It’s a nice excuse for a day trip, and it’s exactly the sort of bureaucratic bobbing and weaving that is essential to living in a socialized country.

Today, we bought bus tickets that we will never use, from Costa Rica’s border town of San Vito to Panama, for 90 days from now. These will replace the plane tickets that we will not use in two weeks, and allow us to stay in the country for another 90 days.

Sounds confusing? It is.

Lemme explain.

Or, in the words of Inigo Montoya,

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Costa Rica does not allow you to enter the country indefinitely. You must have a prepurchased ticket out of the country (as in, say, the second leg of a round tip ticket) upon your entry.

Your passport is stamped to authorize you to stay in the country for a maximum of ninety days. If you are found to have extended your stay beyond this limit, you can be deported to your home country and not allowed back.

Since many gringos live here without official residency, they make a quarterly border trip, like to this small town on the border of Costa Rica and Panama. In order to get the magic stamp that allows you to stay legally for another ninety days, you have to purchase a ticket out of the country before you leave it.

In another two months, we will make another border run, satisfying both:

  1. Our desire to take long drives throughout the countryside, and
  2. Our bureaucratic paperwork requirements.

If this requirement did not force us to take an international trip every three months, we would probably travel less. It is fortunate that this country requires us to be frequent international travelers, keeping us from being sedentary.