Traffic in Panama

Hello everyone,

Which city or area do you live in in Panama, and how do you find the traffic?

How long does it take to commute to work or run errands?

Is there a rush hour in your city? What times of the day would you recommend people to avoid driving if they can?

Are there any ways to avoid spending too much time in traffic in Panama?

What is parking availability and cost like?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


November is one of the worst traffic times in Panama - Nov 3, 5, 8, 10, and 28 are all holidays - and the day before and the day after a holiday, traffic is a nightmare.

Last week, I was heading into the city from the beach (113 km) the day before a long weekend, thinking traffic would all be coming the other way. No such luck. They had closed one of the lanes going into the city to allow 3 lanes to leave the city - this caused a bottleneck as Panamanians do not like to merge. 

I sat in the sun on the highway without moving for over 40 minutes (did I mention always make sure your air conditioning on your car is working? Mine wasn't that day) - as the usually one and a half hour drive was estimated to be 4 hours on Waze - so first chance I had to turn around I cancelled the meeting and went back home.

Mothers Day - Dec 8 and Christmas week has very heavy traffic congestion. Bridges are always a concern, as they get clogged easily - especially if lanes are reduced or traffic is required to merge. Carnival (Feb 10 - 14 this year) is a do not drive anywhere time.

Make yourself a survival rule - always carry extra water, some snacks, a charged cell phone and a good book. For men, bathroom breaks are taken at the side of the road with the door open (a common sight).  Women sometimes resort to a bucket, an open door and a blanket.
ALWAYS keep your gas tank full, every time you set out (remember you need to run the car for air conditioning)

As there is only one highway across the country (no side roads to take) - a jack-knifed tractor trailer means a 2 - 3 hour delay or more - so always be prepared.
What are you rushing for anyway?

Don't get me started talking about the traffic!!!

Nov/Dec worst months. Some offices let you come in early and go home early which helps.

I live over the bridge in Panama Pacifico. Start work at 8. Try to leave by 7am which means I'm always at least 15 mins early. If I leave at 7.15am I'm usually on time. If I leave at 7.30am I get in at 8.30am earliest. Traffic builds up from about 3pm coming back. If I shoot out to the door promptly at 5pm I can sometimes be home at 6pm. the longer I leave it the worse it gets. Can sometimes take 2 hours....often takes 1.5 hours. I don't mind too much cos when I'm home its lovely and quiet and relaxing. People from my work living in the City can take just as long to get home and they can never escape it.

Running errands should always be done in the morning wherever you live. 9am to 12pm I think is optimal. Avoid 15th or 30/31st of month as people get paid and are going to banks. Avoid "decimo" times also which are twice a year where people get bonuses. At 12pm everyone is starting to run around the City to go and eat or do their lunchtime errands. After lunch at 2.30/3 schools are getting out (so lots of pickups/buses) and Government buuldings rush hour builds from here.

A smart way to avoid driving/errands is get someone else to do them for you. You can pay people to drive and do things for you and/or queue up places. If you are a "pensionado" you get to queue jump in most places....some benefit of being old. You could also ride a motorbike to skip through the traffic but you are taking your life into your hands.....taxis, buses and most other A-hole drivers see you as 'getting ahead of them' so they will do what they can to stop you. Plus generally speaking Panamanians are the worst and most selfish drivers I have ever met, so they will go out of their way to screw you over. Lastly, if you're bike is too big to "weave about" you will end up sitting and sweating your proverbials off in the traffic (from experience not much fun).

Parking, unless you are going to a high-rise building/mall etc, is "informal"....which translates to put it wherever you can. There are some parking lots dotted around (especially in popular areas) but if you have a nice car you won't enjoy leaving it most places. Cost is usually about 3c a minute....but it varies.

Don't even think about riding a bicycle will die quite quickly....unless you are in one of the numerous Tour de France pelotons and then you are immune to all forms of abuse and have permission from God Almighty to do whatever you want with absolute impunity.

We live in David. There are some areas that get jammed up but we have never had to wait for more than a few minutes to get through. Traffic seems to increase as the day goes on so better to do things in the morning to avoid both the traffic and the rain.

Drivers tend to take any opportunity and treat signs as only suggestions but once you get used to the driving style you know what to expect. There is no road rage though, and other drivers are usually very considerate of the needs of fellow drivers. Car horns are used a fair amount but only to say "hey just letting you know I'm over here" kind of safety thing. I have found people very kind and respectful and they don't lose that when they get behind the wheel (not counting the occasional taxi or bus)

I avoid driving in Panama City though! The most unhappy people I know are there and the traffic is always mentioned as a main complaint.

Hello, traffic congestion is very bad especially during rush hours. Getting into city problematic.   Mid day traffic tolerable. Infrastructure has not kept up with increased auto traffic. Presumably when the train system to outlining areas, west of canal, is complete will help alleviate trafic problems. You can monitor Panama trafic w twitter. Cheers

I live happily in the Coronado area in the Panama Pacific beach area. I agree with the posts above. I will add for those who live in my area or those who would travel on the InterAmerican Highway:

Get yourself a list of  the national holidays then ask around if there have been any other days given off,  if there are additional days tacked onto the holiday, or if the schools are off any extra days. All of this effects the amount of traffic in our area.

BEFORE the onset of heavy traffic: Set yourself up at home with enough food and drinks to keep you happy for the onslaught of the masses that will drive in from the City.  Then enjoy a Stay-cation at home. I am an artist so I took advantage of some quiet time painting. Maybe you have an art or craft you want to explore.  Prepare yourself with supplies and go for it at home... It is also a good time to get together with a few neighbors who are in the same boat as you.

Enjoy Panama!  Its natural beauty is boundless!

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