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.


November update..from the finca
November 7, 2013, 7:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

well…I thought I would give you a bit of an update on life on the finca!
We have been here a full year as of November 2! Happy 1 year in Costa Rica full time Anniversary to us!
After about 8 years of doing the 6 month thing, it has been so good to “live” in Costa Rica!
I did leave for a short time over the rainy season….to visit my kids, have a new Grandson, you know….life things! While I was away, I became very clear about how much I do love this country and the life we are creating here!

The latest additions to the finca are 4 Cacao fruit trees, 5 Royal Palms, 75 ixoras, a Moringa tree, 25 teak trees, and some more volunteer bananas. We have one that gave us some beautiful tasting bananas! AND I did not have to plant them!
We have an abundance of cherry tomatoes, and basil! We call it the Bruschetta garden!

I planted 5 squash of various kinds before I left to go to Canada in September….and they were growing very well in the ground. A few weeks later, Bill went to see how they were doing…and they were GONE! …just gone! I guess something ate them! I was so disappointed, I was ready for a fresh squash dinner!

So….now I have some more started in a pot, and I am letting them get bigger this time before I plant them out in the garden space. This time, I will put them in a piece of cardboard when I plant them, to keep the weeds down. (make a slight or an X in a piece of cardboard and insert the baby plant in it and it will keep the weeds back for a while and decompose on its own).

I am not sure how to protect them from any critters that may enjoy them…I may put up a wire fence around them…

The “Mabels” – the hens are enjoying cleaning the place up, eating lots of bugs and give us beautiful eggs! I love knowing where my eggs have come from and that they are fresh!

I was getting milk from a neighbour and making my own yogurt, cream and cottage cheeses…however;it seems that all the milk cows in the village are all now dry, and waiting to have their next baby. I am without fresh milk till the babies arrive!

Today, I made a quart of “fermented Master tonic”, 2 quarts of sauerkraut, and restarted my kumbacha, and made 6 cups of beef bone broth to freeze.

I am waiting for my sourdough bread starter to arrive. I ordered it while I was in Canada and they did not ship it in time to get to me there.  I had them re-ship it, and I am excited to see how it is in such a warm climate. It has been years since I had sourdough…and it was in northern Alberta!

Bill has tiled the top of the pool, built a retaining wall to keep the rains out of the rancho, built the base of a bar – for him and his buddies to enjoy the odd cervesa.



pool - november 2013

looking down the lot


house-2012 looking down the lot - 2012 pool - November 2012

New license plates will be mandatory for first group
September 13, 2013, 4:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Schedule according to the last digit of license plates:

1: July-October 2013
2: November 2013-January 2014
3: February-April 2014
4: May-July 2014
5: August-October 2014
6: November 2014-January 2015
7: February-April 2015
8: May-July 2015
9: August-October 2015
O: November 2015-January 2016

Drivers who received new license plates after January 2012 are not required to change them again.

After several delays and confusion, a mandatory change of license plates for vehicles in Costa Rica will begin. All vehicles with license plates ending in 1 will be required to have new plates. Vehicle owners in that group will have until October to make the change.

Plates ending with other numbers will be exchanged following the schedule (see schedule, based on a license plate’s last digit).
The National Registry began implementing a voluntary program to switch out old license plates in January 2012, but starting next month, those changes are mandatory. Drivers who obtained new plates after January 2012 are not required to change them again.

The new license plates have a total of six security features including the seal, a map and the national flag of Costa Rica, as well as a unique hologram, a laser engraving and a special backlit symbol.
The security features are intended to decrease counterfeiting, Sibaja said.

To obtain new plates, vehicle owners must present the old ones, fill out a form and pay ₡15,000 ($30), which includes two metal plates and a sticker for the windshield.

New plates for motorcycles cost ₡8,000 ($16) for one metal plate and one sticker.

New vehicles registering for the first time may apply for alphanumeric license plates at a cost of ₡20,000 ($40).

Exchanges can be made at the National Registry’s main facilities in the southeastern district of Zapote, at local branches in Limón, Puntarenas, Guanacaste, Alajuela, San Carlos, Pérez Zeledón and Paseo Colón, and at Bank of Costa Rica and Correos de Costa Rica branches throughout the country.

