**The Costa Rican government has opened the land borders to Nicaragua and Panama on April 5, 2021 for tourists. Please note that Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama all have different entry requirements and you NEED to fulfill each one for land crossings.**
Please read our Costa Rican COVID entry requirements post to find out more.
Costa Rica Nicaragua Penas Blancas Border Crossing Guide
In this guide, I’ll take you through the entire process of crossing the border from Costa Rica to Nicaragua, Penas Blancas border by foot. You will find everything you need to know about exiting Costa Rica, entering Nicaragua, exiting Nicaragua and entering Costa Rica at the Penas Blancas border.
Click on the section to skip to it.
- What You Need (Required documents, taxes, etc.)
- Getting to the Border
- Leaving Costa Rica
- Entering Nicaragua
- Leaving Nicaragua
- Entering Costa Rica
- Safety Tips
What You Need for Crossing the Border Between Costa Rica and Nicaragua
- A valid passport that is not within 6 months of expiring (Nicaragua is strict about this)
- Costa Rica Exit Tax Receipt (if you are leaving Costa Rica)
- You must not have overstayed your tourist visa for either Costa Rica and Nicaragua
- Check if you need a visa to enter Nicaragua. (USA and Canada does not)
- A printed plane ticket out of Costa Rica if you are entering Costa Rica
- Small USD bills. All taxes are paid in USD.
- Your negative COVID test result for Nicaragua if you are not fully vaccinated (taken within 72 hours and has to be PCR. Bring a printed copy of your test result.)
How to get to the Penas Blancas Border Crossing in Costa Rica
- Car – You can drive your car to the border but that is as far as you can go as Costa Rican rental cars are not allowed to cross land borders. In this case, you will need to leave it at the house in the front. The family that lives there will watch it for you for a ~$5 USD a day. Do not leave any valuables inside! You’ll start seeing a huge line of trucks when you get close to the border. Don’t stay in this line. Keep going and you’ll be able to cross the over and park by the Costa Rica exit office.
- Private shuttle or taxi – You can book a private shuttle in Costa Rica to take you to the border. Depending on where you are traveling from, this private transfer (~$180 USD from the Guanacaste beaches). The shuttle will drop you off right at the border which then you will cross on your own by foot.
- Bus – You can take the public bus to the Penas Blancas border from Liberia (5 AM – 6:30 PM every 45 minutes with Grupo Transbasa) or San Jose (3:20 AM – 7 PM every hour with Caribenos), get off and cross the border by foot. You can also take a bus like Ticabus that goes from San Jose to Managua and to the rest of Central America. You will do the border crossing with Ticabus.
- Visa Run – If you are crossing the border purely for a visa run and don’t have your own transportation, check with Native’s Way (Tamarindo) as they offer visa runs (transportation only).
Leaving Costa Rica
To leave Costa Rica, you first need to pay the exit tax which you can pay at the border directly.
Costa Rica Exit Tax
Costa Rica charges an exit tax for all land crossings. There are buildings right when you enter at the border to pay your exit tax with lots of signs. With the Costa Rica exit office ahead of you, all the exit tax offices are to the right.
You must pay this exit tax before you exit Costa Rica. You can pay at one of these offices pictured above, they charge a little more for a “convenience fee” so the total will be $10 USD. You can also pay this online on the Banco de Costa Rica website for $8 USD. Print out your receipt and bring it with you.
Costa Rican Exit Office
As you walk towards the border, you’ll see lots of trucks. Costa Rica is the only country who didn’t sign the Central America Marchamo so you will see tons of big rig trucks waiting in line to cross. If you’re driving, you can go around them. Every time I’ve been to the Costa Rican exit office, it’s fairly empty with no line.
Go inside with your passport and exit tax receipt and hand your passport to the officer who will check it. They didn’t ask me any questions but they asked the lady in front of me where in Costa Rica they were staying before they left.
There is a bathroom outside to the left of the exit office (free).
*For unvaccinated COVID tourists (and partially vaccinated), a negative PCR COVID-19 test result within 72 hours is required to enter Nicaragua. Fully vaccinated tourists do not need to take a test.*
Now, walk outside and follow the buses and groups of people towards Nicaragua.
After a few hundred meters, you’ll reach the office to enter Nicaragua. You’ll go through one main check point at the border where they will check for your Costa Rican exit stamp. However, any officer can stop you on the road to check your stamp and your negative COVID test result.
Sometimes the officers will ask questions, sometimes not. They’re pretty friendly in all my experiences and don’t worry if you don’t know Spanish. Just show them your passport if they ask for it.
Nicaragua Entrance Office
Continue after this checkpoint and follow the signs to the Nicaraguan immigration office. You’ll see lots of people selling souvenirs, clothes, food and asking if you need change.
The Nicaragua immigration office is quite new and very nice with air conditioning. When you get inside (look for Entrada), get in line.
They also now have a window for you to get a “COVID” stamp to prove you presented the negative PCR test if required.
Then after, you will get in the entrance line and pay a $12 USD tax to the immigration officer who takes your passport. When he has stamped it, he will write out a large receipt which you can keep. He will normally ask you where you are going in Nicaragua. Let him know the city and if you booked a hotel, tell him the first hotel you’re staying at in Nicaragua. Sometimes the officer doesn’t ask anything at all.
After you’re done, put any luggage or belongings through the luggage scanner for customs. After that, you are now officially in Nicaragua!
There there is a lady who will ask for a $1 USD municipality entrance fee.
If you continue walking outside, there are some restaurants and taxis if you need one. It’s about a thirty minute taxi ride to San Juan del Sur which costs around $25 USD. Also just in case, here is the bus schedule to Rivas and Managua below.
Leaving Nicaragua is about the same process. The exit office is the same office as the entrance, just on the other side.
When you get inside, you have to pay another $1 USD municipality tax (to the small booth to the right) and $3 USD to exit to the officer who takes your passport. Put the location as your first hotel/hostel and town in Costa Rica. If you need the bathroom, it is to the left of the immigration office building and costs $1 USD.
After you get your Nicaraguan exit stamp, walk back on the main road towards the Costa Rican side. Like before, you’ll be stopped a couple times by officers to check your passport. Once you reach the Costa Rican side, head to the right side of the building to go through immigration to enter Costa Rica.
Entering Costa Rica
You’ll see a bunch of orange blocks making a line for the entrance. Try to get in line as fast as you can and while you are in line, get all your documents ready to present to the officer.
The next part is very important for foreigners when it comes to Costa Rica land entry requirements.
Costa Rica Entry Requirements
There are no longer any sanitary (COVID-19) entry requirements for Costa Rica as of April 1, 2022. That means no test is required, no insurance, no vaccination, no quarantine, basically nothing is required to enter Costa Rica regarding COVID. It is exactly how it is before COVID-19.
However, you will need to present to the immigration officer your flight out of Costa Rica if you’re a tourist. Tourist visas last 90 days for Group 1 countries and you must show proof you are leaving the country before your visa expires.
Proof of Onward Travel Out of Costa Rica
To emphasis this point, every foreigner must present a return flight ticket home or a ticket out of Costa Rica within 90 days. Costa Rica is fairly strict about this in all of my experiences. Of all the times I have crossed the border, I’ve been asked for my flight out every single time.
There is a possibility that you can use a bus ticket, instead of a flight. However, this is not guaranteed to be accepted. I’ve known people who were denied entry with a bus ticket and the officer made them purchase a flight. So even though sometimes a bus or shuttle ticket may work, it honestly depends on the immigration officer you get. Some are super strict, some are more lenient.
Now with COVID, they are more strict about perpetual tourists (people who “live” in Costa Rica as a tourist and do a border run to renew their tourist visa) so it is best to present a flight itinerary confirmation.
I never want to run into any hassles or problems at the border so I always present a printed confirmed flight ticket. If I’m not actually flying out, I’ll purchase a refundable ticket or many airlines have a 24 hour window where you can cancel without penalty regardless the fare type (like American Airlines). A lot of people use Onward Ticket to rent a ticket.
Getting Your New Costa Rica Stamp
Go up to the window and give the officer your passport first. He will probably ask you where you’re going, your occupation, and how long you are in Costa Rica for. Then when asked, show him your proof out of Costa Rica within 90 days.
Once approved, they will stamp your passport with your tourist stamp and write in how many days your tourist visa is valid for (normally 90).
And there you go! Exit the building, put your luggage or backpack if you have any through the machine and you are good to go! That is the complete guide to crossing the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua at Penas Blancas.
Peñas Blancas Border Crossing Fees
To sum up, here are all the fees you need to pay when you are crossing the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. These prices are quoted in USD so pay in dollars but bring small bills because most of the time, they will not have any change.
Please note that Costa Rican currency is not accepted in Nicaragua and Nicaraguan currency is not accepted in Costa Rica. USD works in both countries and since prices are quoted in USD, pay in USD. Small bills only!
- $8 or 10 Costa Rica exit tax (price depends on where you pay for it)
- $12 Nicaragua (to the entrance immigration official)
- $1 Nicaragua entrance municipality tax
- $1 Nicaragua exit municipality tax (in the small booth of the exit office)
- $3 Nicaragua exit tax (to the exit immigration official)
Safety Tips for Crossing the Penas Blancas Border
I’ve heard about some people having trouble or being scared at the border but luckily I, a Asian-American female have never had a major problem and I have crossed alone and with other people. However, there are always people who will target tourists and try to scam you. Here are our tips and things to watch out for.
Do not accept any offers from people trying to help you
These people will pretend to help you for free and then try to charge you something ridiculous when you’ve crossed over. They are persistent and will follow you too.
Also do not accept any offers from someone claiming they can do the border crossing for you. It’s tempting but never let anyone walk away with your passport. Never. You don’t know what condition it will be when it comes back or what they did with it meanwhile.
If you have questions or are lost, ask the Costa Rican immigration officers or the police.
If you’re a solo traveler, look for other travelers and talk to them to see if you can cross together. You may need to write down some Spanish phrases because not all the officers speak English, especially on the Nicaraguan side. Check our Costa Rican Spanish guide for travelers to learn them.
No more custom forms
Some people might try to sell you these so walk away and find an immigration officer. I stopped a woman once who was about to pay $20 for a form! That is one of the common Costa Rica tourist scams.
Bring small USD bills
The immigration officers usually do not give change so make sure you pay in small bills for the taxes and fees. ($1 and $5). Never pull out a huge wad of cash either.
Do not leave your passport hanging out of your backpack or leave any belongings unattended
You do need to show it several times when crossing to the officers, but always put it away in a safe secure spot each time.
If you’re a solo traveler, try to find another group of travelers to join
Usually officers will bother you less if you’re in a group. If you go by yourself, they tend to bother the solo travelers more.
What to do if you overstay your visa
If you overstay, your passport will be marked and you will need to talk to your country’s embassy to figure out what to do. Usually if this is a one time occurrence and the overstayed time wasn’t very long, they can help you sort things out and it’s not a big deal.
However, if you overstay for a long time or multiple times, don’t think you will go undiscovered. Immigration will probably find out at some point, especially as they’re trying to crack down more on perpetual tourists. Once immigration finds out, you will be kicked out of the country and be denied entry for an undisclosed period of time (depends on your situation). We recommend to contact your country’s embassy/consulate in Costa Rica ASAP.
Do not overstay your visa, Costa Rica and Nicaragua does take this seriously, especially even more with COVID. Nicaragua especially is very strict.
Read more Costa Rica travel tips below!
Driving in Costa Rica: In depth guide with tips and advice for driving in Costa Rica. Includes safety tips, information about how Costa Ricans drive, road sides, and more.
Renting a car in Costa Rica: Tips for renting a car in Costa Rica. What you need to know about car rental insurance, reputable companies, recommendations if you should or shouldn’t rent a car and more. You can also get our Costa Rica car rental discount.
Made my first border run to Nicaragua and everything went smoothly just following your directions. I just asked for a little help with directions from Costa Rican officials and they were friendly and eager to help. Nicaragua officials were very kind and helpful as well. In and out in less that 30 minutes. I drove all the way up to the CR immigration statuon and parked free there. You still need proof of vaccination to enter Nicaragua. Thanks for your detailed help.
Hi- we are doing a border run soon we will just be going over and coming back immediately. If asked how long we are staying or name of hotel we are staying at- what do you say?
They don’t really ask for the Nicaragua side and they’ll ask you if you’re doing a visa run (una vuelta). For Costa Rica, you need to tell them where you’re going
Just did a border run today. Nicaragua entry has increased $1 to $13. The little Covid office on the right requires that you stop there to verify your vax card, it is not optional.
We told the agent we were just coming over for lunch and shopping – she took that as doing “una vuelta” and not staying at all in Nicaragua. No extra fee and she escorted us to the other side of the building to exit. (We were hoping to hit duty free but she wouldn’t let us out of the building, so next time, we’ll have to give a hotel name.)
Also, after getting your exit stamp from CR, you can drive a minute up to the car rental office on the right and park there for $5 for a few hours, or $10-12/day – they have a secure lot – “parqueo la frontera” on Google Maps.
Alejandra C Lester says
Hello we are scheduled to cross the border on Dec 21. we paid a private shuttle (Alex on the Beach tours) from Riu palace to the border. they are going to help us with the paper work. how long is the walk when the shuttle drop us? are they allowed to help us with luggage considering i am with my kids?
Hi Alejandra, those are questions you should ask your provider as that is their operation and they can help you. Hope it all works out well.
Is Nicaragua still requiring a covid test? Our family is vaccinated but our youngest child who just turned 5 is not.
I think so but you should check the embassy website to verify
HI guys, love your blog, so informative…
question – if i pay the CR land border exit fee online, but unable to print receipt, then is there another proof to show them the payment has been made? Thanks, Rose
Do they email you a receipt? I would also take a picture of the confirmation of the payment to show on my phone
Jamie A says
Do you have any experience or recommendations for driving a CR registered vehicle across in to Nicaragua? We want to drive our CR car up to visit our son in Managua for 3-4 days.
You’ll need to get your car’s information and permission from the Registro Publico and the car must belong to the driver or at least the person whose name is on the registration must be in the car. You’ll pay some more taxes and fees at the border.
You also have to have the CR car go thru fumigation when re-entering, and this can take some time. Plus, I have heard the smell from the chemicals is not pleasant on your return trip to SJ or other.
To enter Nicaragua by way of the land border, does one need “proof of intent to leave” paperwork (i.e., bus ticket/plane ticket)? I intend to leave the same way I entered, by foot…
They have never asked me for proof out of Nicaragua but they have asked me for proof of where I’m staying (hotels) and how long I will be in the country
The Entry rules have changed on June 22nd, 2022. Fully vaccinated tourists may enter without a PCR test. If not fully vaccinated, you’ll need the negative PCR taken within 72 hours of arrival.
awesome thanks for the update
Thank you! This blog has been very helpful!
David Cramer says
Please note the window for you to get a “COVID” stamp to prove you presented the negative PCR test is the small building just before you enter the main building.
My last Visa Run to Nicaragua was in April. The normally $3 exit tax leaving the Customs building was $30 supposedly because we were turning around to walk back to Costa Rica and weren’t staying in the country for at least 3 days. And the initial entry cost was up from $12 to $15. The two $1 fees were collected together with 2 receipts after we checked in at the doctors office with proof of covid test. Has anyone else comments on this.
Is Nicaragua still requiring the more expensive PCR covid test?
Your thorough description with pictures has been very helpful. Thank you.
Also, can you help me get the long term car rental prices with Adobe please?
Hi Dave, thank you for the feedback. Now NIcaragua is requiring the COVID test for those who are not vaccinated.
We sent you an email for a long term rental with Adobe back in June, not sure if you received it (it may be in spam in that case).
Maaike van den Ende says
Thanks for your blog! I did the border crossing today (thursday before eastern weekend). I was the only one crossing the border by foot, so no waiting line!
Good luck everybody,
Thanks for this info. Hope to do it this week!
Cathy Brennan says
Is it required for you to stay overnight
If you are doing a visa run and not buying anything that requires going through customs, you can do a 1 day visa run
Thank you so much for all this info!! I know a COVID SRT test is required to enter Nicaragua by land from Costa Rica but so you need one to come back over the border in Costa Rica? I’m guessing it’s the same requirements as coming by air and we don’t need a test but I just wanted to make sure. Thank you so much!!!
Costa Rica doesn’t require a negative COVID test
Yes they do – if you’re from the US, please check the Nicaragua embassy section on the website
Does Nicaragua still require the negative covid test upon entry? Could you update this blog?
Hi, I just did a Visa run (Nov 2021) and the officers at the Costa Rican exit told me I can pay my exit tax online. Just Google “Banco de Costa Rica Impuesto de salida” and fill out the form + pay. Show the receipt and you’re good to go! I arrived at 9pm and the exit tax offices were already closed. I paid $8, so I guess that’s the official tax fee.
Thanks for the feedback!
