A Day in Paso Canoas - Shopping in Panama

Mar 19, 2019     Costa Rica, Panama     Destinations, My Adventures
Entering Panama from Costa Rica; just walk right in.
Entering Panama from Costa Rica; just walk right in.
It's typical in southern Costa Rica to go to Panama to shop. It wasn't the most exciting day, but I figured I should check it out.
Paso Canoas is a town on the border of Costa Rica and Panama. It is a shopping place. Because things are so expensive in Costa Rica and the taxes are unbearably high, Costa Ricans will take a trip to the border once in a while to stock up on supplies or get specialty items ... like booze. LOL

A short ways into Panama, it's a free zone so you don't need to go through immigration. The funny thing is that it's technically illegal to go shopping in Panama and bring it across without paying taxes! So once in a while the police will set up bust stations and people will get hundreds of dollars worth of provisions confiscated. Sometimes they're given the option to pay off the police. I suppose it depends on if their good are something the cops want or not. LOL

My neighbor and new friend in Zancudo needed to go to the border town to get some paint and supplies for their Bingo fundraiser so I tagged along. We had thought she had to get a turkey for Thanksgiving but it turns out we were a week early! LOL Her business partner and another English guy were along too.

Sue and I were out on the dirt road in front of our houses by around 5:45 am waiting for the bus to come by with the other two guys already on it. It got there before 6am and was pretty full. It only cost about $2 to get to the town of Comte about 45 minutes away.
Nope, not that one. That's the high school bus.
Nope, not that one. That's the high school bus.
Here we go, off to Comte.
Here we go, off to Comte.
It's a narrow dirt road to get there. Apparently it's in pretty good shape right now but aside from the muddy potholes, they are installing drain pipes across the road (like 3 foot diameter pipes) and they only dug them down about a foot into the road making a huge muddy slippery mound for the bus to drive over. I thought for sure we were going to get high centered. But we made it to the supermarket bus stop in Comte.
This whole barely dug down pipe with non-packed mud around it just didn't seem like a good idea.
This whole barely dug down pipe with non-packed mud around it just didn't seem like a good idea.
It's a narrow dirt road to get to the neighboring towns.The road is in pretty good shape at the moment.
It's a narrow dirt road to get to the neighboring towns.The road is in pretty good shape at the moment.
You can find a use for anything, huh? This is a satellite dish turned trash stand.
You can find a use for anything, huh? This is a satellite dish turned trash stand.
From there we hopped out and got a taxi (C2,500 / $5 each) and were there in half an hour. I decided I just had to not worry about spending money on transport for this venture even though I didn't need to even go to the town. I WANTED to go to the town. :) I had to see what all the talk was about. Where everyone goes to provision.
The grocery store / bus stop in Comte,
The grocery store / bus stop in Comte,
There are 2 parallel roads. We're driving in Costa Rica but the road on the right is in Panama.
There are 2 parallel roads. We're driving in Costa Rica but the road on the right is in Panama.
We got there early before the stores opened so we went to a restaurant near where the taxi dropped us. You can see the big Panama border sign just up the road. We got breakfast (the saltiest cheese omelet I've ever had) and coffee and watched the 100 or so refugees come across the border from Panama into Costa Rica, just to be shipped off in a bus North to the Nicaraguan border where they are shuffled until they get to Mexico and then the US. Every day 100-200 come across around 8am.
Here are the refugees on their way north.
Here are the refugees on their way north.
Panama border and taxis.
Panama border and taxis.
The guys and gals split up and met up later at the McDonald's at the City Mall. We didn't accomplish much other than buying a bunch of Christmas light strings, a nice purse as a prize for the charity bingo game they are holding next Saturday, and I bought a $.69 mini toothpaste. Everyone says how cheap things are there but honestly I didn't find the prices that good. But I guess anything is cheaper than Zancudo! I was picture something more like a giant third world outdoor market, but it was more like a bunch of modern-ish big department stores with a lot of people and taxis.
Big department stores with lost of holiday decor for sale!
Big department stores with lost of holiday decor for sale!
Some cheapo clothes.
Some cheapo clothes.
Big department stores.
Big department stores.
Abdiel and I were all shopped out so decided to let Sue & Carlos do their food shopping for the bingo game while we went back to the restaurant on the Costa Rica side, but not before getting a fresh pipa (young coconut) to drink from a street vendor for $1. At the restaurant I had a strange rice & pineapple drink that was something like horchata but gummier and Abdiel read to me. It was really cool because he's an author and has an incredible voice. He used to do voice commercials I think and he records his own audio books.
City Mall, the main hub of stores apparently.
City Mall, the main hub of stores apparently.
Ahhh, fresh cold pipa just outside the City Mall. And look at the sign. It says to not put trash. Um, hmmm, right.
Ahhh, fresh cold pipa just outside the City Mall. And look at the sign. It says to not put trash. Um, hmmm, right.
What an odd place I find myself in. Sitting in an open air restaurant on the Panamanian border drinking something barely identifiable and listening to this booming English voice read to me about Christmas trees. Damn I love traveling.

They eventually got back to the restaurant along with a private taxi / truck with their things tied up in garbage bags in the back because it was raining. We got back before dark which is apparently the first time ever they came back that early! Well it was barely before dark. The private taxi is espensive ($50) but there were 4 of us so we split it and it wasn't too too bad. It's a necessary thing though if you do any shopping and/or if you don't want to get back super late on the slow slow bus.

So all in all a good day and I experienced the local shopping outing. And it helped me on my way out of town because I took the same route to get to the big coach Tacopa bus from the border up north.

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