For weeks we have been researching our options. We have read and verbally been told so many different stories we decided to once more go back to Panama City to the Dept. of Immigration. We find the Tourist Extension Line and have six people in front of us. After waiting over one hour there are still three people in front of us. At this time a man comes by carrying paperwork and at least 10 passports. We have heard their are agents, so we start asking him questions and he tells us number one we are in the wrong line and number two that he can help us once we get a package together with extra pictures of ourselves, copies of passports, copies of cruising permits etc. etc. So we say okay and that we will be back in four days, after the weekend. On the weekend he in fact calls us and says we had better wait as he needs to check and see if there is any other information Immigration will need. Again he phones back on Monday and says we can not get an extension and that we will have to leave the country.
Allayne and Dennis (Audrey Paige) have the same Immigration dilemma as us and have opted to sail down to Colombia..
Adios until we meet up again in San Blas.
We start looking at flights etc. and decide we will go to Panama City one more time, as we need to pick up our new toilet that has just arrived through Pakya. This time when we arrive at Immigration there is no line up and we are invited into the office immediately. The supervisor Rayman Omar is very friendly and speaks fluent English. We explain our situation and he explains, yes in fact we do have to leave the country because Panama and Canada do not have a reciprocal Immigration agreement. He sees we are dissappointed and calls his supervisor. After a lengthy conversation he explains the best they can do is give us a thirty day extension which would mean every thirty days we would have to go back into the office. He says, go to Costa Rica for 48 hours and upon re-entering Panama you will be given a 6 month Immigration Visa....SIX MONTHS...Now that would be perfect especially with hurricane season fast approaching. He explains a new law was passed April 27th changing ones stay from 3 months to 6 months. So back to Shelter Bay, we get organized packing small knapsacks and then we return to Panama City the next morning for a bus ride to San José, Costa Rica.
The Tica Line bus is very clean and has a bathroom. We leave Panama City at 1100hours and will get into San José at approximately 0100hours the next day. Yes, a 15 hour bus ride..We did not have much of a delay at the border. First we had to check out of Panama which included having all the luggage taken off the bus, put on the cement floor in a small room where it is checked by a dog, then checked manually. The luggage then is returned to the bus for an approx. 200 yard stop at the Costa Rica Immigration where again all the luggage is hauled off the bus and checked.
We were served two meals while traveling plus snacks, all included in the $40 ticket price.
We were very impressed that the bus depot in San José actually had rooms for rent at $38, so we decided to take one. It was very clean, included a private bathroom and had a small television. Next morning we went around the corner to a hostel for breakfast. They even let us sign into their wi-fi where we looked for hotel options near the city center. Before leaving the bus depot we thought it would be best to purchase our return tickets. The ticket agent forgot to give us ten dollars of our change. When we went back and questioned him, he did not say sorry, just turned around and got us the money....Most interesting. He in fact gave us our change partly in US funds and partly Colones, their local currency, possibly to confuse us perhaps!
Deciding on Best Western we took a short two dollar cab ride to our destination. What was interesting at Best Western was the young lady quoted us a price. We said we saw on the Internet that it was approximately twenty nine dollars less.... She said the best she could do was give us 10% off but suggested we sit in the lobby and use their computer to register on-line. So of course we did that and it only took half an hour for her to receive the confirmation. It was a nice bonus to be allowed to get into the room immediately even though it was only 11am. A welcome beverage was included in the price, plus breakfast. We booked the room for two nights even though during the second night we would be leaving at 2130hours for the bus depot.
There are many Museums in San José.We chose the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. We decided to take a taxi...Well, TOURIST BEWARE!!! We knew the taxi`s here use meters. The taxi we got into we asked how much it would be and where was his meter...He said he uses the odometer which he had changed to 0. We were suspicious but stayed in. We knew the Museum was only a few blocks away...Once we arrived at the destination he uncovered his meter which in fact read that we owed him almost 12000 Colones, which is $24US. The fight was on.... Two dollars is all he got....
The architecture is most impressive.
Being inland it was noticeably cooler.
Before we knew it, it was time to pack up our bags and head for the bus depot. The trip back to Panama was not as quick as we hoped. The bus left at its' 2100 scheduled hour however arriving at the Costa Rica Immigration we had to wait over an hour as their was no one to process our Passports until 6am...Very frustrating. Finally when two people showed up, one did exits and one entrances. Well, the one doing entrances was not busy but unfortunately I guess it was not his responsibilty to help out with the exit line....So again this took about an hour with the odd hold up, where someone was being extensively questioned....not pulled out of the line, but just holding up the line. Aughhhhh
Finally everyone is next sent to the Panama Immigration. We are told we have to buy a ticket back to Costa Rica..After much explanation stating we are not going back to Costa Rica, but to our boat in Panama, showing all the necessary boat papers he finally lets us through. Of course we ask and "We have six months"?? He just looks at me slamming down the passports. We quickly looked to make sure the passports are stamped and we cannot find where my passport stamp is. Randy's is rght where we think it should be, but mine, well, back in the line and for some reason he has stamped it on top of other stamps back five pages??? Our frustrations are not over. Only when everyone on the bus has gone through the Immigration process will they start to take the luggage off the bus. Now Randy and I only have our knapsacks but we are not allowed to clear our baggage until everyone is ready. We are all put back in the small room, and wait, no they will not check luggage yet....they call 12 peoples names and take their passports and start to thoroghly check them out while the rest of us can only wait and watch.....No such thing as clearing the rest of us out of the room which is getting real hot.
Finally we are on our way. We finally arrive back in Panama City close to 1700 hours instead of the 1300 hours so we decided we will spend the night. The next morning we decided to go back to the Immigration Office just to confirm we have the six months. Mr. Omar recognizes us and he gets back on the phone and confirms even though their is no actual date in our passports six months from now we do in fact have the time. Hooray!!!!
If there is a next time however, we have decided we will fly!!