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Saturday, October 25 2014 @ 12:00 PM EDT

Getting a Driver's License in Panama

Expat TalesGetting a Driver's License in Panama: Who Changed the Rules?

We have been living in Panama for over a year, have our pensionada visas, own property, and this week bought a car and had it insured. Called an expat friend who got her Panama driver's license a few months ago and asked her what we needed to do.

She said she and her husand had gone to the transito office near Los Pueblos, showed them their passports, U.S. driver's licenses, pensionada visa cards, and told them verbally their blood types. They paid $25 each, had their pictures taken, and walked out of the office WITH THEIR NEW LICENSES that same morning. (more)

<br><br><p>What a difference a few months makes. Here's our story. We asked a Panamanian to sketch out exactly where the transito office was near Los Pueblos. He said there is an office much closer and he directed us to Plaza Concordia on via Espana across from Super 99. A no-brainer to find! Excellent directions. Once inside the Transito Office we learn that only renewals are done there--not first-time licenses. But, another very helpful bilingual Panamanian sketched a map to the new Sertracen local 508 Transito Office near the national airport (not Tocumen), once again across from a Super 99.

<br><br><p>Finally, we are at the right place. We lay on the counter 1)our passports, 2) our pensionada visa cards, 3) our Texas driver's licenses, and 4) my husband's lab report (since he did not know his blood tpe beforehand) stating that he is O+. Since I am a frequent blood donor and know that I am A+, I simply said, "My bloodtype is A+." I was asked for a paper that said so. I had no paper. We were informed that without it I could not get a license. So I asked, "If I go to a lab and have my blood taken and typed and bring you the paper, is that ALL we need to get our licenses?"

<br><br><p>"No," we were told. You must also take your Texas licenses to the U.S. Consulate and have them verified (cost was $50 for both), and then take the certifications to the Panama Minister of Exterior Relations to have the U.S. Consulate's certification certified.

<br><br><p>At the Minister of Exterior Relations office (in Edison Plaza on Tumba Muerto) we were given a bank deposit form that had been filled out by hand, told to take it to the bank, pay $8, get four stamps, and bring the stamps and receipt back. We did, and now it is 1 o'clock. We asked when we would have the papers we came to get, and the reply was, "in 3 hours." In fact, it was almost exactly 4 PM when we got them. The next day I went to the lab, gave up some blood, paid my money and in ten minutes left with an official statement of my blood type: A+, just as I had claimed.

<br><br><p>Assuming everything has been done that needs to be done, next week we will return to Sertracen, pay our (now) $80, and leave with two valid Panama driver's licenses.

<br><br><p>Not exactly a one-morning operation!
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