When you come to Costa Rica, you enter on a 90 day tourist visa. So, if you choose to stay here longer, then you will need to do a border run every 90 days. Many people do this, but it is frowned upon if you live here permanently. If you are going to live here full time, you should apply for one of the tree types of residency. See attached site for the different residencies and requirements.
We gathered our required paperwork back in the States before we left, and had our lawyer submit it within three weeks of being here. This is a long process, and from what I understand, our paperwork will sit on someone’s desk for a few months before ever being looked at, and it can take anywhere from 4 months to over a year to get our Cedula, which will be good for two years before we have to reapply. After our initial paperwork was submitted, we got what they call our Expediente number, which means we are in the process of getting our Cedula, and therefore do not need to leave the country every 90 days.
So, why the border run, you may ask. Well, unfortunately just because we are in the process and legally can stay past 90 days, our driver’s licenses are only valid for the length of the tourist visa. Oh, and you can’t get your Costa Rican driver’s license until the 91st day after you receive your Cedula. Fun fact just in case you thought it would be easy to move to Costa Rica!! Nothing is easy here!
So, off to Panama we go on our 90th day! Thankfully, it’s a beautiful ride!
Although everyone’s experience is different, ours was pretty easy. We had a friend who had done it before, so he told us all the steps we needed to take.
First, we parked on the Costa Rica side and went to a place a few doors up to pay our $8 exit tax, then we headed across the busy street full of big rigs to the immigration office to get our CR exit stamp,
then we walked to the center of all the shopping to the Panama border and got our entrance stamp. They sometimes will ask for onward travel when entering both countries, so be prepared. We had booked a flight from Panama to Los Angeles just in case they asked in Panama, which they didn’t. We cancelled it when we got back home, so no cost.
Then we basically shopped for three hours.
We found the liquor stores that we have heard so much about and stocked up on our Skyy Vodka! $9 for a 1 liter bottle! SCORE!!! The cheapest we have seen it is $22 for that same bottle….we don’t buy vodka in CR.
We actually carried it back to the car…in Costa Rica, and then walked back for more shopping….in Panama. The lines are very blurred at this border.
We entered Panama at around 11:45 on a Monday, and the line at this time was pretty small. We tried to exit Panama at 2:00, and the line was very long. Then, when we got to the window, we were told we had to stay for one more hour. I guess there is a three hour minimum stay in Panama. So, we walked back to where we parked the car…..in Costa Rica…and had a nice lunch at a local soda. Then we went to City Mall and got some items we needed and brought those back to the car. Certain things are cheaper, like my shredded cheese!! 32 oz bag for $10. I’ll take two!!
About 3:45 we headed back to the Panama border and there was no line, so we got our exit stamp and walked over to the Costa Rica border office. There, they did ask us for our onward travel, but since we have our Expediente number, it is not required.
Needless to say it was a very long day, and we walked a lot through all the shops, but we are set for driving for another 90 days!!! Come on Cedula!!
Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions you may have about this process!
Thanks for joining us on this Schauer Pack Adventure!
Good times in Costa Rica…..and Panama!