Recently a reader wrote to ask:
“I’m wondering if you’ve had any experience or knowledge about having supplements & vitamins shipped into Panama for personal use? I need to figure out a cost effective way to do this. I’ll appreciate anything you can share!”
As an expat, staying connected with friends and family is easier today than ever before, thanks to the internet. But what about that old-fashioned snail mail? Not just for letters, but for items you want shipped to you.
It makes sense to source most of your purchases locally, but each of us has a few things we want from our home country. You might place the occasional online order for something special, or friends and family might want to send a gift from time to time.
Of course your solutions will vary with the country you’re in. Many countries, especially in Europe, have reliable postal services that will deliver mail and packages to your door.
Others, like the one I’m in, don’t have that door-to-door delivery we’re familiar with in the US and Canada. Or, if they do, it’s not reliable. You need some sort of international mail forwarding.
Here in Panama, local utility companies don’t mail the bills, they send an employee around. He puts them in or under the door, on a chair on the porch or in a bush by the front door. If it rains and the bill gets soaked or blows away, well, too bad.
If you’re in Panama City or David, you’ll have several options. Here on the Azuero Peninsula, our choice is pretty much limited to one.
It’s pretty much the only game in town for us. We’ve opened an account with the Mailboxes, Etc. store in nearby Chitre. (There are rumors one will be opening soon in Las Tablas.)
In exchange for our monthly fee we get an address in Miami. When mail or packages arrive at the Miami address, they’re sent to Panama where, after going through Customs, they land in our mailbox at the store.
The basic plan allows us 2 kilos worth of shipments — documents or packages. After that, we’re charged extra for each gram.
Mailboxes, Etc. will also allow an occasional shipment even if you don’t have an account. For that they charge a minimum fee plus a weight-based charge. That will work for you if you ship infrequently.
Keep in mind that, depending on what’s in the package, you may have to pay duty on it as well. I never have, because I keep my orders small.
While it works fine for routine mail, it can quickly get expensive if you’re receiving packages.
Other options for similar services are Airbox Express, but only if you’re in Panama City, David or Boquete. Pakya Panama is a relatively inexpensive service, but only available in Panama City. Or check out The Pouch, a package consolidator catering to expats.
If you want to ship larger items to Panama, these mailbox services are not practical.
What Can You Ship?
Documents, of course. As to packages, get to know the guidelines for the company you’re using. They’ll tell you what they will and won’t handle.
Think twice about shipping valuables. Everything gets opened at Customs. Everything.
As to the reader’s specific question about vitamins and supplements, that’s pretty much all I’ve shipped. I order them online using the Miami forwarding address. It takes about a week to get the package from Miami, through Panama customs and to the local mailbox. They send me an email when it arrives.