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Border Crossing Costa Rica and Panama

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How to Cross the Border Between Costa Rica and Panama


Crossing the border between Panama and Costa Rica is generally straight forward, although there are a few minor hitches that I would like to write the aspiring vagabond about.

Border Crossing from Costa Rica to Panama

This tip is for the border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama on the Pacific side of the countries at Pasos Canoas (CR).

The Costa Rica/ Panama border can be crossed in two ways

  1. You can ride a direct bus- Tica Bus or Panaline- from San Jose, Costa Rica to Panama City or David, Panama.
  2. You can go to one of the border towns and walk across. Then you can pick up transport on the other side. Either way, the mode of crossing is similar.

Going to Panama

You must first get stamped out of Costa Rica. Do this by going to one of the two Salida windows and getting your passport stamped. From here you walk down the road passed a long row of trucks and shops selling sunglasses until you get to a large circular shaped building which is a little to the right at the end of this road. This no-man’s land between Costa Rica and Panama has a real sleazy feel to it, and it seems as if other activities besides the selling of sunglasses are taking place at frequent intervals. But I do not have the impression that it is a dangerous crossing in the least.

Once you find the big building you have to go to the far side of it, stand in the “Entre Panama” line, get a little ticket, go to the other side of the building, stand in another line at the “Panama Tourism” window, pay a five dollar fee if you are from the USA, prove that you have $150 if you are from Costa Rica, $500 if from another Central America country, and $1,000 if you are from the Dominican Republic. You will then get a tourist card, and then have to go back and stand in the same line at the “Entre Panama” widow that you were first in.

This seems to be a ridiculous process, as you have to stand in the same line twice, but this is what must be done to enter Panama.

After you are stamped into Panama you then give your customs form to an inspector who is in the circular room on the opposite the immigration window and get your bags checked, if this is requested. They are not too strict about customs going into Panama. As a fellow traveler tole me at the border, “They are more worried about stuff going the other way.” He was later proved correct.

After the customs inspection is over, you are now in Panama. You can either get back on your posh Tica Bus or catch a local from the border to David, Bocas, or wherever in Panama you want to go.

Going to Costa Rica:

Crossing the border from Panama to Costa Rica presents slightly more of a hassle to the traveler. The basic steps that are outlined above generally hold true for going into Costa Rica save for the fact that there are far more intense customs inspections, as well as the fact that Panama opens their border and hour and a half before Costa Rica.

So if you want to avoid the lines and cross first thing in the morning, you will just have to wait on the Costa Rican side for them to open. I cannot figure this out. It would seem as if one border was closed then there would be little for the other to do. You would think that they would work together in tandem to pass people easily from one country to the next.

But they don’t.

So if you are on the 10 PM Tica Bus or Panaline international services, you will have to wait for a really long time for the Costa Ricans to open their side of the border. Panama opens at 5:30 AM and Costa Rica at 7 (6:00 Costa Rican time). Oh well.

In all, the border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama is a pretty straight forward travel maneuver. Just follow the signs, do what your told, and ask questions if you get confused.

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Filed under: Costa Rica, Panama

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3136 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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