Riding into Panama


We leave Golfito early to ride the 40 minutes or hour to the border and get started on the paperwork for the day. I’m relieved this will be the last border we have to cross in Central America. It’s not difficult, just tedious. The countries are small enough that you can, if you want, cross a border every day as you make your way north or south.  I’m really glad we are spending a few days or more in each country though to see the country and experience the uniqueness of each.
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(This is Brian and I riding right past the border buildings on the left with the cars parked in front of it….)
I see the border up ahead and as we ride between a few buildings and toward what I think is the Migracion/Aduana up ahead a few men start shouting at me and Brian. They are pointing behind us. Apparently we rode right past the Costa Rican offices and are heading for Panama….ummm and that’s not legal.  So we turn around on the street and head back.
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First thing first, immigration/migracion. We get forms to complete and then head to the bank to pay our exit fee for Costa Rica, $7 USD.
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Then back to Migracion with the completed form and receipt. Then on to the Aduana to cancel the vehicle import papers. We cannot re-enter the country for 90 days if we cancel it completely but that’s what we do.
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After we are finished we head back up the road toward the Panama side.
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We park on the left side of the drive through area while large trucks fill the right two driving/parking lanes.
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As we approach the Migracion window a man tells us we need to go buy insurance for our bikes before going to the window as the immigration officers will want to see insurance before stamping our passports. So we head there first and each pay $15.25 for a months insurance.
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Then off to the Migracion office for our stamps. (Window #2 for turistas)
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Next, the Aduana. There are two to choose from the one we are told to go to is NOT the one marked “Aduana” but is instead the one marked “Captura Y Manifesto” – of course, what was I thinking? So we stand in line behind a bunch of truckers for ages.
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Then finally when it’s our turn, although we had been cut in front of a few times…I approach the window and the woman waiting for me is without a doubt the LEAST customer-service-oriented person I have ever seen. But then again, she isn’t in the customer service industry. She has something I want and need in order to continue my trip, so I have to play by her rules. I struggle with my Spanish while she rolls her eyes at me and walks off to help other people instead when she is frustrated with me. I wait, and wait. Finally I get the gist of what she is saying – she wants 3 documents from me and when I hand them over she staples them, barks a fast and furious order to me and waves her hand toward the other side of the building. I’m supposed to go somewhere and get something from someone. But I’m too afraid to ask her to repeat it. Brian is so put off by her that he gets the same 3 forms of his and instead of approaching her for a staple and instructions he walks into a travel agency to borrow their stapler.

I walk across the open-air patio toward the Migracion office again and see a nice woman in uniform with papers. I approach her with a “please help me” look and she smiles and says she isn’t who I need but directs me up the stairs to the Transito office. Thank you, I think to myself, not for the directions but just for treating me like a human being. So up the stairs we go. There is a short line of 3 people at the Transito office.
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We go stand in line and wait and the man in the front asks if we are getting a stamp. Yes, that’s what we are here for. He points to the sign in the window showing us that the office is closed for the lunch hour. Perfect.
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We wait for a minute or two and then the man reached in through the small window where you exchange words or money with the person on the other side. He reaches for the stamp that apparently we need and pulls it out and motions for my papers. He stamps my two copies and does the same for Brian and waves us on. Wow, seriously?! Who am I to question.

Back down to the lovely and kind Aduana women. A second, and even less friendly but slightly less hostile woman greets me. When I show her my papers she grabs them and rolls her eyes and goes to sit at a computer. Just as she types, the power goes off. I see all the office go dark and all the computer screens in the Aduana office. We are on a roll today. But thankfully, it doesn’t last long. She tells us to wait and so we do. I try to explain that Brian has a set of them too and she won’t take them. Finally after a 20 minute wait the first peach waves me over and when she hands me my papers I hand her Brian’s to begin processing. She won’t take them, but I insist that we need them and explain we have two motos, not one and we need two permit. She is mad, but she takes them and begins to process his permit too. I have to get a signature from an inspection officer on my papers and go to dive into the deep end of the learning curve pool on my own, and later share what I learn with Brian so he can benefit from it.

Peach #2 finally hands over Brian’s papers and he gets his inspection signature and then finally, we are ready to go. We are told we are finished but as we get geared up a man walks over to tell us we need to get the bikes fumigated. So we ride to the far right lane so he can hand spray them and we each pay a $1 USD fee to have this done.
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Wow, now I’m even more glad this was the last one for a little while….welcome to Panama.

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