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Rental Car

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labori2019
3/10/2019 19:19 EST

Hello,
Planning to rent a car for our first visit to Panama. Any thoughts or suggestions? We're arriving at Tocumen and will be staying in Nueva Gorgona, but would like to visit other areas too.
Many Thanks

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Jackson351
3/11/2019 02:03 EST

This has been the worst part of my Panama experience.

Booking a rental car ahead of time online with a reputable website like Expedia, or Travelocity has been a nightmare.

It has gone like this... I rent a car with a name brand agency for pick up at Tocumen, and the online price is very reasonable even with FULL insurance. Then we arrive at Tocumen to pick up our car and they say "nope it will cost 2x or 3x that much!" Often bringing in something about the insurance is no good, etc. And BTW say that very, very rudely! Then you pay the outrageous price, and get back home (USA for us) and Expedia/Travelocity will "look into it" and then nothing ever happens and you are out of your money.

I even called the websites AHEAD OF TIME said "Is this EXACTLY what I'll pay? "not a penny more?" And their response is "absolutely."

What a lie!!

A taxi ride to Gorgona will be about $100. You might be able to find a rental agency near by ~ Coronado has them.

I have heard the people are covered by their credit card for insurance? I might want to look into that next time.

Wish I had better input. I'd love to find a good way to rent a car for our stays that doesn't break the bank, but so far not much luck.

Just want you to be aware of the rude and pricey car rental people at Tocumen.

This has been our ONLY bad experience in Panama.

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jonoyakker
3/11/2019 04:33 EST

I avoid driving in the city, and to and from the interior, at all costs. Horrible traffic, drivers, and signage. This is how I do it now (before the new Metro connects) From the terminal, you will need to walk about 50 yards to the bus stop to get the Express bus to Albrook. Costs about $1.50. At Albrook terminal, go to the Aguadulce window and tell them you want to get off at Coronado. The Agualdulce bus is a big one and a million times better. A ticket is around $3. One of the car rentals is right across the InterAmerican. Rent your car early-they sell out. The 2 agencies in Coronado are small private guys and I haven't heard of them playing games. But no rental cars are cheap in Panama because of the insurance racket.

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jonoyakker
3/11/2019 04:39 EST

Jackson, yeah, its a hell of a welcome to Panama, right off the plane. You think your car will cost $30 a day, and you end up having to pay $50.

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PedasiPundit
3/11/2019 04:58 EST

Contact Luis, he has been our driver and now friend in Panama. He will pick you up at the airport, in an A/C van, take you to a reputable car rental in the city and escort you out of the city. Much easier and less expensive. Check with the credit card that you intend to use concerning their rental car coverage and have them send you a letter detailing that coverage in both English and Spanish. This will save you some money. There is NO way to get around paying the Panamanian liability coverage, it is mandatory. Reserving a car online ahead of time will only cost you more. There are plenty of rental cars in Panama.
Luis Arce +507 6536-1179

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jr555
3/11/2019 07:49 EST

jonoyakker’s advice seems sound, getting around the city is easier, cheaper and less frustrating by public transport of taxi. Avoid having to drive in the city.

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Panamaholmes
3/11/2019 08:42 EST

I had an issue with a U.S. branded company at Tocumen (I say branded because they are all franchisees). I made the mistake of not taking pictures of the car in advance and they noticed several dings on the car when I returned it. They charged me several hundred dollars for the damage. No problem, I thought, I rented with American Express. I filled out a claim form and then presented it to American Express. They confirmed it was covered. Then came the problem. In order for American Express to pay, they needed confirmation from the rental car company of the damage claim. I had a receipt but that was not good enough. They tried to call the agency for months but never got through. Eventually, American Express denied the claim.

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opusone
3/11/2019 12:16 EST

What about car rental in David as opposed to rental agencies in Boquete?
Anyone have experience with Value Motors or does renting a car out of David airport make better sense? Any suggestions about particular agencies that don't misrepresent their rates?

Will be visiting Chiriqui highlands last week of March, thank you for any suggestions!

