The Dodgy Costa Rica / Panama Border Crossing

After visiting ‘Rocking J’s Crazy Ark’ in Puerto Viejo in the South East of Costa Rica, we headed for the next hotspot on the traveler route, the idyllic archipelago Bocas Del Toro . To get there we had to cross the Costa Rica / Panama border on foot, which turned out to be one of those memorable experiences for all the wrong reasons.

When we arrived at the border, we had our passports stamped by a bunch of jovial Ticas, who then sent us on our way to Panama. After a few hundred yards we came to a huge steel bridge over a ravine, which to put it politely, was in very poor condition. The cars were driving along wooden planks that had been laid in the middle of the bridge to help cover the holes, whilst those on foot had to walk on a separate path… without wooden planks to cover the holes! The hand rail was missing and there were gaping holes in the rusty sheet metal beneath our feet. The 40 meter drop turned our stomachs as we jumped over each hole hoping that the bridge would take our weight. All we could see below us was mud, trees and the odd wild pig, the total opposite of the Panamanian paradise we’d been told about.

After tackling the ‘bridge of doom’ we arrived at the Panamanian border control. We had been warned that we were required to show a bus/plane ticket out of the country before they would let us enter (just in case we’d planned to build a mud hut and stay forever). And obviously, with our travel plans being as solid as Leeds United’s defense, we didn’t have any proof of our onward travel plans. This being a common occurrence among western travelers, there were  several locals hanging around waiting to pounce, clutching tickets they were more than happy to sell you.. at a highly inflated price. Luckily we possessed a secret weapon… Beth’s blond hair and blue eyes. The men of Central American are fond of European girls, their eyes lit up each time a blonde girl walked by and were always quick to compliment Beth’s blue eyes. A quick gaze into the deep blue, both our passports were stamped and we were being led to the best bus driver in town, whilst the poor American lad behind us was forced to buy a bus ticket he didn’t need.

Onward to Bocas Del Toro…





, ,

7 Responses to The Dodgy Costa Rica / Panama Border Crossing

  1. loanemu 14 October, 2015 at 9:17 am #

    Great, thanks for sharing this post.Thanks Again.

  2. Michael 19 September, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    In my opinion, now is the time to see Eastern Europe if you have not. Tourism is climbing in the region, and as it does, so does the rate of change. Old ruins, forts, castles neglected and forgotten become restored and the subject of tours and fees, fast food chains start arriving and landscapes change. Not to imply everything associated with change is bad, by any means – I am just saying that if you like to see things as they were, a little more “authentic” then of course the sooner you go, the better. Eastern Europe is beautiful, with medieval citadels and history dating way back, and local culture and traditions still alive. You will also witness a mix of pre-during-post communist era, which provides not only some sad reminders but an interesting array of cultural time stamps.
    Check out the posts and photos on Romania, Hungary, and Kyrgyzstan on our site. We still have much to add on many countries, but it is a fun work in progress.

    • Beth | Enjoy The Journey 30 September, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      Sounds great Michael, I am certainly interested. We really enjoyed staying in the Eastern side of Berlin as it was quite Imperial. We’re currently in Sri Lanka, still chasing water sports but I think eastern Europe will be visited sooner rather than later! thanks for the advice.

  3. Michael 13 September, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

    Formerly Costa Rica (myself) and Romania (Miha). US based now, however she continues to travel a few weeks out of the month. Less often for me at the moment, but I have managed to get a few in and we have made some journeys together. In the past few months; west coast US, Costa Rica, Luxembourg, Germany, Romania, and Ecuador. Miha just returned from Kyrgyzstan and adding new content.

    • Beth | Enjoy The Journey 18 September, 2013 at 9:32 am #

      That’s a very interesting list of countries, we have never been to eastern Europe; it’s still on the to do list. What do you guys work in?

  4. Michael 30 August, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    Enjoyed reading your post and like your style of writing. I remember this well, and recall the question of faith when it came to crossing the bridge from Sixaola over to Panama. I did not have the blue eyed advantage and had a bit of a challenge. 14 years since I was there and I notice in your photos that the road is now paved. Bocas del Toro has changed so much since I was there but Miha was there last year. Nice site. Happy travels. Look forward to reading more.
    Michael (from Travels With Miha)

    • Beth | Enjoy The Journey 10 September, 2013 at 9:18 am #

      Bocas is great fun and currently booming, so it’s changing a lot. We’re about to start traveling again so we should have loads more content coming, starting in the next couple of weeks with Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Where are you based?

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

Enjoyed this post? Follow us to get more travel tips and news updates!