Day 57, Central America trip, Dec 2012 – Feb 2013
Day 2, Costa Rica, overland border crossing into Panama
Nope, you thought wrong!
It’s not a man who had a little too much to get up. This is a fellow traveler that shared the Tica bus ride with me from Costa Rica to Panama city. Our bus depart from the Tica bus terminal in Costa Rica at 11:00 pm traveling to Panama. I booked this ticket through a Tica authorized agency in Esteli, Nicaragua. Therefore, in trying to book the full length of the trip from Esteli, Nicaragua to Costa Rica, then into Panama, the agency may have neglected to inform or educate me that the border crossing is lengthy. Tica bus company is very popular in Central America but this is my first time riding with them due to availability. I’ve only ridden King Quality before and I must say, out of the 2 experiences, I preferred King Quality over Tica, especially after this event.
We departed from the San Jose, Costa Rica Tica’s bus terminal at 11pm in the night. We arrived at the Costa Rica and Panama immigration/border crossing station at 3 am the next early morning. That’s 4 hours of riding time. And this is the part where I don’t know where does Tica bus operation/management company put their brain at? Unless some of your readers out there know the reason or offer some insight into the situation, I would assumed that they’re just plain stupidity at making bus schedule. We were hurried off the bus, get in line and waiting. We saw some people were waiting around our “exiting entrance” as they were crossing from the Panama’ side. Therefore, we assumed that immigration office were in operation. Per the signage on the window on the Costa Rica’s side (our side), they do not open until 8 am. WTF! That’s 5 hours of waiting in vain. If Tica bus knew about this, why would they schedule departure at 11pm in the night so that we have to wait for hours in vain at the border crossing to exit Costa Rica with no access to service facility.
Everything were locked down. No sight of officials. Bathroom doors, even with paid entrance, are locked. After about more than 2 hours which we could no longer humanly hold it in, we crossed the street in desperation to hopefully find some bushes to do business with nature but alas, no bushes insight or anything helpful for the women riders like us. We could have used the bathroom with the Tica bus but the took off like a fly by the night type of service the minute we get off the bus. No instruction whatsoever. We couldn’t find the bus attendant as they disappeared into the night.
The Chinese restaurant across the street finally open at 6 am. We joyfully hop over and happily paid the service fee to use the bathroom. Then the immigration office opened at 7am. Our group were the first in line yet others behind just spilled out and cut us in line. It was a mess. But in the end, we finally finished with immigration and the border crossing. If I were given the chance to do it again, I would not select the 11pm departure date from Costa Rica to cross the border into Panama.