Today we are going to cross the border into Panama, which is our tenth country in ten months. As usual we stay near the border, get a good sleep, eat a good breakfast, take snacks, and plan a destination not too far from the border.
Driving up to the border pass the guys about 1 km before the crossing waving at you to flag you down (fixers). Drive up past all the trucks and you will see the Costa Rica aduana on the left, which is a blue building with a covered parking out front. We chose to drive just past and park in the lot just beside the building for an easier exit. This is in front of the “Welcome to CR sign”. We are exiting of course , but it is the same office.
Step 1: When you are facing the building from the front on the street go left into the area with the queues and go to the Salida window. They will give you tourist exit form to fill out. Return the form to the official and get your passport stamped. There were no “fixers” here.
Step 2: Go back to the front of the building and around the other side from where you just were. Pass the window that says Foreigner services and around to the back of the building and enter the nice glass front air-conditioned office. Fill in the paper they give you which is essentially your name, bike plate, and VIN etc. You will need the original permit and your passport. They will keep your cancelled CR import permit and give you the stamped paper as proof of cancellation. They may want to check the VIN, but they did not check ours.
Step 3: Drive to the Panama Aduana.
This is a dirty white covered building ahead of you. Enter the to Panama side on the right and park along the curb to the left and as far to the other end as you can. Try to get rid of the fixers here. At most crossings If you wait for the quiet guy left over after the pushy ones with the badges finally leave you alone and if you tell him you have no money to pay him they usually follow you and help you or say If I help you you can give me a tip (3-5$).
Looking at the aduana from the curb the immigration office (glass windows under the cover), transito office (directly above the immigration windows on the second floor), and the fumigation window ( outside on curb side of the building) are to your right, the spiral staircase is in front of you, the Captura y Manifesto office is to the left, and the insurance office is behind you across the street (the sign outside just says copies and not segures).
If there is no line up at the immigration office get a passport stamp and your photo taken to the right in the queue marked entrada. While there someone will approach you and give you a sticker for your passport (1$). If there is a line don’t stand in it as you can bypass the line once you have done the other paperwork.
This is a CR border style restaurant.
Go across the street to the insurance office. You will need your vehicle title and passport and a copy of both. The insurance is 15$. They will give you 2 identical papers (one for you and one for the aduana).
Return across the street and go up the spiral staircase to the transito office and hand over your insurance paperwork for a stamp and your passport.
Go back down stairs turn right and go to the Captura y Manifesto window. They want the Title and passport and the copies of both and the 2 insurance papers. They will type a bunch of stuff into the computer and then return your originals and 1 copy of the insurance and permit. You have to sign the permit.
If you have not been to immigration yet go back there and if there is still a line go to the front on the right side and you will be helped in priority. Get a photo taken and your passport stamped.
A guy with a clipboard will then come up to you at your bike and take your permit and check your VIN and sign your permit. NOTE check all numbers like dates, plates, and VIN carefully before this since a mistake means you are not exiting to Columbia from Panama City.
Finally go to the fumigation window and pay 1$. Take your receipt and drive up to the right side of the fumigation building, but NOT into it (its auto spray for cars and trucks only). A technician will hand spray your bike (close your face shield).
Just before we are ready to leave a serious looking soldier in fatigues with a big dog approached me. So OK what NOW! Our conversation in Spanish went something like:
He Is this your bike?
He Where are you going?
Me Today to Boquete
He No I mean eventually.
Me Ahhh Tierra del Fuego.
He Where did you come from?
He No what country did you come from.
Me Canada, I live in Vancouver (seriously what next)
He Big smile I like your bike I have the same one!
Me (YEAH) Nice can I have your picture?
We made it in 1 hour 45 min and we had expected 4 hours from the experience of others.
Now Panama which is country number ten. One km down the road there is a military checkpoint. Where they may ask for your permit, insurance, and passport. They just asked us if we were going back to Costa Rica and when we said no they waved us thru without looking at anything.
Heading South! Daniel gets a treat and some air con for doing such a great job at the border.
for more check out out ADVRider ride report Finding Freedom