From Gringo to Tico Blog

Panama border crossing – taking our truck across Nov, 2013
November 27, 2013, 12:17 pm
Filed under: Border Crossings - Panama, Driving in Costa Rica | Tags: ,

Doing the Panama Border – Nov 21, 2013-11-25

We went to Panama for our 90-day visa stamp. We took our truck across so that we could purchase some larger items at the Do It Center and PriceMart.
We got the necessary permit to take our truck out of Costa Rica from our lawyer and it cost us C35,000.00 or around $75.00 to get this permit.

We got our passports stamped out of Costa Rica first.
We took the permit to the Costa Rican “Aduana” office, behind the Passport office, beside the bathroom. We waited a few minutes for our turn, as there is always a few truckers in there getting their paper work processed.
They processed the permit, gave us a new piece of paper and inspected the truck.

We then went to the Panama side.

Park in the lane closest to the building. There is usually someone there to direct you.
The first thing to do here is go across the street, to the office that sells Insurance for $15.00 and makes copies of your Costa Rica exit stamp.
Then, go to the Passport window (go in the “Transportista” line cause you have a vehicle) and have your passport stamped in to Panama. They asked to see $500 and our car Insurance. I did not actually have the entire $500, but showed them what I had quickly and disorganized; and a credit card. That worked.


Then, go back around the corner and up the stairs( between the Aduana and the Passport control areas) to the Police office and get the paper from Costa Rica stamped.


Go to the Aduana office to get the paper work processed to enter Panama. You will have to wait a while…maybe 30 – 45 minutes to get this completed, as they are also processing all the truckers paperwork, and you do have to wait your turn.

Once this paperwork is completed, they will give it to you and inspect your vehicle.
Then you go a few feet ahead, pay $1.00 to have your vehicle sprayed for insects, at the door on the left, and end of the building.
Proceed through the spray booth.
A kilometer or so down the road there will be a checkpoint, where they will inspect your paper work to ensure you have completed all the documents, and process.

Returning to Costa Rica:

Park at the front of the Panama Customs building right where you drive up to it. An official will ask you what you are doing, tell him you are returning to Costa Rica.
Go to the Aduana / vehicle office further down the building, on the same wall as where you got your permit to enter Panama. They will stamp the permit.


Move your vehicle into the lane nearest the building to proceed through the border.
The picture above was taken while in that lane. The fellow is the official inspecting a vehicle. The guys with these T-shirts are the only ones you need to speak with, outside of the offices. There are “Banditos” wearing similar T-shirts, with official looking name tags….and they are smooth! One grabbed my papers as if he was an official ..had me believing him for a minute!
Then, go and check your passport out of Panama – you can go in the short “transportista” line, right beside the inspection lane, because you have a vehicle- and show the permit to the official. Much quicker if here is a long line up!

Your vehicle will then be inspected….either visually by an officer and / or by a dog; and your paper initialed by the officer who insects the vehicle
Go back to the Vehicle office and they will take the permit. The window you need to go to when leaving Panama is behind the Official guy.
You are done here.

Go to Costa Rica customs, park along the front of the building.
Get your passport stamped into Costa Rica, (get a form from the window and fill it out before you get to the window) Show your vehicle papers (registration) to the official, if asked for them. We presented our registration with our passport; the official glanced at it, and stamped us 90 days!

Go to the Aduana office, around and behind the Immigration area, beside the bathrooms; and check your vehicle back into Costa Rica, fill out a Customs declaration form for your purchases made in Panama.
The official will then inspect your vehicle, and have a look at your purchases, and go back in the office to complete the paper work.

They will review your declaration form and stamp your passport at the back, which means that you cannot purchase duty free for 6 months. You have exceeded your limit. They gave us this stamp, even though we only claimed $300.00 and we are actually allowed $500 per person when out for 3 days. I am not sure why they do this…this is the second time we have received this stamp. (only on the vehicle owner’s passport)

When we came to the checkpoint at Km 32 between Rio Claro and Palmar Sur, the official only looked at out passport stamps. Other times when we get stopped their, they inspect the truck and hassle us about purchases made at the border or while in Panama. They tell us that we always have to stop at the Aduana office and declare our purchases. So that is what we did. I am not sure the rhyme or reason here at this check stop. We never really know what to expect from these guys.

Over all, it cost us about $100 to take our vehicle into Panama, and because we could go in to the “Transportista” lines at the passport window, we cleared all the borders in about 1.5 hours each way. Faster than being in the regular line-up on the Panama side.

It was nice to have our own vehicle…and to pay for parking is about $15 per day at Paso Canoas, plus all the busses and taxi’s…I think the cost to take the truck across is worth it!
We did not have to show airline, or bus tickets at either border; and it was pretty easy, breezy!
We will do this again.