Expat Mailbox – Shipping and Mailing in Panama

Expat mailbox Last week marked the first anniversary of my arrival in Panama to start my life as an expat. Just out of curiosity I sent out an eletter asking readers to send in questions about their biggest concern in moving overseas. (If you’re not on my mailing list but would like to be, you can sign up here.)

I’m tickled that lots of you responded with quite a few interesting questions. Far too many to answer in one post, so I’ll spread them out over the next few weeks.

They tended to fall into categories, so today I’ll tackle questions dealing with moving and shipping.

Container Shipping

Scott asked if we shipped any household items or a car via container.

Answer: No, we didn’t. We divvied up important family memorabilia among our kids, then sold or gave away practically everything else we owned. We held an estate sale, took carloads of used clothing and small housewares to Goodwill, boxes and boxes of books to our local public library, and larger furniture and furnishings to Habitat for Humanity.

We sold the older car, then passed along the newer one to our youngest daughter to use during the summer. Last fall I went back to the US and sold that one as well.

We stored a few boxes with my husband’s brother, and came to Panama with clothes, computers and dogs.

Mail and Packages

Billy wanted to know if I could tell him about shipping to and from Las Tablas.

That’s a good question.

First of all, there is a postal system here but it’s not at all like what you’re used to in the US or Canada.

There’s no mail delivery — heck, there are hardly any addresses. You can rent a PO Box, but everyone I’ve talked to has advised not to send anything of value through the mail system.

What we’ve done instead is we opened an account with Mailboxes, Etc. A year ago the nearest one was in Chitre (about a half hour drive), but one just recently opened here in Las Tablas. They have quite a few stores in and around Panama City, as well as David, Boquete, Bocas del Toro and Santiago.

They’ll give you an address in Miami, FL. Anything sent there automatically gets forwarded on to your Mailboxes, Etc. mailbox here in Panama

They charge a monthly fee, which allows you up to two kilograms of letters and packages. If you exceed that weight, they charge you by the gram and it can get expensive very quickly.

If you’re in Panama City or David you have some good options for larger or heavier packages, but here it’s problematic. Some people ship packages on the bus from Panama City as a more affordable alternative.

We’ve not tried to send any packages from here, but even sending a letter can be expensive. A few times we’ve received checks in the mail. Because we want a tracking number when we send them for deposit, we use Mailboxes, Etc. to send them back to the US via Priority Mail. It costs about $14.

Here’s more information about getting and sending mail and small packages in Panama.

photo by paul-simpson.org on flickr


  1. Teresa Rascon says:

    I am still a little stressed when it comes to bringing my 2 small dogs over. It says that they can be quarantined at home. So I am imagining that I have to come over first and find a rental home and then bring the dogs. Or can a hotel address count?

    • FutureExpat says:

      Teresa, I totally understand. The hardest part of our move was getting our three dogs here. If you missed that post, you can read it here.

      If your paperwork is in order they will let you leave the airport with the dogs. You agree to a 30-day in-house quarantine. It’s not enforced. Panama doesn’t offer pet-friendly hotels like we’re used to in the US. There are a couple in Panama City, but I don’t know of any in the interior. If someone else does, maybe they’ll speak up. When we moved, I came over first to find a place, and only after I got the rental house and moved in did my husband and the dogs join me.

      • Kathy Patick says:

        What about packing boxes and bringing them along with you as luggage on planes? If so will they allow them on the plane from Panama City to Bocas del Toro?

        • FutureExpat says:

          Kathy, have you looked at the costs for bringing extra baggage on the plane with you? It’s probably the most expensive way to ship your goods. I would definitely not recommend it. Also, I highly doubt you’d be allowed to take a lot with you on a Bocas flight.

  2. As far as shipping to Panama, it s better to check with a Freight Fowarder with reliable information to based with. The shipping charges could varies

    Hope that help.

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