How to Renew Your Tourist Visa in Costa Rica – Panama Border Run

How to Renew Your Tourist Visa in Costa Rica - Panama Border Run

If you are traveling to Costa Rica on a standard tourist visa, you are only allotted three months (90 days) in the country. However, if you want to extend your stay, then you can do a “border run” to either Panama or Nicaragua. This article is how to renew your tourist visa in Costa Rica traveling through Panama.

Renew Your Tourist Visa in Costa Rica – Panama Border Run

If you want to renew your tourist visa for an additional 90 days, you can do so by leaving and re-entering the country. The Costa Rican government needs to see that you leave the country before the three month maximum. You can do so either by plane or bus ride.

I highly recommend leaving and re-entering by bus. While it takes more time and is a bit more of a hassle, you will save a lot of money while seeing more of both countries. And depending on what part of the country you are in, you can either leave through Nicaragua or Panama (however Nicaragua is currently facing civil unrest, so this is not recommended). I am currently staying closer to the Panamanian border, so I opted to leave and re-enter there.

When leaving Costa Rica, you are required to pay departure tax. Currently, the cost to leave Costa Rica by airport is $29 USD on departure. However if you exit the country by bus, the fee is only around $7 USD once you enter Panama.

Renew Your Tourist Visa in Costa Rica – Option 1: Paso Canoas (Not Recommended)

Your first option is to enter Panama through Paso Canoas. Paso Canoas is in the southern part of the Costa Rica – Panama border. If you are planning to go this route, you will need to catch a bus with the final destination of Paso Canoas from wherever you are leaving from. Whether you are leaving from San Jose or San Isidro de El General (like I did), all you need to do is buy a ticket for the bus heading to Paso Canoas. Paso Canoas will always be the end of the ride no matter where you are riding from.

How to Renew Your Tourist Visa in Costa Rica - Paso Canoas

Exiting Costa Rica Through Paso Canoas

When you first exit Costa Rica, the very first thing you have to do is pay the departure tax of $7 USD. You will see a yellow building on the south side of the main road where you pay the fee. You can pay with either cash or card, but I recommend bringing the cash as it is simpler and safer against fraud.

*Important: Get Your Exit Stamp!*

Once you pay the departure tax, then you can head across the street to get your Costa Rica exit stamp in your passport. This is very important! If you do not get the exit stamp you will be required to pay a large fine on re-entry. One of the people I was traveling with forgot to get his Panama exit stamp and was told he had to pay a fine of $1000 if he wanted to enter Panama!

From my experience however, I would not recommend you renew your tourist visa in Costa Rica through Paso Canoas. It is by far the busiest and most hectic border entrance into Panama. This is because Paso Canoas mainly serves as a truck entry point, where many goods are imported and exported back and forth. This means that the Panamanian and Costa Rican border officials are much more strict and thorough here, making the experience more difficult.

*Warning: Have Proof of Leaving!*

The Panama officials at the Paso Canoas entrance will want to see proof that you are not staying in the country. This means they will want to see either a plane or bus ticket! I had neither but got lucky and was allowed through because I told them I was visiting Bocas del Toro and re-entering Costa Rica through Sixaola.

Renew Your Tourist Visa in Costa Rica – Option 2: Sixaola (Recommended)

Sixaola is a small border town located at the southern edge of the Limón Province in Talamanca, Costa Rica. The small town is located directly the Rio Sixaola (Sixaola River), which forms the Costa Rica – Panama border. Sixaola is located at the very end of Highway 36.

Leaving or re-entering through Sixaola is a much easier and calmer experience. There are much fewer people going in and out, which means less lines and waiting. Additionally, there is little to no “interrogation” like there typically is in Paso Canoas. You are merely asked a few questions like what you do for work and then you are on your way.

How to Renew Your Tourist Visa in Costa Rica - Panama Border Run

If you want to renew your tourist visa in Costa Rica, then I highly recommend the Sixaola route. It is much more painless and quicker, leaving little room for problems. Paso Canoas is much more hectic, with greater possibility of things going wrong.

Looking for more to do in Costa Rica? Learn more about what the beautiful country has to offer:


Originally from Chicago, now traveling around the world while working remotely as a web designer / developer. A Christian trying to be a shining light in a dark world.


  • christian August 21, 2018 at 3:50 am Reply

    Thanks for the Info! I have to do the same and I am very close to Paso Canoas, so it’s my only option. Since I am planning on just get out and in again at the same day as fast as possible… can I just say to the officer that I want to renew my visa, because I want to stay one more month in Costa Rica?

    Also is it possible to show a bus ticket from Paso Canoas to San Isidro for example as a proof for leaving Panama??

    • travel His world March 12, 2019 at 11:35 pm Reply

      Hello Christian thanks for reading! Sorry for the late response but if I were you I wouldn’t tell the border officer that you are trying to renew your visa. I heard they’ve been cracking down on people doing the visa renewal.

      And yes I believe a bus ticket should be sufficient for proof of leaving Panama. Let me know how it went!

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