Panama has some of the harshest copyright laws in the world. What’s more, state representatives reserve the right to access your personal data. If you want to use the internet freely and without worrying about fines, run-ins with the law and worse, a VPN is an excellent solution. In this article, we’ll cover what to look for when choosing a service provider, which specific VPN services are optimal for Panama, as well as why you need a VPN in the country. We’ll even briefly cover how to make best use of various VPN protocols, so read on!
What to look for in a VPN for Panama?
When you’re looking for a VPN to use in Panama, latency is less of a concern than usual. The country is very close to Mexico, the United States and Brazil, meaning that laggy connections are less of a problem. Instead, what you want to think about is security and access to online content. Here are the specific features to pay attention to:
- Encryption – quality VPN providers have strong encryption protocols that prevent ISPs, corporations and the Panamanian government from viewing your online activities. Free VPNs tend to have weak encryption or poor encryption.
- Data logging – providers with zero-logging policies don’t keep any of your data, meaning they can’t give it to the government even if they wanted to. Considering Panama’s harsh laws and loose internet freedom standards, strong data logging governance is a top priority.
- Server network size – the more countries a VPN service has servers in, the more IPs you can get, and the more content libraries from around the world you have access to.
- Download speeds – streaming and surfing the internet requires high download speeds. Good VPN providers have no speed and bandwidth caps, letting your stream and download as much content as you want.
Now that you understand what makes a good provider, here is our list of the top VPNs for use in Panama:
ExpressVPN is the #1 choice for Panamanian residents and visitors. Their service has excellent encryption and data governance standards, which makes it perfect for use in Panama. All data packets are protected using 256-bit AES encryption, which is used by militaries around the world and would take a supercomputer millions of years to crack. One of the best logging policies in the VPN business means that your traffic, DNS requests, IP addresses and browsing histories are never stored on ExpressVPN servers. Even if Panamanian authorities ask for your data logs, ExpressVPN won’t be able to provide them. Moreover, the holding company is based in the British Virgin Islands, which makes it exempt from the Five, Nine and Fourteen Eyes surveillance agreements enforced by the world’s major governments.
In addition to tough security standards, ExpressVPN offers a rich combination of features. With 2,000+ proxy servers in 94 countries, you can access content libraries from anywhere in the world freely. ExpressVPN’s software is easy and fast to install, with a single-click interface that lets you get the features you want, when you want them. There is no speed throttling, no bandwidth limit, and absolutely no restriction on P2P networks or torrents. Whether you want to use streaming services like Hulu or Netflix, download content or do something else entirely, ExpressVPN has you covered.
To learn more, check out our full review of ExpressVPN.
If you want to beat hardcore security blocks and browse the internet as securely as possible, NordVPN is the service for you. Its 256-bit encryption is virtually unbreakable: a supercomputer could spend millions of years trying to crack your data before succeeding. The zero-logging policy is one of the most complete out there, and the service comes with a free DNS leak test to help make sure your ISP can’t track what you do online. But what really makes NordVPN special is its number of advanced specialty servers. For example, you can use Double VPN to route your data through two sets of proxy servers with two layers of encryption. Or you can use obfuscated servers to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN. There are also P2P-optimized servers, and a few more options for various cyber security use cases.
In addition to a strong position on security, NordVPN has one of the biggest proxy server networks in the world. With 5,000+ servers in 62 countries, download speeds are high, and accessing the online services you want is easy. If you can’t access what you’re looking for, the service’s customer support is always on hand to help you out. Last but not least, permanent residents will be happy to know that they can connect up to 6 devices (including WiFi routers at once) to share the VPN with their household or office.
Learn more in our full NordVPN review.
CyberGhost is the perfect VPN if you want to get powerful features without having to use an advanced, complicated interface. The service comes with a variety of apps for macOS, iOS, Windows, Android, Linux and more. Each app is easy to install in minutes, and equipped with a colorful 1-click interface that makes finding what you need easy. Once you log into CyberGhost, you’re presented with 6 simple configuration profiles: anonymous surfing, anonymous torrenting, streaming access, website unblocking, WiFi protection and custom. With these versatile VPN profiles, protecting yourself in Panama is easy and intuitive.
Just don’t think that CyberGhost’s ease of use means it’s weak on features. Its 256-bit encryption means that data packets are virtually unhackable by criminals and governments. The logging policy is immaculate to the point that not even your e-mails are stored. And for users who want a little extra protection, there’s a series of 1-click toggles that block ads, block malicious software, block online tracking, and more. With 2,700+ proxy servers in 60+ countries, unlimited bandwidth and no speed caps, CyberGhost is perfect for streaming, downloading, gaming and more.
