With a quick passage through Panama (only 3 days), we could have been satisfied with our international prepaid SIM card to have internet on our mobile. However, the MB of data is quite expensive (0.05 €) and as we are used to study the local SIM cards in each country, we thought it would interest the reader that you are 🙂
The rates indicated in the article are in US Dollars (USD) which is the currency used in Panama. There is also a currency called the Panamanian Balboa (PAB) but it is much less used (and there are no bills, only coins). The conversion is anyway not very complicated: 1 USD = 1 PAB.
Buy a SIM card at Tocumen International Airport
At the international arrivals level (just after passing through customs), you will find two identical kiosks offering SIM cards.
There are several offers but they are “tourist catch” offers. The cheapest one costs 30 USD which is extremely expensive for Panama. After insistence, we are told about an offer of 20USD (but we can’t “share the connection”). Still too expensive.
So we did not buy our SIM card here. We advise you to do the same if you can wait a bit.
If you absolutely want to have a SIM card right away, an employee is there to inform you and you can buy your card through the ATM by paying cash in USD.
Buy a SIM card in a phone store
If everywhere in the world you can easily find phone stores, we were really impressed in Panama, there are really everywhere!
When we left our hotel, it didn’t take more than 5 minutes before we found one selling SIM cards.
Here is the store in question. It’s just for illustration because if you don’t find one easily, you have to change glasses!
We chose the Claro operator that was already in use in Colombia.
The SIM card costs 2.5 USD
And you need to buy a refill, here is the price table. You see that it is cheaper than at the airport ^^.
When you buy a refill, it takes the form of a scratch ticket to get a code.
You leave the store with :
- A SIM card
- A reload code
You must now :
- Insert the SIM card into your phone
- Credit your SIM card by typing the following combination : *106*your_code_a_grater# then press the “call” key. You will instantly receive a text message telling you that your card is credited.
Now that you have money, you have to buy a pack by typing : *123# then the “call” key. You will then have several options in the menu to choose your offer.
Once that’s done, it’s good, you have internet!
Here are some practical codes to know for the Claro operator.
Buying a SIM card in a phone operator store
We have not tested this option because experience (in other countries) always takes longer. It is usually necessary to present your passport, sign a document… Whereas it only takes 5 minutes in a phone store with similar rates.
However, we read that in the case of Claro, the SIM card is free if you go directly to the operator’s store. To test if you absolutely want to save 2.5 USD 😉
Buy a SIM card… on the street!
While walking down a shopping street, we came across a person who seemed to be handing out SIM cards from the +moviloperator.
He was asked out of curiosity how much it cost: 1 USD.
Our level of Spanish was not sufficient to understand what we were entitled to for this price. Since we didn’t risk much, we decided to test.
I simply inserted the SIM card in my phone and … without having done any operation, I received a text message telling me that I was entitled to unlimited data volume for 6 days!
It’s probably a temporary special offer but it’s a good surprise and it’s worth opening your eyes when you’re out for a walk.
SIM card in Panama: what internet speed?
With my SIM card +movil, I am on LTE connection (4G).
A speedtest measures the connection speed at 22 MB/s down and 20 MB/s up, which is more than sufficient for all conventional uses and for making audio/video calls.