Skip to Content

Border crossing from Costa Rica to Panama

I already did 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 proof that you have enough money in 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.

Best VPN for Travel: ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN to find cheap flights

Heading abroad? Use ExpressVPN to access your social media accounts, unblock your favorite entertainment sites, and stay connected with friends and family. And get cheaper flights, of course.


✅ Next-gen, high-speed servers in 94 countries

✅ Works on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, browsers, and more

✅ 256-bit AES encryption protects your data, even on hotel Wi-Fi

✅ Unblocks Netflix and other streaming sites


❎ No dedicated IPs

Get 3 extra months free of ExpressVPN when signing up for a 1-year plan. That’s a 49% saving and a monthly cost of just $6.67! You also get a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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

The bus driver 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 there is really nothing to do.


The office opens at 6 am, 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 flight ticket to my county of residence and 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 proof at the immigration office!


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

It is almost 8.30 am 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 Mc Donalds. Free Big Mac for everyone as compensation for this nightmare.


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

Rate this post

Protect your trip: With all our travel experience, we highly recommend you hit the road with travel insurance. SafetyWing offers flexible & reliable Digital Nomads Travel Medical Insurance at just a third of the price of similar competitor plans.


Sunday 1st of June 2014

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.


Monday 2nd of June 2014

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.

Mary Gman

Tuesday 8th of October 2013

Hahaha nex ttime run like forest gump

Universal Traveller

Tuesday 8th of October 2013

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 :(

Mary Gman

Tuesday 8th of October 2013

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

Universal Traveller

Tuesday 8th of October 2013

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