Traveling to Panama soon and planning your trip? This is the ultimate guide for buying a prepaid sim card in Panama with where to buy one, the best network, up to date prices as per November 2021, info about e-sim cards for Panama, my experiences, my recommendations plus info about buying a sim card at Panama Airport.
Getting a local sim card is the first thing I do when I get to a new country and as I am aiming to visit every country in the world I have been to many places and wrote many local prepaid sim card guides: USA, Costa Rica, Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Europe, etc.
Why buying a sim card in Panama
First of all it is the best way to stay connected abroad. With a local prepaid sim card you are ensured with the fastest data speed. Did you know that overseas data plans limit your internet speed?
It also is the cheapest way to have internet abroad on your mobile. Local sim cards always beat overseas data plans and international travel sim cards with worldwide coverage.
Therefore Traveltomtom recommends you getting a sim card in Panama. It is easy, takes just a couple minutes and you are connected straight away. And just as IMPORTANT prepaid sim cards with unlimited data in Panama is CHEAP!
Also don’t rely on WiFi in Panama. It is not always guaranteed and internet speed can vary hugely. Also keep in mind that surfing the internet on public WiFi is through an UNSECURED network.
Last thing! Trust me having a data connection on your mobile makes traveling to Panama so much more convenient. Getting directions from Google Maps, finding nearby restaurants with good reviews, ordering a taxi through a Taxi App (there is Uber in Panama City), finding your friends through sharing live location, emergencies, traveling planning on the go. You want me to go on?
Traveltomtom recommends a Mas Movil sim card for Panama. They have the best mobile network coverage and great deals for tourists. Their prepaid sim cards come with unlimited data and are flexible with the duration. How much? 10 Days unlimited data costs only $7 USD with +Movil Panama!
We do not recommend travel sim cards with worldwide coverage. Why? They are overpriced. For the same price ($7) you often don't even get 1 GB data! Check my article with my comparison of all international sim cards. Most of them are VERY EXPENSIVE!
Order a Panama sim card directly online
Don’t want the hassle of buying a sim card in Panama then you can opt for ordering a Panama sim card online through Simoptions. They sell pre-activated sim cards for Panama. They have several options, but this is their best offer:
This sim card by 3 UK will be delivered to your home address before your trip and as soon as you are in Panama you put them in your phone and you are online within seconds. Click on the link for more info.
Where to buy a Panama sim card
You will find phone shops in every popular Panama tourist destination and as you travel around the country you will see signs of Claro, +Movil, etc. everywhere. In kiosks on the side of the road you can also buy prepaid sim cards.
If you don’t mind the official registration process, you can risk buying a pre-registered Panama sim card. This is the cheapest and fastest way to get a sim in Panama.
But Traveltomtom recommends to go to an official retail store where they do the registration properly on your name and set you up with everything.
Always wait in the store until everything is working and you are able to surf the internet with a 4G signal before walking away.
When crossing the land border from Costa Rica it is a little harder to find official retail stores and a local kiosk that sells Panama sim cards is the best way to get connected.
When buying a sim card in Panama City Traveltomtom recommends you to go to one of the popular shopping malls like the Albrook Mall or the Multiplaza Panama.
Officially all prepaid sim cards in Panama need to be registered on your name. That means when buying a sim card in Panama in an official retail store you have to bring your passport. A copy of your passport will be taken and the sim card will be linked to it.
If you wish to stay anonymous then you should buy a sim card on the streets and you won’t need your passport. This is officially against the rules however, it is common practice in Panama.
Buying a sim card at Panama City Airport
At Panama City Tocumen International Airport you can get a local prepaid sim card from one the machines located in Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. There is staff next to the machines that can give you more information.
The cheapest Panama sim card for tourists at Tocumen Airport is $30 USD, this is very expensive compared to what you can get in Panama City. However, these sim card deals at Panama City Airport offer UNLIMITED DATA.
For example in the city you can already find UNLIMITED data prepaid sim cards for $10.
There are also 3 Travel Data Global stores located at Tocumen Airport that sell tourist sim cards for Panama. They operate from 5:30 AM to 12:30 AM:
- Arrival Hall in front of boarding gate 130-131
- Transit Area in front of boarding gate 138-139
- North Pie
Arriving at a different terminal? Don’t worry. You can easily walk from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 and it won’t take you more than 3 minutes.
Mobile internet operators in Panama
There are 4 main mobile internet providers in Panama:
All of them sell prepaid sim cards for tourists. Prices differ a little, but we are talking about just a couple dollars. The big difference between the internet operators in Panama is the mobile network coverage. More about that later.
Prices prepaid sim cards in Panama
In Panama they use the Balboa currency, but it equals the USD. So 1 PAB = 1 USD.
