How to Cross the Border

How to Cross the Border

AUTHOR: Rebecca Probst

Some of us need to cross the border in order to be able to stay in Costa Rica. It's more straightforward than it sounds in the first place. We (a lot of volunteers) use the regular tourist visa you almost automatically get when you enter the country, and when you have to leave Costa Rica after the first 90 days of your stay, you get a new visa for another three months. Instead of applying for a "real" visa, which costs not only more money but also a lot more time, I'm going to explain how exactly this works by using my own trip to Bocas del Toro (Panama) as an example.

Panama Water

From Uvita, the easiest way is to take the Tracopa bus line to David, a city in Panama very close to the border. In our case, we wanted to see more places in Costa Rica, so we first traveled to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast. Puerto Viejo is already near the Panamanian border, which made it really easy to find a cheap shuttle to Bocas. As we reached the border, we had to unload all our bags, and our driver showed us the office where we could get our exit stamps. Once we were all finished, we crossed the border just by walking over the Sixaola Bridge. On the Panamanian side, we got our entry stamps. 

After another two hours of driving, we left the car, unloaded our bags a second time, and traveled the last 20 minutes by boat to the Archipelago of Bocas del Toro.

Bocas del Toro looks like a Caribbean dream and is definitely worth a visit.

The soft white sand, the palm trees, the crystal-clear turquoise waters… At the same time, Bocas is well known for its great nightlife, parties almost every day, and different locations to choose from. One very beautiful location I can recommend is the "Aqua Lounge" a hostel and party location with a wonderful swimming pool; you can use it night and day even if you're not a hostel guest. For the day, local guides also offer tours to the smaller islands where you can go snorkeling, lay on the beach, and admire bountiful starfish.  

In the little town, you can stroll through some cute shops, have great typical, international, and also vegan meals, and find everything you need in one of the few supermarkets. The island is not very big and everything can be found within walking distance. 

Caribbean Beach
How to Cross the Border 5

Now, after having spent a few days in Bocas, it is time to leave and get back to the border. The easiest way is to book a shuttle directly from Bocas to David or the Costa Rican Border, and from there, you take one of the Tracopa buses. Make sure to get a written note of what shuttle services are included in the price; otherwise, you eventually end up paying more than you intended.

From then on, the return trip was like the arrival, only the other way around.

It is important to have all four stamps (exit and entry stamp for Costa Rica, exit and entry stamp for Panama) in order to guarantee you a valid visa and to have a valid departure ticket in between those next 90 days in order to enter Costa Rica. If you're not really planning on leaving Costa Rica in the next 90 days, you can also use an "onward ticket," which is a valid ticket you can book on their website, but it cancels itself after a certain time. 

Now that you've made it back to Costa Rica, the only thing left is to get on a bus and travel to wherever you want!

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