Sunday, July 20, 2014

Border Run to Nicaragua from Herradura

In Costa Rica, you have to leave the country every 90 days and re-enter if you are not a resident. Technically, if you have applied to be a resident, you do not have to do this, however, there is another law that says if you do not leave every day and are not a resident, you cannot legally drive and your insurance is invalid.  So, even though Kurt and I have applied for residency, we still had to do this border run in order to still be able to legally drive in the country.

Kurt was coming up on his 90 days on August 1, so we decided to go on Friday together and get on the same schedule.  I had until September since I was in Michigan in June for a wedding, but we want to be on the same time schedule to make things easier.  Hopefully we are approved soon and don't have to keep doing this.

The law used to say that you had to leave for 72 hours before you could come back, but, that is no longer necessary. 

We had two country choices, Nicaragua and Panama.  I read a lot online before doing this and decided that Nicaragua seemed like less of a hassle, so we headed to the border at Penas Blancas. 

Got up early and stopped once to get gas and some snacks. The drive was LONG.  It should have been about 3 hours, but there was a TON of construction and traffic, and it took about 4 hours.  I downloaded this great app called Waze, that a lot of people in Costa Rica use. It was great telling us where police officers were ahead of time, since using a radar detector is not useful in this country since the police do not use radar for the most part.

When we got there, we parked right next the entrance.  You can get a guy to watch your case for a few bucks.  You don't have to, but I would not chance leaving my car there and pissing them off by not paying.  You can also exchange money in case you plan on going into Nicaragua for lunch or seeing the sites.  We exchanged a small amount of money and headed off.  There are a TON of handlers there who want to help you get through the process. Hiring one of them could be helpful, but you can figure it out yourself.  Since Kurt has been through a TON of borders, we decided to forego hiring anyone.  In the meantime, we had to tell about 100 helpers we did not need help.  It is very annoying and they are VERY pushy.  Anyway. First place we went was to pay the Ministerio de  Hacienda Direccion General de Tributacion.  This building was to the right of where we parked and right at the entrance.  Small wait in line.  This was a fee of $7 per person and they gave us a yellow receipt we would have to show later to prove we paid. 

We next went to Costa Rican customs.  To get to this building, you have to walk a ways down the main road outside the first building.  Handlers will again drive you crazy.  There is a form you have to fill out, one per person, to present to the customs person.  Bring a pen!  Got to this building and there was a kind of long line.  Waited, and it went quickly.  Got to the front, and they checked all documents.  There are restrooms outside the customs building.

Next, you have to go to Nicaragua.  You walk a ways down the main road.  You can rent someone to give you a ride in a little cart, but we were not lazy, LOL.  Got harassed by handlers, again.  On the way two police officers stopped us at booths to check our documents.  Got the Nicaragua building, which is off the street to the right.  Have to pay $1 municipality tax and then you head to customs.  There, you pay $12 to enter Nicaragua.  Remember to have a copy of your passport.  I think they ask for that for people from certain countries.  We did not have one, so they sent us to a yellow building outside to get the copy, which cost $12 cents each.  Went back in, waited in line again.  There is a customs form you have to fill out here as well. 

Once you get done there, you can go into Nicaragua.  However, we did not want to go into town as we had a long drive back.  So, we walked to the other side of the building and started the process back into Costa Rica.  You pay another $1 tax to exit, then wait at the window again, and pay the $12.00 fee again to exit the country.

The next step was walking the main road again back to Costa Rican customs.  We had to stop at the two checkpoints again, and for some reason, the one officer gave us a hard time.  Even though the time is not on anything, he kept saying we had to stay in Nicaragua for 4 hours before we could leave.  I knew this was not true.  Of course, there was a handler there who could "help" for $20.  If we gave him $20, the 4 hour rule would not apply.  Since we had no desire to wait 4 hours or go into Nicaragua (lunch and a taxi would have been more that $20), we gave him $20.  He then said it was $20 per person.  We got annoyed and said no and started to walk away.  I guess he changed his mind and wanted to help us, so he took the $20 and the officer smiled and let us through, no problem.  Pura Vida!

Then, you go to the Costa Rican customs.  There, they will ask for your proof that you are leaving Costa Rica within 90 days.  We both had bus tickets that proved we were leaving within 90 days that we got from Rebekah at Solutions Travel in Jaco.  Those worked fine and we were set to leave and drive back to Jaco.

Found our car right away, tipped the guy who watched it, and we were off.  Long drive home, stopped once in Liberia for a snack.

Exhausting day.  Was glad to be home.


Mike said...

The $1 "municipio" tax sold at a booth buys you an utterly useless receipt, never to be asked for by anyone at all. Paying it is voluntary. Also, crossing that border on a bus is plenty simpler. I'm afraid the delayed exit gambit is played both ways, however; I was made to wait two hours crossing back into Nicaragua in April and was not given the option of buying my way out.

Jennifer Turnbull-Houde said...

Lots of good info in here. We've done the Nicaragua border run a couple of times. Once we went just for the day and the other time we went to San Juan del Sur for a mini-vacation (cool town if you ever have more time). Last time even after we had been out of CR for 2 nights, an immigration officer on the CR side hassled us a little, asking if we we had just left and were coming back. He was fine after we told him we had been out for a while. When we went the first time just for a few hours, everything went fine so I think it's a bit of a crap shoot. Hopefully things keep going smooth for you guys. Enjoy paradise!