No More Border Hopping!!!

Finally!  In Panama, people can drive for 90 days using their foreign licenses.  After 90 days though, you must leave the country and return to ‘reset’ your next 90 days.  We only had to do this process once by land, entering Costa Rica for 1 night before returning.  Other times we left the country for vacations.  The border crossing into Costa Rica is far from pleasant unless you make it a several day vacation and go further into the interior of the country.

Getting a driver’s license in Panama is not a quick process.  People in Florida always complain about appointments, paperwork, and waiting to renew licenses.  The process in Panama involves two cities, 4 buildings, lots of photocopies and several days.

I made an appointment at the US Embassy in Panama City several weeks ago.  The facility is huge but the process is pretty simple.  First, you must leave everything electronic (even my Kindle) in the screening room.  Then it’s a short walk to the building where the consulates are.  Most of the people there are waiting for visas to the US.  There is a special line just for US citizens.  They took my Florida license and did some magic in their back offices and then called my name.  Fifty dollars later, I picked up my electronics and was on my way.

Then, off to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get everything stamped and approved.  This takes a few hours and a stop at a bank for stamps.  The building is located on Tumba Muerto, which literally means Dead Tomb.  Because this step wouldn’t be finished until the afternoon, our driver Eric, picked up the paperwork after we left and sent it through Uno Express.

After this we returned to Boquete.  Because Florida does not list blood type, I had to go to the local testing center for them to certify that I am O+.  This is an excellent idea and I don’t know why Florida doesn’t require it.

With all this paperwork in hand, I drove down to David.  The line at the Sertracen office was slow that day because some gringo had some kind of paperwork problem.  After about 10 minutes it was my turn.  My paperwork was in order so, after a few more photocopies, they told me to sit.  I was called up to verify my information, get my photo taken, hearing test, eye test, pay and pick up my new license.  In just over an hour, I had my new Panamanian driver’s license.  license2

This means that I don’t ever have to border hop again to keep my Florida license legal.  I will not miss Paso Canoas.

Having access to a good, reliable driver in Panama City is more important than most people (outside of Panama) can imagine.  They not only can get you places in a confusing city of one way streets and construction, they can make things happen to make your life so much easier.  Eric not only picked up my license paperwork, but our passports and visas from the India Embassy.  He took them to Uno Express and we picked everything up not a mile from our house.  Thank you Eric!

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9 thoughts on “No More Border Hopping!!!

  1. Eric Abad 6983 1843 For taking us around most of the day, returning later that day to pick up driver’s license stuff, sending it to us, returning a few days later to the India Embassy and sent our passports to us was just over $100

  2. Awesome — you guys are where we hope to be in a few months —- with all the hassles behind us, a Panamanian drivers license, and a Pensionado visa. You are certainly helping to make our own adventure easier as you plow the road ahead of us. Many, many thanks.

  3. Please make sure you get a good attorney in Panama. They can make your life so much easier. We have a couple good ones in Boquete that have offices in Panama City. For every great attorney there are 5 to 10 bad ones. Get several references. Then ask on blog about who you have narrowed it down to.

    • Boy is that the truth. We got a great lawyer through a referral. He’s right here in Boquete, everything is done quickly/correctly and he calls you back. I’ve heard horror stories from other people

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