Bienvenidos a Panama!


I have just arrived to Panama. I got on a bus in the morning in Costa Rica called Tracopa, which took me from Palmar Norte to David. Well, actually first I had to take a boat trip since I was still on the Peninsula de Osa, followed by a taxi collectivo to Palmar Norte and the Tracopa bus from there off to the second largest city of Panama named David.

Walking to the Panama border from Costa Rica

Walking to the Panama border from Costa Rica

The Panama border with Costa Rica

The bus driver told me to go to the local bank to pay the departure fee everyone has to pay while crossing the border. It was US$7 or 3900 Costa Rican Colones and so I paid with the Colones I still had.

Somehow it seems to me that Central-America is becoming more and more like the United States every day. Panama does not have any local paper currency of it own, just some coins named Balboa that have the same value as the US Dollar. Panama has used the US dollar since 1904, shortly after separation from Colombia. I believe the same will happen to currency of Costa Rica some day.

Anyway, after the departure fee was paid it was time to show the receipt of my payment to the next counter. I had to stand in another line and it took quite some time again before it was my turn. They really have many cues and people have to stand in one cue after another at the Latin-American borders.

Departure tax explaination

Departure tax explanation

Luggage check

The bus was waiting near the actual border crossing to have the passengers pick up their bags for the luggage check. That was cue number three. They wanted me to write down my passport number and my name and to leave my backpack on top of a table just in case they felt like going through my stuff, which they didn’t.
Okay. All done with the luggage check. What’s next?

Standing in line at the border to leave Costa Rica and enter Panama

Standing in line at the border to leave Costa Rica and enter Panama

I remember someone telling me that the customs in Panama want to see a transport ticket to make sure that you will leave Panama again and for some reason they also want to see if you have US$500 in your bank account.

I did not have a ticket to show them that I would leave Panama, but I did have an e-mail on my iPhone showing my flight from Mexico City to Dusseldorf for July. I showed the lady at the customs a screenshot from the e-mail with my flight, but she did not approve it at first. I also showed my bank account balance (since she was asking for the US$500) through an app and she was again not very amused with the technology I offered. No, I really needed to have a bus ticket or a plane ticket showing that I was going to depart from Panama. After a while discussing with her and some colleagues they decided to give me the Panama stamp in my passport after all.

Welcome to Panama!

Welcome to Panama!

Are you traveling between Costa Rica and Panama?

If you are going to do the same kind of trip, then I would recommend you to make sure you can show the customs easily how you will leave Panama again. Print your flight or make a screenshot of the e-ticket or the receipt. Even if it’s not a flight leaving from Panama, it should really be enough to show the customs you have no intentions (yet) of staying your entire life in their country. Just stand your ground.

Make sure you can make a screenshot of your bank account balance too or have an application from your bank on your iPhone or iPad where you can log-in to and show that to your friend behind the counter.

Also, get yourself some Dollars before or while entering Panama. You will find some cash machines at the border that will let you choose to withdrawal in US Dollars or Costa Rican Colones. In Panama they usually don’t accept Costa Rican Colones or any other Currency from abroad beside the US Dollar.

How were your border-crossing experiences?

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Ever since I left my home country I felt at home at any other place I went to. I enjoy getting to know more cultures by talking to strangers and hearing their philosophy about life. Speaking with gestures when you can not find a shared language, finding places only the locals go to and learn about their customs and values. Hanging out with local people makes me happy. The experience of every new place is a step out of your comfort zone where I like to wander around until it feels like a second home.
6 Comments on “Bienvenidos a Panama!
  1. Thanks a bunch for this post. We have been trying to figure out the best way to go from David to Drake bay and this route will help a lot.

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