Brendon OConnor says
My family and I just completed our first border run on Thursday through Nicaragua which proved to be a success thanks to your blog and step-by-step instructions.
FYI- future travelers driving personal vehicles to the border crossing. We were able to park our car in the Alamo rental car fenced-off parking lot for around $9.
Thank you for the feedback and I’m glad it went well
Frederick John says
Hi, my gf and I are planning to visit Nicaragua (specifically San Juan del Sur) in Nov and since flights in and out of Nicaragua are very limited due to the new restrictions, we were hoping to fly into Liberia and then make our way to San Juan del Sur.
Your post is very helpful, but can you please give us some specifics/times? If we land in LIR around noon on a Saturday, will we be able to take a bus and go to Nicaragua? To reach San Juan del Sur, which stop should we get off at? How long does that trip take? And if we wanted to rent a car in Nicaragua, do you recommend picking one up once we’re inside Nicaragua since we can’t drive our rental across the border?
If there’s a better option for us, please let us know. And thank you for all the wonderful information you guys post; we went to Costa Rica back in Sept (Santa Teresa and Monteverde) and your blog was so helpful!
Hi Frederick, for public buses, I recommend to use the website Rome2Rio, it works in Costa Rica and is very helpful in seeing schedules and planning your buses. As far as I know, there are car rentals on the Nicaraguan side of the border (car rentals cannot cross borders from Costa Rica).
I read the “Pase de Salud” cannot be older then 72 hours and not younger then 48. Any confirmation on that?
I remember a frend editing his out-of-country ticket all the time, changing the date on it to match his border run, but this is 6 years ago.
How about PCR test results and Insurance papers?
Does anyone has experience with that?
The Health Pass used to open 48 hours before but now it’s 72 hours before your arrival to Costa Rica.
Costa RIca doesn’t require a COVID test to enter the country and only unvaccinated and partially COVID-19 tourists require insurance, please read our Costa Rica COVID travel post for more details.
Hey, I read apost on “Primerisia Nicaragua”s FB page, stating on the 18.10.2021 that “Costa Rica is the first country in Central America that requiers tourists the present proof of completed vaccination to enter.”
For me it loooked like BS, no reference link, typos and other errors.
SO can anybody confirm this being true or not?
Another question would be, what is a good place, close to the boarder and cheap, to do a PCR Test for Nicaragua?
Do I show the result just to the officials at the boarder of Nicaragua or is it supposed to be handed in online before, like when you come by plane to Nicaragua?
When I entered they didnt pay real attention to the certificate I had shown to them.
Thanks, see you at my next boarder run.
Costa Rica doesn’t require tourists to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter. Unvaccinated, partially vaccinated and fully vaccinated tourists may enter. The only thing is that starting December 1st, Costa Rica will require proof of COVID vaccination to enter certain establishments and partake in public activities. Please read our Costa Rica COVID travel post for more details.
There aren’t any PCR test clinics near the border from what I know – you will have to do it in Liberia and show the results to the officers if you’re doing the land crossing, there’s a specific area by the entrance building to show the negative tests.
Has this requirement been revised and no longer required? “First, all foreigners must purchase a travel insurance for Costa Rica that covers a minimum of $50,000 USD for medical expenses and a minimum of $2,000 USD for extended lodging expenses.”
Those are the old requirements (as of August 1, there are different requirements for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated COVID-19 tourists), I just updated the post.
Thank you for this article! I am doing a border run tomorrow from Liberia to Penas Blanco.
To confirm there is no required amount of time you must stay in Nicaragua now, correct? You can cross and cross back?
Technically there is and there always has been but if you’re doing a visa run and you’re not purchasing anything or bringing anything that requires customs, we used to just cross and go back for visa runs.
My husband, daughter, and I crossed on June 20th to meet our Spanish teacher and have lunch with her. The Nicaragua entrance tax was $13 for each of us. All of the other fees were the same. Your site was CRUCIAL for us to have the courage to do this. What I didn’t realize is that our hotel would charge us $150 each for the PCR COVID tests. :(:(
I’m glad to hear that! Yes Nicaragua requires a PCR COVID test result for all foreigners and that is about the price of a PCR test here in CR.
Such a helpful article! Thank you! Do you know if the bus leaves straight from the Liberia airport? Or will we need to go into the city? I looked on Grupo Transbasa’s website but couldn’t tell. I have also seen different people say the bus takes 1.5-3 hours to get to Peñas Blancas. If you’ve taken it, how long did it take you to get to the border? Thanks again!
I believe you will need to go to the Liberia bus station since the main bus station departs from there.
This link aay there is also a online form to fill 7 days prior to border crossing. Does anyone know if it is true….? I already did covid test and plan to had to penas in 2 days… :/
Hi Guy, if it’s for Nicaragua, that was probably from before April when the land borders were closed. Now the land borders are open.
I had covid within the last 90 days. Will a doctor’s note (with that info) work in lieu of a negative PCR test entering Nicaragua?
You will need to check the Nicaraguan embassy to see what exactly they require!
Hi, does anyone know what the age requirements are for PCR tests for kids? We’ve been in Costa Rica for over a month and are hoping to visit Nicaragua for a short time. I have a 7 month old, 3 year old, 5 year old, and a 7 year old. Just wondering if a test is required for each of them. Thanks so much I love your site we’ve used it for many adventures while here!
I’m not 100% sure, I thin it’s 2 year old but you will need to check with the Nicaraguan embassy to be sure.
Hi thanks for the detail guide. We are going to be doing a border run. But need to get back in Costa Rica as soon as possible. Does anyone know if we can come back in whitin hours? what’s the fastest anyone came back? or we have to stay the night.
I believe you can do it in one day, it hasn’t changed in that aspect since COVID. I have read several threads in Facebook groups for people doing one day visa runs.
We crossed the border into Nicaragua on foot yesterday (5/6/21),
It’s about an hour and a half drive to the border, and the driver waited while we went through immigration, than dropped us off at the Nicaragua border – very nice! Our covid tests were checked leaving CR and twice entering Nicaragua. They also checked our hotel reservation. No lines, straight through in 30min or so. Fee to leave CR is US$10, and to enter Nicaragua was $1 + $3 + $10, ie US$13 each total. Pay in US$, exact change needed, all very straightforward. We had a car reserved at Alamo, the agency is in sight when you walk out. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that you can use US dollars anywhere in Nicaragua, in fact the atm offered either currency. Even better, the hotel and restaurant gave good exchange rates.
William Lawrence says
Crossed the border yesterday, April 11th from cr to ni. Exit tax from cr has gone up to $10. They are very strict about covid requirements entering ni. Was checked for it at least 5 times. Construction right by entrance of ni building. Also before passport checked in ni you had to go to a different window outside to get a covid “stamp”. Very very few people passing into ni but process still took almost an hour.
Thank you so much for the feedback!!
What kind of currency do they accept at the exit/entry port if you don’t mind me asking? Also do you plan to cross back?
You have to use USD (COsta Rican currency is not accepted in Nicaragua and Nicaraguan currency not accepted in Costa Rica and all taxes are quoted in USD)
Does Tica Bus stop in Liberia?
Yes, they have an office there
Does anyone know if you can get provide a proof of a negative COVID test from the United States at the Nicaragua border? Also, I have received both of my COVID vaccinations. Any idea if the Nicaragua accepts the US Vaccination Record Card?
Hi Mark, you’ll have to check the Nicaragua entry requirements!
Miguel Silvestri says
Is the rapid test offered at the Liberia airport acceptable to cross the border to Nicaragua?
Nicaragua requires a PCR test.
Brandon Sommer says
Does Nicaragua ask for onward travel at the land entries?
Yes they will ask you where you are going and when you will leave Nicaragua
Brandon Sommer says
Thanks for replying quickly, do they ask you to show a bus ticket out, a flight? Or they just ask and want a reply?
Flight. Bus used to work (ish) in the past but not sure how it is with COVID now. We always used to say it depends on the officer and how their day is going because they are the ones who decide what to accept so flight is the best because it’s always accepted, bus is a hit or miss depending on your officer.
Kohlman V says
Hey Sammi, thanks for the info. We’re planning on driving from Liberia up to Tola. Are we going to be able to drive across the border and back?
Rental cars aren’t allowed to cross borders, if you own the car, you’ll have to get the proper paperwork for the car’s visa, I believe since now the border is open you should be able to cross if you own your own car with the necessary paperwork.
Hi, for crossing by land or air from Costa Rica into Nicaragua, if you are a U.S. citizen with a U.S. passport, do you need to have six months on your passport or just have enough days on your passport for the length of your stay in Nicaragua?
Nicaragua is very strict and they require no less than 6 months within expiration. I’ve had first hand experience with this myself and they were really strict about it and didn’t let my friend cross until he gave them a bribe.
Thanks for the article, it has been informative and is helping me communicate with my perspective travel destination host. I am interested to know when you all expect to travel to these locations. I would like to read that article update. Thank you.
Update as of Dec 30th 2020:
It is now possible to cross the border from Costa Rica to Nicaragua, but not the other way round.
We crossed at the Peñas Blancas yesterday without any problems. We heard it’s not possible to cross in the other direction, because Costa Rican government claims that there are too many covid cases in Nicaragua. So you have to exit Nicaragua via a different country.
Also, it seems like you don’t need to ask Nicaraguan government for a permission to enter anymore. We didn’t do it and the officer at the Nicaraguan border didn’t mention it. You still need a negative PCR test though.
Great thanks for the update!
Yes, you can check the Costa Rica immigration website (Spanish only)
Derek Onysko says
As of today, December 2, 2020, is the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua still closed? As in, there is no driving or crossing the border on foot?
Where can I find information about the border closure, and when it might open?
Yes, it’s still closed.
Do you have an idea on when the border will open up again? As i will be flying into SJ and driving across country, the aim was to enter Nica for a week then fly out of Liberia in CR. Is any of that possible? Thank you so much!
Hi Georgia, unfortunately I don’t know, it is up to the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan governments and they seem not to have reached any agreement yet. But you can fly into and out of Nicaragua from Costa Rica, just the land crossing is closed.
Is the border to Nicaragua still closed by land?
Could you help post the direct link on the gov website for tracking on this topic?
Thanks very much.
John Holdridge says
Hey Sammy are the border crossings long and take forever like going thru customs? Example do we have to wait in line while they scan passports and all that fancy stuff they do at the airports? Or is it just stamp and go? Seems like it’d take forever if they did I have bad back problems is why I ask if quick and just stamped then shouldn’t be too bad for me but I’ve stood in super long lines for immigration checks and all that and it kills me.
Customs is quick but immigration can be long (immigration is for people, customs is for luggage) and it depends on how many people there are because usually, there are only 1 or 2 agents and if there are a lot of people, it can take forever. One time we were crossing into Costa Rica and got stuck behind a whole bus so it took us over 2 hours. Other times, there weren’t many people and it only took maybe 10 or 15 minutes. The agent does have to check every single person’s passport and will ask you to show proof of leaving Costa Rica.
Crystal Spellmann says
Thanks for the info! Have you ever had a Tico travel to Nicaragua with you? My daughter just started teaching in CR. I am coming down from the US to do her first border run with her. We’d like for her boyfriend, who is from Costa Rica, to come with us. He has applied for a Passport. Any advice? We didn’t know if we should do a day bus tour from Tamarindo? Pricey for three people.
Also, my daughter was under the impression that she needs to leave for 72 hours, but a couple of people we met said the day tour will work for her stamp.
Can’t wait for the experience,
Hello Crystal! Yes I have gone with Yeison many times (my husband who is Costa Rican).
Technically if you do not purchase anything at customs or requires going through customs, you can stay out for 3 hours and do the border run in a day.
I would actually recommend the Nicaragua one day tour from Costa Rica because it’s a great way to see Nicaragua, especially if you don’t really plan to travel there in the future. Since it’ll be the three of you, it’ll be a nice experience. It includes roundtrip transportation, breakfast, lunch, entrance fees and guide so it’s actually not too bad for a full day tour including all those things. Definitely worth it for experiencing and seeing Nicaragua, especially for the first time and the guide does half the border crossing for you (Nicaragua, then you just have to stand in line for CR). It’s way more fun than just crossing the border, hanging out at duty free for 3 hours and going back.
Thank you for all this information! I am crossing from CR to Nicaragua in a few days and am just wondering if you have ever been asked to show proof of yellow fever vaccination?
You’ll need it only if you have just previously been to South America from Costa Rica
Your article about crossing the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border is very helpful. Mytanfeet in general is a great site. Thanks so much for all your advice and resources.
Here is a question about the border crossing; you said that people leave their rental cars at a house in the front of the exit office paying $3-5/day? Can you please provide more details on how to get to that house? whether you heard it’s safe to do so? We’re exploring Costa Rica but are crossing to Nicaragua for 2 nights and it’s cheaper to keep the car since we’re driving to different places starting at SJO.
I would love to hear a little more about the house at Penas Blancas where we could keep the car, how to identify it or any details you might have.
Thanks so much again for the wealth of advice and info you provide.
Hi Manuel! You will see it on the right hand side as soon as you reach the Costa Rica exit office, you’ll see it (I believe there is a big sign now).
A lot of people leave their cars there but to be extra safe, do not leave anything in the car while you leave it there.
Pascale Claveau says
Is the parking pretty big for cars at the border? We are also planning to go just for 2 nights and since it is getting closer to christmas I hope there will still be Parking space… also, I saw different websites saying it is best to cross in the early evening? (Gotravelcostarica.com)
The parking lot is pretty much the yard and property of the local’s house and it’s first come first serve. We saw around 4 or 5 cars there last time but I don’t think it can hold up to like 20 or 30.
The border opens until late and most people cross around mid morning and mid day, so I’d say super early or early evening after the 5 PM traffic but I don’t like to cross at night, my personal preference.
Update from yesterday:
-exit tax from Costa Rica was $9 (whiteboard in the building had been updated, receipt still said $8 so this could have been a clever scam)
– we had to pay the municipality tax both to enter and to leave Nicaragua (so it was $1 + $12 to enter and $1 + $2 to leave).
– on the Costa Rica side the trucks were backed up for miles, you end up driving on the wrong side of the road as you get closer to the border but just keep going, there’s a small break in the trucks and you can park by the exit tax office
Great info! Just wondering how I would catch the public bus back to Liberia after crossing back into Costa Rica? Is there a place to buy tickets or a bus stop of some sort? Don’t want to be stranded!
There should be the same bus at the border but I’m not sure of the times, there may be a schedule at the border and there should be the bus ticket booth.
Cristian M says
I will try to cross to the border at Penas Blanca on the 14th of December – Saturday. We’ve been told is really busy. I will arrive at the border around 13:00.
How long does it take weekends two weeks before Christmas ? Do you think I have chances to get the last ferry to Ometepe at San Jorge at 17:30 ?
Many thanks in advance.
Hi Cristian, usually it gets super crazy closer to Christmas but if you can, I’d get to the border much earlier just in case because it is always busy around holiday time. I don’t know how it will be or be able to tell you for sure because it’s the border. In Costa Rica and Nicaragua, they have all of December off for vacation so you have a lot of movement at the border.
Cristian M says
Many thanks for your reply.
We can’t get to the border earlier than 13:00 because we are coming from Las Fortunas by public bus hence why we are concerned. We have to make to Rivas by 17:00 to make we we get the last boat to Ometepe.
Thomas Bleming says
Thankful for this info.
Great article! It was super helpful for my border crossing today from Nicaragua to Costa Rica. A few updates though.
– The new Nicaragua immigration office looks a lot different now (looks a bit old now) especially with a large bank building in the front.
– I was not asked to fill any forms on exiting Nicaragua or entering Costa Rica.
– There are bathrooms next to the Costa Rica immigration office which are free to use.
Overall, it was an adventure in itself in the scorching sun and then the 6-hour bus ride to San José.
This is super helpful—thank you so much for posting this! We are flying into Liberia tomorrow and crossing over to Nicaragua straight away to spend some time in Rivas. We’ll be taking a bus to Peñas Blancas after we land.
I’ve booked a rental car with Enterprise at the Peñas Blancas border; have you had any experience with the rental car companies on the Nicaragua side? Or any words of advice about driving in Nica?
Thanks so much!
Hi Jax, I’m glad the post is helpful. To be honest we have never rented a car in Nicaragua, we have driven our friends cars but as for driving, be very careful, the driving is a bit more crazy than in Costa Rica, especially motorcycles and always heed the speed limit and driving laws.
Jax, how was your experience we were planning the exact same trip. I would love to hear the details.
We were debating on renting a car on the CR side dropping it at the border and picking up the next car when we cross. Although right now we are thinking taxi to the border and pick up our Nica rental on the other side. But again would love your input!
Your page on crossing the border was SUPER helpful. I have one question please.
