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Published: March 23rd 2014
This is how we crossed the border from Costa Rica to Panama without using a shuttle service. We went from Puerto Viejo De Talamanca to Bocas Del Toro on Saturday.
1. Catch the bus to Sixaola. In Puerto Viejo the bus ticket office is on the road next to the sea. Buy a ticket there costing 1,720 colones. The bus to Sixaola stops at the yellow house on the corner (Deelite ice cream shop/Caribbean Tours). We caught the 8:30am bus. At 8:30 2 buses pulled up, 1 was heading to Manzanillo and the other to Sixaola, the destination is in the front window. It arrived in Sixaola at 9:50am. The border crossing is not the last stop but most people will get off the bus and it stops near where lots of trucks are parked. The bus driver also told us this was the border.
2. Get your departure stamp from Costa Rica. Walk forward and up. There is a building on your right hand side just before the bridge. We waited in line to collect forms from the desk. We then filled them out at the front of the queue and went back to get our stamp once this was done. There is no departure tax to pay here and the queue was less than 5 mins.
3. Walk to Panama. Walk accross the old railway bridge.
4. Pay for a tourist card. On the other side of the bridge is what appears to be an old immigration building no longer being used with "Welcome to Panama" on the side. Next door to that is a blue building where you pay $3 to get a sticker put in your passport, no forms required. There are army guys on your right hand side who directed us in to that building.
5. Get a entry stamp. Walk down the stairs on the left of the bridge. Walk to the end of the road and there is a hanger type building on your right hand side. Walk to the desk. IMPORTANT - you will need a flight ticket to get a stamp, bus tickets are not sufficient. This can be from any Central American country. We had a print off of a flight from Managua to the UK and this was fine, no further bus ticket proof required. You don't need to fill out any forms and there were no questions apart from proof of our flight.
6. Catch the bus to Changuinola. To get to the bus stop from immigration walk through the tunnel under the bridge. The bus stop is to your left in front of the shop. The bus left at 11:20am (Panama is 1 hour ahead of Costa Rica). It cost 95 cents and took 25 mins. You pay for the bus when you get off.
This was by far the best border crossing we have ever done. There was no-one there trying to scam you/con you/hassle you and the whole process from bus to bus took 1/2 hour. Along the way people were happy to direct us with no ulteria motive. There was a taxi driver who pointed us in the right direction for immigration and we were expecting hassle after we got our stamp however he just quoted a price for a taxi to Almirante and even told us the alternative prices of getting the bus if we preferred!
7. In Changuinola there are buses to several destinations in Panama. We caught a minibus to Almirante. The bus from Changuinola drops you outside the bus station. Walk into the bus station and the vans to Almirante leave from the last stop around the corner next to the Las 60 sign. The bus left at 12:05pm and cost $1.45, again pay when you leave. There is nice hilly/jungle ride to Almirante. It drops you off in town near a road which forks to the right. It arrived at 1pm.
8. Get to the boat to Bocas Del Toro. Walk down the right fork for a few minutes. There are a few buildings on your right. The green building is Taxi 25 which has boats every 1/2 hour to Bocas Del Toro. Our boat left at 1:30pm and cost $6. It arrived 35 mins later. Walk out of the port and you are opposite the park in the centre of town.
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