Moving to Panama – Some Technology Pros

The largest amount of people moving to Panama are part of the senior citizen population. As I have mentioned on multiple occasions, I believe to live safely and to enjoy the move to Panama, a modicum of technology will be required.

However, we are living in the most dangerous time to be a novice with technology. There in is the dilemma. You can’t get by without it and yet you are going to have to learn things that can be a little complex with a brain that is slowing down.

I am going to break this topic into to parts. This part will be the Pro part of technology and tomorrow’s post will cover the Con portion.

Technology Benefits – When moving to a foreign country.

My feeling is that the majority of people moving to Panama are individuals or couples. A smaller amount are families with children. That means that the people moving here have most of their friends and family back in their country of origin.

The first thing that comes to mind is how you are going to stay in touch with those you leave behind. This blog (Chiriquí Chatter) got started in 2003 as a way for my family in the US to know that I was still alive and pass on information about living here.

Magic Jack and Skype

The communication technology in 2003 was primarily email and Skype. Of course several in my family were not computer literate and there was a large need for old fashioned telephone calls. Several yeas ago, I solved the telephone call problem with Magic Jack.

This was a nice product that allowed you to call the US and Canada on the cheap. My current cost is around $20/year for unlimited calls. You could also use Skype, but it cost more and I am a cheapskate.

When I moved here, computers resided mostly on the desktop and Magic Jack was an application running on the PC and using the Internet and a physical phone.

Now the computer, that most people use, is their smart phone. My current Google Pixel cell phone has almost as much power as my PC did in 2003 and it is in my pocket all the time.

Magic Jack moved from the PC on my desk to my cell phone and I never use Magic Jack on my PC anymore.


How things have changed. Now I only have one person I call with Magic Jack and that is my 100 year old uncle. He can manage using the telephone, but not a PC. He is not the typical 100 year old either. He still drives out to see his farms in Oklahoma, but he hasn’t adapted to newer technology other than his 70” TV.

For everyone else, I use WhatsApp as my application of choice. In Panama you can look around now and almost everyone has a smart phone. I would bet that 90%+ have WhatsApp installed and use it as their primary chat application.

You can send text, voice messages and can make voice calls/video calls to other users of WhatsApp. My cell plan costs me about $15/month, which gives me some cell time and the rest Internet data time.

Lilliam’s plan costs her $11/month and only gives her Internet (data). She calls her daughters in Panama City and San Jose, Costa Rica via WhatsApp.

Our neighborhood watch group has its own WhatsApp group, which is used for security and general notices. Strange people walking in the area will have their photo taken and sent out to the group to see if they are authorized to be here.

WhatsApp has added a PC application. It pairs with your cell phone and you can text and voice message from your PC. This is super useful.

As I said, almost everyone in Panama has a cellphone with WhatsApp. Lets assume you move to Panama and are Spanish challenged. Lets also assume you know a good car mechanic and you want him to advise you on a car problem. If he has WhatsApp, you can contact him him on your PC’s WhatsApp application.

You can also open a second tab on your PC with Google Translate and copy translated Spanish into a WhatsApp message for him. You can take his response and paste it into Google Translate and read his response in English.

Google Translate isn’t perfect, but it will get you by. If you have the Google Translate App on your Smart Phone you don’t even need your PC.

One of the most important features is the fact that WhatsApp is secure. All communication between the endpoints is encrypted. The US Embassy even has a WhatsApp group that is used to communicate to the Wardens in Panama.

Google Maps/Waze

Lets assume you need to find municipal building or police station in David. You can search in Google maps and have it give you directions.

If you use Waze it will show you where accidents are and police speed traps.

Some of My Favorite Phone Apps

As I said above, today’s smart phones are like having a PC in your pocket. I am going to list a few apps that I have found valuable. These are in addition to those mentioned above.

Google Keep – This is an app I use to “keep” reminders, lists, research projects, etc. There are other similar apps such as EverNote.

Google Trips – This is a nice app for planning trips and recording things you want to do.

TripIt – I have used this app for several years. Since I make almost all reservations over the Internet, I just forward the conformation to TripIt and I wind up with a complete trip itinerary including contact numbers, addresses, etc. I can share the itinerary with people that need it.

CamScanner – This has become a great tool. I can scan a document and it is as good as if I had scanned it on my printer’s scanner in the house. This has been very helpful on several Embassy cases.

Kindle / Audible – You never know when you may need something to read while you are waiting one of the many lines you are going to have to wait in in Panama. I always have my ‘to read or to listen” library with me.

Mint – This app is a budgeting app. You enter your bank accounts and credit cards and it will provide you an up to date view of your finances. It allows me to see when charges have hit my credit cards.

Streaming Devices

Other needs, many people find when they move here, are sources of English entertainment, news and sports.

What you have as options will depend on where you live. Cable TV, SKY TV and Internet are provided by cable and wireless providers. I am fortunate and live in David and have Cable Onda as my provider, which I think is the best provider in Panama.

If you are in the country and away from a cable source, you will have to depend on satellite or wireless.

If you have at least 4 Mbps download speed, then you should be able to stream a lot of entertainment. I was able to reduce my cable plan to the minimum cable plan and stream 90% of what I watch. I use Amazon Fire TV. Other options are Google Chromecast, Android TV boxes, Apple TV boxes and even your PC.

A program I have written up many times is KODI that you might find interesting. I have lost count of how many people I have helped install Kodi on their Amazon Firesticks.

OK. You have convinced me that technology will benefit me, if I move to Panama. What smart phone or equipment should I buy?

Before considering purchases, it might be wise to talk about some of the cons before jumping on the technology bandwagon. I will go into that with tomorrow’s post.

7 thoughts on “Moving to Panama – Some Technology Pros

  1. I use the MJ on my android phone to get What’s App and this saves me from having to pay for cell service that I really don’t have much of a need for having. I agree that I like to msg with What’s App. I’m thinking that Google Fi, if it does what I believe it will can do, will make a good use of paying $20/month to have wifi almost anywhere although I am still kind of lost on my understanding of Google Fi.

    Thanks for having such informative pieces.

    I have progressed to having the Amazon Fire stick so I could get ESPN college football and HGTV on SlingTV. The rest of the stuff never seems to make much sense but for $20, I will simply cancel the Sling TV until next football season. The History Channel and Discovery channel along with HGTV would have been enough to keep me year round but the History and Discovery channels don’t seem to be what they were when first introduced. Most of the rest of the SlingTV stuff is a waste of time – CNN? a total joke of a so-called news service. The funny thing with CNN is that it is at all the airports and I always watch the people around to see if they watch it and never see anyone intently watching CNN so I must not be alone in this assesment. I can always go to DrudgeReport for my news aggregater. Nicolodian is probably great if you have young children – I watched it once waiting in a dr’s ofc.

  2. Wow, thanks Don. Lots of good info. I’m heading down in a few days to David. What I’m not sure of is cell phone. I’m paying roving fees for the first month after than I’d like to have a local solution. For folks back home it will be mainly Skype.


  3. I realize I’m writing on an older post. We use Ooma and Nextiva for US based numbers here in David. Nextiva is a bit expensive but is used for an online business. We do have the Cable Onda 100mb down and 5 mb up. The call quality is very good with 5 mb up for both services but I wouldn’t recommend trying it on 1 mb up. I’ve had good calls on the Ooma app on my LTE movistar connection, however, I’ve struggled with Whatsapp over the same connection. It is definitely convenient to have a US based number that rings here and that I can use to call back to our family in the United States.

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