In Panama technology is huge! Despite technically being a third world country, Panama is very first world in a lot of ways. They have a well built internet infrastructure, and cellular system as well. Many restaurants, stores, and malls that you go to will offer free wi-fi (here in Panama they pronounce it like wee-fee). That being said if you come here to visit or live here bring an unlocked smart phone that takes a Sim card. If you don’t know what either of these things are you can check out this video on YouTube:
When you walk out of the airport into the car rental area you will immediately see the sops where they sell new Sim cards for Panama. You can save a few bucks by purchasing later at a direct phone location, but if you’re in immediate need of internet like we were its with the extra expense. Just get the bare minimum from them and you can add more time and data later, at a much lower price. I will cover cell phones in a future article (way too much to discuss here).
Once you have your phone up and running there are two very important apps that you will want to start using right away. Tip: download them on to your phone ahead of time when you have wi-fi or unlimited data at home, don’t use your precious overpriced airport data 🙂
WAZE is very different than say google maps, or mapquest. Getting used to it ahead of time would be a very good idea. It’s the most handy GPS system here in Panama that we have found. Most stores, malls, restaurants and hotels will all come up on Waze where they might not on other apps.
WHATSAPP Or as I like to call it WhatsUp, is going to be another main app to have before you get here. It’s so amazing and handy to have for not only communicating with people here, but with people back home as well. With this app you can text, talk, message and group message all using data not minutes. International calls can be very expensive, but with WhatsApp it’s just using internet not your cellular plan. Almost everyone we have met since we arrived that has a smart phone uses WhatsApp! It’s convenient for many different reasons.
Some other very helpful apps to have installed on your phone:
INSTAGRAM You can find a lot of exciting and new places to go and things to do with this app. You can simply use it as a tool and never post anything if you are not a social media fan!
GOOGLE TRANSLATE With this app you can talk, type or take pictures of Spanish and translate it to English. Also, you can type English have it translated in to Spanish and have your phone dictate it out to you. This will come in handy if you are new to Spanish, or haven’t been to Panama or other Latin American countries and tried to speak the language. Their accents here and pronunciations might be very different than what you have used elsewhere.
CONVERSION APP No specific name of one here just download a free app with a high star rating. If you’re from the states it will come in handy as they use the metric system here!
DUOLINGO Great free app for learning Spanish, that has been compared to Rosetta Stone. It’s fun, interactive, and can give you a really good foundation for Spanish when coming here. If you plan to take lessons when you get here, work on you skills with this app and it will give you a head start.
SKYPE With this app you can keep in touch with friends and family all over the world. You can text, leave voice and video messages as well as video conference. Many people here in Panama also use this as a phone to make calls, as it uses data not minutes.
TRIP ADVISOR By far this is the best “travel” app for traveling around the world. I am a huge Yelp fan back in the US and wish that I could use it here. Trip Advisor is by far the closest to it and includes lot of restaurants and local hotels here in Panama. You can also use it to find beaches, natural attractions, and shopping venues.
All of these apps that I have posted were free to download and free to use! I am sure that there are better apps that you can pay good money for, but when you can get it for free why not? Also, these are just my personal thoughts and feelings on these apps no advertising or promoting is being done here! Just good old fashioned free advice!