Our first border run is this weekend…

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It’s about time for us to do our first border run. We arrived here on May 28 and as I’ve written before, everyone who arrives in Panama automatically gets a 180 days tourist visa stamped on their passport. This would normally be more than enough time for most actual “tourists” to be in Panama. But if you decide to stay and make this place your home then there’s a bit of a complication If you decide not only to stay, but to buy a car and enjoy the privilege of driving that car. You see, the brilliant folks who make the rules here decided to allow a foreign drivers license to be legal for only 90 days of those 180 days. So, even though our actual “tourist” visa is still valid, our drivers licenses are about to expire. As soon as our paperwork is in process for our permanent residency visa we will no longer have this issue. But for now, we are off to the border of Costa Rica to stamp out of Panama and hopefully, turn around and stamp right back in. It should be that easy but…

Unfortunately, there is a very recent rumor going around the local forums about a change, not in the law exactly, but in the immigration officers and what they are lately requiring for foreigners to re-enter Panama. We’ve taken notes from many different people who live here and have had lots of first hand experience. It seems that the same thread that we hear is that the requirements all depend upon how the particular guy at the particular gate at that particular moment feels and what he/she decides to require on the day you are passing through. The requirements seem to vary. But basically we should need a valid Passport with at least six months remaining on it, all the proper documents filled out (the ones we get there) they want to see either a bank statement showing you have at least $500.00 (or cash of that amount on your person, we aren’t clear if we each need to have this amount or only one of us?), some sort of proof of how we will be returning to our country of origin, since we are supposed to be on a “tourist” visa. (a bus ticket or proof of an airline ticket out of the country) . The latest rumor we are hearing about is that they are requiring that when you leave Panama you must stay two or three nights in Costa Rica before being allowed back into Panama! HUH? This is a very new rumor, this week and we are watching the comments on the forums closely, no one has actually “confirmed” this to be true. As a matter of fact there is a U.S. attorney who lives in Bocas and hosts her own forum dedicated to laws for expats in Panama, she just posted a comment today about this and says she has not found any such new laws requiring tourists to stay out of the country for a period before being let back in.

Our plan is to go this Friday, after school to the Rio Serrano boarder outside of Vocan, which is not the main border. The one that most people seem to go to is called Paso Canoas , just outside of David. The one we’re planning to try is about thirty minutes further than the one in David but we hear it is much less crowded with busses and much faster. We think It will be about a two hour drive. We figured we would go on Friday then if indeed we end up being forced to stay in Costa Rica for a couple of nights we wont miss any School on Monday. So we will pack a change of clothes and our swim suits and make the most of whatever happens! We will arm ourselves with all the possible requirements, copies of our passports (as well as our actual passports), our registration for our cars (another document we have been told they might accept instead of an airline ticket) We will take along $500.00 (taking $500.00 each just doesn’t feel too safe!) and we may just take the advice of a friend and just book a flight online and bring a copy of the itinerary and confirmation number and cancel the flight after we get back home. Many times you can just reserve a flight that you then never confirm and the airline will not hold it for you.

It should be an interesting experience and we cant say that we will know what to expect next time because you just never know what new requirements they made come up with! But if all goes well with our application for permanent residency, this should be our first and last time that we need to do this. Who knows, its an Adventure, that’s for sure!

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About hollycarter184

Life is Good! But it's time for a change, and more adventure! I'd like to share the whole experience of preparing then actually making a reality of expatriating, and moving to a new country. It's an exciting, and slightly scary move full of possibility . I'm looking forward to learning a new language and making new connections with the people who share our spirit of adventure. This blog is my way of continuing my connection with my friends and family in the States. Sooooo here it goes! :)

10 responses »

  1. WOW!!! Holly & Scott – – Wish you the best – – Can’t wait till you get back and are able to post again so we will know how this little saga ends. Good luck.

  2. OMG!!! I can’t believe all the two of you need to go thru, sure hope all goes well…I guess the experience will be quite an adventure for you both. Panama sure has some strange laws…Good luck and be safe.

  3. I have been reading the same news, and yes, it is confusing and possibly changing??? Doesn’t seem safe to have all of those people carrying that cash! And I would also choose the other border, Rio Serrano (not Paso Canoas, since this seems to be the one most are writing about). Drive the extra distance hoping for the best! And maybe you will get a great Costa Rican adventure out of this OR maybe you will be able to hightail it back home! We will all stay tuned……

  4. Holly, our experience at Paso Canos was really confusing. This was before they built the new immigration office. I often describe the scene like the movie “Thunderdome”. Scary. Our experiences with the Costa Rica border crossings before we became legal residents of Nicaragua taught me a few important things. First, Nicaragua has no law that says you must leave the country for 72 hours. So, we would cross early in the morning and have lunch on the CR side, then 2 hours later, we’d turn around. Second, CR wants to see an airline ticket or some proof that you are returning to your country of origin. If you don’t have a copy of an airline ticket, then you have to purchase their $35 Tica bus ticket. It can’t be used as a real bus ticket, but you can use it for a year to cross the border. So, if you have to buy one, save it. What a scam. Instead, I always saved a copy of an airline ticket on my computer. When it was time for a border crossing, I simply copied and pasted the airline ticket into an Office document, erased the dates and inserted new dates that would match our border crossing and printed it. When they would ask for proof of return, I pulled out my fake ticket. I figure their fake ticket was the same as my fake ticket..lol. We never had any problems.
    Just smile nicely, act like you know what you are doing…this really helps to be confident, yet not aggressive. Buenos suerte. I’m sure everything will be fine. You are already well prepared.

  5. Sounds to me like another wonderful story coming up soon—but I do wish you both the best of luck as you have this newest adventure. Just be careful and be safe. We want to be hearing your wonderful stories for a very long time!!!

  6. Good luck this weekend! Can you post the link to the forum hosted by the attorney in Bocas? That’s where my husband and I are “fixin” to move. Thank you!

  7. Our friends just did the run last week. You have to have $500.00 on you to enter Costa Rica. $500.00 between the two of you is fine. Our friends ended up having to walk back to Panama to use a Panamanian bank machine because they were worried that their bank would “flag” their account using a Costa Rican machine. You also only have to stay one night. And yes, you also have to have a return ticket to prove that you are going back to your country of origin. If you don’t have one you can buy a fully refundable ticket, print it out and then go ahead and cancel it at no charge. Just use the print out for proof.

    I’m so glad we had our residency in hand before our move. It makes life so much simpler. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Buena Suerta! We, like indacampo got our Carnets, when we arrived in Panama, did not want to have to make the run to the border since we are living in Pedasi, a good 8 hours away. Have been following your learning Spanish adventure, we will begin classes in October after the teachers here in Pedasi get back from their September vacations.

  9. We did boarder crossing earlier this year in January. We were able to do it in one afternoon, walk right back to Panama in an hour. It seams like things had changed, thanks for posting.

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