Traveling from Costa Rica to Panama can be a bit stressful for some travelers, many opting for a travel company to assist them in getting to Bocas Del Toro. Yet, in my most recent experience crossing the border, I found it to be easier than I was told.
These are my guidelines to cross the Costa Rican border to Panama:
- Bus from Puerto Viejo to Sixaola Take a bus from Puerto Viejo to Sixaola, the town at the border of Panama and Costa Rica. Buses start from 6:30 am and continue every hour until 7:30 pm. The bus stop has a blue overhang in front of the beach. There is no AC on the bus, but once the bus gets moving and the windows are down, it isn’t so bad.
- Pay Costa Rica Exit Fee In Sixaola it will seem like you’ve been dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Don’t worry, it’s just the border. Walk straight. On the left you will find a small office that looks like a pharmacy and probably has someone wearing an orange vest outside the window. This is where you will pay your Costa Rica exit fee for $7.
- Get Passport Stamped at Immigration Office If someone offers to show you where the immigration office is, do not accept their assistance as they will ask for a tip afterward. Crossing the border is so easy you do not need anyone to hold your hand as you cross. To the right of the window where you just paid your $7 exit fee, there is a staircase leading up to the office. This is where you get your exit stamp.
- Cross the Border Unfortunately, the beautiful photogenic bridge that used to connect Costa Rica and Panama has collapsed, so now you are left with a plain boring bridge. Cross the bridge and on the other side you will see a soldier holding a gun. You’ve made it to Panama!
- Get your Panama Entrance Stamp The immigration office is slightly down the hill passed the shuttle vans, on the left-hand side. There was no one in line when we arrived, so this was smooth sailing. The immigration lady did ask for proof of onward travel so make sure that you have this handy!
- Transportation to Bocas Del Toro Here you have two options: when you leave the immigration office, there is a bus stop to the left down the road. This is the much cheaper option, but also it takes much longer and you do have to transfer buses to reach your destination. I’m all for cheap and this was the option I wished to take, however my travel companion at the time preferred convenience and since there were so many shuttles, we opted for convenience over budget. The shuttle van is $12 and leaves when it’s full. It will drop you off at the river where you will then transfer to a boat in order to get to Bocas Del Toro.
And that’s it! Easy right?