Here is everything you need to know about the two main borders crossing between Costa Rica and Panama.

There are 2 main gateways to pass from Costa Rica to Panama and inversely: one in the Caribbean side and another one on the Pacific side.

Pacific side – Paso Canoas

Because the Inter-Americana Highway is passing by here, Paso Canoas is the main border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama. As a result, it is often an arena of chaos with cars and trucks lining-up and people waiting in long long lines, but you could be lucky though.

#1 FROM SAN JOSÉ/PACIFIC COAST TO PASO CANOAS
The company Tracopa has 2 daily direct buses connecting San Jose to David in Panama but also direct and regular buses going to the border throughout the day.
In San Jose, the Tracopa terminal is located at the corner of Avenida 20 with Calle 5.
There’s a departure every 60/90 min.
Schedules: https://www.tracopacr.com/Rutas_Horarios
Price San Jose – David: ₡12,600 ($21US)
Duration:
· San Jose – Paso Canoas: 8 hours
· Paso Canoas – David: 2h30

#2 COSTA RICAN IMMIGRATION
The immigration office is located about 150m ahead of the actual border.
First, you just need to pay a $7.00US + $1US commission exit fee in the Impuesto yellow container that can be found just in front of the immigration office.
Then, as you enter the Immigration office, directly ask for the Departure form and fill it in.
Finall, present yourself to the Immigration officer with your Passport, your Exit payment receipt and your Departure form.

#3 CROSS THE COSTA RICA – PANAMA BORDER
Actually, nothing exciting here. The border line is just before the Y-shaped highway.

#4 PANAMANIAN IMMIGRATION
The Immigration offices are in the huge building located at the center of the highway bifurcation.
First you need to pay a $1.00 tax to one of the person sitting next to the counters.
Then, with the paper stamp, line for the immigration. Here, no form to be filled in. The agent will just take a picture and your fingerprints.

Important: remember that you need to have a proof of onward travel out of the country within the 90 days, which means at least a bus ticket (TICA bus) and ideally a flight ticket and also a proof of solvency — $500US cash or a credit card.
In addition to your proof of onward travel, immigration officers will ask you different questions about your plans in Panama (try not to be too elusive).

#5 FROM THE BORDER TO DAVID
When you’re done with the immigration formalities, head to the bus stop which is just about 150m on the left side.
From there, you’ll find buses to La Concepcion and David.

Caribbean side – Siaxola

#1 FROM PUERTO VIEJO TO THE BORDER (Siaxola)
Regular MEPE buses are connecting Limon/Puerto Viejo to Siaxola (every hour Mo – Sa, every 2 hours on Sundays), following the Ruta Nacional 36.
Price: CRC 2,105 ($3.75US) from Puerto Viejo
Duration: 1h30 from Puerto Viejo

#2 COSTA RICAN IMMIGRATION
The immigration office is just next the bus terminal on the main road, ahead from the bridge.
It was pretty easy.
First, you just need to pay a $7.00US exit fee in one of the small storefronts near the bus terminal.

Then go to the immigration office on the main road. There, first ask for the departure form that you’ll need to fill in before queuing at the immigration counter.
To the official, present your passport, the exit form and the exit payment receipt.

#3 TAKE THE BRIDGE AND CROSS THE COSTA RICA – PANAMA BORDER

#4 PANAMANIAN IMMIGRATION
Just after you crossed the river, take the sloping road surmounted by a carwash-like black structure which sides a parking (from where you’ll take your colectivo). Turn left just after the parking area and take the small road with the big Duty Free sign. The Panamanian immigration offices are just next to it.
Note: some people have been asked to pay a $3.00US tax to enter the Guabito and get some trouble when trying not to pay it. I wasn’t ask anything and head directly towards the immigration offices.

Important: remember that you need to have a proof of onward travel out of the country within the 90 days, which means at least a bus ticket (TICA bus) and ideally a flight ticket and also a proof of solvency — $500US cash or a credit card.
In addition to your proof of onward travel, immigration officers will ask you different questions about your plans in Panama (try not to be too elusive).

#5 FROM THE BORDER (Guabito) TO BOCAS DEL TORO
From Guabito to Almirante PAB/$5.00US
On the parking area, you’ll find the colectivo (vans) connecting Guabito to Almirante, the continental city facing the island. They leave regularly, as soon as they’re full.

You will probably be asked to pay $10.00US for the ride. It will definitely be easier to have the price discounted as it should be if you’re speaking Spanish and/or if you say that you already did this journey and previously paid $5.00. Anyway, stay polite and respectful.

From Almirante to Bocas del Toro PAB/$6.00
There’s about 1,5km between the bus stop and the water taxi port.
If needed, there’s an ATM Banco Nacional de Panama, on the other side of the Stadium.

The one-way ride to Isla Colón, the main island, costs $6.00US, the round-trip cost $10.00.
From Isla Colón, you have water boats to the other islands such as Isla Bastimentos or Isla Solarte.
As Isla Colón is the archipelago nightlife’s hub, you’ll find here most of the affordable hostels but there are very nice ones on the other islands.