How to cross the Costa Rica/ Panama border.
• Tika Buses from San Jose, Costa Rica leave from Merced District, San José, Costa Rica. The station has seats and a vending machine but not much more.
•Buses leave twice a day at 11am or 11.45pm and take 16 hours depending on border crossing delays. We found it best to take the later option so that we arrived in an unfamiliar city during daylight hours (4.45pm). $57.75 includes a reclining seat, pillow, blanket and all meals – sandwiches, biscuits, fizzy drink and McDonalds for lunch.
•Buses arrive in Panama City at Albrook Bus Terminal Panama City (searchable in google maps). From Albrook a local bus is $0.50 to the MultiCentro shopping centre downtown. Alternatively a taxi will cost around $5 to Campo Alegre district. Be prepared to possibly pay up to $10 as our driver got lost and we seemed to end up with the better end of the deal.
∼ Costa Rica exit tax = $9 per person (this is $2 cheaper if you are able to pay in advance at a bank).
∼ Panama entry requirements: bank account statement proving your financial ability to support your stay + an onward ticket. This is the only country we got checked for an onward ticket and we did see people get held back for not having this. A screenshot of each will suffice.
We opted for Tica Bus which was expensive but there are other options. Consider that the below does not get you right the way to Panama City or arrives at odd hours.
∼ Expresso Panama ($40) departs 12.00PM from San Jose, arrives 3-4AM Panama City.
∼ San Jose -> Trapoca, Costa Rica. Switch bus Trapoca, Costa Rica -> David, Panama. Switch bus David, Panama -> Panama City. Buses leave on the hour from David to Panama City, $15. This may be a good option if 16 hours on a bus is not your cup of tea.