Mailing a Package from Panama

Mail in Panama is not like it is in the USA. There are mailing services like Mailboxes Etc which for money, will get your packages and mail to and from the US or other countries. There is also the Panamanian mail system which is not fast, but is much cheaper. When we first arrived we had something mailed to us in David at general delivery, and it took almost three months! (this may be unusual) If you need something quickly you would probably want to use a mailing service.

I had a little dress for my granddaughter that I forget to take out of my suitcase when I was there, so I decided to try the Panamanian mail service to get it sent to Washington state. It was a hand made dress I bought from this woman in Cuba so something unique, but not a disaster if it gets lost.

We went back to the boulevard and found two cute dresses for my granddaughters, hand made by this lady. She was thrilled to learn they were going to two little girls in the USA.

I had heard that mailing a package is a process but didn’t remember any details so I tried to be prepared. I put the dress in a manila envelope with my card inside with contact details, and the destination name and address, and then the destination name and address outside, unsealed in case they wanted to inspect the contents. I folded this envelope and put it in another manila envelope with the destination name and address, again unsealed. I had tape in my purse just in case.

At the post office, my package was weighed, and then there was some shouting between employees to determine the correct price. I was asked what was inside, the price of the contents, but she only removed the inner envelope and didn’t open it. Then, of course there was paperwork. We had to fill out a form for customs that was stuck to the back, and then another form. That had my phone number, invoice number, office number, destination name and my name, price, date, an official post office stamp with the date, and a sticker with a bar code. I was given the original of this as a receipt and a copy was left in their book. I was also asked for a copy of my passport, and was thankful that I had tucked a copy in my wallet “just in case” a long time ago. I was also asked to write my name and address on the back of the package. Since there are no addresses as we know them here, my address is just the name of my neighborhood, David, Panama.

Then I was sent to another window where a woman had a bottle of glue, and she glued the package closed, telling me “shhhh” like she was doing me a favor and I should have brought my own glue. I remembered there was something about closing packages a certain way, not with string or tape, but glue and my vague memory combined with this experience tells me that yes, I should have brought glue with me to the post office. They used the white glue like kids have in school, and it can be found for sale pretty much anywhere.

Then, I returned to the first lady, she collected my $2, gave me the receipt document, and we were done! This was on Tuesday June 6th so we will see when the package arrives. I was told by a Panamanian that packages to the US can take 2-3 weeks, and if this is true the Panamanian postal service would be a good option for things that aren’t time sensitive.

I will let you all know what happens

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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19 Responses to Mailing a Package from Panama

  1. mcmoller says:

    We have sent some things from the Panamanian post office also. We tell them it is “importante”, pay an extra $1. Then the postal worker places a tracking code sticker on the package and my receipt. With that we can track it online through Panama and then to the first point of entry in the US, usually Miami. Tracking ends after that, but the package usually gets to its destination within a total of 2-3 weeks as you have written. Very inexpensive way of sending things internationally. Only once we have lost something, but that package was sent to Canada.

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    • Oh cool!! I didn’t think of tracking, but I just used the number on the bar code on my receipt and learned my package arrived in Panama City on Friday the 9th. I imagine it stayed there over the weekend so I will check in a day or two and see if it has moved on. I didn’t even say anything about important, just that it was gift for my granddaughter but apparently they gave me tracking anyway.
      Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

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  2. Rick Shultz says:

    You are so … so right about mail in Panama not being the same as in the U.S. I’ve had a few bad experiences that I’d like to quickly share with you and anyone else viewing these posts who might be interested. During the ordeal I’ve recently encountered, the head of the post office here in Santiago told my wife (she speaks Spanish) that normal mail is received here from the U.S. in 7 days. This might have been the case in years past, but in my experience, it just ain’t so. I recently opened a U.S. bank account. My first monthly statement was mailed on April 4 and stamped received by the post office in Panama City on April 26. That’s 22 days. My Welcome Kit was mailed on April 26 and stamped received on May 17. That’s 21 days. Now, in all honesty, my second monthly statement was mailed on May 2 and stamped as arrived on May 12, which is 10 days. That’s pretty good. Maybe the trade winds were just right in May? Maybe they used a speed boat instead of a fish trawler? Who know?

    But the delay in mail isn’t my main problem with the post office system in Panama. It’s the pilfering that apparently is going on. I lost my wallet back in December and in it all my credit cards. Getting replacements for the ones from Panama banks were no problem. But my most important bank in the U.S. sent me a replacement card by regular mail in early January. It has never arrived. They sent a second replacement card in late February. It also never arrived. I finally gave up on the postal system and spent $40 to have them ship me the card by DHL Express on June 2. It arrived this past Saturday the 10th without any problem.

