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Panama - Postal Service
Post offices are open from 6.30 am to 5.45 pm from Monday to Friday, and from 7 am to 5 pm on Saturday. There may be queues for certain services such as opening a post office box if there is documentation to be completed and in post offices in busier urban areas.
In order to receive post you will need a post office box. Getting a box is simply a case of going to the post office and asking for one. A small fee is payable, but in some areas there are not many spare boxes. Many people get around this by sharing boxes with friends or family members. This is not supposed to happen, but it is a common practice and there is little enforcement of the regulations. In some areas the system for obtaining and paying for a post office box is computerised and there are several forms to be completed. This can be more if the box is for a company, but once the forms have been filed with the post office it should not need to be done again.
Airmail letters to the US and Europe can take anywhere between 5 and 10 days. Domestic mail can take 2-3 days, depending upon the destination. Incoming mail from the US and Europe can take several weeks and due to the large amount of mail that does not arrive at all, it is recommended that the standard postal service is not used to send anything valuable.
Address formats in Panama should be laid out as follows:
Name Building Name, Apartment Number (if applicable)
Street Name, House Number
PO Box Number
Post Office Name and Town
Most addresses will not make use of the house/apartment number and street name and will feature only the PO Box information. It is widely considered that most mail addressed to a home address will not arrive.
There are a number of items which cannot be sent through the post in Panama. These include any coins or banknotes, traveller’s cheques, any kind of jewellery or valuables, any liquids, perishable items such as fruits or any radioactive materials. Any items which need to have duty paid on them cannot be sent using the Panama post office international service.
There are a number of different services that you can use to send mail internationally. Some will require customs forms to be completed but most items can be insured by the post office. There is also a private mail service run by a US company called Mail Boxes Etc, which has six branches in Panama City. They provide their customers with a mail forwarding service. Mail is sent to Miami then forwarded to Panama to mail boxes there. Airbox Express offers a similar service for mail which is to be sent to the city of David.
This type of service means that mail can reach Panamanian citizens much more quickly than the standard mail service offered by Correos y Telegrafos. Expats who wish to have magazine and newspaper subscriptions from their home countries will find that this type of service is much more efficient. It is a good service for any kind of mail order from other countries and is not a costly service to use so is popular with the expat population of the larger cities.
International courier services offer mail deliveries for international mail but these are considered to be very expensive, especially for smaller items, although it can be cost effective to send larger items if you need to be sure that they will be delivered on time. Courier companies such as FedEx have bases in the country.
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