Panamania 7 – Communication

Telephone: If you want a land line the National Telephone Company is Cable and Wireless, they own 49% of the phone company, the Panama Government owns 49% and the employees collectively own 2%. They also offer DSL for internet access. I have not dealt with them for either but I hear the same grousing that I am accustomed to hearing about any public utility.


You can find the mobile phone trailer if you know where to look, or you could get something more compact, like a cell phone.

Cellular Phone: Currently there are two companies and multiple plans to choose from. Cable and Wireless and Movistar. We use C&W GSM, C&W because we have excellent reception at our house and we choose not to have a land line. We also prefer GSM technology so that with an unlocked phone we can change SIMS as we travel around the world.

GSM is the world standard for cell phones. Several cell phone carriers in the US have GSM networks including Cingular, T-Mobile and others. All carrier sold phones are LOCKED that means software locked to work on just their systems. I suggest that if you plan to travel find an unlocked phone, pay the premium and have freedom to choose or call your provider and ask that they unlock your phone.

In Panama you can do the traditional monthly billed cell phone or do prepago (prepaid). Not yet knowing the ropes when we arrive we tried to replicate what we had in the USA regular monthly billing, they wanted a $200 deposit per phone. I then selected prepago.

The prepaid rate sounds high, cards are $5, good for 7 days and $10 good for 30 days, calls are $.35 a minute. BUT you only pay for outgoing calls, no double dipping. Equally important there is almost always a promotion going on, triplica or quadruplica meaning if you input you prepaid number on those days yo get either $30 or $40 in calling credit for your $10 card. Also unused balances roll over, so if you are a light user of your cell phone you could end up with big roll overs. In essence the bill is $10 a month for lots of calls.

One more note on C&W when you buy a SIM from them you need to present your passport, if you buy a chip at a reseller you do not. Finally if you are an English speaker you can go into a C&W office and ask them to change the computer setting for your number to English and all voice prompts will magically be understandable.

Skype: If you have a need to call outside of Panama you need Skype, a good computer, a headset for the computer and a high speed internet connection. Skype works, for $30 a year you can have Skypein a telephone number in your choice of countries or states. For another $30 you can have Skypeout unlimited calls for a year to the US and Canada. For nada you can call other Skype users.

For More info on Skype follow this link: Make and receive calls to ordinary phones with your computer. www.skype.com

Internet: Your Internet connection is you lifeline to communicate with the world and your community. Boquete probably has the second best Internet infrastructure in the country; second only to Panama City. You have several choices in Boquete I urge you to be sure at least one can provide access BEFORE you commit to a residence. As discussed above DSL is available from C&W, I have not used it but DSL has distance limitations so be sure that it works at your address do not assume it will.

The other options are wireless I use Barranco and will provide one of my endorsements. Rob does an excellent job providing a quality service but once again be sure to have a site survey done first, Barranco is wireless and requires line of sight to one of their towers.

There is a wealth of information on http://www.boquete.org and you should read all of it before coming here.


  1. A couple of clarifications about the cellular phones. One is that the GSM frequency used in Panama is 850. Not all GSM phones sold in the US will work here. Make sure that the phone supports 850.

    Second while your are correct that you only pay for calls you initiate, if you call another cell number you are paying for his time as well as your time. That is why the locals use the “Missed Call” technique. They will call and let it ring once so that you know the number and then hang up and wait for you to call them back. That way the call costs them nothing.

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