Ahhh border crossing…how I loathe thee…
Ever since the gong show of our border run to Panama, Shaun and I had been dreading crossing the border to Nicaragua. We had read that crossing the border into Nicaragua was more difficult then Panama, so we were preparing ourselves. Despite our hesitation, I was SO excited, because crossing the border into Nicaragua didn’t just mean exploring another country, it meant meeting up with my absolute bestie Colleen.
Motivated by my urge to squish my homesickness with a big ole Colleen hug, I entered into our border crossing with the mantra of “BRING IT!”…This attitude worked, and we made it BUT in the process we nearly had the biggest disaster of our entire trip…intrigued? Here is how things went down.
Similarly to what we did in Panama, we booked a shuttle to take us over the border, and boy was it early! The shuttle was actually the day tour that goes from Tamarindo to Grenada, and it leaves at 4:30am. So, in what felt like the middle of the night, we said goodbye to Bearly Bear and crept out of Villas Macondo into our awaiting van.
We were driven to Liberia at which point we switched vans and were driven to a soda for breakfast. We actually didn’t even breakfast was included so that was an added bonus. Shaun rocked a little gallo pinto, while I had fruit and coffee.
It was at this point that I noticed how incredibly complex and organized this tour company was. During our breakfast about 6 different vans full of people pulled up. Each tour guide had a list of travellers and as everyone was served their breakfast in record time, they organized people into their corresponding tours.
Since we were the only people just being shuttle over the border, we were actually in a van by ourselves. We finished our breakfast and hopped aboard for the 50 mile drive to the border.
We knew we were nearing the border when we started seeing the trucks. Miles and miles of huge big rigs lined the streets. Our guide later told us that they can sit there for over a week waiting to cross the border. Seems like an ordeal that I don’t need to add to my bucket list!
Once at the border, we grabbed our bags and went through Costa Rica Immigration. Piece of cake, in and out in less then 5 minutes. At this point, the Grenada tour pulled up, and we were told that we would be getting on their bus to actually drive over the border.
Unlike Panama, you can actually drive a car across the border into Nicaragua. Why not walk you might ask? Well between the border of Costa Rica to Nicaragua is about a kilometre long stretch of no man’s land. The road is lined with chain link fences and groups of people holding big wads of cash follow you the whole way down the road, yelling at about exchanging money. I’ve actually heard that it used to be much worse, as there used to be no fence, so people would actually get swarmed. Not fun.
The fact that we were getting on this lovely little air conditioned tourista bus sounded like a great idea to me!
We drove down the little road, and turned into another little building. This was where we would go through Nicaraguan immigration, and pay our city tax. The rest of the tour members got to poke around the vendors and duty free while the guide took care of their paperwork, while Shaun and I had to go through the process ourselves.
Our tour guide David was SO amazing. He spoke perfect English and helped us figure out all the various lines ups we needed to go to. He even sped up the process by translating things, and helping us navigate where to pay the city tax. All in all it cost us 6 dollars to get in the country plus a 1 dollar city tax.
So we ended up with new stamps in our passports and all sorts of little pieces of paper to tuck in our passports (David told us not to worry about them, we could just use them for our “scrapbook”). He then introduced us to our driver, a young Nicaraguan guy who would drive us into San Juan del Sur. Not a cab per say, but a great guy who spoke a little English and gave us a bit of a tour along the way.
It is hard to believe that everything went so smoothly. We couldn’t believe our luck! Everyone was amazing and we felt like the whole process was just beyond simple…that is…until we had to come back over the border 9 days later…THAT is when disaster nearly struck.
You’ll have to check back tomorrow to hear the crazyness of our return trip!
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