So, when we left off, we were on the bridge crossing over into Panama.
I am happy to report, that we made is safely across, and neither Shaun nor I fell into the water. Success!
The next check point was Panamanian Customs. Essentially a small room, with a man at a desk who was collecting money,and giving you a sticker for your passport. Today the fee was 3 dollars are person, but apparently these fees change frequently.
There wasn’t really a line up, everyone was just cramming their way into the room, and jostling to be next. You can imagine how fun that was with backpacks and our surfboard. We heard the guy at the desk mention something about immigration around the corner.
I had also read about this on-line. Once you’ve gone through Panamanian Customs, you have to turn a corner, and go into a separate building to go into Immigration. It would be SO easy for someone to just keep on walking, and enter the country. I’m just taking a wild guess that this would be very bad.
Once leaving customs you need to take an immediate left, and go down some stairs, and straight down the first side street. There you will find the line for Immigration. We made it there without incident, and there was even some guy there who had our names on a list. That was fairly comforting, as by this point we felt like we were flying solo.
We stood in line for another 25 minutes or so, and finally made it up to the counter. This seemed like the “big” counter. That one that ultimately decides whether you are getting in or not. We watched lots of people ahead of us having difficulties understanding what the border officials wanted. All we had were our passports, and a copy of our return flight information. We made it to the counter, and after much scrutinizing, our passports were stamped again, and we were on our way. I’ve heard that sometimes they require you to provide proof that you have at least 500 dollars cash, but today, our documents seemed to do the trick.
We exited this second line up, and a guy stopped us. He said he was a friend of the bus driver, and told us to wait with him. He was pretty aggressive, telling one of the guys in our group to give him a cigarette, and making Shaun give him an extra 5 dollars for the surfboard. As he stood there spitting, and doing pushups, we all kind of looked at each other, wondering whether we should just give up on the shuttle, and take a taxi.
About 30 minutes went by, and another man came over, and said they were ready to go. We walked down the street about 100m, and there was a van, with a couple people from our original group waiting for us. We never did figure out what the confusion was, and why we were left waiting for so long, but either way, we now had a ride.
We piled in the new van, and headed off to the boat to Isla Colon. We picked up another Panamanian man on the side of the road. He spoke a bit of English, and was obviously in charge of getting us onto the boat. After about an hour, we got to the ferry. We sat in the terminal for about 30 minutes. I enjoyed a Pipa, while Shaun went to pay the additional fee to get his board on the boat.
The boat arrived, and we piled on. It was a beautiful ride, and a welcome breath of fresh air after line ups and shuttles all day. After about 30 minutes we pulled into Isla Colon, and it looked fabulously funky. We grabbed our stuff, and trekked into the middle of town to look for a taxi to our place. It took us a while to track one down, but finally got into the back of a pick up truck.
A man, and a women sat in front arguing for the entire drive. I couldn’t help but take this picture. Here they are, yelling at each other with a small Yoda figure perched in the middle on the dashboard. After such along day, you have to appreciate the little things.
We arrived at our hostel, Panama’s Paradise. Although no one was home, there was a little note with my name, on the door. It had everything we needed in it to check in.
Our arrival did truly feel like paradise. We stripped off our sweat drenched clothes, and I settled in for a BIG siesta. Before falling asleep I glanced at my phone. It was 12:30. The entire process had only taken 4 hours, but it felt like it had been a week.
Keep tuned in this week because I have some great content coming up. This week I will be recapping our entire adventure in Bocas del Toro, Panama. You won’t want to miss it, this place is AMAZING!
What are your border crossing experiences?
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