Starting July 15, applications will be available online at the National Registry website, Vehicle owners may authorize third parties to exchange plates, as long as they present documents certified by a lawyer.

90 day passport / visa stamp At Paso Canoas or Rio Sereno
September 12, 2013, 11:30 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

In the past month I have had many reports of issues for many  of us “perpetual tourists” here in Costa Rica (a very important contributor to the local economy) … who often go to the borders of Pasa Canoas and Rio Sereno … there’s some new sticky regulations on the Panama side … and some friends have been denied entry to Panama without $500 cash (or current bank statement)  or a credit card.  AND an airline ticket back to their home country. 

So…heads up for next time you go…ensure you have the cash, a credit card, and a ticket to your home country. (some folks present their BNCR debit card as the credit card, and because it has the “Visa” sticker on it, the Border Agent accepted it)  

Be prepared and save yourself some hassles.

Back a few years ago…this was the process at the border, then they slacked off on all the regulations. And we all got complacent.

When I was there 6 weeks ago, I only needed my airline ticket and the credit card…but it is different for everyone. Some folks only need a bus ticket.  Be prepared and be safe!

NEW!! Internet via Kolbi USB device changes!!
September 5, 2013, 1:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

okay gang…I came back from a wonderful trip to Scotland, visiting my son and his family and discovered ICE / Kolbi changed the rules while I was away.
Saturday we paid our usual 9,000c for a month of unlimited internet, Wednesday it ran out…..really?? Houston we have a problem…. !!!!

But we did not know what it was. We put another 10,000c on it to get through the morning till I could take the time to figure it out …and I did a 2.5 hour Skype call with the folks who serve on our local road Association Board with me…and then had no internet left..all of the 10,000c was eaten up in that call!!

SO… to Uvita  and ICE I go..and this is what I discovered…..
They changed the plans as of September 1 and did not notify any of us…
Now, for those of us without a Cedula…..we follow these steps:
1) gather some sort of proof of ownership for your corporation. I used an old Juridica Personeria that I had on hand.
2) your passport
3) your USB internet device
4) a receipt of payment of ICE power. ( not necessary, but helpful if you have one)

Now head off to the ICE office with these things in hand.

You are going to be getting a contract with ICE for unlimited internet / month for – 1mbps for 10,000c or 2 mbps for 15,0000.  I bought the 2mbps one and today I am getting 1.38mbps download speed when doing a speed that is pretty good.
This contract goes month to month, can be cancelled at any time, or put on vacation if you return to North America for any length of time.

You will pay 10,000c to activate your account, you will receive a new SIM card. If you are using a router, have the dude at the ICE office de-activate the PIN #.

You will now receive a bill via e-mail after 40 days, and there after every 30 days. This bill can be paid anywhere you pay bill, purchase minutes for your prepago phone, etc.

At the end of the day it seems to be an easier process, the internet seems really good… I am actually getting closer to 2 mg, and instead of prepaying, now I pay a bill when it arrives…probably at the same time I pay my Electricity.

It only cost me $40 to find this out… Life in the jungle!

Problem with the code for the NEW e-book
July 24, 2013, 7:37 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It is our sincere apologies!! The code I sent you yesterday does not work! There seems to be some problem with we have rectified it with this code ……

We at From Gringo To Tico regret any inconvenience this may have caused!
Rhonda and Rita; target=”ej_ejc” onClick=”javascript:return EJEJC_lc(this);”><img src=”; border=”0″ alt=”Add to Cart”/></a>

NEW!!! 2013 updated e-book is here!!!!
July 23, 2013, 5:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

….we have great news!

The NEW and IMPROVED 2013 e-book is here!

We have completed all the changes and updates, added some new pertinent information to make life in Costa Rica easier for YOU!
For you…our avid followers and previous customers, we have made this new book available to you at a lower cost of $6.00
You can purchase it here.

We hope you find this new e-book valuable and enjoy your life and the discovery of Costa Rica.
Have a wonderful day!

Rhonda and Rita
..the hardworking gals at “From Gringo to Tico”