(The Panama Gringo) Getting mail in Panama can be extremely frustrating at first, simply because it is different than what many expats are accustomed to in the United States. Unlike in North America there is no home mail delivery system – most neighborhoods in Panama don’t have numbers on houses or apartment buildings and there are no zip codes. This presents a problem for shippers in the U.S. who aren’t used to dealing with non-standard shipping addresses.
While you can use shippers like UPS, FedEx or DHL, there are better, less expensive options for mail in Panama. Here are a list of some of the alternatives in Panama, starting with the ones we at the Panama Gringo have used:
AirBox Express is a great choice if you plan to do a lot of shipping. Although their rates are more expensive per ounce than other companies, they offer a monthly plan that is a great deal for those that plan on receiving or sending a lot of mail.
Earth Class Mail is a new one to me, but I’ve been told it is the best option for regular sized mail in Panama. They give you a U.S. address where you can forward your mail. Then, they scan the exterior of the envelope and post it to your account online. Once you determine if you need the mail or not, you can instruct them to do the following: store, shred, recycle, forward to you, or open and scan the contents. If you choose to have them send you the scanned contents then you can decide after viewing them online if it should be stored, shredded, or forwarded to you.
Aeropost is similar to AirBox Express and Mail Boxes, Etc. They give you a U.S. address and then forward items you send to it to their Panama offices.
For local mail, such as your electricity and water bills, the companies send the bill and leave them at the entry to your apartment building, or as close to your door as they can get. However, it is easy for these bills to get lost, so make sure you know what your pay-by date is and use that rather than depending on getting your bill in the “mail.”
Using the above options is a great way to get small items to Panama. If you need to ship larger things, try Priority Express, which ships by air and sea from Miami to Panama door to door.