Panama City Scavenger Hunt! Storing and Retrieving your foreign vehicle in Panamá
Nothing in Central America is straightforward or easy. There are a bunch of steps to get anything accomplished and a whole bunch of red tape to get through. Storing our vehicle was our first Panamanian scavenger hunt.
We had crossed the border at Paso Canoas with 4 days to store our vehicle before flying out of Panama City back to the USA to spend the holidays with family and visit some friends. That was a fiasco in and of itself after being told in Costa Rica that our vehicle had to leave because it had overstayed its welcome in their country. So we made a 20 hour push from Liberia to Panama City, knowing all of our paperwork would need to be done there.
The first thing we did was try to locate the storage facility (A). We were told by Overland Embassy that Transbal was a good, secure place to store the vehicle for long term. We found the storage facility, located in Chilibri about 20 mins from the city. We told them we were there to store our vehicle long term. They filled out a bunch of paperwork basically saying that they have our vehicle in their government bonded storage facility.
We then had to take that paperwork back to the city to the other Transbal Administrative Office (B), located at Via Ricardo J. Alfaro, Betania Centro comercial Siglo XXI, which is NOT the storage facility as google lists it. This is where they required bond for the vehicle. We requested bond of $30,000.00 just in case we came back and everything was ruined. She gave us all the paperwork and told us to hold onto it because we’d need it when we came back to retrieve our vehicle. They didn’t quote us a price right then, but everything I’ve read was saying essentially $1.50 per day to store your vehicle.
Next we had to find the Aduana office (C) to suspend the TIP. Once the TIP is suspended, your passport gets stamped with “authorized to leave Panama without vehicle.” Without this, you’ll not be able to board your flight or cross a border. We went to the Aduana building listed on iOverlander because it was a 6 minute drive from the hotel we were staying at. When we arrived it was about 3:00 pm and we were advised that this particular Aduana no longer handles anything for TIP purposes. There was a new building located near the airport that handles all the paperwork for foreign vehicles and they close at 4:00 pm. It’s only a 20 minute drive, but with afternoon traffic it was showing 56 minutes. We opted to go the next morning to cancel the TIP.
We woke up early the next morning, hopped in an Uber who took us out to the Aduana building. It took all of 5 minutes. We walked in, went around the corner to the Control de Vehicluar. I handed the lady all of our paperwork, told her we needed to suspend the TIP as we had a flight back to the USA. She took a copy of the passport, stamped over the “Cannot leave without vehicle” to now say “Authorized to leave without vehicle,” gave us all of our paperwork back and sent us on our way.
We were now bonded, stored and authorized to leave the country without our car.
To get your vehicle out of storage when you return, you just do exactly the opposite, but you MUST get insurance first. You can go to any office that provides seguros. Any bank can get you the insurance you need. We weren’t sure, so we opted to go with the same company that issued ours at the border. This was probably a mistake, because they over doubled the insurance per month, but I was able to get two months of insurance, without needing to go back and renew after 30 days. This also allows you more time on your TIP when you go back to the Aduana for a new permit (minus the days you’ve already spent in country if you’ve suspended rather than cancelled, I don’t know if they authorize cancellation if the vehicle is still in country).
Check out our youtube video to see the process of getting our vehicle back after 64 days.