Famed duty free shopping destination

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Buying goods at the Colón Free Zone

Colón Free Zone.

Colón Free Zone.

Panama is great place for shopping. And in no place outside of Hong Kong can one find a free zone so stocked or as large as the Colón Free Zone (CFZ). It is a popular place for buyers to pick up hard-to-find and expensive items at their distribution source. Located on Panama’s Caribbean coast, the CFZ is the point of distribution for products throughout the American continent, the Carribbean, Europe and Africa. Jewelry, technological equipment and appliances are some of the items popular among buyers who set out to find the best that its more than 400 show rooms can offer.

How to get there

The CFZ is located in the province of Colón some 80 kilometers north of Panama City. It is accessible by the new superhighway, which bears the name Don Alberto Motta Carzoze. This toll road that opened in recent years allows for expidited connection from the modern population center of Panama City and the Caribbean port town. A valid passport is required to enter.

Drivers are available for booking at hotels in Panama City to accompany shoppers during their day. This is a good idea as the CFZ is a far cry from the comfort of the air-conditioned shopping malls of Panama City. An air-conditioned vehicle is the best way to make it from shop to shop, although there are those who brave the trip by bus and on foot.

Plan ahead

Entrance in a rental car requires prior arrangements (see email at the end of this article) to enter. Research is recommended before traveling to the CFZ to shop on a whim. The stores are not arranged by their product line(s), so having a look at ColonFreeZone.com, enquiring at a hotel about the Colón Free Zone Map and about the FOB Colón Free Zone annual directory are smart steps to take to assure a successful trip.

It is important to note that there are no restaurants or public transport in this special economic area. The majority of the shops in the Free Zone show their products in a showroom and sell in bulk. It is important to ask ahead if retail is an option at all.

Taking it home

Tourists who buy a considerable quantity of items can have their purchases sent from the CFZ to their port of departure, a service which is arranged with the CFZ shops. Upon leaving the country, buyers visit the Customs Office at their port of departure. Smaller-scale purchases can be picked up and taken with the traveller.

Bulk buyers need to hire the services of a shipping company that can deliver the merchandise to their port of choice. CFZ shops can make recommendations, including a door-to-door option.

For more information about how to get to the Colon Free Zone contact a local tourist guide, your hotel or write to: zonalibre@zolicol.gob.pa. By writing to this email, buyers can request a week-long pass to visit the CFZ and enquire about hotel packages.

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