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New Panama/CR Border Crossing Regulations?

Costa Rica News – Well it seems that Panama has either passed on recent law or has just started to randomly enforce new border regulations for people going out of Costa Rica. This topic has been a common occurrence on many expat chat rooms lately. 

PANAMA-costa-rica-borderAs many of us know that live in Costa Rica, the tourist VISA is good for 90 days upon entry into the country.  It does not matter if you are driving across the border or you are flying into Juan Santamaria International airport.

There are many expats that do not want to go through the long drawn out process of obtaining residency, as honestly it is a process that takes months and costs a little cash. The expats that do not want to go down this road usually resort to a little thing called perpetual tourism.

Perpetual tourism consists of leaving every 90 days normally to Nicaragua or Panama, staying out of Costa Rica for 72 hours (false) and then returning with a new 90 day tourist VISA stamp.

The 72 hour rule is not true…… The root of this rumor stems from an old Costa Rican Customs regulation that allows visitors to import up to $500 worth of goods, tax free, provided they have been away from Costa Rica for at least 72 hours.

This is supposed to thwart people from skirting Costa Rica’s high import tariffs by making daily border runs.

Right now you can just exit and enter the country. Nicaragua has a 2 or 3 hour rule but that is about it.

Until recently the requirements were a valid passport and proof that you were leaving Costa Rica with the next 90 days. This proof was normally in the form of a future bus ticket on Ticabus or a proof of a flight out of the country. There were always tricks to show this proof like printing out a flight reservation before you actually purchased the ticket.  The flight existed but you were just not going to be on it.

Recently on the Panamanian border some expats have been surprised by new rules that are now being enforced on the Panamanian side when you are leaving.  As it is with everything the enforcement is sporadic and at some border crossings they are not enforcing the rules………however, you need to know them just in case and you are prepared.

You still of course need to have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months past the entry date, but there are a couple of things that you might not have known.

1.) You need a plane ticket ( print out) from the country that issued your passport (you can find ways to get around this but need to know it)
2.) $500.00 cash in order to exit Costa Rica or proof that you have access to $500 with an ATM receipt etc….

This has thrown a lot of people for a loop as they are doing the Panamanian border crossing.  For those with credit cards going to buy a refundable ticket back home is not that big a deal although it is quite the inconvenience.  However, if you do not have a way to purchase a ticket online you might as well not try to cross without it.

The $500 cash requirement also has surprised some expats as the last thing you really feel like doing is carrying that amount of money and showing it in a public setting.  Expats have thought that it was some sort of scam and started confrontations with the border officials.  This only has resulted in a few expats being banned from entry into Panama due to numerous exit stamps over the years.

My advice at the moment……if you are going to Panama plan on having to follow the above requirements and if you cannot do that then take the bus trip to Nicaragua.  The normal regulations seem to be in place on the northern border of Costa Rica.



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