Anyone who reads our insights is likely to already know how much there is to love about Panama. Most of us have already fallen in love with this vibrant country. That isn’t to say, though, that Panama is perfect. Expats will find themselves longing for the convenience of how things are back home.
One point of frustration many expats don’t expect is the difficulty to send and receive mail in Panama. Many expats never even think much about the postal service before moving to Panama. Simply because it works in their home country! In Panama, though, such a seemingly mundane service is much more complicated.
If you’re sending mail local or international, things are liable to get lost or show later than you expected. Addresses are not readily visible in Panama and the service is very unreliable.
Many expats opt to get by with (and even enjoy) a mail-free existence in Panama. This is made even easier by the number of things you can now take care of online. However, there are instances when one needs to send or receive mail. When the time comes, there are many options that you can turn to that will ensure your mail gets where it needs to be — on time. Which of these you choose depends on the type of mail, the urgency with which it needs to arrive, and the price you’re willing to pay.
One way to send and receive mail in Panama is using international courier services such as UPS, FedEx, or DHL. Since they are reputable brands, their services are more reliable than the national postal service. Each company has a handful of stores and drop-off points across the city for outgoing mail. For incoming mail and packages, they call you before they arrive at your building so you can meet them and ensure your mail gets safely into your hands.
What’s the catch, you ask? Using these international couriers to send mail to and from Panama is expensive. It could cost around US $50 to send or receive a simple envelope, and much more for heavy or large packages. Using international courier services is a good option if you need to send or receive a document from home that can’t wait. However, this isn’t a feasible option if you need mail often.
The Paperless Office
Instead of having your mail forwarded to Panama, you can subscribe to a paperless office service. For example, Earth Class Mail.
To use Earth Class Mail, you must have an address in the US where you receive mail. Earth Class Mail will then reroute all mail from the selected address to a secure facility. When you receive mail, they will scan the front and back of each letter or parcel. When you sign in to your account you will then see high-resolution images of the exterior of each piece of mail.
From there, you choose what action you would like to take. You can request that mail is stored, shredded, recycled, forwarded to you, or opened and scanned. For any mail that you choose to open and scan, you can then select whether you’d like those items to be stored, shredded, or forwarded.
This is a great option for people who want to keep up with what’s in their mailbox. This way you can receive things like bills, correspondence, and banking information.
Oftentimes, people will store their scanned mail in their computers to save the expense of forwarded mail. You can then use the stored scanned copies to pay bills online or over the phone. The service starts at $69 per month with customizable plans to best fit your needs.
Mail in Panama: Mailboxes
A final option that is popular amongst expats in Panama is to get a PO Box. This allows you to ship between the US and Panama. There are a handful of different companies that offer this service…
Mail Boxes, Etc.
Mail Boxes, Etc. is the largest and most well-known franchise that allows you so ship between the US and Panama. Users can sign up for a PO Box in Miami and then use this as their primary address. Any mail you expect to receive should be sent to this address. And you can even use it to order products from the internet that wouldn’t accommodate shipping to Panama. All your mail will arrive at the PO Box, and then you can schedule to have it forwarded to a Mail Boxes, Etc. office in Panama. With dozens of offices across the country, chances are there’s one not too far from you.
Here’s another company that offers a similar service to that described above. Like with Mail Boxes, Etc., you can receive all kinds of mail. With Miami Express, you can either opt to pay per item on a one-off basis or sign up for a monthly membership.
Priority Express is a third provider of this service. All packages between one and 10 pounds will cost $3.50 to ship from your Miami PO Box to a nearby office in Panama. Priority Express is the most popular for online shopping. That means you can access products from your favorite stores in the US without making a trip home.
The way you send and receive mail in Panama will likely never be as streamlined as it is back home, but there are options to get the job done. At the end of the day, most would agree that this is a small price to pay for all there is to love about life in Panama.