Costa Rica - Panama border

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Full bus at the Costa Rica - Panama border crossing.

We left the wild south of Costa Rica, the dense rainforest, the varied landscape and the friendly people behind us, because another country awaited us on our trip in America. Panama. A country to which already Janosch wanted to go in the book "Oh, how beautiful is Panama", which stands for untouched nature and an exciting capital. Of course, the world-famous Panama Canal, which was created by man and connects the Pacific and the Atlantic, should not be forgotten. But to do so, we first had to enter Panama by land across the border. Easier said than done.

As young Europeans, we are used to traveling easily and quickly to neighboring countries without having to worry about border crossings. But to get from Costa Rica to Panama or vice versa it takes a bit more. We started our day in Drake Bay, which is one of the most remote places in Costa Rica. Accordingly, we started our trip early, because for us the boat trip to Sierpe was first on the agenda.

After 1.5 hours and a slight nausea, we reached Sierpe. From here we switched to buses as a means of transportation. With the first collective bus we went on to Palmar Norte, 45 minutes away. We had inquired in advance which route was the best and fastest and had also received a tip from one of the employees of our accommodation that one should take a bus from Palmar Norte to Cd Neily, 70 kilometers away. From here, buses run at regular intervals to the border of Panama. Many Ticos often make side trips to the neighboring country, especially at Christmas time, because the prices there are much lower. And so we sat with our huge suitcase exclusively with locals in a strongly air-conditioned bus and constantly tracked on our cell phone whether we were really going in the right direction. In total, we needed 5 hours for the stretch Drake Bay to the town of Paso Canoas, where the border crossing is located.

Finally arrived at the border, we were first greeted by a rain shower, but found shelter in a snack bar. And so we used the short break to fortify ourselves and scout out how we got across the border. However, it was extremely chaotic in this place. After a few conversations with locals we found out where the border crossing was. We just marched on and stood haphazardly in Panama. We knew we needed an exit stamp for Costa Rica and also an entry stamp for Panama. But had no idea where to get them. So we asked at the border police and I suddenly found myself face to face with four heavily armed policemen. They hardly spoke English, but we communicated with hands and feet. We had to go back to Costa Rica to get the stamp a bit away from the crossing at the main road on the right side. And so we went back to Costa Rica with our 20 kg suitcase and after another 10 minutes we finally found the office. However, this sent us again further, since first a departure tax was to be settled. So we continued. Cross the main street and go to the next house. Pay 20 $ tax. With the receipt back across the street and finally we received the exit stamp.

Glad to have finally cleared the first hurdle, we went to the border, here we had to show a valid onward ticket in addition to our passport. The female charm is here only advantageous. While I had an extremely friendly official and had a little chat when my ten fingers were scanned, Beppo had a rather bad-tempered man who would have loved to eat him. In the end, nevertheless, they both wished us a nice trip and finally we got the entry stamp. The rest was a piece of cake, we got into a small collective bus right behind the border post, which should bring us to David to our rental car.

However, after about 5 minutes of driving, our bus was stopped again and a heavily armed soldier got on to check the passengers. We were the only Europeans in the bus, consequently we were the only ones who were checked. The man wanted to see our passports, because in Panama there are high fines for illegal immigration, so there are strict controls, especially for tourists. After briefly leafing through the passports, the soldier looked skeptically at Beppo. They nodded at the same time. He left the bus. We drove on. The bus driver, a white man with a white mohawk, who cooled the bus down to what felt like 10 degrees, pedaled away. Loud Latino electric music blasted from the speakers. Headache. The ride, for a total of $4, ended for us in David, the third largest city in Panama. Once there, we picked up our rental car for the next 10 days and then drove to Bajo Boquete, 50 kilometers away. After an exhausting day of traveling we had to get some food and go to bed. The Lost Waterfalls and the hike to La Piedra de Lino had to wait another night for us.

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