To learn more, check out our full review of the easy-to-use VPN here: CyberGhost 2018 review.
PrivateVPN is a feature-rich service that’s attractive to Panamanian users for several reasons. First, its encryption uses 2048-bit DH keys that are so tough no quantum computer in existence can crack them. Second, there’s a comprehensive zero-logging policy that stores virtually none of your information and keeps your online activities anonymous. Even if someone did ask PrivateVPN to provide your information, there would be virtually nothing to share. With the service, your data is safe even when you’re using public hotspots, cafe and hotel WiFis and other shared-access areas.
PrivateVPN’s strongest suit, though, is its speed. In our 2018 review of the service, we found that it consistently demonstrated high speeds, stable connections and low latencies. This makes this service perfect for playing video games; streaming from Hulu, Netflix and other websites; downloading large files. The service is P2P-friendly too, meaning it won’t penalize you for using Kodi, torrenting, etc. Another feature worth mentioning is the kill switch, which stops your computer from sending data packets to your ISP if your VPN connection drops, protecting your anonymity and data.
Panama’s copyright laws
Panama’s copyright laws are among the toughest in the world. State employees aren’t just encouraged to find and punish trespassers; they’re rewarded for it with bonuses. The higher the fines, the bigger an official’s reward. What’s worse, it doesn’t matter if what you own or do is legal elsewhere. If it’s illegal in Panama, you’ll be punished based on local laws including Bill 510, which many have called “the worst copyright law in history”.
Under Bill 510, you can be punished for copyrighted data held in your computer’s RAM (Random Access Memory). This means that simply streaming content from services like Hulu, Netflix and Spotify can result in fines of up to $200,000 for repeat offenders or $100,000 for first-timers. That’s right: the country reserves the right to levy 6-figure fines on users who use popular streaming services. As if that weren’t enough, you might also have to pay for the publication of a press release declaring that you’ve been found guilty of, and fined for, online piracy. Needless to say, this is all pretty harsh – and using a VPN to hide your data and get a foreign IP when you’re in Panama is just good common sense.
Internet freedom in Panama
On paper, Panama’s internet users have free access to the web. Despite this, there have been numerous anecdotal reports of government officials accessing private e-mails – ostensibly to hunt down cyber pirates, but possibly to access residents’ personal information. You’re especially at risk if you’re a journalist or reporter. The NGO Reporters Without Borders and the Inter-American Press Association have both gone on record to criticize the Panamanian government for its repeated efforts to silence the press. Although Panamanian law does promise fair and free access to the internet, you’re better off using a VPN to obscure your online activities while you’re in the country.
Understanding and using VPN protocols
Something to keep in mind while using a VPN in Panama is that not all encryption protocols are created equal. Some are faster, others are more secure, while a few offer superior mobile device compatibility. Below, we cover the most popular formats you’re likely to run into – and explain which are best for Panama.
- OpenVPN With TCP – this is your overall best choice. It’s fast, it’s secure, and it has built-in error correction. If a file, data packet or website fails to load, it gets re-transmitted so your experience remains seamless.
- OpenVPN With UDP – this standard is like TCP, but it doesn’t have the error correction feature. This makes it a little faster, which can be better for streaming, gaming, P2P downloads and other activities that benefit from speed.
- L2TP/IPSec – the combination of L2TP and IPSec is extremely secure. This makes it a good choice for Panama. The problem is that this encryption combo is slow and easily blockable by firewalls. Reserve it for situations that don’t need high speeds or low latencies.
- PPTP – this older protocol is fast but less secure than the ones above. It’s suitable for gaming and public hotspots that block other VPN protocols. Not recommended for high-risk activities like P2P streaming and downloading.
- SSTP – SSTP is a protocol created for Windows. It’s very slow, but extremely secure. It’s also capable of beating hardcore censorship blocks. In Panama, SSTP is a good choice if you’re looking to bypass national filters and/or keep your online activities hidden.
When you’re in Panama, low-risk activities – watching streaming videos, using apps like Kodi and listening to your favorite tunes on Spotify – can result in a hefty fine. It’s best to use a VPN with strong encryption standards if you want to stay safe. To this end, any of the services we recommend on this page are a great fit, having been personally tested by us. Still, we recommend that you remain vigilant, especially when you’re using public WiFi spots.
In addition to keeping you and your data safe, VPNs can help Panama’s tourists and residents access overseas content easily. For example, if you want to watch North American sports games, just get a VPN with Canadian servers and watch CBC. If you want to watch European and UK content, use your VPN to get a UK IP and use BBC iPlayer – and so on and so forth.
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