This is our experience/record of crossing the Costa Rica-Panama border on Wednesday, 1 April 2015. Our traveling party consisted of two people and two motorcycles.
We arrived at the Costa Rica border at noon and left the Panama border at 2:45pm. We spent one hour on the Costa Rica side and almost two on the Panama side. It rained and the power went out for a short period.
Border Name: Paso Canoas
Closest major cities: Ciudad Neily, Costa Rica and David, Panama
Costs: 50 USD for two people and two motorcycles
- Costa Rica exit fee: 16 USD (8 USD per person. It is supposed to be 7 USD but as we arrived during the lunch hour so we had to use a “special” service to pay the fee rather than the bank)
- Panama sticker for passport: 2 USD (1 USD per person)
- Panama insurance: 30 USD (15 USD per motorcycle)
- Panama fumigation: 2 USD (1 USD per motorcycle)
- Passport plus two photocopies
- Motorcycle title plus two photocopies
- Note: we keep all originals in individual plastic sleeves. We labeled these sleeves clearly to avoid confusion as to what was what, to keep original documents clean, and to differentiate what was original and what is a copy. All border-crossing officials have respected the sleeve.
Exit Costa Rica
Step 1: Park next to Costa Rica immigration building which will be on your left hand side as you drive south toward Panama and is poorly marked from the road. We drove past it on accident and ended up turning around when we saw the building with the welcome to Panama sign. It is a very busy border area with people, cars, shops, etc.
Step 2: Costa Rica Immigration:
- Pay departure tax 7 USD. The official place to pay is the bank window to the left of the salida window. If they are closed (during lunch) you go into no-man’s land to an office behind a buffet lunch counter where they provide the departure payment service for an additional 1 USD per person.
- Go to the salida window (north end of building), fill out exit card and give it to the official along with your passport and departure tax receipt. They will stamp you out and return passport.
Step 3: Costa Rica Customs: Go around to the left from salida/customs window to the Aduana office. They will give you a form to fill out. Return the completed form along with passport, title, and vehicle import permit.
- Official will verify VIN by going to your vehicle
- Return to office where they will cancel and keep permit and give to you the form with a stamp on it.
If you have any Costa Rican money the only place to change it is in the no-man’s land area by the Panamanian customs building.
Drive to Panama. You will drive right under a large dirty white building. Park next to the curb on the left. You will continually move your vehicle forward along this curb in incremental two meter steps throughout the process.
Step 1: Panama Immigration: Furthest, south end of building is the window for immigration. When you are in line someone will approach you and ask for your passport. They will put a sticker in it and ask for 1 USD. Some people did not get the sticker and it won’t stop you from leaving the country. Give the official your passport and they will take your photo, stamp, and return your passport.
Step 2: Panama Insurance: Walk across the street from the immigration/customs building curb where you are parked to where you see signs for phones and other shopping – (this will be more to the north of the building). Here you will find the insurance office (Seguro). Provide the title and passport plus one copy of each. Cost was 15 USD per motorcycle. They will provide you with TWO proof of insurance documents.
Step 3: Panama Transito Office: Return across the street (immigration) and go up the stairs above immigration (south end of building) and provide your insurance papers and passport. Official will stamp the insurance papers.
Step 4: Panama Customs / Aduana: Go back downstairs to the north end of building (not outside but inside to the north of the stairs) and sign says “capture and manifesto” and sign next to the window (paper sign) says “turismo”. Now, no one lines up for this so push your way to the front and hand over passport, title and one copy of each plus the two insurance certificate documents. They will return the originals to you along with the vehicle import permit.
DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING especially if you will be going from Panama to Colombia because we have heard of people having problems if there are mistakes or missing information. If you don’t have an engine number make sure they just put your VIN number in that box. No box should be empty.
Step 5: Panama Final stamp: Your vehicle is now likely towards the front of the line (we kept moving ours) and you will need to find an official with a clipboard and they will review paperwork, check VIN, and stamp the permit.
Step 6: Panama Fumigation. Go to the window directly across the street from immigration where you show your title and pay for fumigation (1 USD). You will actually have to show this receipt during step 5 but they will spray your wheels just before you drive away.