Crossing into Panama

The Costa Rica/Panama border is notorious for its inefficiency and long waiting period. I once heard of someone who spent the entire day trying to cross into Panama from Costa Rica.

Our bus pulled into the border at around 4AM. We had been traveling for 5 hours, so it was nice to get off the bus and stretch. Little did I realize what lied ahead.

The border control office didn´t open until 6AM. So that automatically meant that we´d have to wait at least 2 hours. No problem. We queued up in front of the office, creating a nice long line of tired travelers.

By 6AM, half a dozen other buses had pulled up, and unloaded a group of Central Americans. Instead of waiting their turn, and standing in line like the rest of the gringoes, the central americans (it was a good mix of Costa Ricans, Panamanians, and Guatemalans) proceeded to nudge their way into the line, pushing and shoving until some tired traveler gave way. I´m not saying all central americans were guilty of cutting, but the majority of them completely disregarded the other people who had been standing in line for hours, and went ahead to get their passports stamped- no shame. They acted as if they owned the place.

As a result of the courteous CAs, the line didn´t budge. We ended up waiting for close to 5 hours before we were cleared to walk over to the Panamanian border where we had to wait yet another 2 hours. Great times. There are a few documents that you should have on you including a departure ticket out of Panama, proof of yellow fever vaccination, and either a valid credit card or $500 in cash. It´s not that they´d ask you for all of them, but these are documents that you should have in your possession just in case because the border official does have the right to deny you entry if you lack any of these documents.

After a good 7 hours, we finally boarded the bus, but not before having our luggage searched by customs. They have no way to telling whose bag has been checked, so I pretended to walk around the station a few times and boarded the bus again. Serves them right for having such an inefficient system.

Best of luck to those crossing the Costa Rica-Panama border.

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About Panda Writer
Essay Panda here to help dispel myths and answer FAQs for International Students applying to Colleges in the US.

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