Panama has 4 mobile network operators:
- +móvil (by Cable & Wireless)
All have 2G/GSM up to EDGE and 3G up to HSPA+ on 850 and 1900 MHz. 4G/LTE has started in 2015 on +móvil and Movistar and Claro on 700 MHz (on band 28 - not bands 12-17 like in the US!) and is available in major towns so far.
Coverage and speeds Edit
At 173% penetration rate and 96% of the population covered, Panama has one of the world's highest cell phone usage rates, yet only 38% of its territory is covered as of 2017. Outside the main population centers, Panama is sparsely populated. Coverage is mostly in, around and between those centers and over the sea between the mainland and the more populated islands. It is fairly continuous, so you shouldn't be without service unless you venture into very remote areas.
There are continual debates over which company provides the best service or coverage. Movistar, +movil and Claro are better in general than Digicel, while Movistar and Claro offer the best LTE speeds and Movistar and +movil offer the best LTE coverage. All three providers offer good 4G/LTE service in and around the main population centers, but hardly any in unpopulated areas.
In this wiki 4G is always referred to as LTE technology. Like in the US in Panama some providers used to call their 3G/HSPA+ network "4G" and Digicel still does. This is not considered illegal in this part of the world as HSPA+ can theoretically reach slow LTE speeds. However, many countries and this wiki have banned this misleading labeling.
Even without MVNOs, the market is highly competitive. On arrival at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, they try to sell you overpriced SIM cards through self-service machines. Better wait until you are in town. A SIM card costs hardly more than B./ 1 for start-up. (A little note for Claro, you should buy them directly from their stores and costs a bit more than B/. 2). SIM cards are also available at mall stands and corner stores (known as chinos) without any registration necessary. Movistar's SIM cards are free of charge.
All prices below are subject to 7% sales tax.
Panama’s official currency is the Balboa and it's pegged 1:1 to the US dollar but all coins (except the B/.1 coin) are of the same size, shape, metals and denomination as US coins and are used interchangeably. There are no Balboa bills, only US dollar bills.
Top-ups by prepaid cards (tarjetas prepago) and electronic vouchers (called recargas electrónicas) are available all over the country; the latter are more common at mall stands.
You can also top-up online on each provider’s website. They don't charge any fees but do collect Panama's 7% sales tax. Movistar's and +movil's site collect sales tax upon payment, while Claro and Digicel collect it on delivery, meaning the receiver will get 7% less than the top up amount. You can use any Visa or MasterCard branded card. Digicel's site also accepts American Express, Maestro, PayPal, Discover and Diners Club.
Movistar, +movil and Digicel accounts can also be topped up on their respective apps. Methods of payment and sales tax collection are the same as on their websites. Movistar has an app for every country or region it operates in; download their Central America app to top up Panamanian accounts. Digicel's app works for all of their networks. Claro doesn't have an app for Panama as of February 2018.
Every provider also offers "Pasa saldo" (literally “pass balance”), balance transfer between two numbers of the same provider. Can be done through text, on USSD menus or the apps. Minimum transfer amount is $1.
Note that all providers give x5 bonuses (quintuplica) on any top-up of $3 and more. But bonus balance is available for talk and text only, not data plan purchases nor balance transfers so make sure to do those first before making phone calls.
You can check your balance on the apps, your online user account, USSD menus, by text message or phone call.
+móvil (= más móvil, by Cable & Wireless Panama) Edit
Cable & Wireless Panama, a subsidary of Cable & Wireless, now owned by Liberty Media, is a provider of mobile, fixed line, broadband and pay TV services in the country. +movil (spoken: más móvil) is their cellular branch and product.
+movil offers 4G/LTE on their prepaid plans on 700 MHz (band 28): 4G coverage map.
Their starter pack is called "kit +móvil" and sold in their stores and lot of other outlets for a minimal price. Top-up cards of $2-15 are available or top-up online.
Check prepaid balance by *165#.
Data feature packs Edit
Their standard tariff is called Tarifa ùnica. It has data at $ 0.06 per MB. So better buy packages. These combo packages are available:
|3G/4G Data||4G Data||WAData||Voice/SMS||Time||Price|
|500 MB||200 MB||125 MB||15 mins/15||3 days||B./ 2.99|
|800 MB||300 MB||200 MB||25 mins/25||7 days||B/. 4.99|
|1 GB||500 MB||256 MB||50 mins/50||15 days||B/. 9.99|
|1.5 GB||1 GB||512 MB||60 mins/60||30 days||B/. 14.99|
All packages come with a data allowance for 3G/4G and some bonus data for 4G-only plus data for WhatsApp use, domestic voice calls and SMS. Activation is online, by app or entering *456#. Overuse fee is B/. 0.001 per KB. They also offer these data-only packages:
- 650 MB for 3 days: B./ 2.99
- 800 MB for 7 days: B./ 4.99
- 1 GB for 15 days: B./ 8.99
- 2 Gb for 30 days: B./ 14.99
More info Edit
- APN: apn01.cwpanama.com.pa
- Website in Spanish: http://www.cwpanama.com/masmovil/
Claro by América Móvil is another player in the country and has started 4G/LTE on prepaid operating on 700 MHz (band 28). In the beginning, it's was limited to certain parts of the capital city; Chiriqui and Colon only, but now it has been expanded to major regions: 4G coverage map.