Next Thursday I will try go from Liberia and cross the border, but I land around 9pm, so by the time I get out etc probably around 9.30-9.45pm…. if there is a taximan waiting at arrival to take me immediately, will I make it before it closes or am I taking too big a risk?
Thanks so much!
Hi Marie, the border closest at midnight and personally I would recommend to stay a night in Liberia because it’s still about a 2 hour drive to the border from Liberia so you’ll be cutting it way too close and I don’t highly recommend crossing the border late that night solo. It’d be better to stay a night in Liberia and then go early the next morning.
Hola! We are returning to CR in a couple weeks and will be crossing into Nicaragua this trip. I am wondering how concerned we should be about border wait into CR on our return and trying to decide how early we will need to leave from Popoyo to get to the border and Liberia Airport for a 2:30pm flight on that Saturday, i.e. Semana Santa wknd. Do you think or know if the border crossing into CR is typically bonkers on this day? I am hoping it is not as busy crossing into Costa Rica from here but maybe that is wishful thinking. Trying to squeeze in as much time, out of our short trip to Nica, without leaving on that Friday. Any insight to the possible border madness and timing would be greatly appreciated.
BTW I love your blog. Super helpful and fun and used it a lot for our trip last year!
Hi Ame, earlier is always better personally, especially if it’s on the day you’re flying. Thursday and Friday are especially crazy but personally I would be at the border as early as possible so you’re not stressed or rushed because it’s still about a 2.5 hour bus ride to Liberia from Penas Blancas (then 15 minute taxi to the airport). You need to be at the airport around 1230-1 PM, and I am not sure how the bus schedules are for that weekend since some may change their hours or not have as many routes.
Thank you for answering questions here for so long. I have a hypothetical:
We’d be arriving to LIR on a Tuesday, May 14, at around 1 pm. We’re trying to get to Rivas on the same day. Two options, as we see it: 1) chicken bus to the border, then chicken bus/taxi to Rivas, vs 2) international bus (Ticabus, Nicabus, Transica, etc.) to border and then to Rivas. What we can’t quite figure out is if we have to wait long to catch the international bus from Liberia, vs just catching the chicken bus. Can you give us a sense of how long each would take, and cost? (The international bus looks like about $30, but we assume that doesn’t include the border fees?)
There is a public bus from Liberia to Penas Blancas border every 45 minutes with company Grupo Transbasa so that’s an option. Just a note, we don’t have chicken buses in Costa Rica, the only option is to take the public bus in Costa Rica.
Then from the border to Rivas, you can grab the bus from there, I can’t remember how often it is but it was pretty often. You can also take a taxi sinec Rivas is so close.
Transporte Deldu in San Jose has moved or changed names to Transporte Caribeños as best I can tell.
You will catch the bus from Gran Terminal Caribe.
Busses leave 4am, 5am, 6am and 8:30am in the morning. Takes about 6.5hrs
Thanks for verifying steps/expectations when crossing border from CR into Nicaragua. We are doing our border run this Friday – our family of four for the first time. We are planning to drive our car from Santa Teresa to the border, park it there or leave at exit office, somewhere? Or another option is to Tamarindo and take a bus to the border if safer for leaving car? Where do you recommend we go as a family that is not too expensive, interesting and safe? We like art, music, swimming, etc. We will have to leave Nicaragua early Sunday a.m. and know no matter what it will be a long journey with two kids. Any advice is much appreciated.
Hi Amy, San Juan del Sur is the closest place from the border. It’s a lively beach town about 30 minutes from the border and it’s cheap (Nicaragua in general is cheap), has a lot of fun things to do and good restaurants. Town center is more of a party town but you can find some nice hotels outside of the town center that are quieter.
very useful info indeed! ..I’m planning to travel to Costarica for 10 days at the end of Feb and I’m trying to organize a quick and reliable transport from Liberia directly to Managua’s airport: I’m looking for solutions that leave early morning from Liberia, cross the boarder with Nicaragua and arrive in Managua by 1 pm (I have this crazy idea of making it there early enough to catch a 2.30 flight from Managua to the corn islands): do you think this is too crazy? Would you have any recommendation / names of company that offer these services?
Looking forward to hearing from you,
You can check with Easy Ride, I know they go to Grenada and San Juan del Sur, not sure about Managua but you can ask them.
I did this yday ;
1. Pay your CR exit fee first (5000 colones) – you can do this at a window outside (its signposted) and they give you a receipt and then go through immigration. This was really smooth and quick (10 mins). I didn’t need to complete any forms.
2. Go through a couple of passport checks. On the Nica side, they held my passport for about 20 mins and asked me to wait for some unknown reason. They eventually waved me through.
3. Nica immigration, they asked how long i’d be there (2 wks) and if i had an outward ticket (I didn’t as i read it wasnt needed) and also what i planned to do after Nica(return to CR). More discussions and they let me through. I didnt need to complete any forms. You pay the $12 USD direct to them, make sure you have USD.
4. Leave immigration and walk down about 50m and there’s buses on the left. Take one that goes to Managua or Rivas, check it goes past La Virgen. It left 5 mins after I arrived. Sit down and then pay after, a guy comes down the aisle to collect. It costs 30 cordobas ($1USD) to La Virgen and takes 30 mins.
5. Arrive in La Virgen. Facing the way the bus arrived, turn left and go down the road towards SJDS, there’s a bus stop about 100m down to wait in the shade. I got here about 1.10pm.
6. The bus eventually arrived at 2pm. It costs 20 cordobas ($0.60usd). Arrived about 2.40pm in San Juan Del Sur at the ‘Market’ bus stop
Awesome! Thanks for sharing your experience!
Thanks for this great article! We will be in Costa Rica and Panama in February and are thinking about visiting Granada for a fee days. As always, we‘ll plan the trip as we go ahead. All we have at the moment is an inbound ticket to San José and an outbound ticket to Europe from Panama City. But when, where and how will cross to Panama from CR – no clue. Question: if ever we go to Nicaragua, will an outbound ticket from Panama to Madrid less than 30 days later be enough proof of our intention to leave Costa Rica or do we actually need a Bus ticket to Panama?
Costa Rica entrance officers do ask for proof you are leaving Costa Rica – in my experience it has been kind of a toss up because some immigration officers (if you are crossing by land and not plane), are strict, some are not. If you show that you have a booked flight out of Panama to Europe, then that should work (I can’t guarantee it though because the officer could be super strict). If anything, if the officer refuses to accept you, you can purchase a cheap bus ticket out of Costa Rica (on Ticabus or something) right outside the immigration office.
We did the Panama to Costa Rica crossing a week ago, had a Ticket from Panama to Frankfurt. The Officer Would not let us enter. You Need to have a Ticket out of CR when you enter. We Spoke to at least 10 Other People at the border who also Had to buy the 21$ ticket from San José to David (PA). I guess it is a pretty good Business…
Great article, thanks!
Crossed the border today, had to pay $15 entrance fee. Don’t know if they raised the price or made some money off of us, but just wanted to give you and other readers a heads up, article was really helpful for us!
Thank you so much for this article it is great. Do they do some kind of bag check when you cross the border? I will be traveling with my wife and son and I wanted to know if I would have to be ready to open my bags and explain baby food (like at the airport ha)? Also, is it possible to drive over the border?
Thanks again for a great article.
Hi Doc, Costa Rica will have you put your bags through a scanner and then if they see any weird they’ll ask you to open it up but honestly, they don’t really check TOO much. You can drive over the border if you own the car (requires paperwork as well), rental cars are not allowed to cross the border.
Thanks for all the helpful info in this post and in the comments!
One question I don’t believe is answered anywhere: WHEN do these tour busses usually cross the border? I want to make sure I am there before a bus arrives!
Hi Ray, it depends on when tour buses go, there isn’t a set time when they pass but it’s usually around 10 AM (CR-Nica) and then around 4-6 PM (Nica – CR). It depends on how long it takes for them to drive there, traffic, etc.
Thank you very much for your article. Your info and especially the photos made my crossing at peña blancas so easy. My nicarague to costa rica crossing was exactly like what you described minus there was no immigration form to fill out. Thanks again Sammi for sharing your experience!
There is a 100 dollar fine per month for over staying your Visa. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just pay the fine than to leave the country, have to get a hotel for 3 days plus the cost of the stamp to leave? Think I would rather just pay the fine.
They don’t exactly enforce the fine anymore, they have now just been kicking people out of the country. Now Costa Rican immigration is a bit tougher so if you overstay, your passport will be marked and they can deny you entry for an undisclosed period of time and kick you out of the country so I don’t recommend overstaying.
What do you mean by 3 day hotel? The process described here does not mention anything about the day hotel…
Hi Sammi! Thank you so much for this it was really informative and gave me tons of clarity. I just have a question regarding what I need to bring so I’m going to list off what I am going to bring and if you could let me know if there is anything else I need to bring to cross the border to Nicaragua and back to renew my visa I would really appreciate it! Thanks in advance.
-$30 in small bills
-bank statement showing economic stability
-plane ticket showing exit of Costa Rica to US (my home country from which I got the passport) once I’m entering CR
-a copy of my passport
Hi John! Yes that is all correct. You don’t necessarily need the bank statement showing funds for land crossings, I’ve never been asked that before but they technically *do* require it so it’s good just in case. Make sure you have lots of 1’s and 5’s USD and keep the small papers Nicaragua gives you when you enter the country. Good luck and thanks for reading out blog!
Thank you for the reply you have helped me out a lot!
You’re very welcome, I hope it all goes smoothly!
To save time at the CR border; you can pay the CR exit tax at the Terminal del Cribe in San Jose. It will cost you $2 more or total $9. Terminal del Caribe is where you catch the Delsu bus to the border.
jonny Kennedy says
Is it safe to do this now since the unrest has started up?
Hi Jonny, tour companies are still running the one day Nicaragua tour so the border should be fine.
I am traveling from Costa Rica to Nicaragua by bus and did not know if there is a bus that continues through Nicaragua from the border or if you have to jump in a taxi. Are taxis safe that are by the Nicaragua border? I am looking to get to San Juan del Sur and figured that is a popular tourist area.
I appreciate your helpful article!!
Hi Kurtis, if you take the normal Costa Rica public bus like Deldu, they will stop at the border and you will need to cross by foot and then grab a taxi or a bus on the Nicaraguan side of the border. If you’re taking the bus like Ticabus or Nicabus, they will continue through the border. You will find lots of taxis on the Nicaraguan side, it should cost around $25 for a one way taxi from the border to SJDS. Good luck!
Hi Jeff, glad the article was helpful and thanks for the update. It’ll start getting busy this week since a lot of locals take the whole week before Easter off. The border also closes at 6 PM on the 29 – April 1st so if it were me, I would go before Thursday and go as soon as possible before the 29th (some people still have to work the first three days of the week and then take the last two off since it’s government mandated). Tour companies aren’t even running the one day tour on those days because the border is too crazy and it closes early and I have heard some people waiting for 5 hours at least on the Saturday before Easter so best to go asap.
Hi. First, thanks for the great article. We’ve used it to navigate two Penas Blancas border crossings. FYI, there were no customs or immigrations forms to fill out on either side. Question – for Semana Santa, when does it really start getting busy. We were planning on doing another run next week (either Thursday, Friday or Saturday) since our 90 days ends on 4/2, but just realizing its a holiday week. Whats our best option for crossing from this Saturday 3/25 through following Saturday 3/31? Thanks for any insight you may have.
I loved the information. I’m traveling to CR alone and taking a bus to Nicaragua I traveled to Panama alone and I’m very confident. I appreciate you sharing this.
Hi Tiana, I’m very glad to hear our Costa Rica Nicaragua border crossing guide was helpful!
What a GREAT guide and such good help here by everyone!
In the hope someone still reads all the way through to here… I’ve got a bit of a situation..
Me and my girl are planning to visit CR coming 27th of March and had planned to leave CR by car on ….1th of April… Which is Easter AND a Sunday.
Although we’ve read many replies here and on other forums, we still aren’t able to find any information on the opening hours of the border on this particular day.
Also, we drop our rented car at the Alamo office in CR, and hope to find some kind of transportation on the other side (Nicaragua) at this special day.
I sincerely hope someone has had the experience we are going to take on here or can share any information.
If we choose to stick with our plan, I’ll leave a reply after we’ve endured this endeavor 🙂
Hi Roel, I’m not sure what time the border opens but I know it closes at 6 PM for Easter weekend. On the Nicaraguan side of the border, you will always find a lot of taxis waiting. The bus schedule may not be working or the same but there should always be taxis. If I find out what time the border opens I’ll let you know.
This is some very helpful information! I do have a question regarding travel the wk before and during Semana Santa. We are in Turrialba and have a friend that wants us to head to Nicaragua on the 20th(Semana Santa starts the 25th this yr). The 25th also happens to be the day we are suppose to leave Nicaragua back to Costa Rica. She plans on staying in Arenal. We need to be back home by the 26th so we can get our belongings, finalize things with our landlady(we are keeping the apartment while we go back home for a few months)because we fly out on the morning of the 28th and plan on staying in San Jose on the 27th. I’m just thinking this whole trip to San Juan del Sur would be more complicated and a bit of a hassle for us considering how busy I heard it is a wk before Semana Santa and the actual wk of and how close these dates are to our fly out date. Any thoughts?
If you guys are crossing the border before Semana Santa starts (except for that weekend of the 24 and 25) but if you are crossing that week, be prepared for a LONG border wait. That weekend will also start getting crazy too because a lot of Nicaraguans will start going back home for the week. Tour companies aren’t even running the one day Nicaragua tour on the 29th and 30th because the border is closing early on those days and it will be crazy hectic. If you have to cross on the 25th, my recommendation is to get there super duper early. Since it’s mostly Nicaraguas exiting Costa Rica and entering Nicaragua, hopefully it won’t be as bad since you will be leaving Nicaragua for CR but it will still be very busy.
Hey Sammi! We are also planning to cross the border from CR to NIC. Do you think it will be as hectic if we cross it this Friday (23th) or should we wait until Monday (26th)? Thanks!
Hi Nicolas, to be honest, it’ll be pretty busy both days because most people have the entire week off but if it were me, I would go on Friday rather than the 26 because most people still have to work on the 23rd whereas they have the day off on the 26th.
When I entered Nicca I was issued a tourist card with a stamp on it. I was not given a stamp in my passport. I have somehow managed to have lost the card. What are your recommendations for what I should. I hold an Australian passport.
Thanks in advance.
I would get in contact with your Australian embassy or consulate in Nicaragua and ask them what to do.
Hi Sammy and Yeison,
Thank you so much for this information! I’ve been reading your blog and sharing your blog to friends who have been coming to Costa Rica. 🙂
I got married to my Costa Rican husband in December 2017. And our marriage hasn’t been registered yet due to the elections and planning to go do a border run. And these things put me in a panic… so I hAve few questions if you don’t mind answering..
1) When doing border runs, do you tell them the purpose of crossing Nicaragua is for Border runs or that it is for tourism?
2) I’m planning to do a border run with my husband or sister in law, but I’ve heard Nicaragua and Costa Rica have bad relations, will they be safe?
3) when leaving Nicaragua, and they ask you the purpose of stay or extending visa what do you usually tell them? Can I tell them the truth that I got married and it’s still pending but that I needed to do a border run?
Sorry for asking a lot of questions… I am still panicking!
Ps. Thanks for liking my Instagram pics! 😀
Hi Heidi! Congrats on your wedding! I’ll be in the same boat soon 😀
For border runs, they don’t ask ANY questions. Literally. Just give them your passport and the money. CR and Nicaragua doesn’t have the bad relationship but when it comes to the border, they are fine for tourists. Just know that Nicaragua is a lot more strict on immigration and they will ask you your passport a dozen times on the way over but generally they are very nice (they don’t say much really) and the borders are separate so once you leave CR, you have to walk a bit to get to the Nicaragua side as they’re separated, not right next to each other.
When you leave Nicaragua, they don’t ask you anything. I’ve done this border crossing dozens of times and the officers definitely see the large amount of stamps in my passport and nobody’s ever said anything. If they ask, just say you’re visiting. Don’t complicate it (the more complicated, the more opportunities for them to ask questions and make it difficult). But really they don’t ask much at all so no worries!
Oh my gosh early congrats to you!! 😀
Thank you for answering the questions, it actually put me in a lot of ease just now. I have one last question regarding the 72 hour rule. So As long as you don’t buy anything from duty free, writing that you have not been out for 72 hours should have no problem?
Again thank you! I continue to wish the best for you and Yeison!!
Hi Heidi, thank you! We’re in the early planning stages but very excited! And yes that is correct. The minimum time out is 3 hours. A lot of people do one day visa runs and just hang out at the border or they go to SJDS/Rivas to kill time.
Just wanted to say thank you for the help through this blog. In the end I went to panama to Renew my visa because my husband’s family really didn’t want me to goto Nicaragua. It was nerve wrecking but all things were done smoothly.
