Three Days Out and Youre In

By: Randy Fauchier

Moving my family to Costa Rica and setting up a new business has provided me with some unusual experiences. Our shipping container laden with our personal possessions was held hostage at the port until we paid the extra "fee" for bringing in dangerous foodstuffs like Rice-a-Roni and instant potatoes. Instead of the same container we meticulously loaded in the states being brought to our door as promised, we watched in shock as an old, dilapidated, open air version of the "container" showed up three weeks late at our door. Another experience was buying our car from a continuing rotation of different brothers who showed up at each meeting, with each one claiming to be the owner of the vehicle. Somehow, my lawyer sorted it out; and we took possession of our car containing the most elaborate, custom 3 pronged alarm system one could imagine. But, our family's forced evacuation from the country and the immigration nuances experienced is our most recent singular activity.

The law is clear: until legal residency is achieved , a foreigner living in must leave the country every 90 days for 72 hours.

We knew the law, and were prepared to do so. Twice a year we would return to the U.S. to see family and drum up business for our travel company. But, when our business required that we stay close to home; we would just jump into Panama to the south for 72 hours. On this our first such trip, we decided to fly a local small airlines to Bocas del Toro. I had decided to offer this area on my travel website due to its fascinating ecological importance. is on one of a series of 9 islands in an archipelagic formation rife with corral reefs and colorful fish. It was perfect to add to my eco package for my website. We had flight reservations for my wife, 4 month old son and me on Nature Air, and hotel reservations at Hotel Bocas del Toro.

At the small Pavas airport 5 minutes from our house, we checked our luggage just barely making it under the 30 lb weight limit allowed for each paying customer. We had to pay $26 each(including infant) in exit tax for leaving Costa Rica. The 19 passenger plane was 75% full with French, German, and American tourists. Our flight plan took us to Limon on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica first. The flight over the mountainous rainforest was beautiful, but on our rapid descent to the beachside airport of Limon; our son's ears became painfully plugged. Our efforts to make him yawn were more comical than productive. We learned from then on that nursing on a bottle produces similar results to a yawn. We all got off the plane to show our passports and get the all important exit stamp to prove we left the country in time. The flight down the coastline at low altitude was magnificent. We got incredible pictures and appreciated the pilot letting us know he would keep the plane low enough to keep the baby's ear from hurting. As we landed on the small paved runway, we retrieved our paperwork for yet another customs scenario.

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