Planning your trip to Panama and wondering what is the best way to stay connected and have data on your phone? Don't get fooled by slow overseas data roaming plans or let your trip be ruined by excessive roaming charges. This is the ultimate guide for finding the best sim card for traveling to Panama in 2024.
Find out everything you need to know about buying a prepaid sim card in Panama on arrival, a comparison of the mobile internet providers, where to buy a sim card, the best e-sim cards for Panama, up to date prices as per February 2024, the best 4G/5G network, my recommendations, a full vlog about my experiences buying a sim card in Panama, info about international sim cards and more.
Back in the days getting a local prepaid sim card was the first thing I did when getting to a new country. Nowadays I pretty much always use e-sim cards for staying connected. E-sim cards are simply so convenient and easy to get, but local prepaid sim cards give you more value for money.
What is better for traveling to Panama? A local prepaid sim card or an e-sim card? That depends on you... but in this guide I will help you to make it easy to choose your preferred way of staying connected when visiting Panama.
Since I love to document all my travel tips and Traveltomtom is also aiming to visit every country in the world you can already find more than 200 sim card guides on Traveltomtom from all over the world: USA, Costa Rica, Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Europe, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Europe, Spain, London, Rome, Istanbul, Vietnam, etc.
Traveltomtom also wrote a specific guide for buying a sim card at Panama City Airport.
So if you are planning your next adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid and e-sim card advice for your holiday destination. Bookmark me and let me help you save money!
Why buying a sim card for Panama
First of all we want to make sure we don't end up with excessive high data roaming charges. An e-sim or a prepaid sim card for tourists is the best way to stay connected when traveling to Panama.
Did you know that overseas data roaming plans limit the internet speed? They are expensive and often useless. Ordering an e-sim card for Panama or buying a prepaid sim card in Panama is easy.
Trust me having a data connection on your mobile phone 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, checking your banking apps, traveling planning on the go. You want me to go on?
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. The use of a VPN is high recommended to protect your data.
Traveltomtom recommends a Mas Movil sim card for Panama. They have the best mobile data network coverage around Panama and great prepaid sim card deals for tourists. A Mas Movil prepaid sim card for $7 USD comes with unlimited data for 10 days.
Traveltomtom is an advocate for using e-sim cards as they are super easy to arrange on the internet and you are online as soon as the plane touches the ground.
Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim card for Panama via either SimOptions, Nomad or Airalo. However, it is no secret that prepaid sim cards you buy in Panama are cheaper than the e-sim cards you buy on the internet.
Big advantage of e-sim cards is that you are online as soon as you land and no need to find a sim card shop on arrival in Panama.
Traveltomtom also recommends travel sim cards with worldwide coverage. These are international prepaid sim cards that cover Panama. Check out Traveltomtom's comparison of the best international sim cards for traveling abroad in 2024 and find some great sim card deals for traveling to Panama.
Make sure your phone is unlocked otherwise an e-sim card, an international prepaid sim card or a Panama prepaid sim card for tourists won't work in your phone.
Best e-sim cards for Panama
E-sim cards make it all so easy to get connected when traveling to Panama in 2024. No need to swap physical sim cards anymore and visiting a phone store. Arrange everything online within a couple clicks.
You order an e-sim card for Panama on the internet, you receive a QR code, scan it, follow the simple steps and within less than 2 minutes you have a Panama e-sim card installed on your phone.
Upon arrival in Panama it automatically connects you to an available network and you enjoy data on your phone pretty much when the plane lands.
Make sure your phone is e-sim compatible before ordering an e-sim card for Panama.
Check out the following Panama e-sim card plans:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $8 USD
- 2 GB data for 15 days = $15 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $21 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $32.5 USD
Click here for more info or to order a Panama e-sim card via Airalo.
The above Pancell Digital e-sim card for Panama is a data-only e-sim card. Incoming and outgoing calls and sms are not supported and Pancell Digital operates on the 4G/LTE network of Tigo. Data is only valid in Panama.
There is another e-sim card provider called SimOptions, which Traveltomtom has used uncountable times. They have 2 data-only e-sim cards for Panama, which are valid in Panama only and 1 international e-sim card that is valid in up to 141 countries:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $19.90 USD
- 3 GB data for 15 days = $36.90 USD
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.90 USD
Click here for more info or to order an e-sim card for Panama via SimOptions.
