Border Crossing – Panamá To Costa Rica

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We eventually left Panamá for Costa Rica. We returned from Boquete on Monday and spent a final night in David, our hub city, drinking beer and watching movies at the local theatre.

It took us over two hours to figure out how to do the border crossing. We could either take a frontera bus (David is only an hour drive away from the border) and then hop on another bus on the Costa Rican side. Or we could take an international bus going to San Jose, Costa Rica. The bus station in David was very chaotic and dusty and we went back and forth looking for the ticket booth. When we found it, the employees had gone for lunch and would be back an hour later, más o menos. We ended up buying a ticket on the international bus, leaving the following day at 8 am.

On Tuesday morning, we boarded the bus, barely awake. It took us just an hour to get to the border. There, we had to take our bags (stored underneath the bus) and go to a small round room, with tables. We put our backpacks on the tables and waited for what was coming up next. Sure thing, a custom officer arrived 30 minutes later and searched us.

After that, we rushed to put our backpacks back on the bus, and started queuing to get our exit stamp from Panamá. We bought an actual stamp for 1$ that a lady stuck in our passport (no idea what was that for) and then had our passport stamped.

The bus was waiting for us on the Costa Rican side, so we walked about 200 meters to the other border control. We got our Costa Rican entry stamp without much troubles. We weren´t even asked any question.

But once again, the bus driver called us and we had to take our backpacks with us. A border officer took our passports and we were told to line up. We were called, one by one, and searched again.

Back in the bus. Phew.

We had decided to skip San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, for now, and to get off at San Isidore Del General. We bought a Coke and braced ourselves for a quite original ride…

Bus Station In David

Bus Station In David

Between Panamá And Costa Rica

Between Panamá And Costa Rica

Costa Rica, Border Control

Costa Rica, Border Control

Final Border Control, The Bus Waiting For Us

Final Border Control, The Bus Waiting For Us


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Your story reminds me that adventures such as yours are for the young and energetic. Meanwhile here in Tulsa school was out for the last 2 days because of an ice storm and I am blogging pictures of my Christmas tree. Stay safe and keep posting photos.

  2. Sounds like a great trip. If you go to the Atlantic side check out Cahuita. It’s by a national park, plus reefs and when I was there in 1999 was unspoiled. – mostly Rastas and surfers. If you do go to Cahuita eat at Chachachas. Ask for Julie from Quebec – she’s my cousin…

  3. Border crossings. Somehow, I find it that land crossings are different, if not utterly weird, than air crossings. I don’t know, there are just different questions that people ask in land crossings compared to air crossings. When I enter the United States through an airport, people simply stamp my passport after checking my documents. But when I enter the United States by land from Canada, they ask other questions, like whether I am bringing anything from Canada, about who owns the car, and what we did in Canada.

  4. Ooohh border crossings sound so exciting! The only border crossing I’ve done is between Thailand and Malaysia. 😛

    Have a nice trip there, and I heard there are a lot of tourists in Costa Rica. True?

  5. awesome zhu! you realize canada is under about 25 feet of snow, and you’re in 80 degree weather? oh and that yabble yabble you hear isn’t french, it’s spanish. ok, now that you’re oriented, here’s the zinger: it’s less than a week until christmas. bon voyage and if you see santa, ask to see his passport stamps!

  6. Salut Zhu,
    You both made it !
    He he; did you know that Didier & I did the “on & off bus shuffle” when we we arrived from NYC into Quebec in Sept? Different ambiance, same methods; get your junk out,queue up, and one by one ( or with a couple) present your papers.
    The bus driver called it “the Canadian lottery” and we all won; he he 😉

    I’m glad that you’re in. I’m going to send the link to one of my US friends in France.Her parents are moving to CR in 2009 !

    Bises aux voyageurs intrépides xx

  7. @Tulsa Gentleman – I just can´t believe it´s Christmas, it just feels like summer to me. It is weird, people here display Santa Claus near palm trees and fake snow on their garden 🙂

    @Bluefish – Sorry I can´t keep in touch more, the connection is so slow I barely have the chance to update my own blog… please let me know when you move to Europe!

    @Larry Gambone – Thanks for the tip! We may go after Xmas, after Nicaragua. I wrote that down 😉

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – Land borders just don´t make any sense to me. They are so… artificial. We could cross anywhere, but people die trying and that´s the sad part. We are lucky to be born with the right passport, allowing us to travel… other, not so lucky.

    @kyh – Supposed to be, but we haven´t seen that many. A few backpackers here and there but less than I had thought.

    @Gail at Large – Yeah, I don´t like not having my passport… but sometimes, you just have to give them, it´s easier than arguing.

    @Seraphine – I´m definitely IDing Santa when I see him. This old man is just weird. It´s winter up there? Ohhh… sorry 😆

    @barbara – Crossing borders is somewhat a lottery, that´s very true! I don´t get into troubles going to the US anymore because I´m a Canadian resident, but I used to be questioned for hours… it sucks. Here it´s mostly about the non-efficient and the occasional bribe, but we cross fairly easilty. Well, I don´t wanna jinx it!

    @RennyBA – I should have Olga with me, I bet it would like the hot weather for a change! 😆

  8. Hi Zhu!

    David doesn’t sound so bad!
    Now, all this frisking is appalling, isn’t it? Anyway, what matters is that you are ok!

    So…now is Costa Rica, eh? Super!!! 😀

    I am ready for the news…


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