The grim little frontier outpost of Paso Canoa has nothing to interest visitors, no places to stay, and sketchy-looking greasy spoons that will appeal only to the brave or starving. But many tourists are forced to visit it every day, as it is the main border crossing with Costa Rica .
They spend as little time here as possible. It’s become even uglier in recent years with an influx of stores selling cheap (in both senses of the word) goods to Costa Rican day-trippers.
As with the two other border crossings in western Panama, it’s hard to tell where Costa Rica ends and Panama begins. A barren stretch of road is the only thing separating the two.
Immigration, customs, and an ATP government tourism office are housed in a cement monolith at the border. The main function of the ATP office (tel. 727-6524, 7 a.m.–11 p.m. daily) is to sell tourist cards for those entering from Costa Rica. As usual, it has little tourist information to offer.
For more information on what to expect when crossing the Panama border, please visit our Panama Border Crossings page .
There are two banks, a pharmacy, and a few places to eat down the road leading to Puerto Armuelles. As one faces Costa Rica, the road is on the left at the intersection just before the border crossing. Everything of interest is within a few hundred meters of the intersection.
The Banco Nacional de Panamá (8 a.m.–3 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–noon Sat.) is across the street from the Zona Libre Mall. Farther down the same street is a branch of Banco Universal (9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Sat.). Both banks have ATMs, but neither exchanges money.
Farmacia Tiffany #3 (no phone, 7:30 a.m.– 10 p.m. daily) is up the street from Banco Nacional de Panamá.
There’s a bus and taxi stand on the Panama side just east of the immigration/customs building. A taxi between Paso Canoa and David  costs about US$25, but if business is slow haggling may be possible. However, bus service to downtown David is frequent and fairly quick. Buses run continuously 6 a.m.–8 or 9 p.m. The trip takes about 1.25 hours and costs US$1.75.
Padafront (Paso Canoa tel. 727-7230, David tel. 774-9205) has multiple buses to Panama City , with intermediate stops along the Interamericana. The trip takes 8–9 hours, somewhat less for an express. The fare is US$14, or US$17 for an express. Alternatively, travelers can take any bus to David and board a bus to Panama City there.
There’s a small Tracopa bus office (7–11:30 a.m. and 12:30–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 7–11 a.m. Sun. and holidays) on the north side of the street between the Costa Rican and Panamanian immigration offices. It sells tickets to San José, Costa Rica , for US$10–11.80 (depending on number of stops). Buses leave at 4 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., and 4:30 p.m. Costa Rica time (one hour earlier than Panama time). But this office is mainly of interest to travelers looking to meet the “proof of onward travel” requirement to enter Panama.
Tracopa offers a refundable US$12.50 open ticket that’s good for three months. Some travelers simply buy the ticket, show it at the border, and cash it in at the Tracopa office at the David bus terminal. Note: Immigration officials are wise to this ruse and are beginning to crack down on it. If you try this, there’s a chance of being turned away at the border or at least being forced to go back and buy a bus ticket with a firm date.
For those heading to Costa Rica  who need colones (Costa Rican currency), next to the Tracopa office is a branch of Banco de Costa Rica (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 8 a.m.–noon Sun.). It has an ATM. Other ATMs are nearby.
Those with their own transportation can just head straight on the Interamericana to get to David and points east.
Note: Panamanian police routinely stop cars on the highway between the Costa Rican border and David  to check for smugglers, illegal immigrants, and, more prosaically, drunk or unlicensed drivers. This happens throughout the country but is more common west of Santiago. These checks are normal and no cause for alarm. Just make sure your papers are in order.