This time for our return trip to the states we elected to go through San Jose, CR instead of Panama City. It’s something we had wanted to do for some time. Just for comparison purposes. As we were able to get fantastic rates on Southwest Airlines, this seemed like a good time to do it.
Departure day arrives. After waking up at 1:30 and dozing only briefly for moments at a time thereafter, I was up for good at 5AM. We were on the road before 6:00 and arrived at the David, Panama bus station just after 6:30. A Tracopa ticket window that I didn’t notice earlier had a sign that said “Open at 7:30AM”. That sounded about right for a departure that I understood to be something after 8:00.
As we had almost an hour to kill, we decided to have breakfast at a nearby McDonalds. Very glad for that. I hate missing breakfast.
As McDonalds didn’t open until 7AM, we arrived back at the bus terminal a bit past window opening time. Jan stayed with the luggage and bought the tickets while I parked the car at the other end of the terminal ($5/day). The tickets cost $20 each but we got a $6 discount, presumably because of our pensianado visas. I’m not expecting the same discount when we buy the return tickets in Costa Rica.
The bus left for the border at 8:45, only 15 min late. Our transportation vehicle was much smaller than the David-to-PC buses, and not air conditioned. But we were expecting that.
Upon boarding we were given customs and immigration forms to fill out, similar to the airlines.
We reached the border soon enough. A short nap helped with that. The bus unloaded all the luggage and we were shown into a thankfully air conditioned room, the only one we would see until we arrived at our hotel in Costa Rica. An official made a roll call of all the passengers and then our luggage was (sort of) inspected.
From there we went around the corner to another line. While awaiting our turn a beggar came by with a paper cup. From the looks of things everyone was expected to contribute something.
The clerk wanted our passports and our residency visas. But neither of the two forms we had previously filled out. Not sure what department we were dealing with here. We got a passport stamp and our photo was taken.
From there we walked about 100 yds to a place that was customs, according to the signage.
But the clerk asked for our immigration forms, not customs. Another stamp. A sign at her window indicated requirements for entry into CR but she wasn’t too strict about it, at least not with us.
Then just next door (actually, outdoors with a roof for cover), we were reunited with our luggage and waited, and waited, for a non-uniformed lady to eventually show up. Once again, our luggage was sort of inspected.
Boarding the bus again we had our luggage checked and were given claim tickets for the first time. Didn’t happen earlier. The guy loading the bags said something about a tip, in Spanish. I pretended not to understand. That didn’t work, so he asked for $2. It remains unclear whether or not that was a legitimate charge. I suspect it wasn’t.
Forty minutes or so after arriving at the border, we were on our way again.The scenery, for the most part, was the same as Panama, except for vast acreage with palms under cultivation. Later learned they were harvested for palm oil.
Stopped for lunch at Flor de Sabana around 1230 . Cafeteria style, two of us ate for something under 10USD. Beer, as an afterthought, was another 2.26USD, or 1200Colon. More than twice what I would have paid in Panama, but worth it at the time. It may have been an n/a beer, as I’m a cheap drunk and I felt nothing, despite it being consumed midday. But it tasted good. In half an hour, we were back on the road. 3 hrs to go, +/-.
Refreshment and pit stop around 3:30. Small bottle of tea, small box assorted candies, peanut brittle bar, small ice cream sandwich came to $8. Ouch!
It was nearly 5:00 when we finally arrived at the bus terminal in San Jose. The cab ride from there was a nightmare. It was rainy and we arrived at just about the worst time for traffic. It took an hour and cost $40.
Finally at the hotel (Holiday Inn Express) I was feeling smug that I’d thought to bring along some rum. Couldn’t wait to get a Coke and r-e-l-a-x. Incredibly, the Coke machine wanted $2! I know that sets a record for the amount of money I ever put in a Coke machine.
Following a refreshing drink or two … or three … we walked over to a Denny’s for a minimal dinner. That came to over $30.
Next morning we’re up at 5:00, per Jan’s arrangement with the front desk. I’m in the shower at 5:15 suddenly questioning why I’m up so early. It turns out Jan thought our flight left a 8:00. In fact, it’s scheduled for 9:00. Now we’re waiting for the dining room to open for breakfast at 6AM.
The San Jose airport was a delight. Smallish, but big enough. Not at all crowded. Things moved fast and progressed smoothly. At least until we reached the boarding gate. Like PTY in Panama City, there is yet ANOTHER luggage inspection before boarding the plane. So far I’ve not been able to determine the reasoning behind this. The inspection was so casual I wonder why they even bothered. And not a single Muslim on the flight, as far as I could tell. Maybe that’s why it was so casual.