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PedasiPundit
3/11/2019 13:02 EST

See previous replies concerning insurance. I have rented from Thrifty at the David Airport several times, was always treated well.

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labori2019
3/11/2019 16:18 EST

Thank you so much for all your replies, great information. I've heard about Coronado Car Rentals, any experience with them? We arrived on a Sunday and return the following Sunday

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labori2019
3/11/2019 16:44 EST

What type of car is recommended? Do we really need a 4x4 or any compact car would be ok? We'll be staying in Nueva Gorgona, but would like to go to Boquete and nearby areas too.

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jonoyakker
3/11/2019 17:11 EST

Good. In fact, I am 99% sure that is the one across the InterAmerican from the main Coronado bus stop. Its in the Super 99 plaza.

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ge400
12/3/2019 16:29 EST

There are lots of "horror" stories about car rental in Panama Tacumen - but mostly it because people are unprepared in differences between Panama and North America car rental rules.
Me and my wife fly to Panama and had pretty good experience with car rentals in Tacumen. And we never been to Panama before.
The key is to do your homework. Here's what we done:

1. We went to https://www.nationalcar.com/en/home.html and booked car online ahead of time. National is one of biggest rental Co in Panama and they have english speaking people and they are present in many locations. I found them to be quite helpful in personal interactions.

2. We included liability insurance in rental reservation. This is mandatory. And not doing that ahead of time is what is tricking people off. Doing that ahead of time allows you to pay less and not be surprised.

3. We did not include any other insurances offered. They are optional. However:

4. I called my credit card company (Marriott Bonvoy Visa) and asked them to send me written form describing accidentals/damage coverage that card offered. The sent it to me by email and I printed it to present to rental company upon arrival in Tacumen.

5. When we arrived and talked to rental company people - they asked about collision/damage protection and I show them printout statement from my credit card. They were satisfied. They also were satisfied that i booked a car with liability insurance included.
Out total rental cost for mid size SUV + for 11 days + unlimited mileage + liability insurance + tolls (we were driving from Panama City to David/Boquete and back) + taxes = $369.35 = $33.58/day. Tolls were like <$15 total using rental company windshield toll device - was included.

6. I hit curb on a way to David and got flat tire. We got two friendly young guys (I think they look more like Nicaraguan guys vs. Panamian) walking by and offered to help us in the middle of nowhere essentially.. They changed our tire to spare tire and I paid them $40. It probably was like monthly salary for them :)

7. I visited National car rental in David airport and told them about tire damage. They replaced damaged tire with fresh one (so we always had good spare tire with us) and told me that because I do not have tire coverage - it will cost me extra $95+tax= $101.65. I was surprised that it was so cheap - because rubber really was damaged beyond repair.

8. When back to Tacumen - national charged me extra $101.65 for tire.

9. Back home I filed a claim with my credit card company - and they approved claim (even though i did not have any papers for tire - only total summary bill) and paid me back $101.65. So it was zero loss on my side.

So - even though we had a share of adventure - it was all positive and I was happy we did our homework and prepared well.
The key was to use large, international company (national) and also use credit card with good coverage (in my case Bonvoy Marriott Visa).

Gleb

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Christian86
12/3/2019 18:27 EST

Thank you Gleb for your detailed rental experience.

I did not have to rent a car here in Panama in a long time, but agree that it helps to be organized and well prepared, especially the insurance part.

Tire issues on your car work extremely well in all of Panama. There is always somebody close by to help and the service is very professional and competitively priced.

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ColoradoToPanama
12/4/2019 17:40 EST

I can definitely vouch for Luis. He was very helpful when some friends and I went to Tocumen in Feb.

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ColoradoToPanama
12/4/2019 17:42 EST

Recently rented with Avis at the David Airport. No problems. Great service.

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Paladin
12/5/2019 21:29 EST

I Had the same experience of renting a car on line and then arriving at David it was three times the amount quoted. Did not rent !!!!!Taxi to Boquete was very reasonable and stayed within the city.

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