Border Run to Panama Part 2

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.

Leaving the "ferry" terminal

Leaving the “ferry” terminal

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.

So happy to be on the home stretch

So happy to be on the home stretch

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.

I will laugh at this picture for the rest of my life

I will laugh at this picture for the rest of my life

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.

Keys on the door, thank goodness!

Keys on the door, thank goodness!

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?

Pura Vida!


Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Our Border Run to Panama Part 1

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.

woops, road block!

woops, road block!

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.

man down...he was actually just watching ants, but this picture looks  tragic

man down…he was actually just watching ants, but this picture looks tragic

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.

Rookie move.

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.

This picture doesn't even do it justice!

This picture doesn’t even do it justice!

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

Pura Vida!


Follow me on Twitter: @caketress