So thanks again!
Hi Heidi, glad to hear it worked out in Panama!
Hey great site!!! Next week I am leaving on the 80th day of my stay, flying out to Ft. Lauderdale then back in 12 hours, using my cc points 🙂 . Not getting anything in duty free, never over extended, Have a return ticket from SJO to NY May 4th, which means I will be leaving again around 80 days on my 90 days stay, then returning six months (professional snowbird). Anyone have any problems in a similar situation? I keep hearing the 72 hour rule, which Ticotimes said was false except for customs. I am coming back to this page and letting every know how it was… thanks in advance…
Hi Dave, as long as you’re leaving within 90 days, you will be fine. The 72 hour is just for customs and for land crossing, the minimum amount of time to be out is 3 hours. I haven’t flown in and out within 3 days but I know for land crossings it’s a minimum of 3 hours.
Thanks for all the great information! I hope to do this in the next few weeks and have a few hopefully easy questions:
1. Do the dollar amounts have to be paid in exact change or would they be able to break a $20 for instance? Can I pay in colones on the CR side?
2. If I’m trying to cross from CR to N and back to CR in as short a time as possible, you recommend just hanging out at the soda on the N side for a couple hours and then heading back? Is there any harm in just trying to cross right back in?
3. Any updated or more specific info on the best place to leave a car on the CR side for those few hours?
Hi, I recommend bringing small bills since they don’t always have change to break a $20 and it will be less of a hassle. You can’t pay in colones, only dollars (everything is quoted in USD on both Costa Rica and Nicaragua side). You need to be outside of Costa Rica for at least 3 hours if you are doing a visa run and you can’t have bought anything from the duty free store. They will know what time you leave Costa Rica when they scan your passport. For leaving your car, the local guy’s house is right in front of the Costa Rica exit office, it’s on the right hand side past a fence and you’ll see a house with some other cars. We parked it under a big tree in his yard last time we went.
Thanks – out of curiosity do you have a reliable citation for that 3 hour rule? I always find conflicting information.
You can ask the immigration officers, the forms always ask if you’ve been out for at least 3 days but legally speaking, you can go back in after 3 hours without buying anything from duty free. I’ve done this dozens of times for my visa runs and a lot of foreigners here do 1 day visa runs (they even run tours).
Sounds good. So do you just hang out near the border or do you take a taxi to that town down the road?
I’ve done it all, went to SJDS for a day, went to Rivas, hung out at the bar at the border. If you don’t want to spend any extra money, you can hang out at the bar at the border. If you don’t mind to spend an extra $50, you can take a taxi to SJDS. Rivas is not too far and it’s maybe $5-10 taxi ride but there’s not much there, you can walk around the park and see the local stores since it’s a very local town, it might be interesting for someone who hasn’t been there before and you can kill time there easier than just sitting at the border.
Still would like some clarification: where do you find your evidence for the ‘mandatory three hours outside the country’ rule?
From what an Immigration Administration spokeswoman said to the Tico Times: “A Canadian person, for example, can leave across any of our land borders and return immediately without affecting her ability to enter the country, so long as she has left the country within the period of stay previously granted,” said Immigration Administration spokeswoman Andrea Quesada in an email to The Tico Times. Now, if the traveler does require a visa to enter Costa Rica he or she would need to stay out for at least a week, Quesada said.”
Costa Rica’s entry requirements are separated into several groups. Group 1 and 2 do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica (countries like US, Canada, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, UK, Ireland, etc.), the tourist visa they get is just a stamp on arrival, they don’t need to apply for a visa. Groups 3 and 4 require a consular visa and this means they need to go to the embassy, have an interview and get approved for the visa so for people in those groups that do require a visa, they have different requirements.
Your response, with all due respect, didn’t address the question I’ve asked twice now at all. The question is, as simply as I can put it: “On what basis do you make the claim that one must leave the country for three hours before coming back in – as opposed to coming immediately back in?”
What I posted quotes an Immigration Administration spokesperson saying that “(A U.S./Canadian citizen)…can leave across any of our land borders and return immediately “. I can find no mention of your ‘three hour minimum on the other side of the border rule’ anywhere, so I would just like to know what leads you to believe that it’s a rule – because if it’s not actually a rule it would be good for people to know. If I can return immediately into CR and be on my way home I’d certainly prefer that to sitting around three hours in the heat if it’s not necessary.
Someone just posted on an Expats in CR Facebook group about recently crossing at Los Chiles and being back in CR within 1 hr and 15 mins, for example. So, are you certain that there’s a three hour rule, and if so, what makes you certain?
Sorry for the nitpicking but this could save people several wasted hours. Cheers and thanks for your response!
Something you have to understand is that it’s Costa Rica (and Nicaragua). Even though both countries are strict in their immigration, it’s not at the same time. Even though there is technically the law, there is always a way around it and when it comes to land crossings, it will depend on the officer you get. You will see that everyone has a different experience and each time I’ve crossed the border, I’ve had a different experience. I’ve crossed over staying out around 5 hours, I’ve crossed over staying out for only 2 hours and I had no problem. I’ve had officers who actually counted the number of days until my flight out and gave me a tourist visa valid for only those days. I’ve had officers who literally didn’t even look through my passport or ask me any questions and gave me 90 days with no problem, I’ve had officers who asked me many questions. So even though there is technically the law, in Costa Rica it doesn’t always apply and there is no definitive yes or no. I’ve crossed back staying out for 2 hours and nobody told me I couldn’t cross but it’s not to say that will never happen, I could have gotten an officer who was picky and wouldn’t let me through until exactly 3 hours.
I found out the 3 hour rule by asking an immigration officer at the border (Costa Rican) a few years ago and Yeison (who is Costa Rican) actually asked for me since they do tend to give Gringos and locals different answers.
People will advise that to be safe, stay out at least 3 hours. Always bring a printed plane ticket out of the country, that is the safest option because some officers will take a bus ticket, some won’t accept it. It really depends on the officer you get that day when it comes to it.
Ok, so your info is based on the word of one officer at the border a few years ago. Since an actual spokeswoman for the Immigration Administration says you can return immediately, I’ll give that a shot within the next few weeks and report back. Cheers!
Hey, just to follow up: I crossed from CR to N and back to CR in 30 mins this morning. Paid the CR exit tax at 6:30 and was admitted back into CR at 6:59.
The only three-hour thing mentioned was on the Nicaragua side – apparently your minimum stay in N is three hours. But, the immigration officer, when I said I was only there to renew my passport for CR, offered to process my entry and exit simultaneously for a $10 ‘tip’. So I took advantage of that offer (whether it was really true or not) and was immediately on my way back into CR, where they didn’t seem to mind that I had only been out of the country for 15 mins. It was a pleasant surprise and I might hold the new record for fastest border crossing 🙂
Been in CR for 12 years, making this Visa run many times. The only place it ask you the 72 hour question is on the custom form and not on the immigration form. The 3 hour rule seems to be reasonable, the shortest I have stayed out was 1 day. I know several gringos who have made turn around Visa runs.
You need to get paperwork for your car and buy several insurances, licenses and fees. You need to get the permission from the Registro Publico, you should be able to find one in big cities to pay the fee, get the stamps and the official paper permission slip. You need to make sure your name is on the official Registry and it matches the name on the paper you get from the Public Registration office. Then at the border, Nicaragua will require you to buy insurances, to fumigate the car and pay a couple other fees.
You should be able to cross as long as you bring all of the paperwork that proves you are in the process of getting residency, Nicaragua officials tend to give a hard time though so don’t be surprised if they try to ask you a lot of questions or stop you. You technically are not allowed to drive without a valid visa but again, as long as you have all the correct paperwork showing your temporary residency is being processed. I am not 100% positive since I’ve never encountered this situation but this is my knowledge from other friends experience.
My husband and I and our 3 kids are planning to cross from Costa Rica into Nicaragua. I have a couple questions…
1. We had planned to drive across, but it seems like everyone on here prefers to park their car and cross on foot. Do you know the process for driving across? Is it difficult if you own the car and can show it is in your name? It was purchased in Costa Rica. Do we need specific paperwork?
2. We are in the process of getting our temporary residency in Costa Rica, but we are still waiting. My husband’s tourist visa expired last month. Immigration told us that we are legal to be in the country as long as we show our visas are being processed, BUT we have to leave and re-enter after 90 days to drive legally until we have the visas in hand. Should this cause problems for my husband to be able to re-enter since his tourist visa expired last month (even though we can show that our visas are being processed)? We don’t want to cross the border with our kids and then have them say my husband cannot re-enter.
Thanks for your help!
Mark Slichter says
Thank you for such an amazing and up to date site!
My girlfriend and I are planning on crossing into Nicaragua on the 1st of December 2017. We hope to just get a taxi from there to Granda. Any idea on how much that will cost? Can we pay with USD or should we be prepared with cordoba?
Also we will be crossing on a Friday each way. Is it especially busy one way or the other on Friday?
Again, thank you so much for the wonderfully put together site!
Hello Mark! I am not positive how much a taxi to Granada is, but I would guess around $90-ish maybe. I know the border to San Juan del Sur is around $25-30 and that is about a 30 minute drive. From the border to Granada is maybe 1 hour 45 minutes. Before you get in, talk to the taxi drivers and ask around first to see what they’re offering and agree upon a price before. You can pay in USD.
Unless you’re crossing during a major holiday like Christmas or Easter, the border doesn’t get significantly busier one day or the other. Sunday may be a bit busier but I do recommend going as early as possible because many big tour buses and the big Central American buses like Ticabus pass through and everyone gets off at once so you don’t want to get stuck behind one (or several of them).
Me and my wife are planning to go to Nicaragua on Saturday,December 16,2017 and come back Friday,December 22,2017.I already read horror stories about crossing border during Christmas what is the best advice for as to do this as easy as possible?a
Hi guys, yeah that is a really busy time to go! I recommend going as early in the morning as possible going and returning because once it hits around mid-morning and on, it’s super crazy busy with lots of buses and tour buses. Also make sure to have all the paperwork in order before you go so make sure you pay the Costa Rica exit fee before (don’t do it at the border because it’ll take extra time), make sure to have the exact amount of change needed for fees (USD best), and have a printed ticket out of Costa Rica to show to the immigration officers for each of you. Also bring plenty of pens and if you don’t want to walk across the border (if you have a lot of luggage or something), you can hire a tuktuk for $5-10. The signs are fairly clear for where to go and which building to go to but if anyone comes up to you offering their services (helping you to cross immigration), say no. These guys are trying to scam people and though it sounds tempting to have someone help you, they will not. There is a bathroom at the Nicaraguan border which costs $1. Use a backpack or bag that’s easy to access because you will have to show your passport to the Nicaraguan officials many times at the border.
Another option if you don’t want to do it on your own is to hire a guide in Costa Rica. Some guides will do border crossings but it’s not cheap since they have to drive to the border and it usually takes several hours. But they’ll take care of everything. If you want to do this, I recommend contacting tour companies in Guanacaste, I know some of the smaller ones like Avispa’s Adventures does border crossing days where she takes people over to renew their visa, you can try to contact her and see if the dates match up or to hire her.
The $7 dollar crossing fee is interesting. Hey, but at least it is not more expensive. Thanks for the post! Great info!!
Hi just wondering, my son was born in CR in December 2016, I was doing border runs to be able to drive we are moving back to the states next month, and our stamps are up in 2 days any way that I can avoid this last run because he is a citizen???? Trying to avoid a long day in the car with a 7 month old. Thanks!
As far as we know you can’t, if you don’t have your temporary residence you need to do the border run otherwise you can be penalized when you try to get in again. I would highly recommend you to check with immigration, many North Americans come to Costa Rica to have their babies because is cheaper than the US, and I have seen cases where the mother get a temporally residence because of their Costa Rican baby, we don’t know to much about this subject and we don’t want to misinform you in such of a delicate subject. Congratulation for the new baby 🙂 !!!
I would definitely wait and go to the border in the morning. Being a Sunday and Semana Santa is insanely busy (people wait all day to cross) and you’ll have much better chances to go early the next morning (and it will be nicer when you have more day light because by the time you get to the border on Sunday after you land, it’ll be dark since it’s about a 2 hour drive from Liberia to the border).
Thank you so much for the response. I think we will indeed wait. One more question: we fly out Tuesday April 3, will the border be “normal” by then or do we still need to plan on 3-4 hour wait?
Should be! After Easter it goes back to normal since people go back to work and vacation is over. I would still plan on at least 1-2 hours at the border because you never know and sometimes you get stuck behind the huge tour buses but it will go back to normal and not crazy like during Semana Santa.
Thank you so much for this information and the consistent replies. My wife and I fly into Liberia next year – Sunday, March 25 to be exact – headed for SJDS. Our flight gets in at 3 pm. So we’re up against Sunday, Semana Santa, and time. Do we have any hope to cross the border that day? Does the border ever close? Or are we better off staying the night in Liberia and heading to the border in the morning?
Hi, my husband and I would like to fly into Costa Rica (from USA) for our 10th wedding anniversary. We would like to visit the volcano in Nicaragua and spend a night or 2 there as well. We will fly back to US from Costa Rica. Can you give any advice or suggestions on the best way to go about this? Best cities to stay? Hotels to stay in both countries? Should we hire a tour guide while in Nicaragua?
I am still in the planning stages of this trip, and want to be sure I do it correctly. We would like to come in November. Is this a good time?
Thank you so much!
Hi Holly, to do both Nicaragua and Costa Rica, you’ll have to figure out your own transportation in Nicaragua if you want to stay a night. If you don’t want to worry too much about planning, you can do a guided tour which is super convenient. There aren’t many companies in CR who do it but Costa Rica Monkey Tours, a very good tour company in CR has one that is great. You can see it here: http://costaricamonkeytours.com/nicaragua-costa-rica-tour/ and it’s the easiest most stress free way to plan to visit both countries as you don’t have to worry about going through the border on your own or how to get around.
Thanks for great information. My husband and I are going for a border run tomorrow and we wonder if we can use Costa Rica colones to pay the entrance and exit tax in Nicaragua. As far as I can see you only mention $US but we do not have any US cash.
Hi Rikke, Nicaragua does not accept colones, they only take USD or cordobas (Nicaraguan currency) so you will need to exchange currency. It is best to use USD at the border.
Hi Jessica, yes they should be 🙂
Hi, We are going to be flying into Liberia and then crossing into Nicaragua. Do you know if all the entry and exit fee’s are the same that you have stated on your blog?
Hello Ferdy, thank you for reading our blog! Regarding your question, we have never seen a National rent a car office at the border so unfortunately we don’t where the closest drop off location is for National. I suggest asking the National company themselves as they will know.
The best to way to get to San Juan del Sur after you cross the border is by taxi. Yu will find them next to the restaurants and they are relativey cheap. They will charge you around $30 to get you to SAn Juan del Sur.
We’ve rented a car at National but I’ve read online that the drop-off location (on the CR side of the border) is a bit unclear. Can you advise on the exact location and directions? Also, what would be the best way to get to San Juan after crossing the Nicaragua border
Hey! Love this post! It’s really super hopeful! I’ve had so many fears so this has really made me feel more relaxed.
This will be my first visa run.
I’ve had some friends say that you have to show you’ve booked a flight out of Nicaragua before entering Nicaragua, & also show a hotel at where you will be staying, did you have todo this?
Also how many days do you have stay in Nicaragua before entering Costa Rica?
My friends only had to stay 3hours In Nicaragua and they managed to get back into Costa Rica.
Thank you! next Friday I will be making this trip! Ah lol 🙂
You don’t need one for Nicaragua. You just need to write down the name of the hotel you are going to in Nicaragua but you don’t need to show a flight out. For a visa run, you can stay out for 3 hours, the immigration form asks if you’ve been out for 3 days and many people will say you need to be out for 3 days, but you can do it in 3 hours. When I have to do a visa run I usually do a one day and hang out at the border for a couple of hours and come back. You do however need to show a flight out of Costa Rica – that is necessary.
Hi, Yes that will work just make sure to bring a copy of your itinerary, happy travels
I have bought a ticket on a boat from Panama to Colombia with depature 3 weeks after I enter Costa Rica. Will it sufice as proof of onward travel, since I have to leave Costa Rica to get the boat?
So, you don’t actually need to stay in Nicaragua for 3 days, do you?
What do you do in regards to that 72 hours outside of CR checkbox?
Nope you don’t technically so you would need to check no you haven’t been outside CR for 72 hours.
Hi, my friend just CROSS the nicaraguan borders in and out. He was asked to pay 12 dollars on entry And exit as well. Is that scan or new law?
I haven’t heard of a new law (I will be crossing the border again this weekend and will check). What country is his passport? Some countries may have to pay an additional fee for visas.
Great article! A few questions; I arrive on Apr 17 following Semana Santa.
1. Thoughts on how busy it’ll be on the Monday to fly in/ cross into Nica? I know during Semana Santa it is PACKED. I hope it will slow down a bit.
