Crossing the Border at Paso Canoas, Costa Rica
A couple of weeks ago we went south to Panama so I could renew my visa. (Travel Fact: A visitor’s visa in Costa Rica is good for a maximum of 3 months. But if you cross the border for an hour, getting your passport stamped on all sides, you’re good to go for another three months.) Word is, this is not going to be so easy to do in the near future…
Paso Canoas is a Duty Free-For-All. And you don’t need to interact with immigration to cross freely between the two countries if you don’t want to, because what’s really going on, what’s really important is the shopping! (Cheap and plentiful). The actual border is kind of hard to find as maybe you can glean from these panoramas I took at the ‘intersection’ between Costa Rica and Panama.
There are five streets feeding into the center here, very French, tres Parisienne. Traffic flows in all directions. The only signs we can see are Duty FREE signs.
However we WANTED to pass through immigration. We WANTED an official to stamp our passport etc etc etc.
So we follow some trucks, and a man hails us from what appears to be an official building. He directs us to park and walks over. He and Harry talk and it sounds like he’s advising Harry as to where we need to go and then, he asks to see our papers for the car. So we kind of don’t exactly have papers for the car, and Harry gets cautious and asks the man who he works for. Yeah, so the guy isn’t with the government of Panama at all. It seems he’s some independent broker who makes cash helping people process their paperwork for their cars because apparently you can’t just bring your car into Panama. So … now we’re in Panama with our car and not the right permissions for it and we can’t just leave, because a real immigration officer comes over to find out why we are sitting here and not in the line, etc. etc. Long story short, Harry is an awesome talker and we got to go back to Costa Rica, with the car, and search for all the immigration offices we needed (hidden on side streets) before crossing the border on foot to SHOP.
Canada/US Border crossings are never like this. Right? And maybe you’re asking yourself, how the hell did they get across the border without having to first pass through a gauntlet of immigration checks and balances and GUARDS? HAHAHAHAHAHA, Chill dudes. It’s no big thing, it’s the power of the DUTY FREE BABY. I’m really coming to love Central America.
Originally published April 13, 2012
Janet I would have loved to be there – the whole experience – fabulous. Janet