You could use your cell phone to call home but it will be very expensive. The average rate is $4.95 per minute. If you get an international calling plan for about $50 per month ( no contract needed), it will reduce the price to $1.95 per minute.
For data, like checking emails, it is better to wait until you are at a WiFi hotspot. There will be free WiFi at all hotels were we stay and some restaurants. Otherwise, you will need to buy an international data plan from your cell phone provider. The cost is about $50 per month and there is no contract required.
It is really better to turn OFF data roaming on your phone before you leave the airport in your country. This will prevent excessive charges. ( ask me how I know… I had a $1200 phone bill after my first trip to Panama… because I didn’t know what I didn’t know!)
A BETTER Solution..
There are many free Apps you can download on your phone to call home.
WHATSAPP for Smartphones (FREE APP)
If you’re bringing your smartphone with you on the tour, please download the free app called Whatsapp. This is a chatting/texting/messaging app that a lot of people in Panama use. I (Melissa) use it here in the States almost everyday to chat with my mother and our driver Enrique or Luis. If you download the app, you will easily be able to message any of us (Melissa, Jackie, our drivers) to let them know of any flight delays, cancellations, questions you may have and also to reconfirm all of your pick ups and/or city tours. YouTube.com has some great videos about how to how to set up the Whatsapp. You can also use this app where you live with your friends and family. The person you are calling will also need to have WhatsApp installed on their smartphone.
Skype (FREE APP)
Skype is a great way to communicate with friends and family back home rather than calling or texting them through your smartphone. If you don’t want to use Whatsapp to communicate with friends and family back home, this is a great option to use as well. You can even sign up for a Skype phone number that you can use as a regular phone number to give out to people. This way when they dial the phone number on their phone (not in Skype app) you will be able to receive phone calls to your Skype phone number. Or you can just use it to message friends and family but they must also have the Skype app on their phone or PC/laptop in order to do this.
ADDITIONAL FREE APP
While you are downloading Apps to your phone, get Google Translate. You can talk into your phone in English, then it will translate into Spanish for you. ( written and audio) If someone is talking to you in Spanish and you don’t understand, you can ask them to talk into Google Translate on your phone, then it will translate into English for you. You can even use your camera with Google Translate to translate a menu or written text into English.
During the tour, If there is an emergency, please let your family know they can call Melissa at 972-496-4500 or 512-623-9292. She will get a message to Jackie, who will get the message to you right away.