Claro Prepaid Data Plans in Panama

jsw_claro_cardFor some reason it seems very difficult to find instructions on how to load Claro prepaid data onto your device. I don’t say onto your phone, because you might want to put it on your USB thunderstick or onto your WIFI hotspot device.

In any case, the process is almost the same for each of them.  To load minutes, you make a phone call.  To load data, you make sure the SIM card that you want loaded is in the phone making the call, then you make the phone call and follow up with a text message. The specifics are below.

First -Pick Your Size

First you need to decide how much you want.  The way you buy prepaid data is the same way you buy minutes to reload your phone – you buy a prepaid phone card.

In Panama you can make your prepaid data (or prepaid phone minutes) card purchase in nearly any grocery (super or mini super) or pharmacy (farmacia).  While the minutes are sold on a volume basis (in 2014 at 8 cents per minute), data is sold on a timed basis, rather than a volume basis.  If you want to know how much time you’re getting on your phone, simply divide by eight, or just trust the math angels that live in your phone.

Here, however, is the breakdown for data, as the more you spend the better the price:

  • $1.00 buys you 1 day – code is P1
  • $2.00 buys you 2 days – code is P2
  • $5.00 buys you 10 days – code is P10
  • $10.00 buys you 15 days – code is P15
  • $15.00 buys you 30 days – code is P30

The cute little card you bought has B/.3 or B/.5 or B/.whatever in the corner, so you know how much it’s worth. The monetary reference here is the Balboa. Panama’s monetary system is tied to the US, so one Balboa is one dollar, and is often also called that.

Second – Use the Secret Code

Turn your card over and GENTLY scratch off the silver stuff over “the secret code.” You will see a set of 5 groups of 4 numbers.  Make sure you can see all of them, and notice how the six differs from the five.  Now you are going to make a strange phone call. To avoid confusion, the directions will be specific for each device from this point.

To add prepaid calling minutes to any phone:

This is as simple as following the directions on the back of the card. Dial *106* , punch in the numbers of the secret code, end it all with a # and then SEND (or OK).

You’ll see a message that says something like “USSD code running. Please wait.” This will be followed by a confirmation message that tells you the saldo (amount) you had in your account to start, and then how much you put in. If for any reason you don’t believe them or can’t add and want the total, enter *103# and hit SEND (or OK).

To add prepaid data to a smartphone:  

First, TURN OFF YOUR MOBILE DATA CONNECTION. If you don’t, you can kiss any calling minutes you might still have goodbye, because they will be absorbed into the system.  Resistance is futile.  And I don’t care how good-looking you are, how much money you have, or who you know.  You will never see those minutes or the money you paid for them again. This is definitely a case of “Too bad, so sad”and Claro thanks you for your contribution.

With the mobile data connection off, make The Phone Call.  Dial *106* , punch in the numbers of the secret code, end all with a # and then SEND.

For the next bit, you will need the codes for the amount of data you are buying.  For the sake of having an example, let’s assume you are buying two weeks for $10. As noted on the list above, the code for two weeks of data is P15.

Once you receive the confirmation message, activate your SMS function and send a message as follows:  TO: 464  MESSAGE: P15.  Press your SEND button and wait for the reply.

That’s it. You’ve got data. Turn the mobile data connection back on and do something that proves it works.  Then turn it back off to save usage and battery, or not, as appropriate.

To add prepaid data to your USB thunderstick or WIFI Hotspot device:

Important: You will need access to a phone with a regular size SIM card, not the microSIMs often found in smartphones.

FIRST, take the SIM card out of the phone. Try not to touch the metal contacts on it. NEXT, take the SIM card out of the USB or WIFI device. Ditto on touching the metal contacts. THIRD, put the device’s SIM INTO the phone.  This operation ensures that the money will be applied to the correct SIM card.

This time let’s pretend you are buying a month, which will take the purchase of both a $10 card and a $5 card. Once the device’s SIM card is in the phone, make The Phone Call to enter the $10 card. Dial *106* , punch in the numbers of the secret code, end all with a  # and then SEND. When you get the confirmation that your saldo is $10 higher, enter the $5 card the same way. When the confirmation comes back that your total saldo has gone up by another $5, you are ready to turn this into data.

Activate the SMS function. Per the chart at the top of this article, the code you will need next is P30. Enter a message as follows:  TO: 464  MESSAGE: P30.  Press your SEND button and wait for the confirmation.

That’s it.  You now have one month’s prepaid data on your device.  Remember to switch the SIM cards back and you’re good to go. BTW, data comes with some usage guidelines, but Claro doesn’t seem too serious about them. If you abuse yours horribly, they might throttle your speed down, but mostly that doesn’t seem to be much of a problem, since it’s not that blazingly fast in the first place.

If you have any trouble with this, just go into the nearest Claro store and an employee will handle it for you. The point of this article is to try to save you the trip.