Staying Connected In Panama City

by Andrew Cowan - Date: 2007-05-08 - Word Count: 523 Share This!

Working for a real estate company in Panama City, Panama, I find myself in dire need of a phone at all times. The Panamanian telecommunications industry has made it very easy for people to get cell phones here in Panama. With a population of 3 million and only one area code, Panama recently had to bump all cell phone numbers to eight digits. This freed up an incredible amount of numbers and combined with the low cost of phones and service fees, resulted in almost everyone possessing a cellphone. It is not unusual to see people with two cell phones and I have seen three and even a four cellphone toting person.

The two major service networks in Panama are Movistar and Cable and Wireless. The phone I currently have is a Cable and Wireless Nokia phone. I love it for its simplicity. There is no camera, no color screen, no fancy flip or clamshell design. The phone is bullet proof and serves its purpose extremely well - it is a mobile phone. Without the additional features and energy sapping backlight screen, my phone uses less battery than I ever thought was possible.

The service itself is provided through Mas Movil. It is a prepaid service that offers cards (tarjetas) in denominations of $5, $7 and $10. These cards can be purchased at every supermarket, corner store and can even be bought on the street from vendors. The price you pay is usually the price of the card plus a $0.25 charge from the seller. Wrapped in cellophane the business sized cards have a scratch off backing with a code that you enter directly into your phone.

Promotions by Mas Movil are frequent, with triple and quadruple promotions the most common. At $0.35 a minute for calls and $0.05 a text message, the calls can get expensive, but by taking advantage of these offers, you can get a minute of talk time down to just under $0.09. Not bad. A typical promotion I take advantage of is the "quadruplica"; I will purchase two $10 cards and enter both into my phone during the promotional period. This nets me $80 worth of credit and lasts me much longer than the simple $20 that was on the cards would.

Cell phone service is, in my experience, always up. I have lost signal only a few times and this occurred when I was deep into the Azuero Penninsula, far away from any discernable civilization on dirt roads. In the city, Cable and Wireless has a much better reputation that Movistar in terms of reliability and uptime. My friends and colleagues will often complain to me about the lack of uptime their Movistar phones have, often borrowing mine to make a simple call.

If you are going to be in Panama for any amount of time, I recommend purchasing a cell phone. For $40 I was able to buy a reliable phone that included the SIM card and $30 worth of calls. The ease of purchase and the everyday usefulness of having a phone in a foreign country is amazing, and I am glad that it is available.

Related Tags: panama, panama city, panama real estate, panama canal, panama investment, panama development, panama realty, panama realtors, panama information

Andrew Cowan lives and works in Panama with a Panama Real Estate Company as well as Yahoo Panama and also a Panama Virtual Tour site.

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