2. To pay the exit fee at the CR border, can I just use small cash? I do not have a Visa/ credit card.
Thanks so much!
Hi Cavell, it should die down by the following Monday but it’ll probably still be busy. It’s always the week before like you said that is packed.
The machine at the exit office only takes card so if you don’t have one, you need to go to one of the banks to pay beforehand since the border doesn’t accept cash and you can only use the machine to pay the exit fee
Ariel Peretz says
Quick question about crossing into costa rica from nicaragua. are they still giving you those 2 pills that taste horribly on the costa riican side ? and do they still pinch your finger tips? they did this to me in 85.
Hi Ariel, they don’t do any of that (it sounds silly tbh!).
Thank you so much for all the tips! It really helped with crossing with my children. A word of caution though to anyone reading this that wants to park at the $4/day space down the road on the Costa Rican side. They stole my husbands shoes and our rented carseats while we were away. Very frustrating and everyone planned dumb when confronted. Be careful and don’t leave anything in your car even carseats apparently…
Hi Shelby, I’m glad the post helped and I’m sorry to hear about your shoes and carseats getting taken! How odd and awful :/ Thanks for the heads up and sorry to hear about that 🙁
Edward Lefurgy says
Thanks for all the awesome info. I am now a little worried however as my Canadian passport expires 30 days from my 10 day trip. I just read this blog and I am now in panic mode.
How strict are they with the 90 days rule? I have my flight booked already.
I land in Liberia and plan to take a bus through the Nica border. Stay in Nica for 10 days then go back through the border to catch my flight from Liberia back home.
Nicaragua is very strict with immigration. I was with two Italian friends crossing the border by foot and one of them had a passport expiring in less than 6 months. The NIcaraguan officials wouldn’t let us pass until we bribed them. You should always travel with a passport that has at least 6 months within the expiration date however as recommended by embassies. If there is a Nicaraguan embassy in Canada, I would contact them because they are very strict and the Nicaraguan visa is for 90 days. If you have enough time, I would get a new passport asap as you need to anyways.
Sarah B says
Sorry to intrude, however finding a relevant active post is like gold dust!! Me and my partner are visiting costa rica for 91 days… yes 91 days. We did a rookie mistake when booking flights. We do want to visit Panama and Nicaragua for a week each. However it seems extortionate to book buses/flights ahead of schedule. So we want to Purchase tickets in the country…. whats the best way to get an onward travel document just so we can enter the country in the beginning?
Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!
Hi Sarah, when you pass through immigration in Costa Rica at the airport, they don’t ask for a ticket, they usually just ask how long you will be in the country so you can tell them 3 months. But when you are flying to Costa Rica, some airlines will ask for proof of onward travel in 90 days (United has asked me this every single time and I had to provide a printed ticket as proof) so I would purchase a refundable ticket before you depart just in case they ask and then refund it once you are in Costa Rica. And then you can use your already purchased ticket as proof out of Costa Rica when you are entering Costa Rica from Nicaragua and Panama as they ask you for proof of this for land crossings.
Thank you that is great, what airlines would you use for refundable tickets? This is what I was hoping to do, just wondered if the theory actually worked!
Julie Brannigan says
We will be turning in our Nicaraguan rental vehicle then walking across the border into Costa Rica on Wednesday, April 12th. I’ve read travelling during Semana Santa is a challenge. Do you have any idea how much time we should expect to be in line at the border? We have a flight out of Liberia the next morning. Thanks!
Oh boy, Semana Santa is insane because it’s the biggest holiday after New Years and CHristmas here. I would go with a LOT of patience, I think Wednesday won’t be as busy as the weekend but it will still probably be very busy. I’d give yourselves a good few hours at the border and try to have everything ready before going so you don’t run into any problems (printed ticket out of Costa Rica, small US bills to pay for entry/exit, a couple of pens).
Uber hasn’t quite reached Nicaragua yet but it is in Costa Rica. You can read our tips for using UBer here: Uber Costa Rica
liss n says
does UBER exist in Costa Rica & Nicaragua?
Danny Grisa says
Love all the detailed info. So my girlfriend and I just came across on foot from Nica to CR and completely missed the CR immigration office and just got our Nica exit stamp, grabbed our rental car and took off. Bonehead move I know. Any idea what we should do now? We realized this just now and we ready are already a couple hours away from the border so going back isn’t ideal! We’re doing a 2 week road trip and leaving on a plane from San Jose. Thansk!!!
Hi Danny, hmm honestly I am not sure I have never encountered this situation anymore, yikes!! I would contact your embassy and see what they say because you will probably run into trouble at the airport if they don’t see a stamp of you entering Costa Rica.
Hi Barbara, I am not positive the laws regarding taking cars from Nicaragua to Costa Rica but entering Costa Rica with a vehicle requires documentation and your car can stay legally in the country for 90 days (like a visa). Your dog will also need to have the proper paperwork (more info here: Bringing your dog to Costa Rica and vice versa)
Narendra Swamy says
Good info and thanks!
Crossed from CR to Nica on Jan 18th 2017. All the info is perfect. Had to park our car on the CR side outside the immigration building and the “official cashier” watched our car for 2 days for $20 bucks. Didn’t know it was free LoL! On reentry to CR, we almost walked out without immigration since we walked on the left side of the road and straight to the parking lot and no one stopped us. We wised up and passed through immigration so not to have problems at the airport on our way out the week after. Also a immigration guard asked us about our car and did a secondary customs inspection up 3-4 km past immigration into CR.
Hi Narendra! It’s technically free for just a day so whenever we are gone overnight, we leave our car with the locals who have a parking lot and he charges around 2-3,000 colones a day. Seems you guys had a smooth border crossing (good thing you went through the official entrance!). Thanks for reading!
Hi, can we drive our sisters car from Nicaragua to Costa Rica with our dog? And the back to Nicaragua?
Thank you for this great information!
Do you know if any car companies allow people to rent cars in Grenada, Nicaragua (or Managua if not in Grenada) and end the rental in San Jose, Costa Rica?
Or, do you know much a taxi would be from Grenada, Nicaragua to the border and then onwards to Liberia, Costa Rica?
Thank you again!
Hi Bailey, you can’t bring rental cars in Costa Rica across the border. I am not positive about Nicaragua to Costa Rica but I remember it being the same rules. I have no idea how much a taxi will be from Granada, but you can take a bus like Ticabus from Granada to San Jose. A taxi from the border to San Juan del Sur is $25 so it should be much more than that from Granada since it’s further.
Thanks for all detailed information you gave us 🙂
I’m 6 months pregnant, do you think I will have any trouble crossing CR-Nicaragua-CR?
Many thanks !
Hi Fabiola, no I don’t see any reason why you would! If you don’t want to walk the stretch between the offices, you can hire one of those trike taxis for about $5. Good luck!
HI Marcus, your ticket out of Costa Rica just needs to be within 90 days of the day you enter. You can go to anywhere, doesn’t have to be your home country as long as it’s out of Costa Rica.
Thank you for all the great information! I will be crossing from the Nicaragua side and back *hopefully* with a same day return. I own a vehicle I bought in Nicaragua that I will be taking to the border. Do you know what ‘documents’ I will need? Also, if I cannot return the same day can you recommend a place near the border on the Costa Rica that is reasonably priced and clean/safe?
Thanks again for your help!
Hi Stephen, I am not sure what documents you will need from the Nicaragua side, but when you cross into Costa Rica you have to pay some taxes for the car. I do know in Costa Rica you have to go to the national registry to get the appropriate documents to present at the border, it may be the same in Nicaragua but I would check. As for a place to stay in Costa Rica near the border, I recommend staying in La Cruz, it’s close to the border and is probably the biggest city in that area.
Thanks for the quick response!
You’re welcome 🙂
just crossed that border both ways. 11/20/16
coming to the border on the Costa Rican side there is a line of trucks stretching out for well over 10 kilometers – i was in a rent car – just drive VERY slowly in the left hand lane and pass them all.
the actual crossing only took 15 min.
rented another car on the nicaraquain side and off we were.
returning was equally as easy.
they did ask for proof of leaving CR – told them i left it in the car, she didn’t care. But she did only give me 30 days in CR.
(and you can park an Alamo rent car for free right on the border)
Hi Kevin! I just crossed the border on the 19th, the line of trucks to the border is pretty insane. It’s because it’s close to the holidays so there are tons of trucks going in and out. But you can drive to the left and carefully pass them. Glad you had an easy experience crossing the border!
Donald Rapier says
I have lived in CR for 10 and know the rules. If you plan not to stay in CR for long and have a Nica car. Why not find someone in Rivas, Nic to watch your car, catch the chicken bus to the border (20 cords) 20-30 ride. Check out of Nica, walk across the border, check into CR and catch bus (about 2000 colones) at the border to Liberia. Stay in Hostel in Liberia for the night, return to the border the next morning, check out of CR walk across the border check into Nica. Take chicken bus to Rivas for your car. Check out Hostelworld.com for hostels.
Hola. I am moving to CR. August 3 my plane leaves. I have not had any luck buying a bus ticket yet…. I have applied/am applying for residency in CR and am hoping to avoid the whole 90 day limit. Are you aware of any border crossing information that can be helpful for someone like me? Thank you.
Hi Vivian, I’ve heard that if you’re in the process of applying for residency you can present those papers to immigration. If not, you can buy a bus ticket at the border.
Thank you for sharing this valuable information. This answers all my questions.
Hi Cliff, you’re very welcome!
Hi Sammi – What a detailed post, super helpful! One question on the best way to get to playa mansita from the border. Are there shuttles or buses from the boarder to coast or do we need to catch a shuttle from Liberia? We are trying to find a cost effective way to get there.
Thanks so much!
I don’t know where Playa Mansita is and never been there so I don’t know about the services in the area. The bus to the border leaves from Liberia and makes stops along the highway but it doesn’t go into the beaches. The bus passes by La Cruz
Thanks for all the information. Do you know of websites that sell bus tickets online? It doesn’t look like Tica bus sells them online anymore.
Hmm I’m not sure – you can call them. We’ve booked tickets by calling them beforehand too.
hola amigos! im a bit confused about this new tax for exiting costa rica. I dont have a credit card to pay in a machine and i wont be passing through Libreria. Is there somewhere else at the border i can purchase? There is a shop here in Puerto Viejo that sells the depart tax can i just buy it there a couple days early. You guys are amazing!
Hi Jennifer, there is a kiosk in the exit office in Costa Rica that you can use your credit card for so you don’t need to do it beforehand. But I recommend buying it before hand if possible, so you don’t need to wait extra time to use the machine.
hi thank you yes i dont have a credit card ill be coming via route 4 is there a bank or coopialanzia at the border or somewhere along the way? I wont be going through Libreria. thanks again they sure love to keep us on our toes!! tanned toes lol
If you Google Coopealianza offices there is a website with their office locations. You can also pay it at Banco Credito Agricola and you can find their office locations on their website
muchisimos gracias amiga!!! PURA VIDA
Thank you for your well documented blog! This will be so helpful for us as we are heading to Costa Rica with our kids March 23rd … but need to cross the border to Nicaragua when we arrive. Thank you for the pictures and the guidance. Happy to have found mytanfeet to answer any questions!!
Glad you found it helpful and thanks for reading. Have a great time!
hi wow thank you for being available for questions! I have a question about leaving my car infront of the costa rica exit office. Have you any idea of how many days you can leave it there? Its actually a borrowed car or id take it across the border but i need to visit some friends was thinking 5 days. is that crazy? ok pura vida amiga!
Hi, there are a few parking lots where you can leave the car, they charge from 2000 to 3000 colones a day.
Hi. Is there a minimum amount of time you need to wait on the Nicaraguan side before crossing back to Costa Rica? If not, my boyfriend (a Tico) may just wait on the CR side for me. If I have to be there for 3 hours or something, he’ll cross with me…
At least 3 hours
Our Spanish is not very good at all yet, although we’re trying! Do they speak English at all??
Not really, they know basic English like how long will you be in Nicaragua for, do you have a ticket, the fee is $12, etc. I suggest having all your documents ready and prepared to make it easier.
Note: If for some reason a border official demands proof of leaving Costa Rica and you don’t have it, there is a booth nearby that will sell you an open ended bus ticket out of Costa Rica for I think $11. So basically: bring proof that you are leaving Costa Rica, but if you don’t have it, don’t worry, for a small fee this can be fixed.
Thanks Juan 🙂
you are an absolute gem providing all of this info for us all 🙂
I’m coming from down near Nicoya and think I’m going to catch a bus from Liberia to walk across.
As a girl with limited Spanish, I just have a few questions (I apologize if you just recently answered something similar), Is a taxi the only way to head to SJDS? Or if I decide to just hang out at the border for a few hours, is there much there?
Thanks so much for all your help, Ive been following you guys for a while, (including on Instagram) loving it all 🙂
You can take a public bus to Rivas and then to SJDS. There’s a couple bars at the border you can get a drink and some food and hangout which is what we did last time.
Hi, my friend and I are meeting upin Costa Rica, then traveling onward by land to Nicaragua. She is flying into Costa Rica from Canada and has a return ticket taking her back to Canada from Nicaragua one month later; she / we will cross the boarder out of Costa Rica by land about half way between her landing there and then flying out of Nicaragua. Will her homebound ticket from Nicaragua suffice as evident of leaving Costa Rica? And is this proof needed when flying into Costa Rica or is it only for crossing in from a land boarder?
My situation is different…I am flying in from Mexico at the same time, and have a return flight ticket booked to take me bck home to Canada from Punta Cana, DR in mid June (less than 90 days after I enter Costa Rica)…will this suffice for me at the airport entry?? I am also doing land boarder crossing out of CR to Nicaragua with her a couple weeks later, then when she leaves I want to leave my options opened for the next few weeks…either stay a bit longer in Nicaragua, or fly on to Honduras….which I will be doing anyway, just don’t want to lock myself into an actual departure time. I will then of course go onward to get my home flight from the DR for mid June.
So, big question here is ultimately, is entering Costa Rica via air the same as by boarder crossing? Do you need a plane ticket that actaully leaves CR within the 90 days or is showing a home bound plane ticket from a neighboring country that is valid for within the maximum 90 days aceeptable as proof of leaving CR?
When you enter by air, most immigration officers won’t ask you for a ticket out, they’ll ask you how long you’re in Costa Rica for, but as always it all depends on the officer. I’ve had some ask me for proof of a plane ticket out in 90 days, I’ve had some who didn’t ask me anything at all.
Hi Sammi, what happens when the immigration officer does not accept your ticket on your phone, or accept the bus ticket? How does one get back into Costa Rica if your proof of exit is not acceptable to the officer?
They usually accept on the phone (I had to do that last time since I absentmindedly forgot to print my ticket out) but if you have no proof at all, not even a bus ticket, they’ll most likely make you buy at least a bus ticket or even a plane ticket. They need to see something to prove you’re leaving within 90 days, and they may give you a hard time for a bus ticket which has happened before but they accepted it at the end after a lot of discussion and smooth talking.
I’m coming from San Jose going towards Managua. I would like to cross borders walking.
Does the Costa Rican bus stops at the border?
Do I have to wait for a Nicaraguan one at the other side to get to Mangua?
I’m kind of lost with bus timetables.Any insight and informations would be of much help!
You can do the border walking but they have private bus charters that go directly from San Jose to Managua and you don’t have to get out and do the border. It’ll save you way more time. There are buses to the border, many of them depart from Liberia.
Hello what bus should I take from border to Managua ? Thx for ur help
I am not positive which bus it is but there should be buses at the border and they have signs posted
You can do that, it’ll add 1 more hour, it is 1 hour from Coco to Liberia by bus. It’s up to you, if you want to see a Costa Rican beach town then I’d say go for it. If you’re not that interested, then I’d stay in Liberia and save the time. You can read more about Coco here to see if you want to visit or not. Playas del Coco
Thank you so much! Is there a bus straight from the airport to Coco or do you have to go to the town center of Liberia first? How long do you think it would take to get to San Juan deal sur from Coco approximately? Thank you so much for all your help! Also have you ever used Airbnb for places in Coco? Would love your advice for budget lodging there.
