How and How Much to Get from Puerto Viejo to Bocas Del Toro?

So it’s time to leave Costa Rica for Bocas Del Toro, Panama.

The $30 USD shuttle From Puerto Viejo might seem tempting but the Sixaolo border crossing it’s so easy and much cheaper to do it yourself. Trust me, we just did it on May 5th, 2015. DIY the border crossing and you could save upwards of $16.75!!

Here’s how (and how much) to get to Bocas Del Toro from Puerto Viejo:

1) Take one of the earlier buses from Puerto Viejo to Sixaola. Starting at 6:30am, they come every hour.

Note that the bus may say Limón on it. Just ask the driver to make sure you’re getting on the right one. The bus takes about 1.5 hours, and the border closes at 5:00pm Costa Rica time.

Cost for bus from Puerto Viejo to Sixaola: $3.25 USD (you pay in colonies obviously)

2) The driver will kick you off the bus at the end of the line. If you get off on the road, walk straight ahead and up a tiny hill toward the Sixaola River (Rio Sixaola). It take 1-2 minutes. Cross the crazy old bridge. This is where you exit Costa Rica. Make sure you do this!

3) Go through Costa Rica Customs. It’s on your right in a tiny building. You have to fill out a short exit paper and pay an exit fee. The $7.00USD exit fee is payable via credit card (you do it with a machine) and you may or may not get a receipt. It doesn’t matter, the customs officers watch you pay. If you don’t have a credit card, you can pay cash but it’s a little more ($8 I think). 

There’s a free toilet here if you need it. It’s kind of gross and had no toilet paper on offer at the time of our border crossing.

Likely, Panamanian shuttle drivers will start soliciting you here. I recommend not to commit to one just yet because you can shop around for prices once you officially enter Panama. More on crossing the border.

4) Start walking straight again. You’ll be ushered into a suspect looking building and asked to pay for a stamp in your passport. It’s $4.00USD and it isn’t your Panama visa.

5) Carry on walking until you can turn left. Turn left and walk past a parking lot on your left. On your right is where you officially enter Panama.

It’s possible to cross without official paperwork being completely. It’s ILLEGAL and you’ll be in shit a few kilometres down the road when you hit a checkpoint. 

Do you really need proof of onward travel? We got asked for proof of onward travel. We showed the border guy a print out of our flight confirmation email to Colombia. He looked at the paper and said fine. He didn’t verify in any way that what we showed him was legitimate. We didn’t have a boarding pass (obviously).

Someone we met didn’t have onward travel. The border guy wouldn’t let him through…after about 20 minutes and a $20USD bill later, his passport was stamped.

We DO NOT recommend offering bribes or gifts or using fake tickets to enter any country. 

6) All of your paperwork is done now. It’s time to haggle with taxis/van drivers. It costs about $20 to go to Almirante by taxi, which is where you get the boat to Isla Colon (the main island home to Bocas Town). You can split the price with other people. I travelled with 4 other people and we each paid $4.00USD.

The van drivers will lie and tell you that if you take their van, you’ll save money on the boat. It’s total bullshit. The boat costs $6.00USD per person – it’s standard fair. That being said, you can negotiate with the van drivers for a decent price to the boat dock in Almirante (we got them down to $25 for 5 people).

It’s possible to take public buses. We didn’t so I can’t help with that.

Total cost from border to Almirate: $4.00USD.

7) You’ll be dropped off at the water taxi area. It costs $6.00USD and the boats run frequently. Sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s interesting (notice the toilets at the end of the docks!) and beautiful!

Total cost to get from Puerto Viejo to Bocas Town on Isla Colon: $13.25 USD

Remember, if you cross with the shuttle, you still have to pay all the border crossing fees. It’s cheaper to go by yourself!

It took us about 4 hours to get to Isla Bastimentos, which is about 35 mins by boat from Bocas Town.

**(Directions from http://www.puertoviejosatellite.com/)

Happy travels! 

–Cyn 

6 thoughts to “How and How Much to Get from Puerto Viejo to Bocas Del Toro?”

  1. Hey there! Just curious, what do you mean by “onward travel?” Does that mean just showing you have a flight booked to return home at some point?

    1. Hey Kimberly, Onward travel means just proving that you’re leaving the country. You don’t have to be going home, just somewhere else. I hope that clarifies! – Cyn

  2. Hi there,

    Thanks for your post! It will come in handy when crossing the border. My friend and I are flying to San Jose. We have a ticket booked from Panama City to Colombia 2 weeks after our arrival in CR.

    My only concern is our arrival in CR- does our flight out of Panama (to Colombia) count as “onward travel”? It seems like you can similar travel plans.

    Thanks!
    S

    1. Hi Sarah! Good question… it will usually be the airline you fly with to CR that has proof of onward travel requirements so I would first check with your airline. I am not sure about CR customs when flying in yet my assumption is that your Panama to Colombia flight will prove that you guys are heading to Panama from CR yet it depends on the officer you get. We were not asked for proof when entering CR from Nicaragua yet a couple Germans behind us were and so had to purchase a bus ticket from San Jose to Davíd to enter CR. If you can book your bus ticket out of CR in advance then that would be proof or a hostel/hotel/Airbnb booking in Panama would also be proof. My feeling though is that your flight out of Panama should be good enough to enter CR. Hope that helps. Matt

  3. Update

    Just did this last week. Some things have now changed at the border.

    Pay your exit fee in cash at the local shops before you climb the hill to the bridge (it seems dodgy but it is legit).

    You must go to the CR border office BEFORE not after you cross the bridge, there show proof of payment, get stamped and then walk the main bridge, with the road traffic. The pedestrian bridge is now closed, looks like its being refurbished.

    After the bridge you are ushered into a small, unofficial looking office where you have to pay in dollars and complete your forms. No one at this office spoke English when we were there. There are no guys at the border offering currency exchange so bring dollars or go to the closest cginese ran supermarket and they change for you.

    After this be careful – you must go down the steps to the left and up the street to the left to go to the official border staff and get passport stamped. Its easy to miss this as you walk past the taxis!

    When we got stamped they checked the exit flight details for everyone in the queue, be prepared. I met one person planning to get the boat to Columbia who had to buy a flight on the spot.

    Oh and haggle for your taxi to almirante, the taxis were starting at prices of 10 per person, but 5 mins of haggling and we got it for 4pp

    If going to Boca’s ask the taxi to stop at a cash point before almirante

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