SIM Card is available in their stores and outlets: Store locator. Recharges are available for $1-70 giving 2-120 days of credit.
Check prepaid balance by *103#.
Data feature packsEdit
Default rate is $ 0.025 per MB. These data packs are offered and have 4G/LTE included where available:
|1 day||150 MB||B./ 1|
|2 days||250 MB||B./ 2|
|4 days||400 MB||B./ 3|
|7 days||800 MB||B./ 5|
|15 days||1.5 GB||B./ 10|
|30 days||2 GB||B./ 15|
To activate dial *123#. All overuse is charged at $ 0.15 per MB.
- APN: web.claro.com.pa
- Username and password: claroweb
- Website in Spanish: http://www.claro.com.pa
Jamaica-based Digicel is another provider in Panama. Though they advertise with "4G", it's in real only 3G/HSPA+: Digicel coverage map. In 2018 Digicel received spectrum on Band 28 (700 MHz) to be used for 4G/LTE soon.
Their SIM Card is available in stores and outlets: Store locator-
Recharges are valid for 365 days sold in their stores and outlets or online on the internatl. Digicel top-up site where even rare credit cards like American Express or PayPal are accepted.
Check prepaid balance by *120*1#.
Data feature packsEdit
Their packages for "4G" (up to 3G/HDSPA) data:
|1 day||225 MB||B./ 0.99|
|2 days||400 MB||B./ 1.99|
|3 days||600 MB||B./ 2.99|
|7 days||1 GB||B./ 4.99|
|15 days||1.5 GB||B./ 8.99|
|30 days||3 GB||B./ 14.99|
To activate type *111#. Overuse is charged with B./ 0.048 per MB. The 1 and 2 day plan includes 150 MB of WhatsApp (no VoIP), the plans of 3 days and more 10 GB of WhatsApp (no VoIP), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Waze, Badoo y WeChat (only chats).
They also offer these combo plans:
- B./ 2.99 with 400 MB, 200 MB for social media and 20 internatl. mins for 3 days
- B./ 4.99 with 800 MB, 2 GB for social media, 10 SMS and 50 internatl. mins for 7 days
- B./ 9.99 with 1.5 GB, 5 GB for social media, 25 SMS and 100 internatl. mins for 15 days
- B./ 14.99 with 2 GB, 10 GB for social media, 50 SMS and 150 internatl. mins for 30 days
Activation is likewise through *111#.
- APN: web.digicelpanama.com
- Website in Spanish: https://www.digicelgroup.com/pa/es/movil.html
Movistar by Spanish Telefónica is the 4th provider of the quartet with a fairly good coverage: 2G, 3G and 4G coverage map.
Movistar Panamá offers 4G/LTE on their prepaid offers. You first need a 4G/LTE SIM (available free of charge from any of their outlets), before you can utilize their LTE, which is available on the 700 MHz (band 28) frequency.
SIM card is available in their stores Store locator.
Recharge cards are available in $2, $3, $5, $10 or $15. For every top-up, you'll get some bonuses and there are many x2, x3, or x5 promotions, but all are not valid for data.
Check prepaid balance by *123#.
Data feature packsEdit
These combo packages can be added:
|3G/4G Data||4G Data||WA Data||Voice/SMS||Time||Price|
|250 MB||5 mins / 5||2 days||B/. 2|
|350 MB||175 MB||1 GB||10 mins / 10||4 days||B/. 3|
|750 MB||375 MB||1 GB||20 mins / 20||7 days||B/. 5|
|1 GB||500 MB||1 GB||40 mins / 40||15 days||B/. 10|
To activate type *888#, choose option 2 and pick a package. You can buy any package anytime. Packages include small allowances of local calls and SMS too. Packages of 4 days and longer include free WhatsApp use during the running time of the package.
American roaming option Edit
Movistar offer new roaming options called "Movistar sin fronteras" which can be activated through here:
- in the Movistar networks in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica you can roam at the domestic rate without surcharges for up to 30 days
- in Canada, USA (on AT&T and T-Mobile), Colombia, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and South America you can add a roaming package for B./ 5 per day.
- APN: internet.movistar.pa
- Username and Password: movistarpa
- Tethering is supported
- Website in Spanish: http://www.movistar.com.pa