After two weeks of eating way too much, devouring all that Netflix had to offer, lots of kitty snuggles, and straight up laziness Eli and I decided it was time to go. Though we love to have our lazy days that’s something we can do at home and we felt like we were wasting time and missing experiences. So we hoisted on our backpacks said goodbye and gave last snuggles to Polilla and Pelusa and were on our way, our end goal Puerto Viejo Costa Rica.
There are tons of shuttle services that offer to take you to the border and through the process of crossing for around $25-$35. We heard it was an easy border crossing and cheaper to do it ourselves so that was our plan.
Our plan sounded easy enough, take a bus from Boquete to David, from David to Changuinola, and from there somehow get to the border and finally a bus to Puerto Viejo. We took an awesome Diablo Rojo completely painted with the landscape of Boquete and blasting Reaggetone. The sun was shining, we weren’t cramped into the bus like a can of sardines, and we actually had a place to put our backpacks instead of having them smother us in our seats. We arrived at the David bus terminal our confidence brimming. That girl at the hostel who said we were cutting it close? Psh, we were so golden. Especially since this one kid was so friendly and helpful. We told him we were going to Puerto Viejo and what do you know his bus, well technically his Dad’s bus, was going to a town near the border, see piece of cake.
You know that saying that if it sounds too good to be true it is. Yep, that totally applies to this situation.
Off Eli and I go to Puerto Viejo happy as clams. A little ways into our drive Eli asks how long they think until we get there, an hour and a half he replies. Oh no, this is not right. We are supposed to be crossing the border on the Caribe side which according to my research is at least four hours away. Where the hell are we going?! The voice in my head is shrieking. Eli and I nervously watch out the window as we drive through the Panamian country side. An hour an a half later we arrive. To where you might ask? We have absolutely no idea but we know this is our stop because they take our bags out and kick us to the curb even as I try to protest that we aren’t in the right spot. We stand there mouths open as we watch them drive away leaving us in the dust, literally. Okay, so we are stranded at what looks like a border but not the right border. After a lot of questions asked, replies spoken too quickly for us to understand, and lots and lots of pointing we stumble into immigration. At this point we are floundering and I have hit the panic button. We know nothing except we are at a border, the wrong one, with no colones and no idea what to do. And so began the ridiculously chaotic event of Eli and I trying to get it together and into Costa Rica.
The thought process:
Where the hell are we.. This is definitely not Sixola… Everyone around us is filling out papers, immigration papers? Those look important. Okay, step one get those papers. It looks like they are getting them from that window. Alright, get immigration (?) papers from window. We got this. Oh wait this lady is telling me something but she is talking so fast. She won’t give me the papers. Why won’t she give me the papers? WHAT ARE YOU SAYING WOMAN?!?! Oh, I need a bus ticket.. Thank you kind lady who also speaks English. Maybe she knows where we are. She tells me we are at the border like I’m a idiot, duh we are at the border! Okay don’t get distracted, get a bus ticket. * Eli and I debate over who is going to ask* Um, no idea what that man just said but he pointed in that general direction and there are some buses over there that must be it. Nope, not it. According to this man, not the first man a different man, we can buy the tickets over there but once again he just pointed in a GENERAL DIRECTION! Why does this building not have a sign like every other bus station?! Those girls are flagging us down and yelling maybe they know what to do! No, ladies I’m not trying to pay an eight dollar entrance fee with a shuttle to David. I’m trying to LEAVE the country not enter it but thank you. Even if we can find the bus tickets we have no Costa Rican money. Oh my god, the world is ending.
Thankfully Eli, ever calm and collected one, was there to remind me that in fact we were not facing the doom of an impending apocalypse and we were going to be okay. As said by him, “if I wasn’t there you would have just flopped down in the street and started crying”. Tis true.
At this point we are both hot, sweaty, and tired having been on this wild goose chase for at least forty five minutes. Shoving the immigration papers in our backpacks we decided to call it quits, head back to David and start over in the morning.
How to successfully get from Boquete, Panama to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Step 1: Take the bus from Boquete to David ($3.70 for both of us). When facing the park in the center of town the bus stop is in the far right corner.
Step 2: At the terminal in David take the bus to Changuinola ($12 each) it’s about a four and a half hour bus ride. The bus to Changuinola is one of the big charter busses and its towards the end of the terminal. If you ask anyone they will point you in the right direction.
Step 3: Once in Changuinola walk through the building where the bus drops you off and take a taxi to La Frontera. We shared with other people so it only cost $1 each.
Step 4: At La Frontera (the border) you’ll see the bridge in front of you. Turn right and walk down the side street, passed duty free, to immigration to get your passport stamped. We didn’t have to have any papers filled out we just showed them our passports.
Step 5: Walk across the bridge into Costa Rica. Yay! After crossing the bridge you will see a blue building that says inmigración. That’s where you get your passport stamped on the Costa Rican side. You have to fill out the immigration sheets before getting your passport stamped (we already had ours from the disaster the day before). For me it was super easy she just stamped my passport and I was on my way. She quizzed Eli asking where he was going, for how long, and if he was leaving from Panama. Just to be safe I would bring proof of exiting the country within the allotted time.
*we didn’t have to pay anything to cross the border*
Step 5: Go down the stairs on your right, turn right down the first street and you will see the bus stop on your left. The ticket from Sixola to Puerto Viejo cost us $6.70 together.
Crossing the border was actually really easy once we got on the right bus. The border wasn’t busy at all, we left David at 9 and got there around 2, and super relaxed. It was not super stressful and chaotic like the first border we went to. I would highly recommend crossing this border on your own, everything is pretty straight forward. We paid about $36.40, $18.20 each, and if we had taken a shuttle it would have been $25-35 each. I understand taking a shuttle if the border is really difficult but in this case it’s not worth it. It’s to relaxed and totally do-able on your own.
We got to Puerto Viejo just in time to settle in and watch the sunset over the ocean.