There are buses from Liberia to Coco that pass by the airport which you need to flag down from the main road. It could take you anywhere from 5-7 hours, depending on how long the border takes and if you can time it out so you don’t need to wait too long for buses (or if buses are super full because this is peak season and many Nicaraguans go back to Nicaragua for the holidays). As for budget places in Coco, our friend rents out his rooms for a good price: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9605891?s=tHYqLSybhttps://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9605891?s=tHYqLSyb and https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9606815
Hi Gian-Paul. That is the best way. But regarding time, if you land around 2:30 PM, you won’t make it to SJDS before nightfall. You’ll probably get out of the airport around 3 PM depending on the immigration and customs line. It gets dark by 6 PM in Costa Rica and from Liberia to the border is roughly 2.5-3 hour bus ride. Then holiday time is always much busier at the border and it could take anywhere from 1-3 hours to cross the border. Then a taxi from the border to SJDS is about 40 minutes. I’d highly recommend staying the night and then leaving for SJDS in the morning. As for places to check out for the evening, there’s nothing really around the airport, but you can head into Liberia city. There’s not much there either to be honest, but you could walk around to explore your first Costa Rican city. There are some places you can visit, but since you are using public transportation some of them are impossible to get to by bus or it’ll take a long time. Even Coco, which is the closest beach to Liberia Airport is 20 minutes by car, but 1 hour by bus and the last one back to Liberia is at 7 PM.
If you need suggestions for hotels in Liberia, we have our recommended list here: Best hotels near LIR airport. You can find a few budget options on there.
Thank you so much for the speedy response!!! I really appreciate it.
Would you reccomend maybe going to Coco, staying for the night, and then waking up early from there to make the journey to sjds? How many more hours would that add to our sjds journey? Is Coco different enough from SJDS to warrant the extra hassle to only stay there for the afternoon/night? Or do you think it would just be most ideal to explore Liberia a little bit, settle in and get ready for the sjds trip the next morning?
Thanks for the awesome blog.
My girlfriend and I are flying into Liberia, Costa Rica on Dec 29th and will arrive around 2:30pm. If at all possible, we’d love to get to San Juan Del Sur that night. Taking public transportation is that unrealistic? I have heard that traveling at night is not reccomended and I do not want to spend lots of money getting there if possible. I heard the best (cheapest and most efficient) way to get to SJDS from LIR airport is take a taxi to Liberia and then take a chicken bus to Peñas Blancas, cross the border on foot, and then take a $20 taxi to SJDS. Would you reccomend a different way?
What is the latest you’d recommend traveling? If we are leaving too late, are there any places in the area worth checking out for a day or night? We are going to SJDS and Ometepe so I thought Rincon de la Vieja or Playa del Coco might be overkill.
Any help would be much appreciated!
How much for a taxi ride from Liberia airport to penas blanca? there will be three of us
Probably around $150-180, not sure. I know a shuttle is around that much
Thanks for the great information! I have made this crossing many years ago so I couldn’t remember everything. I do have a question. You said that your passport needs to be within 6 months of expiring. My passport expires in May 2016 and I am traveling in January 2016. Wasn’t going to renew for awhile unless I absolutely have too. Can you give me any tips on this or where I might be able to find more information ? Thanks
Hi Holly, I would renew it. I’ve had friends who came into Costa Rica with less than 6 months of their passport expiring but it’s not really them that cares – it’s Nicaragua and you do not mess with Nicaraguan immigration. I went one time with an Italian friend whose passport expired in 3 months and we were stopped at the border for over an hour, talking to the officers to figure out a solution and at the end, my friend had to pay a lot of money. I always advise to never take risks when crossing the border when it comes to things like this because you honestly do not know what either side will do, and trust me, you don’t want to mess with the Nicaraguan officers. Sometimes CR might not care or notice, but Nicaragua will – you get checked probably 5 times within a 200 meter distance when you cross. And you will obviously look like a foreigner traveling so they can target you even more. Nothing is ever guaranteed of course, but it’s just best not to risk it.
We are travelling from San Juan tomorrow and just saw online that the border is closed today.
Do you know if it is open tomorrow?
Hi Anna, I’m so sorry unfortunately I don’t have that information. You can ask in the Expats in Costa Rica Facebook group or expats in Guanacaste, since there will probably be people asking the same questions (it’s a huge group). Good luck!
My family and I will be crossing from CR to Nica and back in December. My husband, 10 yr old daughter and my passports are all valid for a few years still, but my 5 yr old’s will be expiring in February. I checked on the US Passport site and the Nicaragua page says your passport only has to be valid through the length of your stay. Do you think I need to renew my little one’s before we go or will it likely be fine since the rest of our passports are good for quite a while?
Also, do you think there’s any particular time of day it would be best to try to get to Penas Blancas? We will clearly survive it, but it would be great if we didn’t end up behind a giant tour bus!
Thanks so much in advance,
I would renew it – Costa Rica technically says that your passport needs to be valid for the duration of your stay, but do not always believe everything you read online. Remember, this is Central America and it won’t matter to them what it says on a website. I say this from personal experience. One time I went with some friends whose passport expired within 4 months and the Nicaraguan officer would not let him pass. He had to pay off the officer to let him go.
Since you have a US passport and unfortunately they do like to target Americans, I would not take any chances at all and get the passport renewed. They may be a little bit more lenient since it’s a child but I wouldn’t take any chances. Make the border crossing as hassle and stress free for you and your family as possible.
The best time to go would be early in the morning when the border opens. Most tour buses don’t pass until the afternoon.
Thanks so much for getting back to me so quickly! That’s kind of what I was thinking, just wish I had realized I needed to do it sooner 🙂
One other question, does the shuttle service you recommend above transport from Playa Grande, and, would it be crazy expensive to go this route? I’m just thinking that trying to catch multiple buses with kids in tow a week before Christmas could end up being pretty exhausting on top of the border crossing. From Penas Blancas we plan to take a taxi to San Jorge to catch the ferry to Ometepe. I was thinking we would be able to accomplish this in a day pretty easily if we got an early start, but some of the border crossing stories sound a bit crazy!
Hi Kate, yes he does! You can email him firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote. I would honestly recommend getting a shuttle. You’re looking at at least half a day of buses just get to the border from Playa Grande (it’s around 3 hours driving so it could take up to 6 hours by bus including wait times). Plus Christmas is an insane time for crossing the border because lots of Nicaraguans go back during that time for their families and Christmas is peak season so there are way more tourists. I think for peace of mind for you and your little ones, a shuttle would be much more comfortable especially if you have lots of luggage. It’ll be more expensive than taking the bus of course but it’s either giving up comfort, convenience and time to save some $$ or spending more to be way more comfortable and stress free.
If possible, don’t go on a weekend. I went over a weekend during Christmas time and it took all day to cross!
I just got a quote from him, it’s $190 from Grande to the border.
Ok, thanks so much! I will get in touch with him to arrange it. We are going on 12/19 which is a Saturday :(. Do you think getting to the border around 8 am would be ok, or should we try to get there earlier? Thank you so much for answering all of my questions, I appreciate it SO much!
8 AM should be fine, the worst times are the afternoon 🙂 And you are welcome!
WOW! Great detailed post! I alreday crossed this border twice this spring and it was an experience 😀 did it both ways by foot and I am obviously extremly lucky. When I entered Costa Rica I just went to the immigration before a huge group of people came from buses and formed a badass long queue, next a new counter opened and I dind’t had to wait at all, didn’t had to show any flight or bustickets and I could walk through within 5 minutes.
Thanks for this flashback to my CA trip
Thanks Marlena! Yeah the trick is to get there before those huge tour buses or else you’ll get stuck for hours!
I want to know whether a visa is required for Pakistani citizens who have a valid U.S. visa or permanent residency (greencard)? I knmow in costa rica it is not required, but what about nicaragua? Can such residents just purchase a tourist card on arrival?
Thank you for your time
Hi, you should check on your country’s embassy page to see if you need a visa for Nicaragua. They have different rules and regulations than Costa Rica. I do not know anything about Pakistani citizens.
I am currently in CR for 5 months thus I need to do a visa run.
My choice was Nicaragua, together with my boyfriend who will be visiting me during the this period.
We will be entering through Los Chiles by boat, and return on the west side of the country.
I still have a question though. Is it possible to get a bus (from Managua or Granada or so) just to the border crossing and not any further?
We plan on renting a car from the border crossing back into Costa Rica so we only need transportation to the border and not any further.
Plus, you said you don’t really need to stay for 72 hours to renew your 90 days tourist visa? Really?
Thanks in advance!
Hi Nikki, this is the last information I have about getting a bus from Managua to the Penas Blancas border: Express buses from Managua to Peñas Blancas depart Mercado Huembes at 5 a.m., 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 3:30 p.m. I do not know if it has changed since last time I checked (this was in 2013). Or if you are more adventurous, you can take a chicken bus to the border which is what we did (look for school buses painted with kinda crazy colors, stick out your hand and ask if they’re going to the border).
And yes you don’t need to stay out for a full 72 hours, officially I heard that is true if you’re not planning on buying items you need to announce but I usually do one day visa runs. Last time we just hung out at the border for 2 hours and crossed back. Granted they do ask you what time you crossed and why, we usually just tell them we wanted to go to SJDS for the day. Never ran into any problems with that.
Thanks Sammi for the quick reply!
I have to be honest I am still a bit hestitant about the time to be out of the country though, but we’ll see, not in a hurry 😉
You’re welcome. I’ve been doing one day visa runs ever since I moved here 3 years ago and so do all my friends who I go with. They really don’t ask too many questions and I have like 10 pages full of Costa Rica/Nicaragua stamps, actually one of the immigration officers recognize me every time I go. Just to let you know to relieve your fear a little 😉
Heidi Laros says
What an amazing helpful site. My family of 5 (2 adults and 3 kids ages 9-16) are traveling from Liberia Costa Rica to Playa Yankee Nicaragua to see Nicaragua for a few days during our CR vacation over the holidays. I understand there are a couple of companies who will pick us up at our hotel (Hilton Garden Inn airport) and take us to the hotel in Nicaragua – I also just reached out to the one your recently mentioned. We’ve also considered renting a car at the Nicaraguan border (can’t really tell for sure if we need one or not). You also mentioned taking a taxi – since we aren’t going very far maybe that is a good option, if they have ones available large enough to carry 5 plus bags?
Since we have to switch buses at the border anyway, should we take a private shuttle just to the border (if they will help get us across) and then rent a car or take a taxi? The company I am looking at is going to cost over $200 each way. Plus he is saying we don’t want to leave too early because the border will be busy with employees crossing the border (which goes against everything I’ve heard). He was recommended by the hotel so I believe him but seemed strange. We don’t want to lose a whole day to travel.
What I don’t want to do is to walk very far with 3 kids and luggage. I don’t know how far you have to walk with all your stuff to get a taxi or a rental car – that distance isn’t usually mentioned, although one site suggested it’s like a mile! I really want to do what’s most convenient and then secondarily most inexpensive. Not at all interested in the public bus, that is something I’m certain about!
Also, can you cross the border at Playa de Naranjo? It looks like it would be much faster to get to Playa Yankee that way, but I haven’t seen anything anywhere about there being a border crossing there.
Hi Heidi, you can book the shuttle to the border and take a taxi to your next destination in Nicaragua. There are some I guess you can call it “tuk tuks” at the border and I’ve seen families or people with lots of luggage use them to help you get across. You can get two if you need to, and it’s not too expensive. The walk from the immigration office of Costa Rica to Nicaragua is not very far, and definitely not a mile. Right outside the Nicaraguan office is where you can get a taxi. Most taxis are a regular 4 door sedan but I am sure you can find a bigger one if you need to (I think I remember seeing a van once).
I HAVE costarican residency , What is the procedure?
Exactly the same except you don’t need to show a plane ticket. Just give them your residency and passport
I am EU citizen and will be flying to Nicaragua and make my way down to Panama where I’ll fly out back to Europe. So I have open jaw ticket and my travel is less than 90 days, just few weeks. Is it enough just to show my flight ticket out from Panama city? Managua airport, then Nicaragua to Costa Rica and Costa Rica to Panama by land.
Hi Mark, I don’t see any problem and I think it will be more than enough, just make sure to print all the tickets and itinerary have a nice trip
Awesome, thanks for all the help.
You’re welcome! You can also ask Randall if you email him to include a stop at the national park on your way to the border, he’s super flexible and pretty much is there to take you wherever you want to go so you can try to plan that out with him!
You’re welcome Frank! It’d definitely be worth if you have the time to stop, even just for a quick couple hours to look around. I’d suggest Rincon over Guanacaste since Rincon is much more accessible (It’s right off the main road towards Nicaragua). From what I’ve heard, the Guanacaste NP needs permission from San Jose before you can get into the actual park. There are a few areas you can go to in Rincon as well from the hot springs, waterfall trails and boiling mud pots. We hiked the boiling mud pots trail you can read about here: Rincon de la Vieja National Park and as you can see it doesn’t take very long
Wow….what a great thread!
I would appreciate some guidance on how to cross to Nicaragua when coming from Liberia. I am travelling with a group of 9 people so that should be interesting. We have rented a house in San Juan for a few weeks and decide to land in Liberia because of flight prices. We plan to stay 1-2 day in Liberia and then get a bus to Nicaragua border.
Since we are 9 people, should I consider booking a Van instead? we are very flexible and looking for the most affordable/practical transportation available.
You have a couple of options. You can take the bus, a taxi or shuttle to the border. Out of all those options, the bus is cheapest but takes the longest. And public buses don’t usually have the spaces underneath to put luggage so if you have a lot of luggage, that could be pretty uncomfortable and an issue. Taxi will be quite expensive. Since there are 9 of you and you may or may not have a lot of luggage, a van/shuttle is the best way to go. They are usually very spacious, very comfortable and you’ll have a driver who knows the roads and it’ll take way less time than the bus. You can even have your driver pick you up really early in the morning so you can get past the border faster in the mornings without crowds. For big groups, I always recommend a shuttle and you can split the cost between the 9 of you so it won’t be crazy expensive. If you need recommendations of companies, we are happy to help! Just let us know !
Thanks so much…shuttle it is. Yes, we definitely want to avoid the crowds so early morning would work. I would love to hear the companies you know.
Yes it’s a great idea to go early so you don’t have to spend a lot of time at the border and get through without crowds. Our Tico friend has a tour company and does shuttle transfers called Shaman Tours – you can email him here email@example.com and ask for Randall. You can ask him everything about taking the shuttle, what time you should go, cost, etc. We always use him for our own transfers and when my family and friends are here. Let me know how it goes or if you have any more questions about the border crossing! 🙂
Perfect. thanks for the contact.
I was in Costa Rica last year and did most of the N.P. in the south (ie. Corcovado, Manuel Antonio etc) Since I will be in Liberia, I am considering spending an extra day in the area but don’t want to detour too much. Would it be a good idea to spend some time either at the N.P. Rincon de la Vieja or Guanacaste? As per google map, it seems to be on the way North to the Nicaragua border especially Guanacaste NP. Curious to know if I grab a shuttle from these location to the border.
Thanks for all the help!
Awesome article! Sorry I’m a bit confused. I don’t understand why I would need to buy a refundable ticket, if my trip is only a week long in CR. I will have a return ticket anyway. I will be crossing into Nicaragua from Costa Rica. I will drive my rental car to the border and walk across. Also, I’m visiting from the states.
Hi Kay, you only need a refundable ticket if you don’t already have a ticket out. These are.for people who are doing visa runs or are traveling on a one way ticket. If you already have your ticket out of Costa Rica you’re fine.
Oh I see! Would I then need to print that receipt and bring it with me as proof? Or could I use my phone? Would I have to show them my itinerary?
The best thing would be to print out your itinerary so when you pass your passport over to get stamped, include that as well. I’ve had a hard time using my phone a couple times before so instead of dealing with the hassle I print mine out.
We are traveling from Managua, Nicaragua and want to bus it to Liberia, Costa Rica. Would you suggest TicaBus? Does it stop in Liberia and how would you go about purchasing a round trip bus ticket?
Any suggestions for car rentals? We want to travel down to Monteverde and then over to Tamarindo.
Final question, is it true that Nicaraguans need a visa to enter Costa Rica even if its for tourism? My mom and I are Americans but our friend is Nicaraguan.
First of all- cheers to you guys for answering questions on this post for almost two years AND for patiently answering the same questions over and over again. I have ready many of the responses and so I hope my question is unique.
I am moving to Costa Rica for one year in August for studies. Before my studies commence, I wanted to do some intensive Spanish courses. Language courses seem to be far cheaper in Nicaragua than Costa Rica. My plan was to fly into Costa Rica, drop off my major luggage at the school or with a friend, and take a bus into Nicaragua with a few personal items the next day. I planned to spend a couple of weeks in Nicaragua and then bus back to Costa Rica.
Please help me with the Visa requirements for both countries. My problem is that my flight out of Costa Rica will not be until 1 year later (not within 90 days). I have had a travel agent who issued a ticket for me, printed the itinerary, and then cancelled the ticket with 24 hours. Could I do this to have my 90 day proof of exit for both entries into Costa Rica (flight and bus from Nicaragua). But what about Nicaragua? Will I have to buy a return bus ticket in Costa Rica?
Am I crazy to plan this side-trip to Nicaragua? Should I just keep it simple and do language study in Costa Rica? The adventurer in me wouldn’t mind spending time in another country since I’ll be a year in Costa Rica. But will it be difficult to re-enter into Costa Rica?
