For mobile Phone service in Panamá, you have 4 choices. All if these mobile phone service providers are private commercial, as in Honduras and El Salvador, not as in Costa Rica which also has ICE (ee-see). Each charges 8 US-cents a minute to talk to another cell phone and .99 per day or $5 per 10 days for data.
Seeking advice from several people in David, as to which Panama mobile service provider was best or better I was told by all that each provider was the same and none had more subscribers or better service or better rates. I went with Claro for my mobile phone. (And have found most people I know have other service.)
Claro requires a minimum credit purchase of $4. However, we didn’t have a paper clip handy to insert the sim so I was given the sim for free. Putting it into my phone gave me a phone number but to call out I needed to put money in my card. (Outgoing credit or outgoing minutes are called Saldo.) The number of the phone is not reported by placing the sim. The provider wrote the phone number on my sim card’s card for me. Otherwise, when you call another person you can learn your number from his caller ID.
In San Salvador, each of the prepaid mobile companies offered offers of double or triple minutes – bonus time. That is, for each dollar you spent you got two or three dollars of Saldo. (It was good for a limited time and with the sim I was given it included triple minutes to call the US and Canada.)
When I asked about promotions in Panamá all said they do not have this. However, I found they do. Perhaps my Spanish had not been sufficient.
In a 24 hour supermarket in David, Panamá, I was able to purchase time in common form of a card. I bought the smallest amount to start – $5.
This mobile phone call time comes in the form of a thin plastic card. The is a unique scratch-off code on each card. The instructions for entering the Saldo card’s code is on the card.
You call a number that includes this code. As this was my first time doing this with Claro, the woman in the supermarket did this for me. I find the people of Panama very kind to me.
Once you have credit, you can make calls. You can also use this credit to purchase days of Internet data. (In Salvador at least with TIGO, you could not do so.)
I was shocked to find that at Claro stores – stores of Claro solely for selling Claro service – you cannot buy time if they are out of cards! That is supposed to be changing. Meanwhile, I was out of Saldo and unable to buy more, having tried several stores.
Happily, I found that Panama also has vending machines where you can purchase any amount of time for any provider. A fee is taken out for this service but I was so happy to have the service that I didn’t care.
In Guatemala and El Salvador you can go to many a tienda (small store) and buy time. The proprietor takes your money and gives you the Saldo by entering your number and some codes. But I have not found this in Panama.
Back to the promotional minutes…
I noticed that the text messages confirming my Saldo, each cited promo minutes. Yet when I had only promo minutes, I was unable to make a call. Claro’s promo minutes are only for Clari to Claro calls. I am not sure if that is only cell to cell or if it would include calling a Claro landline.