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Renting a car -- SUV or sedan?

San Francisco...
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Renting a car -- SUV or sedan?

Hello there,

My boyfriend and I are traveling to Panama for the first time over the holidays. We have travelled a bit in CA (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize) and usually take buses, but were thinking of getting a car in Panama because we will only be there Dec 20-Jan 1. Our plan is to fly into PTY around noon Dec 20 (Friday) and get out of dodge. Eventually we'll do western highlands and Pacific beaches (seems like the Caribbean side may have more rain in late December) eventually getting back to Panama City and dropping off the car before New Years (n driving in PC).

So two questions:

1. Is there any reason we should spring for the SUV? I don't think we'll be going too far off the beaten path with only ten days in a car, but we're still itinerary planing.

2. Any recommendations for where to head out to that first night that we could get to before dark? I realize a holiday Friday may mean traffic madness so I'd like to be conservative for that first night, without spending it in PC.

THANKS!

Abby

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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1,879 posts
5 reviews
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1. Re: Renting a car -- SUV or sedan?

You should do fine with a sedan, the roads in Panama are very good. If you are leaving the city by say 3 in the afternoon, you shouldn't have too hard of a time. Once you pass La Chorella, which is a huge area across the bridge from the city, the traffic will putter out. I can;t really comment on specific hotels of the interamericana but you can make it all the way to Santiago in around 3 hours which is quite far.

Atlanta, Georgia...
Destination Expert
for Colon, Isla Grande, Portobelo
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2. Re: Renting a car -- SUV or sedan?

I've done the Friday afternoon trip from the city to Coronado and El Valle a number of times. Traffic starts getting heavy at noon because a lot of people try to leave early on Friday heading for Coronado and El Valle. The traffic can stay heavy well past La Chorrera.

You're wise to get out of Dodge as quickly as you can. But, I recommend making plans to stop for the night in El Valle, Coronado, San Carlos or Penonome. I don't think you'll get to Santiago before dark.

I agree with Geo that a sedan will work fine. If you're in an area where you need 4wd, you're where you should be with a rental car.

San Francisco...
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3. Re: Renting a car -- SUV or sedan?

Thanks so much! Good to know we shouldn't spend the extra $ on the SUV. I'll look into those recommendations for where to stop for the night.

I've been reading through the forums trying to make sense of the insurance thing. Looks like we should check with our credit card on the CDW/LDW, but what about the PLI? On Budget, I think it's called Supplemental Liability Insurance -- is that the required insurance option? Just trying to avoid buying anything we don't need or having to pay a higher price at PTY.

Gracias!

Panama City, Panama
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13,195 posts
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4. Re: Renting a car -- SUV or sedan?

You'll pay a higher price renting in PTY anyway.

Atlanta, Georgia...
Destination Expert
for Colon, Isla Grande, Portobelo
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4,540 posts
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5. Re: Renting a car -- SUV or sedan?

The only mandatory insurance is the liability waiver. That runs $18 - $22 per day. The rest of the insurance you should get through your credit card company. Be sure to bring a copy of the coverage.

6. Re: Renting a car -- SUV or sedan?

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