Once I’m back in Costa Rica as a tourist, I will begin my application for my student visa. I could get a provisional student visa ahead of time, but it’s only good for one entry into Costa Rica which would definitely mean I couldn’t take off to Nicaragua. So it seems more logical to me to just enter the country as a tourist.
Thanks for any insight you have. 🙂
We have never been ask for a ticket to prove that we are leaving Nicaragua, just Costa Rica will ask you for a ticket showing that you are leaving. In regards to the ticket that you travel agency printed I think you will be fine many do that they buy a refundable ticket and then they cancel it one they got the 90 days.
Going in and out from Costa Rica and Nicaragua is relative easy so if you have the chance to save money and learn Spanish go for it, you will also learn from their culture and the country.
OK. Thanks for the push in the direction of adventure. 🙂
What I’m saying about the flight itinerary is that my travel agent issued it, printed it and cancelled it even before I travelled. Can the immigration officer actually search the flight records to verify that the ticket is valid?
One more question then: if I land in San José, can I get a tica bus ticket that day or the next to Nicaragua and leave the same day? Or should I try to book a seat in advance? If I have to book the ticket in advance, any knowledge as to how to do so? The link on their website doesn’t seem to work.
Hey Jennifer! Nope the officer can’t look up any flight records, they only have access to your passport details when they scan it. That is actually how I cross the border except I always cancel it after I cross back in Costa Rica since I usually don’t have internet until I go back home. You can buy a Tica bus ticket that day as long as there are open seats for the bus you want. Hm you can try to call them but usually you have to go in person to buy it beforehand (that’s what we always did). It’s usually open seats except for Easter and Christmas times.
I really appreciate that you’ve taken time to answer my questions!! I look forward to looking through the other resources and information you have available on your site.
hi this is my first time to go in Granada,Nicaragua ..i wanna ask hour many hours riding a bus from the border of costa rica to Granad ,Nicaragua?
Hi, around 1.5 to 2 hours if you go straight away 🙂
Hi Sammi 🙂
I would like to ask… As a foreigner and on a 3 month tourist visa… is it possible to open up a CR bank account at Banco de Costa Rica or Banco Nacional? Do you know what they would require as of 2015?
Yes you can, as long as you have a valid passport and your are legally in the country. They will ask you for banking, commercial and income verification and all the kind of stuff banks ask. I know many people that live here with a tourist visa and they have bank accounts.
When you are here just go to the bank you like and they will give you detail information of what you need to give them.
Its Mitch again,
I need to make a border run to Nicaragua in a month and was wondering if I can buy an Onward ticket back in Costa Rica at the border? please allow me to know thanks! Oh… and one more thing, I do have a Ticabus ticket already that I was thinking of changing the date as i can do this 24 hours before the actual departure date, and use this as my onward ticket… but can I do this over the phone or do i need to go into the ticabus office to change it?
You can buy a bus ticket back to Costa Rica at the border, as you’re walking to the entrance office you will see stands for the Pulmitan and buses back to Liberia that you can buy there. I think for your Ticabus ticket it’d be safer to go to the office… sometimes they’ll tell you one thing on the phone and then when you show up it turns out they were wrong or gave you the wrong information. Just one of the things here, it’s better to show up in person because in some situations it’s never 100% guaranteed over the phone
Thanks so much for your response! One more quick question… Is there a Ticabus office at the Penas Blancas border? If not then as you said I can just buy an open ended ONWARD ticket before i enter back into Costa Rica.
Hmm I am not sure but I don’t think there is. Not 100% positive though.
Hey guys, just recently came across your blog and gotta say, I love it. My fiance and I are moving to Costa Rica in June so we’ve doing a ton of research as you might imagine. You guys have giving us a boatload of useful info, so thank you for that. But I have a specific question you might be able to help me out with. I recently read on one site or another That if you leave CR in your car, ie, at the end of our 90 tourist visa, for a quick run to Panama. That you CANNOT return your vehicle back to CR for 90 days. Now I have been searching around google trying to find any reference to this and can’t.
Do you guys have any knowledge or exprience with this? From this post, it sounded like you had driven across the border and came back with no problem. But maybe because Yeison is a citzen it could be different then for us being tourists. Any help would be huge!!! Cause if this is true it would definitely change our plans of bringing a car down with us.
Hope you are doing great! In regards to your question I have friends that do that all the time, they are Costa Ricans but I think that does not matter. If the car is under your name and has Costa Rican Plates they have to let you get back in Costa Rica that is the law.
I have not much experience by crossing the panama border with my own car but when I go to Nicaragua with my car I need to go the “Registro Nacional” and ask for a ownership letter, you need to do that every time you take your car out of the country and your car have to leave the country withing the next 5 business days. They do this to verify the car does not have anything pending, so please keep that on mind you need this paper when you go to Panama too.
Also when I go to Nicaragua you have to buy a Nicaraguan insurance it is cheap like $12 a month, and I guess is the same for Panama.
My cousins go to Panama 3 or 4 times a month and what they do is bring the car to the border, there are many parking lots around the area and then they take a taxi to David (around $25) and then they rent a car there, they said it is easier than do all the paper work and it is way more cheaper than Costa Rica.
I hope this answer might help you to figure out your trip, and one more thing you can also look for Facebook groups in Uvita (South Pacific area) due to the fact that hundreds of Gringos live there and they have to go to Panama every 3 months.
HAve a great day
GREAT BLOG POST!
I’ve been googling the s*** out of this problem, and this is my clearest answer. I am travelling Nica in March, but flying out of liberia to save myself 300$. I figured i can get 1-2 days in northern area before my flight. Which city in southern nicaragua would I have to head out to the border from? I thought there would be busses or collectivos from San Juan del Sur to the border, but I cant find any info on that. likewise from the CR border to La Cruz, is it a bus, or are there frequent shuttle? I have time so I dont mind the walking-across adventure, but If it’s too much planning and scheduling based on too few buses, Can I get a TicaBus from SJDS to La Cruz?
You can go from San Juan del Sur, there are quite a few shuttles you can book from the town. You can walk around and find a place, you’ll see signs for it. From the border, they have buses that go all the way to Liberia, that’s the one we took before. You can buy the bus ticket at the border, you’ll see stands and signs for it as well. You’ll get on the bus where you enter Costa Rica and there’s quite a few that run all day but they end sometime in the evening so try to get there before 5pm. You don’t need to stop at La Cruz, you can go all the way to Liberia.
Hope this helps!
yes it does, thanx!!!
I really wish I would’ve read this post before booking my flight into Nicaragua. If I knew it was going to be this much of a pain crossing into Costa Rica I would’ve paid the extra bucks to fly into SJO. Since I don’t have an outbound ticket AND my passport expires in less than six months AND I don’t speak Spanish, I’m sure the border crossing is going to be a nightmare. So, the question that no one else seemed to ask…hypothetically speaking, how would one bypass the checkpoint and what would the repercussions be if they were caught?
Yikes! The biggest issue would be that your passport expires in less than six months. Last time I went with a friend and his passport expired in 4 months and he was not allowed across until he paid some extra fees… aka gave money to the officers for a bribe. Nicaragua and Costa Rica are both quite strict about this although Costa Rica says that technically your passport needs to be valid for at least 3 months since that is the duration of a tourist visa. Nicaragua was the one who didn’t let us in. If they do notice (most likely they will), be prepared. You can’t bypass any checkpoints at the border crossing, they are really strict about this. The worst thing that happens is that you will most likely have to pay a bunch of money. But you do need an outbound ticket to enter Costa Rica, whether it is an airplane or bus ticket. That are the rules and the border crossing is pretty painless if you follow them – so I’d suggest buying at least a bus ticket out of CR to show something.
Hello, great blog..very helpful. So just to clarify, when flying into Costa Rica from the U.S. i will be staying longer than 90 days.. Do I have to show a bus ticket that I’m going to Nicaragua for a visa run at the airport. Also, I’m on a very cheap budget.. do you have suggestions about going a cheap route? I would be coming from Brasilito to Nicarugua, any suggestions on transportation?
If you’re planning on staying in Costa Rica longer than 90 days, you HAVE to leave the country before your 90 days is up. When you fly into CR, they may or may not ask you how long you’ll be here (depends). Make sure you check how many days they give you because they are not always giving 90 days and many tourists assume and don’t check. From Brasilito, you can take the public bus to the border. First take the bus to Liberia, then take any of the buses like Deldu that go to Penas Blancas and that’ll drop you off right at the border, then you can walk across. Public transportation is very cheap, it’s just a couple thousand colones or less.
So glad I found your website. My fiance and I just got back from CR & Nica. We had a rental and left at the border with the guys that say they’ll watch the guy. I speak Spanish, so I told one of the guys that I’d give him a large tip if nothing happens to it, not even a scratch. Car was just fine and exactly where we left it (and we didn’t give him the key, either). We got through the border on BOTH sides very easily. On the way in, it took a handful of minutes to get into Nicaragua – maybe 10 people in line before us. On the way back, there was absolutely no one in line to get into CR and went straight though. It took less than 15 minutes total.
Thanks for your help!
Hi Erika! That is awesome I’m so glad it worked out easily for you guys! Thank goodness there was no line, isn’t that the best feeling to just zip on through? Great to hear and hope you guys have a wonderful time!
Thank you for the great detailed information, you guys are great! I have been living in CR for six months and have been across that border on foot a couple of times with a 3 year old (not fun). I would love to leave my son with friends for our next day long stamp run. I understand the need for me to have a stamp since I get stopped a couple times a month driving and asked for proof(color photo copy works fine). Were are going to be flying back to states in 6 months with our son. Have you ever heard of anyone having a issue exiting the country if they have a child with a expired tourist visa? Any idea what the fine is for overstaying by 90 days?
FYI: We crossed at the end of October and they were checking everyone to see if they had a fever. Said they were screening for Ebola. I was also asked if I have been through Texas?. Not sure why.
Hi Mike! I am not sure if there are any specific exceptions for children but they have recently put in a new law about overstaying tourist visas which I included at the end of the post. If you overstay your visa, you have to pay a $100 fine 48 hours BEFORE you leave the country at the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR). If you do not pay, you will be prohibited from entering the country for 3 times as long as you overstayed. I would make sure you pay this fine, or call the US embassy if there is any exceptions for children since I don’t know any.
Texas is where the nurse who contracted ebola died, there are a lot of tourists from Texas to Costa Rica so they must be screening for it now. I’m glad to hear they are taking precautions.
Hi George! Since you don’t have any proof you’re leaving the country within 90 days, yes you will have a problem. A tourist visa is valid for only 90 so you need to show you’re leaving the country at some point during that time period. Depending which border you’re crossing through Panama, many people go to Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro. It’s an archipelago of islands pretty close from the Sixaola border. We went there last year and it’s a lot of fun
Hi Sammi – thanks for the information 🙂 I’ve been there plenty of times but never had to do a visa run before. I have to do it for next year. Currently, I have a one way ticket to SJO for mid-Feb but will add a return ticket for early-Aug. Will they give me problems for entering the country with a ticket that’s for more than 90 days? Also – any recommendations as to where I should go for the 72 hours? I’ve been to Nicaragua before, but never been to Panama. Will probably be leaving from the San Jose area. Thanks!
I’m not particularly fond of border crossings, they usually take up too much time and scammers are everywhere. Since I don’t have a lot of time, I’d like to know the closest border crossing from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, coming from Reserva Biológica Indio Maíz. The closest (legal) one I could find is from San Carlos by boat to Los Chiles, do you know anything about that crossing? I want to avoid the at all costs, especially regarding the time of the year we’ll be crossing (1st of January).Thanks in advance for your answer ^^
Hi Ronald !
This is Yeison and I hope you are doing great.
I have used “Los Chiles” border a few times when I was working in tourism and the process is similar you have to stamp your passport right in front of the Hotel Tulipan and then just walk down the road and take a boat that will take you to San Carlos of Nicaragua. I have to being honest that border is more skatchy than Peñas blancas you don’t see as many people as you see in the other one. You will find people trying to “help you” to cross the border.
Anyways I think that anyone can do it, just be careful as always :). I wish I could give you detail instructions how of how to cross the border but you just have to stamp in front of the hotel where the immigrations office is then take the boat get the stamp in Nicaragua hang out for a few hours and then comeback.
I am going to be in SJDS with my wife and kids in a few weeks. We plan on crossing over to Costa Rica for a few days and then back to Nicaragua.
We have flight tickets out to MGA, Nicaragua and a shuttle reservation from Costa Rica back to Managua the day before our flight leaves MGA.
Does this qualify as a plane ticket out of Costa Rica that they will accept, or do they require you to fly out of Liberia/San Jose?
Hi Mike! You have a shuttle reservation ticket, that’ll be acceptable since you also have a plane ticket to pair with it so it shows exactly what day you will be leaving Costa Rica so they can’t argue with you on that. Have a fun trip!
Hi Sammie and thanks for your answer!
I actually looked a little bit more because Jet Blue doesnt offer anything Canada. I have found Avianca.. And fully refundable tickets for flights across central and South americas. Do you have any good feedback about that Company?
Its gettin closer!! (:(:
Hi Sara! Avianca is good, also you don’t technically need to have a ticket to your home country. It just needs to be an onward ticket to somewhere else. I haven’t done a refund or flown Avianca before but I have heard good things about it. Should be perfectly fine 🙂
Good luck and have a great trip!
Jeffrey Van Baalen says
Hi. I am traveling to CR from the USA and returning 3 weeks later. During my stay, I’d like to go to Nic. You say that, in order to return to CR, I will need to produce an airline ticket showing my departure from CR, but my ticket is an eTicket. So is a copy of the iterinary sufficient?
Thanks in advance,
Hi Jeff! You should be able to show them the ticket on your phone, I’ve done it a few times before and it’s fine. Or if you get a chance to print it out that’s fine too!
Your an amazing woman having provided all these people with such detailed answers. I just have few questions as all the rest have been answered. Is there a car rental on the Nicaragua side of the border in walking distance? We plan to leave a Costa Rican rental car on their side (at that mans house if he still does that?) and hope to pick up a Nicaraguan car for 3 days. Is the Costa Rican exit tax still payable at the office on the border or do we need to go to a bank elsewhere. We will be coming back in with boat papers and a letter from the captain. Hopefully they will accept them to get back into the country. I will check w immigration tomorrow. Thanks in advance – Loren
Hi Loren! Haha I am just trying to help fellow travelers out since I know it can be a confusing process. There is a car rental on the Nicaraguan side of the border so you’ll have to contact them separately. We actually work with Adobe Rent a Car to help out our readers so if you want, we can contact them to see if we can get a deal for you to get a car in Costa Rica and Nicaragua with Adobe and they can bring it to you at the border. The exit tax is payable at the office at the border, make sure you pay the tax BEFORE you get in line or else you’ll have to do line all over again. There is a kiosk machine right inside, you can’t miss it.
Let us know and hope this helps 🙂
Thanks for all the answers but I am still not sure what option is best for me. Here’s the deal:
I am Canadian amd I wanna spend the winter in Costa Rica. I plan on leaving early december and stay until June or so. Buying a one way ticket is a lot cheaper and what I’d like to do since I don’t know exactly when I’m going back to Canada, but I don’t want to be turned around when I check in.
I am thinking off spending a few days in Nicaragua at the end of february to renew my Visa but the onward ticket as I come back to CR puzzles me..
I can’t seem to find refundable tickets.
I have tried Jet Blue but isn’t there any other airline that sells refundable tickets? Every blog I read says to buy refundable ticket but doesn’t mention any airline names..
Then the offficial visit costarica website states that a bus ticket is enough. I am confused. Thank you for your help!
Jet Blue has refundable tickets, when you search for tickets make sure it is under the Refundable section. I prefer Jet Blue because it’s faster and easier to refund than other airlines. I have done it on American Airlines and United before but it took four weeks to get my money back. The reason why I advise bringing an airplane ticket is because immigration at the land borders is getting much stricter and I prefer not to have to deal with any hassle. It’s really up to you which one you would like to use. An airplane ticket is the easiest since they don’t ever ask any questions whereas a bus ticket runs the chance of being questioned but still works. I just like to play it safe 🙂
When you cross the boarder (ex:Nicaragua to Costa Rica) do you normally rent a car, catch a bus, or walk to you next destination? Or do you take a taxi to the next major city?
We normally grab a taxi since we head to San Juan del Sur for the day during visa runs. The closest town is Rivas which is way too far to walk so the smartest thing is to get a taxi or you can take a chicken bus to Rivas and then from Rivas take a normal bus to wherever you need to go.
I am thinking of doing a visa run to San Juan del Sur from San Jose within the next couple of weeks and I have some questions for you. I thought that you had to stay a minimum of 72 hours out of CR in order to renew your visa. Is this true? Also, is it as cheap and easy as it sounds to get from the border to San Juan via taxi? Is it easier t catch the bus to the border and then cross into Nicaragua and take a taxi to San Juan?
