Panama to Costa Rica Borders Crossing

How to cross the borders from Panama to Costa Rica by public transport travel guide.

We've recently crossed the borders by land from Panama to Costa Rica via Paso Canoas, and here is our travel guide on how to do it without stressing out.

Paso Canoas is a small bland town on the borders between Panama, and Costa Rica and it's popular among backpackers for land borders crossing between these two Central American countries. In this article, we're going to share our personal experience and advice on how you should proceed.

We also included some useful tips to make your trip as smooth as possible.

How To Cross The Borders Between Panama and Costa Rica

We left early in the morning from the hostel we stayed at in David and were heading to the bus terminal.

It's the same terminal from where you can get the bus to Boquete, Bocas del Toro, Santiago or Panama City.

There is an ATM if you need to withdraw some cash.

Once we got there, we found a van with the sign on the top of its front windshield saying Frontera - Paso Canoas. In case you won't be able to find it, ask around (say you need to get to Frontera), bus conductors or money collectors are willing to help foreigners to get on the right van. The terminal itself is well-organized, we felt pretty safe there, at least during the day, and there is a buffet canteen where you can grab a local cheap food if you're hungry.

The first van to the borders leaves David at 5:30 AM and from this time goes quite frequently, approximately every 30 minutes. It cost $3 per person, and the ride takes more or less one hour as the colectivo was picking up passengers along the way and stopped frequently. We got off the bus at the borders and walked towards the immigration building on our left.

Then we followed the immigration signs 'Salida Costa Rica', got the stamp and walked to the other side of the borders. Getting the exit stamp is important so don't forget to check the passport, if you've really gotten it, otherwise, they will turn you back at the Costa Rican borders. We put our heavy backpacks back on and continued to Costa Rican side, where it was immediately our turn as there were no foreigners present at the moment. There are more counters so make sure you are standing in the right line, do not wait behind locals.

This was probably the fastest immigration control check from all our previous border crossings as the officer behind the counter quickly checked our passports, wanted to see a proof of onward travels, asked us briefly about our travel plans for next couple of days, and then stamped our passport and let us go.

We had our flight tickets saved on a phone (we purchased the refundable tickets the evening before as we did not intend to fly out from the country but planned to carry on by bus), and when the officer asked to present them, we showed him the phone and he only took a quick glance at it. He also didn't ask any questions, and we didn't have to fill out any forms.

How To Get From The Borders

When we were done with immigration, a guy approached us and asked us where we need to go. We told him that we want to get to Uvita, which is a small village on the Pacific coast and home to the Marina Ballena National Park, and also asked him how to get there by public transport.

It was around 9 AM, and he replied that the next bus would leave at 1 PM directly from borders, but there is also a bus leaving from Ciudad Neily (the closest larger town in Costa Rica, 18 kilometers away from borders) at 10 AM. He told us we might catch it when we take an official taxi for $20, but he could take us there for $15.

It looked pretty suspicious as it was way too expensive, so we turned down his offer and walked away. I must admit that we haven't done much of research before so he caught us unprepared. I checked my map again and found out that there should be a small bus terminal. So we walked a little bit back toward the Panama borders and found it on the other side of the road where the bus was about to depart to Ciudad Neily.

The bus runs quite frequently, approximately every 30 minutes and is super cheap in comparison to the taxi ride, as we paid only 500 colones (less than $1). In Ciudad Neily, you can catch a bus to your preferred destination or if you're tired stay there overnight.

We crossed the borders from Panama to Costa Rica safely using only public transport.

Costa Rica To Panama

If you're crossing the borders the opposite way, from Costa Rica to Panama, the process and the requirements should be very similar except you have to pay a departure tax approximately 8 USD. And from the Panamanian side, you can catch a microbus going to David, the capital city of the province.

Costa Rica Entry Requirements

There are a few things you need to have in order to enter the country. Keep in mind that the requirements may change from time to time, so always check up-to-date information before the crossing.

First, you need the original passport (valid at least six months after entering the country) in good condition. Then you need an onward proof of travels either to your home country or to another country showing your intentions to leave Costa Rica. I read somewhere that it has to to be only a return ticket to the country of origin, but this information appeared to be incorrect. You will also need proof of economic solvency meaning $100 with you in cash for each month you plan to travel in Costa Rica, or you can have a recent print screen of your bank account.

And lastly, you are required to have a valid visa. Most countries do not need visas to enter Costa Rica, and citizens of other nations can usually stay up to 90 days, but check your requirements specifically!

Where To Stay In David

David is not an attractive city and usually serves as a transport hub for those traveling to Boquete or Costa Rica. Here are some tips on where to stay before your onward travels.

Budget | Bambu Hostel - A quite cheap and friendly hostel with both private rooms and dormitories have a fully equipped kitchen and swimming pool.

Mid-range | Hotel Alcala - This well-located hotel is reasonable-priced, and rooms come with free and fast wifi.

Luxury | Hotel Ciudad de David - A spacious and modern hotel is a good choice if you are looking for a nice and clean room, sauna, swimming pool, and fitness center.

Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.

Extra Tip

Panama is one hour ahead of Costa Rica, so make sure you turn your clock back one hour after you cross the border to Costa Rica. If you're entering Panama from Costa Rica, do the opposite.

Three Essential Things for Border Crossing

We felt quite safe when crossing the borders.

You can still purchase these items to feel more safe and organized when traveling out of the country.

  • Travel Pouch | Great thing for border crossing. Just tuck it in under your shirt and keep your passport available.

  • Moneybelt | Keep some extra cash safe from pickpockets.

  • TSA Luggage Lock | The extra security of a four digit combination lock should deter casual thieves.


We never leave our home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials.

Travel smarter and safer!

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