US citizens are doing as they cannot get an appointment with their embassy, or citizens from other countries that do not have embassy services in Panama, is to get your license the way Panamanians do. Driving School, written test, driving test (just a parking lot test). The good thing is that the written test can be in English, and the study materials are available in English.

driving school in Panama You must first receive your temporary residency card and then register in person with a driving school. The cost is $60 – $75, depending on the school; they have them all over the country. Each driving school seems to have its format on what they expect of you, but typically you do not need to attend any live classes. They do some online courses in Spanish and will provide you with a Spanish study guide. Fifteen days after you register, you will receive your driving certificate. You will also need a blood type test from a lab authorized by Sertracen. If you are over 70 years of age, you will need a certificate of good health.

After registering for the driving school, if you are under the jubilado age, go to the Sertracen Website to make an appointment for a day after the driving school tells you to come back and pick up your certificate. (Appointments are needed as of August 2022 for those under the jubilado age.) If you are above the jubilado age, you can go any day.

Once you arrive at Sertracen’s office, if you are a jubilado, show your card to the guard at the door; if you have an appointment, have it printed off and show the guard, and he will instruct you where to go.

The following things are going to happen in no particular order. You will go to the front desk to tell them what you are doing; they will actually figure it out when you hand them all your paperwork. They will give you a sight and hearing test and take your picture for the license. You will do a written test in English if you want, where on a computer screen, you will be given ten random multiple-choice questions out of the 133 in the study book. You must get seven correct to pass.

You will be asked to go outside to a designated area, where you will do a driving test, three maneuvers in a parking lot, so, actually, a parking test. Then you will pay your fee, currently $40, with a discount for jubilados. You will wait for them to print your card, leave, and finally legally drive in Panama.

For some of you, the instructions above will help you do this yourself; for others, they may seem daunting. You can learn some basic Spanish to help you get to by. When you go to a driving school, just walk in and say Buenos días. quisiera sacar mi certificado de conducir. At Sertracen: Soy jubilado, y necesito sacar mi licencia de conducir.

Remember, when you are going through this, you DO NOT have a valid driver’s license; you should use a friend to drive you or hire someone. For others, you can hire interpreters to help you. We do offer packages to assist you in the entire process. Contact Panama Expat Service for more information, or contact us for further questions about these procedures.

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    1. Hello Erin, yes you can, but you will have to use the second option, which is about 1/2 was down the article.

      Thanks, Rod

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