Hello, I spent 4 weeks in Panama and then entered CR from Panama, on a public bus from David --> Paso Canoas --> Golfito and then a ferry from Golfito --> Puerto Jimenez. I did a tour with Surcos tours and had a super time.
Immigration is a nightmare on the Panama side. It didn't seem a dangerous place and no bad people attacked me (my Panama host family put this border point in the same league as Colombian druglord territory- it is fine!), but it took forever. I arrived when there was no queue, only 1 person in front, all seemed straightforward. Then a full Ticabus and another bus arrived and this man asked if I had had my bag checked. I said no and they made me go with all the Ticabus people to this room, and a dog came in to sniff all the bags. Then they started to call a register of all the bus people and when I said I was travelling alone, and therefore was not on the register, the immigration staff told me to shut up. Then they told me off 5 minutes later because I wasn't on the stupid register! Then they decided to check my bag. Now, this checking involved me saying that I didn't think it was at all necessary because the dog hadn't been interested in my bag, me undoing the bag slightly, then the man not even bothering to look in it. He then let me out of the room and I had to go to the end of the massive queue of 2 bus loads of people! So I was at Panama immigration for over 2 hours. The CR side was straight through- it took two minutes.
1) If there's a Ticabus, lie. Definitely lie. Say your bag was checked and then claim language difficulties if challenged. They didn't really look, it was all rather farcical and you don't receive any proof you went in the room. This will save you at least 90 minutes!
2) Ask someone to help you, it's confusing the first time there because there's no real info and it's a fairly spread out place. There are plenty of staff around, they just need encouraging to help you!
A lovely man helped me work the place out. It's easy after you've done it once, but I had no idea what was happening.
3) You're going to be there a while, talk to the other people in the queue. It made time pass marginally quicker!
4) It was HOT, even at 6am. Make sure you have a drink, if you're alone you can't leave that queue once you're in it... unless you want to start all over again.
Bus to Golfito:
The bus to Golfito was easy, bus station just before CR immigration on the other side of the road. Lovely scenery, nice roads, about 90 minutes, all good. The bus driver forgot to tell me when we got to the lancha (even though I had asked him). However, I had also asked other people on the bus and they told me when I got to the stop instead. Definitely ask other people to remind you too!
There was a big supermarket opposite the lancha too, that was good. Some friendly ticos decided that I must be looking for the ferry and went out of their way to explain times, fare and where to go.
Ferry from Golfito to Puerto Jimenez:
Fast, safe, laidback, mainly ticos. It was a nice change after all the buses. Departure times for Puerto Jimenez below...
Fast boat- 10am, 1pm, 3.15pm
Slow boat- 11.30
Info- call 8802 5705 or 8756 6460
I stayed at Cabinas Tropicales. It was fantastic (I added a review). You should definitely stay here! Read the reviews, they are mainly 5 stars. The place is lovely and the owner couldn't be any more accommodating.
Surcos tours, trip to Corcovado and Alfa Romeo.
I went with Nito for 3 days/ 2 nights at Sirena. We flew in with Alfa Romeo. The pilot has skills! He is also a very happy man who obviously loves his aeroplanes. Following an incident in a BA plane (where we lost altitude, swerved, people screaming, etc, etc...) I do not like flying. It terrifies me, but I LOVED this aeroplane! I felt very safe and it was really comfortable. He also flew us out a little earlier than expected because they were expecting a storm later. Flight was smooth, landing on the grass was no big deal, we didn't skid (or crash, or die) and it was fairly uneventful, apart from the scenery and the indescribable excitement! We flew in over the trees and out over the ocean. He also opened the window so I could take better pictures :-) The couple before had seen whales. We didn't. It didn't matter, it was already amazing! I thoroughly recommend Alfa Romeo, and thanks to everyone who helped me make that decision).
Nito was the best guide ever. I knew that he would be good after reading TA reviews and blogs but he was even better than I expected. We saw 103 species of birds and animals that we could remember the names of afterwards. We saw plenty more that I am sure we forgot to write down as well. Sightings included 6 tapir, all four types of monkey, coati, tayra, bats, peccaries, spiny rat, caiman, crocodiles, sharks, stingray... He really was amazing, I will write a more detailed review for the tour in the next few days! It hardly rained at all and the trails at Corcovado were well-maintained. I envisaged cutting them with a machete as we walked, but it's really quite nice and easy.
It is what it is. I loved it. Everyone shares stories, there's a nice atmosphere, it's fairly big. I got no mosquito bites and it wasn't as bad as everyone makes out. For instance, you can charge your camera 24/7 and there's even wifi! The first night, some French girls wouldn't shut up when everyone else wanted to sleep and the second, the Spanish people got up at 3.30 and decided not to make any attempt to be quiet. In fact, I think they actively tried to wake everyone up. Also, nothing was taken from my tent but someone stole all my teabags from the kitchen. They left the box, and the individual packets, but stole all 18 of my teabags. This is not good. I am English- tea is sacred and certainly not to be stolen.
1. Hide yummy things. (Although, you can't make tea anymore because you're now not allowed to heat water)
2. Bring flip flops that are not super thin. You need a bit of a sole so that the 'water' on the toilet floor doesn't go all over your toes...
3. Ear plugs are essential!
4. You won't sleep much after about 4ish if people are packing up. so going to bed at 8pm is a good idea! It's not boring, it's good.
5. Torch is essential.
6. Nothing will dry, be prepared for this!
7. Take minimal packaging into the park and take ALL your rubbish home. Nito collected a whole bin bag full of rubbish to take back with us on the plane. It's pathetic that people hide their rubbish or just leave it lying around.
It's a nice place. The people are friendly and it's very relaxed
Good things- Good price ($57), arrived on time (well, 10 minutes late but that's very punctual for ticos!), comfortable ride, stopped for food at a restaurant, stopped a few times for toilet, friendly and considerate driver. Also, we drove up the coast road and scenery was beautiful. The public bus takes the long, windy way through the mountains, I prefer the shuttle route.
Bad things- We had to wait in Jaco for nearly an hour because another shuttle bus had broken down. Then the plan was altered and we just continued without them. Also, I was told by AnywhereCostaRica that Osa Shuttle knew were my San Jose hotel was. They didn't and I didn't have the address on me because I thought it was sorted. This resulted in another hour of chaos trying to find my hotel, followed by a twist of fate involving an out-of-hours dentist in San Jose who knew my hotel owner because he was a patient. It was an 'interesting' end to an otherwise good journey!
Would I use them again? Yes, I actually already have! I used them again two days later, to take me to the airport! They arrived on time and charged me $25, which was $15 less than my hotel shuttle option. I will use them again next year too. The address issue was not entirely their fault, mostly but not entirely! Next time, I will print out all addresses and contact numbers in future! It was the only one I hadn't got with me, grrr!
Osa was incredible (a detailed report will follow on Surcos tours review page). I loved it so much that I have already made reservations to go back to the same place, with the same guide, next year!
I recommend Nito, Cabinas Tropicales, Alfa Romeo and Osa Shuttle- ask if you have any questions.
Thank you everyone for all your advice.
C xEdited: 06 September 2013, 22:43