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Transportation Between Puerto Viejo and Bocas del Toro, Panama

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Puerto Viejo is a popular stop-off point for travelers who are on their way to or from Panama. We are only about an hour and a half away from the border, Bocas del Toro is the closest tourist destination to the border on the Panama side so the majority of visitors are traveling between there and Puerto Viejo. Caribe Shuttle has great transportation service between Bocas del Toro and Puerto Viejo and it doesn’t cost all that much more than making the journey yourself on the bus. They make it incredibly easy, they will pick you up or drop you off right here at Hidden Jungle Beach House and help you navigate the border crossing every step of the way. You can click HERE for more information about shuttle service between Bocas del Toro and Puerto Viejo with Caribe Shuttle.

*Pro tip if you are going from Costa Rica into Panama – you can save yourself some time standing in line if you pay your exit tax online ahead of time, you can do that HERE. The exit tax is US $8, you can also pay it at the border if you can’t do it online ahead of time. **As with any border crossing, it’s always a good idea to have proof of onward travel and the accommodation where you will be staying on both the Panama and Costa Rica side, immigration officials may ask to see it when deciding whether or not they will let you into the country.

It’s also pretty easy to navigate the border crossing yourself with public transportation and it doesn’t take all that much longer than the shuttle. Those who know me know that I love all things Panama and visit as often as possible so I’m very familiar with the border crossing procedure! I do it frequently on my way to Panama City or Bocas del Toro.

Going From Costa Rica to Panama

If you are going from Costa Rica into Panama the first time-saving step is to pay your US $8 exit tax ahead of time online, you can do that HERE. If you are not able to pay the exit tax online ahead of time don’t worry, there’s a window at the border crossing where you can do so. You will have to do it before the passport control window on the Costa Rica side of the border. Panama uses US currency so it’s a good idea to get some US dollars in Costa Rica before you cross the border.

First you need to get to the border in Sixaola. Keep in mind that border control on the Costa Rica side only operates from 7 AM-5PM so make sure you leave early enough, it takes about an hour and a half to get to the border from Puerto Viejo. You will take the public Mepe bus to Sixaola and get off at the end of the line. The bus ticket is currently 2200 colones, about US $5. Once you get off the bus go back to the main road and walk left towards the border crossing. Don’t be shy to ask for directions if you feel lost, it’s not far and people are willing to help. Do be wary of overly friendly strangers who offer to help you with the border crossing process, just smile and say no thank you, even if they insist. If you’ve already paid your exit tax go straight to the passport control window, if not stop at the exit tax window right before the immigration building. Once you have been stamped out of Costa Rica you will walk with your luggage across a bridge over the Sixaola River. As you approach the Panama side there are usually some immigration officials who will ask to look at your passport. Once you have crossed the bridge into Panama you will need to stop at the passport control window to get officially stamped into Panama, it’s on a side street to the left of the bridge next to a duty-free shopping center. Again, don’t be shy to ask for directions. Don’t skip this step, even though there are no officials compelling you to stop for your passport stamp they will check your passport later down the road on the way to Bocas del Toro, you must be stamped from both sides of the border, out of Costa Rica and into Panama. There is a time change once you cross the border, it is one hour later in Panama than it is in Costa Rica, so if it was 2 PM when you left Costa Rica it is now 3 PM in Panama.

Welcome to Panama! Now you are in Guabito. If you are headed to Bocas del Toro you can take a shared taxi directly from Guabito to Almirante, it’s about an hour away and the price should be no more than $10, you can negotiate a lower price if you feel like haggling. If you’re not in a hurry and want to save a few bucks you can also take the bus to Changuinola then transfer to a bus to Almirante, this is where you will catch the water taxi to Bocas del Toro. The bus stop is on the other side of the overpass in front of the grocery store and it’s one US dollar to get to Changuinola, then it’s $1.50 for the bus from Changuinola to Almirante. Once you are at the boat dock in Almirante you will take a water taxi to Bocas del Toro, they leave every 30 minutes from 6 AM-6 PM. Be prepared to potentially get wet on the boat ride, especially if it’s raining. The trip takes about 30 minutes and costs $6.

If you are heading to destinations in Panama other than Bocas del Toro you will take the bus or a shared taxi to Changuinola (about 30 minutes away) and transfer from there to your next destination. The bus stop is on the other side of the overpass in front of the grocery store and it’s one US dollar to get to Changuinola, a shared taxi to Changuinola is $2-3, no more than $5. Changuinola is a good place to get a SIM card for your phone.

Going From Panama to Costa Rica

Going from Bocas del Toro to Puerto Viejo? You would simply do the above in the opposite order. Costa Rica only operates their border control from 7 AM-5 PM so make sure to leave Bocas del Toro early enough to get to the border in time, remembering that you will lose an hour once you enter Costa Rica, so if was 3 PM when you walked across the bridge from Panama it is now 2 PM once you get to Costa Rica. Take a water taxi from Bocas del Toro to Almirante, take a shared taxi directly to the border in Guabito or take a bus/taxi to Changuinola then transfer to Guabito. Get your exit stamp at the passport control window in Panama, walk across the bridge into Costa Rica, then get your entry stamp at the border control window in Costa Rica. Walk down the main road and make your first right, the Mepe bus station will be on the left and you can buy your ticket to Puerto Viejo at the ticket office. Welcome to Costa Rica!

Photo by Cathie Lee Rose Boutilier

Disclaimer: The information in this post was accurate at the time of this writing, prices and schedules are subject to change. I do keep the pages of this website updated as much as possible with new information as I get it but be there could always be variations I may not be aware of yet. Feel free to drop me a line if you see something that should be changed!

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