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5 Things to Do Before You Go To Panama

So you’re on your way to Panama to check it out or to live the lifestyle you have always dreamed of and deserve. Here are some things I have found that will help make your life easier — especially if you do them before you go to Panama.

1. Unlock your cellphone

So what does that mean? Years ago, the wireless carriers started a marketing strategy of covering the cost of a new cell phone if the customer committed to a one or two year contact with their service. To avoid having customers jump to another carrier they designed a way to ‘lock’ the phone to their particular service, such as Verizon or AT&T. This lock is known by several names, “SIM Lock”, “Sub Lock” or “SPC Lock”.

You can determine if your phone is locked or unlocked by verifying if it is a GSM phone or CDMA phone. This is easy: if the phone uses a SIM card, which is a small piece of plastic you put into the phone, it is GSM; otherwise, it is a CDMA. Both can generally be unlocked, but only unlocked GSM phones can be switched easily from one carrier to another. There are also some smartphones that are not locked. The easiest thing to do is contact your carrier before you leave the country and request they unlock the phone for you. If you forget you can try the mobile carrier’s website or

Once you arrive in Panama, you can purchase a SIM card from one of the mobile carriers for just a couple of dollars. They will assist you in changing and setting it up. Data plans for 30 days cost around $15.00, much less than what I paid in the U.S. Adding funds for talking and texting time is just as simple and will cost 8-10 cents a minute. Woo-hoo! You now have technological communication, at a lot less than you would pay for roaming options on your current carrier. Once you leave, just replace the original SIM card and you have your number back.

2. Download Waze

How many times have you or someone you know forgotten to pack the GPS? One way to avoid that is by downloading on your smartphone a free app called Waze. It is an interactive GPS system (recently acquired by Google for $1 billion) with turn-by-turn navigation that gathers real-time information from the users as they travel the highways. Waze can be used anywhere in the world. It provides route information, weather conditions, traffic delays, and much more. It has become one of my favorite apps.

3. Download WhatsApp

So you prefer texting over talking. A lot of folks do. WhatsApp (also free) uses the same internet data plan you use for email and web browsing so you can stay in touch with your family and friends all over the world at no charge! Some pluses include creating groups, sending unlimited images, and audio and video messages. Just remember both parties have to download the app in order to use it.

4. Download Skype and/or Viber

You may prefer to talk on the phone or see your loved ones face-to-face, at least occasionally, while you are in Panama. Skype and Viber are voice over IP (VoIP) applications, meaning phone service over the internet. Both are user-friendly and easy to install. Skype will require a username and password. Viber does not need you to have a username because your cell phone number is the identifier. This may make Viber easier to use with your cellphone. Both applications are free; however, you pay for Skype when calling to landlines. You can research them online to see which one best fits your needs. As the market continues to grow, they are adding additional features and cost savings. I have downloaded both and use them for different purposes. Again, remember the other party must also download them.

5. Find your flexible, fun and adventurous self

Packing this is probably one of the most vital things you can do, and it will help you make the most of your time in Panama. If you are itinerary-driven ,I recommend you leave some blank time slots. There is so much to do and opportunities pop up all the time. You are coming to Panama for a reason: perhaps to vacation, check it out, or live our lifestyle. Relax, let your hair down and enjoy the weather, the people and the less stressed atmosphere. Take advantage of the adventures as they appear. It is a new year – live life, laugh more and love much! See you in Paradise.

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