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Nicaragua – Costa Rica (Penas Blancas)

March 23, 2012

We are feeling really pleased with ourselves after having managed both side of this border crossing without any help from a tramitador. In fact this crossing had the least pushy Tramitadors of any that we have done, they just took no for an answer. This is pretty unusual because at other crossings we have said no and they helped us anyway – pretty clever because it usually turns out that we are grateful for their help and pay them.

The border has the usual long line of trucks waiting to cross which you just have to drive straight past. I shudder to think how long you’d be here if you waited with them.

On first arriving at the Nicaraguan side of the border you stop at a booth where a man with a blue DGA polo shirt on will check your vehicle import permit and scribble something on it.

The border area has been moved around a bit in the last year (since 2010) so the info we’d got from other overlander’s was out of date. Good news is that no photocopies are needed at this border to exit.

Drive straight ahead and follow the sign’s for budget. You will turn left and enter a big car park. We parked right next to the Budget building.

The first stop is immigration which is over the other side of the main blue and white building. There is a sign saying “Migracion”. At the entrance to immigration is a booth where you have to pay a Municipal tax of USD 1. No way of getting out of this unfortunately. After this you go to one of the windows where you fill out an exit form, pay an exit fee of USD 4 each and get your passport stamp.

Now you have to get your Import permit cancelled which isn’t that easy. First you need to find a man in a light blue DGA polo shirt. He will come over to your vehicle for an inspection. For us he checked the VIN number and came in the back where we had a little chat. He then signed off the import permit for us.

Next step is to get the police, who should also be around the parking lot, to sign off the permit too. We couldn’t find the police so the DGA man spoke to his colleagues and we didn’t have to get police sign off.

You then go the Aduana window which is in the same building but on one end as Migracion and go to the first window. Someone here will look at the import permit and your driving licence. They will sign it off and pass it to the person at the second window who will then stamp it. You are now free to go.

After this you drive straight pass the blue booths which are for trucks and to the exit. Here there is another DGA man who you give the cancelled permit to and you are through to the Costa Rican side.

Now take a breath because the Costa Rican side is more complicated and chaotic.

As you drive through you need to turn right past a small building, stop and pay for fumigation (USD 6) and then drive through the big fumigation tunnel. Don’t stop as it keeps spraying and roll up your windows.

Continue driving and you will hit a paved road, turn left and drive until you reach a building which the road splits and goes around. You want to drive around the building and park up where you see all the buses.

There is some building work going on in the main building currently so when this is finished it may mean things have changed round a bit but as of March 2012 this is the setup.

First step is to go to Migracion – inside the main building. There will probably be a big queue – with a lot of gringos in it. When you get to the front give them a passport and the immigration form (we were given this by Nicaraguan migracion but there will also be guys handing them out outside).

This bit was easy. Now for the import permit and this takes a bit of running around. First step is to buy insurance. The insurance is for sale at the main customs building which is around 400m away from where you are parked. Walk through all the trucks until you see a big loading dock and then walk along this and the window is at one end.  Insurance is compulsory and costs USD 17.

Now you need to get photocopies (just 1) of the insurance, your passport including immigration stamp for Costa Rica, your driving licence and your title/registration (easy for us Brits as we only have one document). You will need passport and driving licence of any 2nd driver too.

Then you walk back to the main area where there is a little hut opposite immigration. Go to the window here and hand over the copies (an originals) the guy here will give you a form to fill out. Once this is done he staples the copies together and then you have to go back to the aduana building by the loading dock.

Here you go right round to the end where there is a door to an air conditioned waiting room. There was no on waiting and we went straight to a window where a guy took the form and photocopies checked everything and typed it into a computer. He then printed out our import permit which we checked and then we were done.

This all sounds very simple but finding out where to go took us some time and we ended up walking from one end to the other around 4 times. Everyone was very helpful and friendly.  All in both borders took us three hours – a tramitador would have speeded it up but wouldn’t be as satisfying !

Once all this is done you are finished and can drive through the final checkpoint and out into Costa Rica.

Be aware that within the first 50km’s of Costa Rica we were stopped at 2 police checkpoints. The first we had to show passports and import permit and the second just the import permit.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2012 4:23 pm

    Impressive! Thanks for the info and well done on not needing a tramitador

  2. June 19, 2014 11:28 pm

    OMG I have been looking everywhere for a detailed description of the harrowing journey that is the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border crossing. I hope you don’t mind if I use a photo– I’ve credited you and your post. Thanks for such a great guide!

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