Another trusted and reviewed e-sim provider is Nomad and Traveltomtom has used Nomad now in more than 10 countries. Nomad sometimes has amazing competitive e-sim card plans with cheap prices.
Here are the Nomad e-sim card plans for Panama in 2024:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $11 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $20 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $28 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $45 USD
Click here for more info or to order a Panama e-sim card via Nomad.
The Nomad sim cards for Panama operate on the Tigo (Milicom) 4G/LTE network, they are data-only and incoming and outgoing calls and sms are not supported.
E-sim cards are data-only sim cards, but the perfect solution for getting data on your phone abroad without any effort. However, make sure your phone is unlocked and your phone is e-sim compatible before ordering an e-sim card for traveling to Panama.
Where to buy a sim card for Panama
Panama City Airport
At Panama City Tocumen International Airport you can get a local prepaid sim card from one the sim card vending machines located in Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. There is staff next to the machines that can give you more information. You can only buy physical prepaid sim cards at Panama Airport, e-sim cards are not available.
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 center.
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 Pier
Click here for Traveltomtom's complete guide for buying a sim card at Panama City Airport in 2024.
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.
Always wait in the store until everything is working and you are able to surf the internet with a 4G/LTE signal before walking away.
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.
However, Traveltomtom recommends to go to an official sim card store where they do the sim card registration properly on your name and set you up with everything. 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 Pacific Mall .
When crossing the land border from Costa Rica it is a little harder to find official retail stores. In this case a local kiosk that sells Panama prepaid sim cards for tourists is the best way to get connected.
Arrive prepared in Panama with an international prepaid sim card or an e-sim card. There are sim cards for Panama that you order online and as soon as you set foot in Panama these sim cards automatically connect to an available network and you can enjoy data on your phone.
If your phone is not e-sim compatible you can order a physical prepaid sim card for Panama via SimOptions.
But if your phone is e-sim compatible you can arrange everything online buy ordering an e-sim card for Panama. Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim card for Panama via either SimOptions, Nomad or Airalo.
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 and Traveltomtom has done it before.
When buying a sim card for Panama on the internet there is no ID verification needed either, just your email address. Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim card for Panama via either SimOptions, Nomad or Airalo.
Mobile internet operators in Panama
There are 4 main mobile internet providers in Panama:
All of the mobile internet providers sell physical prepaid sim cards for tourists, e-sims are not available as of Febraury 2024. Prices differ a little bit per operator, but we are talking about just a couple dollars.
The big difference between the internet operators in Panama is the 4G/5G mobile network coverage. More about that later.
Prices prepaid sim cards in Panama
In Panama they officially use the Panamanian Balboa, but since it equals the USD in reality everyone pretty much uses USD in Panama. Especially if you stay in tourist destinations. So 1 PAB = 1 USD.
Prices and info below are updated as per February 2024. If you would like an e-sim card for traveling to Panama you have to order one online. In Panama in phone stores they only offer physical prepaid sim cards for tourists.
+Movil (Mas Movil)
This mobile internet operator is called Mas Movil Panama and they have 4 great prepaid sim card deals for tourists:
- Unlimited data + 25 minutes to other operators for 7 days = $5 USD
- Unlimited data + 25 minutes to other operators for 10 days = $7 USD
- Unlimited data + 30 minutes to other operators for 14 days = $10 USD
- Unlimited data + 30 minutes to other operators for 30 days = $15 USD
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. In Mas Movil stores they do not offer e-sim cards, only physical prepaid sim cards for tourists are available.
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:
- 525 MB + 10 minutes for 4 days = $3 USD
- 1.5 GB data + 20 minutes for 7 days = $5 USD
- Unlimited data + 25 minutes and sms to all operators for 7 days = $5 USD
- 2.5 GB data + 25 minutes to all operators for 15 days = $10 USD
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.
Unfortunately the Tigo stores in Panama do NOT sell prepaid sim cards for tourists. This is a new trend across Central and South America. Which means you have to buy a Tigo prepaid sim card from any phone store or kiosk. These sim card shops will mostly charge a small fee for activating your sim card.
Once you have a Tigo prepaid sim card you are more than welcome at the Tigo stores for questions, help and service.
