People's experiences vary depending on crowds at the border, corrupt or honest border officials, and rules can also change. Read about individual experiences at specific borders below.
Paso Canoas, May 28, 2012
Exiting Costa Rica takes all of 10 minutes. Entering Panama has a lot of little steps, but generally does not involve too much frustration. The line for immigration can be long, so if it's short when you get there, get your passport stamped first! A bus load of people can really mess up your day. The cost for the stamp is $1 per person. The vehicle permit is free, but you have to buy insurance, $15 USD. Insurance is mandatory and they will need to paperwork to do the Darien shipping process.
Two pieces of advice: If you need to change Colones into dollars do it at the BCR bank between the Costa Rica and Panama offices (on the left as you go towards Panama). No other banks change, and touts rates are terrible. Also, they will not change Colones in the banks in David.
Also, triple check your vehicle import permit for accuracies. If you are planning to ship in a container, make sure that your motor number is listed. It can be your actual engine number or your VIN. Just make sure that it doesn't say N/R or you have hours at the Panama City customs ahead of you.
--Posted by LifeRemotely
Paso Canoas, March 13, 2009
This was one of the more orderly and efficient border crossings we have encountered after 7 Central American countries. The officials were wearing uniforms, and while children and others offered to help us through the process, they weren't particularly pushy about it. A wandering official outside of the building with a white shirt (see picture of his shirt) and badge gave us our sticker (which cost a dollar) while we were waiting in line at the migracion window. We had to present our passports to migraction who then gave us our tarjetas to fill out and bring to the Tourism window. We then went to the aduana window to present our passports and vehicle title to get our car import permit. They asked how we planned on leaving Panama with our car, and told them we would be shipping it from Panama City. With the permit in hand, we had to find a D.F.A person, who was wearing a black vest and had a badge. He looked in our car and asked us what we were bringing in to the country, and may have been asking for a small bribe, but his Spanish was so fast and he didn't speak English so he gave up after we looked confused. Another wandering official came over to point us towards a separate window, where we had to pay for the fumigation. We then drove through the fumigation station and were on our way. The highway leaving the border was a great 4 lane paved highway - quite a pleasure after the gravel roads in Costa Rica. --Posted by Kristin
Sixaolo - Guabito crossing (North)
Into Panama - Insurance needed! Then you cross the bridge - it is a little scary but huge trucks pass here.. On the left hand side right after the bridge is the fumigation (at least for motorcycles) which is 1 USD. Two windows down is Migration. Then - before going to Aduana - you need insurance. THIS IS NEW - initiated June 15th 09 - and costs 15 USD for one motorcycle for one month. We did not pay for any sticker or for tourist cards. The temporary vehicle import permit was also free (good for 1 month). No hassle - 2 hours and we were off.. The road to Sixaolo was in places not too great - but not bad - and follows the coastline at some point - beautiful.. After Guabito the roads are good and plentiful - which is very confusing - but people are very helpful - which is good - since there are no road-signs.. --Posted by Louis
Sailing from San Blas Panama to Cartagena, Colombia, April 11, 2009
Our ship's captain took care of immigration for us at one of the tiny San Blas Islands - he needed our passports and did the rest himself. For more info on boats sailing from Panama to Colombia, see Traveling Across the Darien Gap.