Border hopping…it’s one of those things that every traveller has to go through…and turns out…I’m not a fan.
As we were planning our trip, we knew that we would need to leave Costa Rica at least once to meet the Visa requirements. A Visa in Costa Rica is only 90 days, and since we are here for 5 months, we would have to leave the country in order to get ours renewed.
Although we originally thought our border run would be next month through Nicaragua, so many people told us how wonderful Panama was, we to do it early to see the sights.
I had done a lot of research about border hopping, and it all seemed like quite the ordeal. Since we are fairly laid back travellers, and like to avoid stress as much as possible, we opted to book a tour to take us from our hotel in Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, to Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro, Costa Rica.
You can certainly take public transit to the border, walk across, then catch it again on the other side, but that seemed far to adventurous for us.
We woke up bright, and early to catch our shuttle, and by the time it made it to our hotel it was VERY full. It was lucky there were no tunnels to go through, because all of the backpacks and bags were piled sky high on top of the roof of the van. We were given wrist bands to wear so we could be identified by the shuttle driver and began our journey. We slowly winded our way through the endless banana fields, until we reached our first hiccup.
Yes my friends, that is a tree, right across the road. I am pretty sure that every shuttle we have taken through Costa Rica has involved some sort of strange occurrence, and this one was foliage based.
The shuttle parked, and everyone got out, while a maintenance crew worked away trying to clear the tree.
As you can see, Shaun was thrilled. It seemed like we were going to be stuck for hours, but they worked fast and It ended up only taking about 25 minutes. We all hopped back on the shuttle and carried on. Shortly there after, we arrived at the border.
This is where the my stress levels started increasing a little. Unlike Nicaragua, cars are not allowed over the border into Panama. Our van stopped just before the archway of the border, and we all got out. We were handed our bags, and an immigration paper. Our shuttle driver left, and we assumed we needed to find our next shuttle driver on the other side. Some of the people on the tour just started walking towards the archway, while a few of us stood on the side of the road filling out our paper.
By the time we had filled out our paper, and started walking towards the archway, our group was split in two, as the rest of the tour group was much farther ahead in the line up. The remaining few of us gathered together on the hot pavement with all of our gear, and waited in line. I had been cold in the morning, so I had put my sweater on. Getting out of the van had happened so fast that I hadn’t had the chance to take it off. Now with Tatonka, Titty Tonka, and our food back lugged over my shoulder, I was a sweaty beast.
After about 25 minutes we made it to the front of the counter. This turned out to be Costa Rican Immigration. They stamped our passport, took our paper, and we left.
Now, in doing my research, I had heard a lot of talk about this supposed “bridge”, and let me tell you, it lived up to all my expectations. To enter Panama, you have to walk across this rickety old railway bridge. The slats are loose, and there are gaps that a 7 year old child could easily fall through. Did I mention you have to do this while carrying all your gear? It was impressive to say the least.
Did we make it over the bridge you ask?
You will just have to wait and see, because this my friends, is a two parter.
Tomorrow on Hostels and Hot Rollers, Our Border Run to Panama Part 2
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