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Expats Blog

Crossing the border from Panama to Costa Rica

We just got back a week ago from a two week trip to San Jose.

Given that we’re applying for residency in Panama, I had to go back to get an apostilled copy of Alejandro’s birth certificate.  That actually ended up being pretty easy – just going to the registro for the birth certificate itself, and then to the Casa Amarilla for the apostille itself.

We travelled in the Tracopa direct bus from Paso Canoas to San Jose, which stops for lunch in Uvita.  I think this time the trip was much faster – maybe only 7.5 hours?  We left at around 1pm Costa Rica time, and arrived a little after 8pm.  There’s a direct bus from David to San Jose, but I just don’t think I could do everything by myself with a baby and all our bags.  So for that reason, I always just get a ride to Paso Canoas and board the bus there after going through migration.

Panamanian Migración at Paso Canoas.

We’ve done it now so many times, but I just wanted to write about it briefly. First you have to go to the get your passport stamped that you’re leaving the country on the Panamanian side at the windows above. Usually they’ll take an electronic scan of my fingerprints, and sometimes they take a photo of either me, or Alejandro.

Costa Rican Migración at Paso Canoas.

After that, we walk across the border, usually dragging all our luggage with us. The last time though, Luis asked and they said it was fine to just drive our car across the border and park it outside the Costa Rican Migración office, which was a huge help. Not having to drag a carseat, suitcase, baby bag, laptop bag, and a Pack ‘n Play the equivalent of two blocks is a change I welcome. Then you simply get in the line at Migración and get your stamp into Costa Rica. When I didn’t have residency, I think they sometimes asked for proof of a flight leaving the country, but with the residency card, the process is really a formality and done very quickly. Although, it was also generally a pretty quick process before!

The Tracopa bus departs from right outside the office of Migración, so the process of journeying to San Jose pretty much starts right after we have our stamps, and they have checked our bag. There’s what I can only describe as a “holding pen” that you have to stand in when they’re checking bags, and that can make you feel a bit like you’re in a prison. Especially when there is a delay and you’re stuck in a fenced off area for 30 minutes to an hour, but after that you get on the bus and you’re on your way!

Sidewalk in Santa Ana.

It was really nice to visit with friends, and enjoy some of the luxuries we don’t have in David (I miss Uber so much!), although 7.5hours with a toddler is not as easy as it was with a baby. We walk around in Uvita, and eat mashed potatoes at the restaurant, but after that he generally doesn’t want to sleep again and it’s hard to entertain him in the bus. This time I actually took the carseat onto the bus with me, and it definitely did make some things simpler.

There are pros and cons to both countries. Every time I am back in Costa Rica, I feel like I miss it a lot, and remember why I moved there in the first place. I hope we can all go back in the car soon and visit some of the places in the south of the country that I didn’t get a chance to see this time.

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