Border crossing from Costa Rica to Panama

By Tim Kroeger October 8, 2013 Costa Rica, Panama

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This post is also available in: German

I did already many border crossings but this one was by far the worst one. Border crossing from Costa Rica to Panama. Long waiting time, flight ticket to country of residence, 500 USD in cash or a proof that you have enough money on your bank account as well as a $7 tax document required.

It is Thursday night and I have to leave Costa Rica for a Visa Run. Together with a friend, I take the night bus at 11 pm from San José to Panama.

It costs 57.75 USD and is supposed to take about 15 hours. We check in 45 minutes before departure and leave San José on time.

The bus is quite comfortable and I manage to fall asleep very quickly. In no time we arrive the border, more precisely at 4.30am.

The busdriver asks us to leave the bus and we walk to the passport office. We are the only ones there and it should go very fast.

It should …. until we find out that the office does not open before 6 am. The bus driver did not say anything and left meanwhile to the Panama border.

We have to wait outside in the dark. At least it is warm, but here is really nothing to do.


The office opens at 6am and I finally get my stamp. Now we have to walk 500m to the Panama border. Waiting in line again.

After 30 minutes it is my turn. I forward my passport and the border official asks for a flightticket to my county of residence as well as 500 USD in cash.

It is a new law and they are really checking it! Alternatively it is possible to show a credit card or any other proof that you have enough money. They only accept USD.

Additionally tourists have to pay $7 exit tax in advance at a Bancredito office. You have to show a proof at the immigration office!


Finally everyone of the bus got his stamp. So we are ready to go!? … I wish. We have to go with all our luggage in a small room where the border officials check all bags one by one.

It is almost 8.30am when we can finally continue our trip to Panama City. It was super tiring and I only want to sleep.

After a few kilometers the bus stops in front of a Mc Donalds. Free Big Mac for everyone as compensation for this nightmare.


It is 4.30pm when we arrive in Panama City. The whole trip took in the end 17.5 hours!

Are you keeping up with my Costa Rica Series

I have lived and worked in Costa Rica for one year. While working for a local tour company in the capital city San José I travelled to all the BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN COSTA RICA.

To help you plan your trip to Costa Rica I put together a guide about HOW TO GET AROUND IN COSTA RICA and BEST LUXURY HOTELS IN COSTA RICA.

Costa Rica is well known for its beautiful beaches and hot springs. Find here THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES IN COSTA RICA and the BEST HOT SPRINGS IN COSTA RICA.

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border crossing from costa rica to panama


  1. Jorge June 1, 2014 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    Yikes! I’m just passing through Panama (by bus from Costa Rica) on my way to Colombia. How can I get in without a return flight ticket? I’m leaving Panama by Boat. Would I have to have that itinerary already set? I’m not sure how long I’ll be in Panama.

    • universaltraveller June 2, 2014 at 12:34 am - Reply

      Hey Jorge! According to the new law you need a return ticket to your county of residence, $500 in cash or a proof, that you have enough money on your bank account plus you have to pay $7 exit tax in advance at a Bancredito office. There is unfortunately no way to enter Panama without this ticket.

  2. Mary Gman October 8, 2013 at 9:44 am - Reply

    Hahaha nex ttime run like forest gump

  3. Universal Traveller October 8, 2013 at 8:51 am - Reply

    haha the busdrive itself was good. Ticabus is the best and probably most expensive option when you want to travel by bus. Faster it’s only by plane and this is quite expensive in central america :(

  4. Mary Gman October 8, 2013 at 8:47 am - Reply

    Haha just read it.. the cheapest option is never is best one… havent you learn that by now :$ ts haha

  5. Universal Traveller October 8, 2013 at 8:41 am - Reply

    Read my post ;) It took in total 4 hours!!!

  6. Mary Gman October 8, 2013 at 8:39 am - Reply

    Haha what happen;?

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