advertisement

Telephones

There are no area codes in Panama. Whenever you're calling a landline Panama phone number within Panama, simply dial the 7-digit number. Note that cell phones have 8-digits, and all cell phone numbers begin with a 6.

Many moderate to budget hotels don't allow outgoing calls to cell numbers, so it may be a good idea to buy or rent a cell phone in Panama. To dial an international number from a Panama phone, dial 00+the country code+the area code+the 7-digit number. Most hotels charge steep fees for international calls, and some moderate and most budget hotels don't allow international calls. Some Internet cafes also provide phones for local and international calls, generally with better rates than you'd get at a hotel.

Cellphones

There are no phone-rental kiosks in the Panama City airport, and travelers who need to make a lot of local calls and receive international calls are better off buying a phone in Panama. Cellphones that accept prepaid phone cards are as cheap as $30 (£15) in electronics stores in Panama City (and come with a bonus of $20/£10 in calls), and phone-card companies have nonstop promotions that double or triple the value of phone cards. Local calls are as low as 10¢ per minute, and incoming calls are free. While some higher-end hotels rent cell phones, it's probably cheaper just to buy a new one.

Prepaid phone cards can be purchased in just about any grocery store or pharmacy, and instructions for how to add credit is listed on the back of each card. The instructions are in Spanish, but whoever sells you the card can credit your account if you ask.

The major cell phone providers in Panama are Movistar and Cable & Wireless. Note that calling cards are service-provider specific, so you'll have to buy a different card depending on whether you have a Movistar or Cable & Wireless phone. If you are unsure what kind of phone you have, a salesperson can help you. Calling cards generally come in denominations of $5 (£2.50), $10 (£5), and $12 (£6).

Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)

If you have web access while traveling, consider a broadband-based telephone service (in technical terms, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP) such as Skype (www.skype.com) or Vonage (www.vonage.com), which allow you to make free international calls from your laptop or in a cybercafe. Neither service requires the people you're calling to also have that service (though there are fees if they do not). Check the websites for details.

Internet & E-Mail

With Your Own Computer -- More and more hotels, cafes, and retailers are signing on as Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) "hot spots." Mac owners have their own networking technology: Apple AirPort. To locate other hot spots that provide free wireless networks in cities around the world, go to www.personaltelco.net/index.cgi/wirelesscommunities.

For dial-up access, most hotels offer dataports for laptop modems, and high-speed connection in their business centers. Most upscale hotels have stepped up to wireless connection in guest rooms, but often costs $10 to $20 (£5-£10) per day. Rates vary wildly from hotel to hotel (some even offer free service), so factor the price into your nightly stay if you're bringing your work with you and need prolonged access to the Internet. Moderate to budget hotels often offer free Wi-Fi, at least in their lobbies. Internet connections of any kind are more difficult to impossible to come by in more remote areas such as the Darién, some parts of Bocas del Toro, and the Kuna Yala Islands.

To find public Wi-Fi hotspots at your destination, go to www.jiwire.com; its Hotspot Finder holds the world's largest directory of public wireless hotspots.

Without Your Own Computer -- Many hotels have at least one computer hooked up to the Internet available for guests to use.

To find cybercafes in your destination, check www.cybercaptive.com and www.cybercafe.com.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.