+Movil (Mas Movil)
This mobile internet operator is called Mas Movil Panama and they have 4 great prepaid sim card deals for tourists:
- $5 = Unlimited data + unlimited minutes to +Movil + 25 minutes to other operators - valid for 7 days
- $7 = Unlimited data + unlimited minutes to +Movil + 25 minutes to other operators - valid for 10 days
- $10 = Unlimited data + unlimited minutes to +Movil + 30 minutes to other operators - valid for 14 days
- $15 = Unlimited data + unlimited minutes to +Movil + 30 minutes to other operators - valid for 30 days
These plans let you share data but a limited amount of GB’s, see the picture above. For more info check out the Mas Movil website.
A very well known mobile operator in Central America. Tigo can be found in every country in Central America and in April 2020 also came to Panama by taking over Movistar.
They offer the following prepaid sim card deals:
- $3 = 525 MB + 10 minutes - valid for 4 days
- $5 = 1.5 GB data + 20 minutes - valid for 7 days
- $5 = Unlimited data + minutes to Tigo + 25 minutes and sms to all operators - valid for 7 days
- $10 = 2.5 GB data + unlimited minutes to Tigo + 25 minutes to all operators - valid for 15 days
Sorry Tigo, your prepaid sim card deals are not as good as the Mas Movil prepaid sim card offers.
Find here the latest deals and info about Tigo Panama prepaid sim cards.
You can find Digicel all over Central America, the Caribbean and South America. In Panama they also offer great prepaid packages with unlimited data.
- $5 = Unlimited data + minutes to Digicel + 25 minutes to other operators or international calls to China, Mexico, United States, Costa Rica, Colombia and Venezuela + 1 GB to share - valid for 7 days.
- $10 = Unlimited data + minutes to Digicel + 50 minutes to other operators or international calls to China, Mexico, United States, Costa Rica, Colombia and Venezuela + 2.5 GB to share - valid for 14 days.
- $20 = Unlimited data + minutes to Digicel + 125 minutes to other operators or international calls to China, Mexico, United States, Costa Rica, Colombia and Venezuela + 5 GB to share - valid for 28 days.
These Digicel prepaid sim card deals rival the ones from +Movil, but Digicel offers international minutes included compared to +Movil. For all the details and the latest offers check out the Digicel Panama website.
Also present in many Latin America countries, you will find Claro all over South America, a well known mobile internet provider. In Panama they also offer prepaid sim card deals with unlimited data:
- $3 = Unlimited data + minutes/sms to Claro + 10 minutes to other operators - valid for 4 days
- $5 = Unlimited data + minutes/sms to Claro + 15 minutes to other operators - valid for 7 days
- $10 = Unlimited data + minutes to Claro + 30 minutes to other operators - valid for 14 days
- $15 = 4 GB data + Free social media + 150 minutes to Claro + 30 minutes to other operators - valid for 14 days
The Claro prepaid sim card deals are more or less the same as other operators. Get all the details from the Claro Panama website.
Best 4G/5G mobile network in Panama
Unfortunately there is still no 5G in Panama yet, but the 4G network of some of the internet operators is pretty good and widespread around the country.
To find the best prepaid sim card for tourists in Panama I also looked at the mobile internet coverage around the country. A Good signal is vital for killing time on long drives or bus rides and you don’t want to have a spotty signal as soon as you leave Panama City. Let’s have a look at the 4G coverage maps.
4G coverage map Digicel
4G coverage map Claro
4G coverage map Tigo
4G coverage map +Movil
From the mobile internet coverage maps we can clearly see that Digicel and Claro have a lot of catching up to do compared to Tigo and +Movil as of November 2021.
Although Tigo is a good second best, Mas Movil has by far the best network coverage in Panama and covers nearly all tourist destinations in Panama.
Shoutout to Digicel though for having the best network coverage and phone signal in the San Blas islands. Are you visiting the gorgeous San Blas Islands then may be you want to consider a Digicel sim card.
Best prepaid sim card in Panama in 2021
Based on the prices for prepaid sim we can conclude that all mobile internet providers offer sim cards with unlimited data, some offer more flexible packages than others.
Tigo is the least attractive when it comes to prepaid sim card deals and +Movil, Claro and Digicel offer more or less the same.
I like the simplicity of the +Movil prepaid sim card packages and on top of that they have by far the best mobile internet coverage in Panama. Therefore Mas Movil is the best prepaid sim card for Panama in 2021.
E-sim card for Panama
There is now also the possibility to buy an e-sim card for Panama. Unfortunately in stores in Panama they do NOT provide prepaid e-sim cards for tourists but online you can find an e-sim card for Panama through Airalo. Unfortunately they only have 1 offer:
This data-only e-sim card is offered by Pancell Digital and they operate on the Tigo network. Click on the link to order directly online or get more info.
I hope all the above tips about buying a prepaid sim card in Panama were helpful. May you have any additional questions then please leave me a comment below and I am more than happy to assist you.
Enjoy your trip to Panama!