    The bank I mentioned above that sent me the Welcome Kit and two monthly statements that I’ve already received? They sent me a Visa card by regular mail on May 9. it has never arrived. I am now getting ready to tell them to ship it by DHL Express because that appears to be the only way it will ever get to me here in Santiago.

    What seems obvious to me, and I’m open to any other ideas, is that most likely somebody in the postal mail processing system between the U.S. and here is stealing envelopes that contain credit cards. It really wouldn’t take but just a quick bending when he or she sees a white envelope that looks like it’s from a bank to determine if there’s a card in it. And that’s what I am guessing is happening to the credit cards that are being sent to me. All the rest of my mail is coming in just fine, even if it’s a bit slow, but nothing else that I know of is simply disappearing altogether. I would like to know if anyone else is having this same problem and what, if anything, can we do about it.

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I think if I was getting anything important like credit cards, documents, etc I would definitely use Mailboxes Etc or another mailing service. We had PakMail here and never had a problem (but they are now closed and I haven’t tried another service). I would only use the Panama service for something that isn’t critical.
      Did anyone try to use the cards that went missing?

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  3. Just for the fun of it we tried out the Panama Postal system a few months ago. We mailed a letter from Boquete and it arrived in Austin, Texas, 3 weeks later. It cost .35 cents. Like you say,if it is not importante this is a great way to go.

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  4. oldsalt1942 says:

    When I lived at that house in Boqueron I had TWO addresses…Union Fenosa, the electric company, had me as, and I translate, “The two story house at the end of the street with the bus caseta.” IDAAN, the water company had me simply as “Near the Health Clinic.” For actual mail I used general delivery and it seemed to be okay. I never SENT anything to the U.S. except through Airbox Express and that was only a couple of times and it was notarized papers so I couldn’t take the chance with Correo Panama.

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    • Rick Shultz says:

      I’ll never forget the first time we ordered Domino’s pizza and the instructions printed on the box read (translated), “Villas Main Entrance Pass Three Dead Police Bumps House #25 On Left.”

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    • We have house numbers… sort of, not for Union Fenosa but the health department mosquito control people gave us one, and there is another written on the pillar our front which was crossed off and changed at some point, I think for the water people. Usually though it’s the calle sin salida, yellow house, and then they go to the yellow house on the corner instead of ours LOL

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  5. Good luck! I hope your package arrives this year! ha

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  6. The best way we have used to get credit cards is to have them sent to someone in the U.S. Then they put the credit card envelope in a non descript envelope and send it via MBE. We have being doing this, using my daughters address in the U.S., and then having her mail it to our MBE address in Miami. Have only had one Credit card go missing in 4 years. I believe most of the credit card theft is in the U.S., not Panama.

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    • Usually, thankfully, we have managed to pick them up when we visit. Or, my daughter will send them in another envelope along with anything else she feels like sending. But, I think we’ve only had to do that once, maybe twice in five years. Yep, we use my daughter’s house for our USA address and it makes a lot of things a lot easier.

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  7. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    We often shipped things to family in Boquete, and filling out the customs forms here is the same process as the other direction. Going to Panama, the postal worker asks what is in the package but it can already be sealed with no problem. Mailing FROM Panama I have often had the same arguments you noted while the clerks “discuss” correct procedures.

    I sent a cylinder head for an engine to my brother-in-law in Panama City years ago. Packed it in foam, 34 lbs. I remember it was $116 plus he had to pay customs when it arrived. This was all USPS. One tip when someone sends packages there is to write a cell fone number below the address. The post office will call the number to report a package has arrived. This was very handy for Boquete because the office has limited space for packages.

    Another tip I have tried is using Jaime instead of jim or james in the addressing. 🙂
    jim

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    • Wow, I won’t plan to send any engine parts down here! But, good tips to know for sending things to Panama. Thanks.

      Thankfully we have managed to bring back anything we need on our trips to the US, and it’s never anything critical… clothes, spices we like, guitar strings, always something different it seems.

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    • jim and nena says:

      Haha, yep the engine thing was a one time deal (so far!). But the same part in Panama was $1000, and I bought, and shipped this one for 500 bucks so well worth the effort.
      Until recently, one of my sons was running a website for used motorcycle parts and shipping things all over the globe. He became a master at handling all the paperwork forms so it has become more common.
      jim

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      • Yeah, my neighbor needed a new computer for her car, found one on ebay and shipped it here for far less than it would have cost to get one here. Hey, we could start a car parts business! LOL

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