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Driving in Panama

A road trip through America is the dream of many travelers. The famous Panamericana also passes through Panama and driving here can be challenging or relaxing depending on your driving skills and experience. The Panamericana is called the Interamericana in Panama and the other Central American countries. It is a continuous paved road that is well maintained. Off this main road, however, it can get bumpy.

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Driving in Panama on the Panamericana with a Morpho Van

Before I traveled to Central America for the first time, I imagined that there would only be dirt roads here and that I would have to fight my way through the jungle with a machete. I was surprised at how well some Central American countries, especially Nicaragua and Panama, have developed their road systems.

Here in Panama, the Panamericana from the Costa Rican border to Panama City is in good condition, except for some potholes and uneven surfaces. Some roads to the beaches are often gravel roads with puddles and potholes. But the government keeps upgrading these roads and in many areas it is quite pleasant to drive.

Best time to drive

If you are heading inland on the Panamericana or want to master the next section of the route, you should set off in good time! The best time to start new adventures and destinations is early in the morning.

Panama is located close to the equator. Punctually at 6 am the warm sun rises above the horizon and the birdlife awakens. The Panamanians are also early risers. During the day it quickly gets very warm and most people start work around 8 am. Rush hour in Panama City starts at 7am and by 9am the roads are usually clear again.

If you want to arrive at your next destination from Panama City around afternoon, expect to drive about 1-2 hours, e.g. to El Valle de Anton. Also Pedasi and the beautiful beaches of Playa Venao are still about 4-5 hours away from the capital. Ideally, you should reach your destination before nightfall.

Along the Interamericana there are many jungle areas and unfenced fields. Cows, horses, sloths, monkeys and armadillos are not uncommon at night on the unlit stretch. Accidents often occur in the early evening or at night due to poor visibility and heavy fog. The same is true when it rains. Precipitation can be very heavy. Aquaplaning and cloudbursts can be dangerous.

Wheather conditions 

In the rainy season aquaplaning is a big danger and also sloths, horses, cows, dogs and monkeys cross the road very often. So rather enjoy the beautiful landscape and drive slowly and relaxed, so that you arrive safely at your next destination! Night driving is also not a good idea for the same reasons. In Panama it gets light at 6am and always dark around 6:30pm. By then you should have arrived at the next campground. 

Our Morpho Van is equipped with extra wide tires, which will take you through not so well paved terrain and on wet roads. The way to the beach or high in the mountains you conquer without problems. But do not overestimate the engine power. Many a hill that was easy to master on the way down turns out to be an insurmountable hurdle on the way back. The camper is a bit heavier and needs some power to get over stony terrain.

If you need more information about “How to drive safe in Panama“, please check out our main article.

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