Our plan and hope(dream, really) was to get to Paso Canoas at about 12:30-1:00, Park our car someplace safe, walk to the immigration window where you get your passport stamped “out” of Panama, walk to the Costa Rica side, stamp “in” to Costa Rica, wait a few minutes or go grab a bite to eat then stamp “out” of Costa Rica , walk back to the Panama side, and get stamped back “in” to Panama and then, la de dah, back we go to Boquete. Sound like a great plan right? ya, nope…. we didn’t actually expect this dream to be a reality, but it sounded good, huh! We actually had a bag packed just in case the we had to go find a beach in Costa Rica to hang out for two or three days. If we had been prepared to have a little mini vacation it would have been ideal, but we don’t have anyone who can cat sit for us yet and we have made a commitment at our school and just didn’t feel good about bailing on them. The timing just wasn’t right for us to be gone .We’ve all been reading many conflicting accounts of people being told the requirement was two or three days spent out of Panama before being stamped back “in”. There’ve also been accounts of some people seemingly doing exactly what we had dreamed we would do, even today, the same day we were there!! But , it would not be so for this brave, although not so “tranquillo”(one of us) Duo !
Here’s what happened for us. After finding a place we felt was reasonably “safe-ish” to park our car and possibly leave it unattended for a few days, we made our way to where we thought we needed to go. As we walked up to the immigration area and were looking for the right place to go, a very helpful( for a price :)) Panamanian guy pointed us in the right direction. This “Panamanian guy’s” name was Hamilton (as he said, like the guy on the ten dollar bill) and he guided us through the day, this private guide was well worth the $20. We stood in line, got up to the window and got the “exit” stamp on our passports, then Hamilton very kindly directed us to the other side of the Frontera where we needed to go stamp “in” to Costa Rica. Done, we were half way there, then we took our time , went to get a drink and sit down for a bit before going back to get stamped “out” of Costa Rica, then wait a bit more to go to Panama immigration to get stamped back in . This was our first rejection, nope you must be out of Panama for 24 hours. Ok….We decided to wait for a shift change and give it one more try….No go! Again, you must be out of Panama for 24 hours! GRRRRRR! They were consistent on the 24 hour rule! By this time(it was about 3:30) I was tired, frustrated and sweating like crazy, I needed to be done for the day with this particular adventure. Ok so we noticed there was a tourism office there and we went to see if they could direct us to a hotel nearby where we could stay for the night. There was a place not far, we could easily walk to and it was clean and cost $50.00 for one night and they had a secure place to park our car for the night.
After a good nights sleep we got up this morning (Saturday) and were the first in line at the Panama immigration window when they opened at 7:00a.m. Sadly, we were again rejected (here is where my ‘tranquillo” began to crumble this was rejection #3). The problem was that we had checked out of Costa Rica the day before and we needed to go back to the CR immigration and get a new date on our passports…..UGGGGG! Back at the CR Window there was much discussion behind the glass and I think I heard the word Malo( BAD),( here is when the tears began to form), “we need a copy of these passports” huh? Ok, deep breath, walk across the street to the little place that does copies, no problema! Back again, then they canceled the exit stamp from the day before and re-stamped an exit stamp with todays date! Whew, not so bad! We then walked back to Panama and now there was a looooong line of people from a tour bus! Ok, we waited and then BOOM!! Stamped back IN TO PANAMA! YES! We were on the road headed back to Boquete at 8:30am!!! Whew!!!
Three rejections and a long, hot, frustrating day but Scott still managed to say,”that wasn’t so bad!” Well, Ok…. I just love his positive outlook on our experience . But He’s not wrong, it really was only frustrating because we were so inexperienced with the procedure and with the area. All the immigration agents were actually quite friendly and almost seemed sorry to send us away . They were consistent as well, which is surprising given all the conflicting stories we see on the forums. But the story remained the same with each agent all four times we marched up to the window,”you must stay out of Panama for 24 hours”. They did want to see some form of proof that we had money, we had the $500 each on us just in case, but we also brought the receipt from the withdrawal that had the balance of our account on it. Whipping out a thousand dollars there with all those people around us just didn’t seem like a good plan, so we were glad the bank receipt was adequate. They also wanted to see our airline tickets showing how we would be going back to our country of origin, which we had as well. So, now we’re hoping our residency visa get done before the next 90 days so that we don’t have to do that again. But if we do have to go through it again, I’m sure my “Tranquillo” will be ready to stay in place and my scowl will stay at home. Next time we’ll at least be familiar with what to do, I’m sure it will be totally different next time but not so unfamiliar. And hey, now we have a “buddy”, Hamilton there at the Frontera, I’m sure he’ll be glad to see us next time! 🙂