Tag Archives: Paso Canoas

And here’s the story of our first border crossing….

Standard

This is a story that, not unlike life itself, differs for each person . If you, like us, are living in Panama on a tourist visa, then this is an experience that is not new to you( and if you want to be legal to drive you must endure it every 90 days). Some , like us, are relatively new here and others are old hats at this border run routine. But, its seems, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been living here , you just can’t predict how it will go for you when it’s time to renew that precious little stamp in your passport. Sure, we can all read certain forums and blogs and hear first hand experiences from others who are telling us all what happened for them, but it just doesn’t seem to matter, the only thing that is certain is it won’t be the same for you. It’s the luck of the draw. One thing is certain, if you don’t embrace a “Tranquillo” state of mind, you will be grumpy and maybe angry and definitely frustrated beyond belief, I should know, I’m embarrassed to admit, I lost my grip on my Tranquillo state of mind for much of my time in the mystery land that is the “Frontera”! If not for the incredibly calm, relaxed countenance of my hubby, I would have had a crying, screaming meltdown on a couple of occasions during our border run experience. I actually did have my own silent meltdowns but worked hard to keep them to myself and maintain as calm of an exterior as I possibly could. Scott would probably report to you if he were writing (thank god he’s not!) that my face told it all!! Maybe it was the tears just begging to burst forth or the frequent scowl on my face, (maybe the steam coming out of my ears?) , he could see that a meltdown seemed inevitable. I tried so hard to remain calm, and for the most part I did an ok job faking it, but sadly I can’t claim to have maintained a constant stream of calm like my sidekick! So here’s what happened for us, but remember, it doesn’t really matter because it likely wont be the same for you….

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! 🙂

So Many Different Stories…What will our story be?

Standard

Boy oh Boy! Tomorrow we’ve been planning to do our Costa Rica border run to renew our tourist visa, and I gotta tell ya there are so many different stories going around about many different experiences! These are first hand stories from people who have just today and yesterday, gone through the border to renew their tourist visa. On friend kept us posted via FaceBook today and I was so sad to hear that it didn’t go smoothly for her. There are two different borders to choose from . One is called Paso Canoas and it is the bigger of the two, located just about 1 1/2 hours from us on the main road that goes through David. Paso Canoas has multiple gates to choose from and is a much busier place, so Ive heard, I have obviously never been there so I’m just repeating what I’ve heard. The other border is about 2 hours from here in Vocan and it’s called Rio Sereno. This crossing is a much smaller, quieter area. Not as many big tourist busses go this way and there is only one gate ( I think). We had planned to go to the quieter one but are now reconsidering. Like I said , our friend went there today and turned around to come back home because they were enforcing the 48 hour out of Panama thing and they weren’t prepared to be gone for the whole weekend (I wont say “Law” because it is unclear if this is just a recent whimsy of the officers or an actual law) . Yet another person says that he went through Paso Canoas yesterday and it only took him one hour! Sheesh! Our biggest concern isn’t the possibility of a weekend in Costa Rica, it’s what do we do about our car? Shoot, a weekend adventure is right up our alley, that’s no problem at all, pack a backpack with our swimsuits and our toothbrushes and we’re good to go! But our car sitting for two or three days is a bit disconcerting to us. We’ve decided to go ahead and go to the busier crossing because we think that if we stamp out of Panama and then into Costa Rica and just go have lunch somewhere and then attempt to stamp back in at a different gate with hordes of other tourists, they may not remember us and it could possibly be smooth sailing. So the latest decision , after a bit of wine….screw it…let’s just drive, park the car in as good a place as we can and walk on through. We know we could take the bus early from Boquete, but we are just not willing to miss school. I know, crazy, but if we were going to miss class we would have needed to notify them today and we didn’t. We’re probably a little crazy to leave the car but , what the hell! There is a slim possibility that this could be no big deal. Stay tuned!!