You can find Digicel all over Central America, the Caribbean and South America. In Panama they also offer great prepaid packages with unlimited data.
- Unlimited data + 25 minutes to other operators or international calls* for 7 days = $5 USD
- Unlimited data + 50 minutes to other operators or international calls* for 14 days = $10 USD
- Unlimited data + 125 minutes to other operators or international calls* for 28 days = $20 USD
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. In Digicel stores they do not offer e-sim cards, only physical prepaid sim cards for tourists are available.
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:
- Unlimited data + 10 minutes to other operators for 4 days = $3 USD
- Unlimited data + 15 minutes to other operators for 7 days = $5 USD
- Unlimited data + 30 minutes to other operators 14 days = $10 USD
- 4 GB data + Free social media + 30 minutes to other operators for 14 days = $15 USD
The Claro prepaid sim card deals are more or less the same as other operators. Get all the details from the Claro Panama website. In Claro stores they do not offer e-sim cards, only physical prepaid sim cards for tourists are available.
Best 4G/5G mobile network in Panama
Unfortunately there is still no 5G in Panama yet as of February 2024, but the 4G network of some of the internet operators is pretty good and widespread around the country.
To find the best Panama prepaid sim card for tourists Traveltomtom compared the mobile internet coverage maps of Tigo, Claro, Mas Movil and Digicel.
A strong phone signal is vital for killing time on long drives or bus rides and you don’t want to have a spotty phone signal as soon as you leave Panama City. Let’s have a look below at the 4G/5G coverage maps for Panama.
Digicel 4G/5G network coverage map
Claro 4G/5G network coverage map
Tigo 4G/5G network coverage map
Mas Movil 4G/5G network coverage map
Although the above mobile data network coverage maps are updated for 2024 they are not 100% accurate. However, they are a great reference to compare the 4G/5G networks of the mobile internet providers in Panama in 2024.
From the mobile data 4G/5G network coverage maps we can clearly see that Digicel and Claro have a lot of catching up to do compared to Tigo and +Movil. Although Tigo is a good second best, Mas Movil has by far the best 4G/5G mobile data network coverage in Panama in 2024 and covers pretty much all tourist destinations in Panama.
Mas Movil even has a good phone signal in the enchanting San Blas Islands. If you want to stay connected when traveling to San Blas Islands then buy a Mas Movil prepaid sim card.
Best sim card for Panama in 2024
Comparing the prices for prepaid sim cards Traveltomtom concludes that the prepaid sim cards for tourists are cheap in Panama. All mobile internet operators offer prepaid sim cards with unlimited data. Some offer more flexible plans than others, but in general they are pretty much the same.
Traveltomtom likes the simplicity of the Mas Movil prepaid sim card plans with unlimited data. Also Mas Movil has the best 4G/5G mobile data network in Panama and therefore Traveltomtom rates Mas Movil as the best prepaid sim card for Panama in 2024.
The e-sim cards for Panama you order on the internet are hard to compare with the local prepaid sim cards as they are more expensive and definitely do not offer unlimited data.
The best value e-sim card for Panama is a Nomad e-sim card with 10 GB data for $45 USD. The cheapest e-sim card for Panama is an Airalo e-sim card for $8 USD.
Order a prepaid sim card for Panama online
If your phone is not e-sim compatible you can still buy an international prepaid sim card for Panama on the internet. In fact, these physical travel sim cards are even much more affordable than e-sim cards.
Don’t waste time finding a sim card shop in Panama, be online as soon as the plane lands. Order a pre-activated physical prepaid sim card for Panama and get it delivered to your home address before your trip.
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $24.90 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $49.90 USD
A last reminder that if your phone is e-sim compatible and buying a prepaid sim card in Panama sounds like too much hassle then simply order an e-sim card for Panama. You are online as soon as the plane lands and you can enjoy data on your phone instantly.
I am sure some of the above tips for buying a sim card for Panama were helpful. If you have any questions then please leave me a comment below and I am more than happy to assist you.
Want to be fuelled by wanderlust then I recommend you to check out my Instagram account @traveltomtom and follow my journey to visit every country in the world. As of February 2024 I visited more than 155 countries.
Enjoy your trip to Panama!