The main port of entry between Costa Rica and Panama is like most border outposts the world over – hectic, slightly seedy and completely devoid of charm. As you might imagine, most travelers leave Paso Canoas with little more than a passing glance at their passport stamp.
Báncredito, near the Costa Rican Migración and Customs, changes traveler’s checks and there is an ATM near the border. Rates for converting excess colones into dollars are not good, but they will do in a pinch. Colones are accepted at the border, but are difficult to get rid of further into Panama.
The Instituto Panameño de Turismo, in the Panamanian immigration post, has information on travel to Panama. If you are arriving in Costa Rica, you’ll find sparse tourist information at the Costa Rican Tourist Information office in Costa Rican Migración and Customs.
The hotels in Paso Canoas aren’t particularly inviting, but Cabinas Romy will do if necessary. Set around a pleasant courtyard, shiny rooms are decked with pastel-colored walls, wooden doors and floral bedspreads, which add a surprising bit of warmth to an otherwise drab town.
Tracopa buses leave for San José (US$12, six hours) at 4am, 7:30am, 9am and 3pm. The Tracopa bus terminal, or window really, is north of the border post, on the east side of the main road. Sunday-afternoon buses are full of weekend shoppers, so buy tickets as early as possible. Buses for Neily (US$1.35, 30 minutes) leave from in front of the post office at least once an hour from 6am to 6pm. Taxis to Neily cost about US$6 and to the airport about US$8.