Obtaining your Panama Driver License as a foreigner
Foreigners can use their country’s driving license in Panama legally for up to 90 days. When you get stopped by the police for a check, you will need to show both your driver’s license and your passport (for the stamp which indicates the date you entered the country). After 90 days, you will either need to leave and re-enter the country or obtain a Panama driver’s license. Obtaining your Panama driver’s license will be in most cases the cost-effective option. Note that once you become a temporary or permanent resident of Panama, you will be required to obtain a driver’s license right away. You will not be able to drive with your country’s driving license.
SERTRACEN is the private company hired by the Panamanian government to examine applicants and issue the driver’s licenses.
The following steps have to be taken to obtain your Panamanian driver license, please note the exact steps might differ per foreign country:
- Take a copy of your driver’s license and passport to your embassy to request an affidavit.
- Take the documents received from your embassy to “Departamento de Autenticación y Legalización – Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores”, Google Maps location here.
- In case your original driver’s license doesn’t include your Blood Type, you will need to go to a medical laboratory where they will test your blood. Certified laboratories can be found on the website of Setracen.
- Take all your documents, including 2 copies of your original driver’s license, passport, and e-cedula to Setracen (SERTRACEN, Av. José Agustín Arango, Panamá). Note that you can not obtain your license in every Setracen. The location of Setracen that provides you can go to can be found here.
- At Setracen you will have to take a theoretical test for which they will ask you the meaning of 1 traffic/road sign), an eye test which is similar to a test at the optician, and a hearing test in which you will hear 10 beeps and you need to define if you hear in your left or right ear.
- Pay at the cash register with cash or card. The fee for applying for a Panama driver’s license is $40 USD. Your driver’s license will be provided to you within 15 minutes after you paid.
The entire process to obtain your driver’s license will take you about 2 days in total. Your license is valid for 4 years, after which you can renew it.