How to get sim cards in Panama, a guide to get the best prepaid sim cards
Panama has 4 mobile network providers:
+môvil (formerly, cable &wireless)
+movil and Movistar are the largest telco service providers. +movil has the highest data speeds. Digicel has the highest data speeds in the San Blas islands. Eventually, the sim card you purchase depends on the part of Panama you visit.
Up to 95% of the total population has access to mobile networks but only 40% of Panama territory has mobile network coverage. You'll be connected as long as you populated centers don't expect any mobile network reception in remote areas.
Buying a sim card in Panama
Unlike other Central American nations, you don't need to provide your passport details when purchasing and registering a sim card in Panama. On purchasing your sim card, follow the instructions printed on the sim card packet to activate it. These instructions are mostly in Spanish but can be easily translated.
There are self-service machines at Tocumen International airport where you can purchase sim cards. Similar to other airports all over the world sim cards are overpriced here.
Sim cards cost B/. 2 with Movistar sim cards being free at Movistar stores. Claro stands at malls also gives free sim cards.
Prices of sim cards, recharge vouchers, and sim related services in Panama are always quoted in Panamanian balboas. 1 Panamanian Balboa= 1 USD.
Recharge is either by prepaid vouchers ( targets prepago) or by electronic vouchers (recarga electrónica). There are no fees for online recharges but Panama has a 7% sales tax policy. You may get 7% less airtime when you will your sim card online.
When recharging your sim card online you can either use your mobile network provider website or app. Claro is yet to have an app in Panama.
Payment can be made by either Mastercard or Visa cards. Digicel also accepts payment by Diners card, AMEX, Paypal, and Discover.
When you add airtime worth more than $3 you get a x5 bonus. This is for all mobile network operators. The bonus cannot be used to buy data, it's only for calls and text.