When visitors come to Panama for the first time, many people are surprised at how developed the city looks and that everyone they see has cell phones. Believe it or not, most people do own a cell phone regardless of whether they are rich or poor.
There are 4 major companies that carry cell phone service in Panama. The brands are Mas Movil (Cable and Wireless), Digicel, Movistar, and Claro. These services all carry phones with plans with contracts as well as pay as you go phones.
Blackberry phones are all the rage in Panama. If a Panamanian can somehow pay for the plans (usually costing at least $50 a month w/ an 18 month contract), then they will have one. The Blackberry is a status symbol in Panama that shows that you have a lot of friends and are important (by constantly messaging back and forth) and that you have enough money to pay for the pricey monthly costs. One good thing about the Blackberry plans is that you usually get the actual phone for free with the contract. Buying a blackberry without a plan costs a staggering $500 or more.
Another option, for those who aren’t into status is to purchase one of the cheaper phones with a SIM Card that run between $10-$200 and function as a pay for minutes as you go plan. This option can be confusing if you try to figure out how much you are spending exactly on every phone call and every text but you generally pay around 12 cents a minute on every outgoing call (incoming calls are free) or about 10 cents a text message. This option is great for those who aren’t on their phone all day having long conversations because on average people with pay as you go plans only spend about $20 a month. You can buy the phone cards at any grocery store, Chino store, or at the service provider’s location store.
Cell coverage is generally expansive and works in most places except for some mountain roads and by some beaches.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions about buying or using a cell phone in Panama. We definitely recommend having one at all times in case of emergency.