What other relevant information should I be made aware of?
Thanking you in advance
Hi Michael! No you don’t need to stay out 72 hours. You can stay at at least 3 and you will be fine. I do my runs in one day now after I found that out! The taxi from the border to San Juan costs $20 – $25, takes about 30 – 40 minutes and there a bunch of taxis to choose from once you get across. You can take a public bus to the border, cross the border on foot and grab a taxi to San Juan too if you like. That’s usually what we do. Just note that if you take the bus back from the border to Liberia or wherever, it doesn’t run all night. The schedule is a bit hard to find but there are several buses running from the border to Liberia pretty often.
Thank you so much for answering my question. I am planning to travel to CR with my sister on November 3rd. She wants to go to Granada, and we were researching NATURE AIR… Firstly is this a better Airline than Jetblue or have you used Nature Air? Secondly, have you heard of http://www.costaricabustickets.com/ I was going to buy a bus ticket with this company, but since I am going to have an airline ticket from either Jetblue or Nature air, that will fulfill my requirement the first time entering into CR.
After my sister and I finish with NICA, she is flying back to the States and I will go back to Costa Rica. So my next question is… Before I leave for Granada from CR, should I book a Bus ticket as my onward ticket 3 months in advance of the day I enter back into CR? For example, after Nica, say I decided to enter back into the CR November 27 from Nica… Before I leave Is it Wise to book the next onward ticket 3 months in advance of November 27th? that will give me 90 days more or less… and thus satisfy the CR law requirements of staying in country..
Last Question friend 🙂 Bus tickets are acceptable are they not to satisfy the requirements to stay in CR? Its just such a cheaper and more convenient way of travel… Yet you did mention that I can get a refundable ticket… can you explain again how to do this? or is the bus ticket fine?
Thank so much Sammi 🙂
Nature Air is one of the local ones in Costa Rica. I’ve never flown it myself but Yeison has and says it’s good. If you’re flying back into Costa Rica, most of the times the immigration don’t ask you for a ticket out. I’ve never had any officer ask for proof, they just asked me how long I was going to be in the country. Land crossing is a different story, it is mandatory and they will ask you for a ticket out.
You can try a bus ticket but I know that they give you a very hard time about it. The officers expect to see an airplane ticket and depending on your officer and their mood that day, you may pass without a word or you can be given a very difficult time about it. They are getting much more strict about the 90 day tourist visa. I always did a refundable ticket to avoid any mess or drama. It’s just easier that way which is what I recommend, especially since it’s your first time and (if) you don’t speak Spanish. My advice is to make the border crossing less stressful for you as possible and not take chances.
All you need to do is when you look for an airplane ticket, make sure you select a refundable one. Buy it, print out the ticket and show that the officer. Once across, you can refund it. I’d suggest buying it right before you cross or at least 24 hours to make it easier. That’s why I like Jetblue, it’s easier to refund and much faster.
Hey, I am planning to cross the border to Costa Rica from Nicaragua. Afterwards, my plan is to cross the border to Panama the same way. I am not flying out of Costa Rica. Is this an absolute requirement that I need a plane ticket out of the country? Because if it is, what are their options for people who intend to leave by land? Is that not allowed? So far I’ve had no trouble doing this all the way to Nicaragua from the United States, but now that I stumble across this I am cautious before making my way to the border.
Thank you 🙂
Hi Roma! You absolutely have to show a ticket out within 90 days. I know people who use bus tix but were rejected or given a super hard time. In the past year, Costa Rica has been cracking down hard on the tourists and the 90 day rule. If you have a plane ticket at all within the next 90 days, that might work since obviously you have to leave CR. Also you need to show a plane ticket for Panama, that is a requirement as well.
Hi Sammi, What an effort you put in all of our questions! Thanks.
We will be traveling around by rental car in Costa Rica (febr -march 2015), but we also want to experience a little of Nicaraqua. I allready learned that we have to leave the rentalcar in Costa rica. But are there any bustransfers to Granada or Ometepe and do they all start in Liberia? And does that make crossing the border any easier? Thanks for your reply.
Esther, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Hi Esther! There are buses at the border on the Nicaraguan side but if you want to go to Granada which is a few hours from the border, the easiest way is to take a bus charter. If you book on Ticabus for example, you will go straight from San Jose to Grenada or Managua (they have a few locations in Nicaragua) and it’s pretty nice because they do the border for you, they give you meals and the bus is comfortable, taking you straight to your destination. For Ometepe, You can even taxi to the dock since it’s not too far from the border and then catch the boat from there.
Hope this helps! 🙂
We’re going to be crossing the border into Nicaragua during our stay in a few weeks, but won’t be going via Penas Blancas. We’re leaving La Fortuna for the Cano Negro Wildlife Reserve tour, then leaving Los Chiles for San Carlos. So, basically, a totally different experience…and, from what I can tell, more complicated. 🙂 I’m basically planning on staying the night in San Carlos and then leaving the next day for Granada (our ultimate destination). Anyone have any experience going this route instead of through Penas Blancas? Any and all advice welcome. I have a feeling it’s going to be something of an adventure.
Hi Melissa! I’ve never crossed the Los Chiles border but Yeison has. He says check your passport in front of Hotel Wilson before you go and don’t take pictures of the military on the Nicaraguan side. Pretty much use your common sense but he said it’s important to check your passport before you go since a lot of people don’t know they have to do that.
Ah, I did NOT know about checking our passports, so I really appreciate that. What exactly does that mean, anyway? Thanks so much for the information.
That’s where the immigration check is, most people don’t realize it’s in front of the hotel so don’t miss it! 🙂
What destination to exit Costa Rica for a refundable ticket would be the cheapest?
I’d look at Jetblue – easy to refund, not too expensive. They have destinations to Florida which is the cheapest.
Hi there… Does my exit ticket from Costa Rica have to be to my home country? Or any destination?
Hi Debbie! No it doesn’t have to be your home country, it can to be anywhere as long as you are leaving Costa Rica within 90 days.
How long do I have to stay in Nicaugua from Costa Rica ? I have a house and animal responsibilities in Costa Rica and no security set up at the house.
Hello Debbie! You can stay out for a minimum of 3 hours. It’s best to go very early in the morning and come back late afternoon. The border guys might ask some questions about it but I’ve never had a problem.
this is such great info! thank you for posting this. I also read you needed to have a valid passport for 6 months after you enter, but when I called to re-new, the lady on the phone told me it wasn’t the case. Mine expire 5.75 months after I plan to enter….I’m wondering if I should re-new!
Also, one more question about the bus from Liberia to the border. How long does that take? Do you have more info about how to do that? Thank you so much for the info!!
Hi Mandee! It is always good to have a passport valid for 6 months. I actually called the US embassy about this (not sure if you are US citizen or not) but they said that it is now a law but your passport needs to be at least 3 months valid since a tourist visa only lasts 90 days. It’d be good to renew before you go anyways just to get it done with so you have no worries before your trip but that’s just my thought 🙂 If you’re going to Nicaragua I highly suggest renewing your passport. Last time I went, my friend’s passport expired in 4 months and they didn’t let him pass (until he paid them extra money -_-).
The bus from Liberia to the border is roughly 2.5 – 3 hours. Go to the bus station in Liberia, the one a block or two from the Pulmitan one and you will see a bunch of buses. The ones going to the border will have sign that says “Penas Blancas.” I’m not exactly sure what times they leave since there are several but it should be around every ~20 minutes or so. You can take any of them that says Penas Blancas. The only bus company name I can remember is Deldu which I know stops in Liberia and goes to the border. Hope this helps! 🙂
Renee Cook says
Once again thank you for quick response to my lengthy e-mail. I wanted to thank you again and let you know how much I appreciate your information, but more so,
your kindness. Best regards to you and Yeison on your upcoming travels.
Renee & Tara
You’re welcome! I’m sorry I can’t be of more real help. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and will let you know if I hear any updates. Take care you two! 🙂
I’m sorry to hear about that. Legalizing same sex marriage has been in the news lately but nothing’s been decided yet. Unfortunately I don’t have too much insight into that part. My best advice is to look for LGBT communities in Costa Rica on Facebook or online since they’ll be able to give you more advice on what to do. Costa Rica is a moderately gay friendly country but we don’t know how long it’ll take for them to recognize same sex marriage. You can try to apply for residencies independently but since you won’t be retired yet, you will have to look into rentista or invest in the country to get a inversionista residency.
As for the tourist visa, I know people who have been doing it for years (I did it for 2). You don’t need to worry about getting deported back to the US because of your stamps (2/3 of the gringo population here would be deported if that was the case including myself). I’m sure you might have heard talk about Costa Rica trying to change the law but nothing has changed yet. It is just a bit of a hassle to do the border run and deal with it. Perhaps you and Tara could just turn that into a nice vacation and fly somewhere new for a few days 🙂
Renee Cook says
I have written you before and so appreciate your willingness to answer our questions. Yesterday I had the sad realization that Costa Rica doesn’t recognize same sex marriage. My wife who is a police officer will be able to retire in 2 years at the age of 50 with full pension benefits. I will also be 50. With that being said we were so excited to move to CR in 2016 under pensionado residency(meaning that a married couple could obtain residency if they could prove that they have a monthly pension documented by a reliable source(ie state pension plan, social security, 401 K, etc). As a married couple we more than qualify, except for the same sex marriage. I will not be able to draw any retirement pension until the golden age of 65. So, she will be able to obtain a legal residency, but I will not. What is the likelihood that I can rely on a perpetual tourist visa, leaving the country every 90days to Nica and returning to CR within a few hours, to a couple of days. I know I would need to show proof of leaving the country in 90 days with a return plane ticket out of the country. My concern is all the stamps in my passport that will pile up and being deported back to the US. What happens if my stamp is only for 15, 30, 40 days. What do you do, Sammi. I am so sad to think we will not be able to retire in CR. We have every desire to give back to CR (our shopping habits alone would surely stimulate the CR economy, Ha!), we want to become engaged in volunteer opportunities,etc. With Tara being a Police Officer and I being a Nurse it is in our nature to work and assist the public, so if we can continue to give of ourselves volunteering we would love to do so. I guess what I am getting at is I am not wanting to go to CR to be a part of exhausting any of their resources. Please help:(. Thank you so much, Sammi, sorry this is so long!
Thank you for the detailed post! I’m going to cross the border with kids. Do you know if it’s allowed to bring water/snack/fruits with you through the border? Thank you
Hi Marinya! Glad you found it helpful! Yes you can bring water and food across, they dont check your bag.
Renee Cook says
Love your website! My wife and I are moving to CR. I have done intense research on the immigration process, however would greatly value your input. We will have all necessary documents when we arrive. We have tentatively decided to obtain an ARCR membership to assist us with the process. How will we be impacted when making the border crossing every 90 days until we receive pensionados legal residency? I do not want to be deported, we will have our animals with us. We have already rented a home from Nov 1st 2016 through Nov 1st 2017.
Will we still need to purchase a refundable plane ticket every 90 days prior to crossing into Nica? Do we have to bring luggage with us? What would be the most cost effective way to get to Nica from Playa Ocotal? Are we literally able to cross into Nica then turn around and go back to CR or will we need to spend time in Nica before returning to CR? Many thanks to you and Yeison!!! Pura Vida, Renee and Tara
I’m not too familiar with ARCR and I don’t have my residency so I’m afraid I can’t give you a solid answer regarding the pensionados and the border. If you do have to cross the border, you will need to show proof of exit of the country within 90 days on paper to the Costa Rica officers but I have heard if you are in the process of getting residency, you are given documents and can show those (not 100% sure). Depending on how long you want to stay in Nicaragua, you can certainly bring luggage. The most cost effective way to get to the border is to take the public bus but it’s not the most time efficient. You can do a border run in one day but you need to be out of Costa Rica for at least 3 hours.
Hope this helps!
thanks a lot for all this information, it will be very helpful for my trip but I have a little question for you…
I would like to buy alcohol in Nicaragua since it is way cheaper than in Costa Rica but I’m not sure if it is legal to transport it from a country to another! Could you please help me with that? 🙂
Thank you so much!!!
Hi Marie! You can buy alcohol in the duty free store at the border, there are a couple with a huge selection and the prices are pretty good. Then just keep the receipt and bag and put it on your customs form.
I am traveling to CR on November 3rd and will be stayign as long as I can. I think on a South African Passport its Max amount of days 90. Then I will need to cross the border into Nica. Then I will probably want to go back into Costa Rica and renew my passport for another 90 days. You said I should get a refundable airline ticket… Can you help me on this? What is the best airline to do this with? As you said Bus tickets are risky… Please allow me to know
Hi Mitch! You are correct, South African passports can stay for 90 days. You can really pick any airline for a refundable ticket but I like Jetblue – it’s easy to refund and faster than other airlines. When you go to purchase it, just make sure the ticket is refundable, pick any destination and make sure that it’s as close to 90 days as possible if you’re planning on staying in Costa Rica for another 90 days. Last time I went the officer actually counted how many days until my departure date and gave me exactly 40 days. He gave my friend 86.
Hi! Sorry you seem to be bombarded with questions but I also have one! We will be crossing by foot into Costa Rica soon. Once we make it across the border how can we find a ride to Liberia? Are there only taxis or are there buses as well. We are looking for cheap transportation on the Costa Rica side. Thanks!
Hi Caroline! No worries, there are plenty of buses right at the Costa Rican border that will take you to Liberia. I am not sure what times they depart but I think they may stop running at night so itd be safer to cross during the day. Shouldnt cost more than a couple thousand or so!
Once I arrive into Nicaragua, I will need shuttle service to Popoyo. Do you know of a service who can provide transportation to this city and what the cost will be?
Hi Linda, to be honest I have no idea. I googled it and it seems there is a Popoyo taxi service people are recommending. I’ve never been there before so I don’t know the logistics. Sorry!
Just an update for those who care to know. There is no longer any charge to use the restroom at the CR side. Also, for anyone taking a bus from San Jose Ticabus station, they have a branch bank inside the bus station, where you can pay your departure tax.
For those of you intimidated by hawkers, heads up that there will be a number of vendors selling things on the Nica side of the border, but I’ve had nothing but good experience buying from them. The money-changers are also there, so I’d check the exchange rate before crossing and then verify with the changers what their rate is. We crossed over two days ago, and the guy had a very small exchange fee that was very reasonable.
Thanks for the update Luke!
Do you know of any secure parking lots at the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, that I could leave a new car in? I dont want to leave it in front of the immigration office. Im going to be in Nicaragua for 4 days.
Thanks for the help
Hi Brad! Unfortunately there is no secure parking lot, or really a parking lot for that matter. There is a house next to the office that you can pay the man who lives there to watch it. We left our car there for 3 days and we had no problem. I think it’s 2000 ($4) a day.
So here it is middle of April.. do you still have to buy the exit tax stamp before you get to the border and Penas Blancas…Im thinking of crossing there in a few weeks…what a bunch of Nutty Buddy’s… at that zoo of a crossing… Thanks for your Help.
Hi John, as far as I know, yes. I went in February and it was the same thing, pay the exit tax but they weren’t exactly reinforcing or checking up on people. I heard in April they were going to start strictly reinforcing it. I’m not positive if they’ve put in the system so you can pay at the border but I haven’t heard anything about it really so you will probably need to stop at one of the set locations to pay it.
Your post is incredibly helpful. My husband and I will be crossing from CR into Nicaragua next month and I just had a couple of questions. First, I have seen videos of the long line of trucks at the border and the public bus passing them in the oncoming traffic lane. Is this what we will need to do to get up to the border office? It looks a bit intimidating. Once we get up to the CR office is it obvious where to park our rental car? I am nervous that we will be driving around lost and confused.
Thank you so much!!!
Since you are driving, yes you need to bypass all the trucks. Do not get into the truck lane or you will be stuck there all day haha. The trucks have a separate agreement for customs so they do their own thing. You’ll drive all the way to the Costa Rica exit office and there’s no obvious parking lot and you might get lots of people telling you to park somewhere. There is a parking area right before the office off to the right which is essentially a man’s house and he charges 2000 colones a day (I think). We’ve parked there for 3 days before and it was completely fine. If you’re just going for a day, you can actually park in that little spot right across from the office to the right. It’s free and there’s always an officer hanging around. If you get confused, do NOT follow the random guys or listen to them. Ask an official officer.
Hope this helps 🙂
Great info here!
I’m traveling by bus from Mexico to Panama during the next few months. From Panama I’m going by boat to Colombia. And from Bogotá I will fly back home to Europe. Entering Costa Rica and flying out from Colombia will all happen within a 90 day window. I guess in order to be on the safe side I should by refundable tickets for flights out of both CR and Panama?
What would you say would be the airline of choice for this? One that will give me the least trouble getting my money back.
Hi Nico! For airplane tickets, as long as you choose a ticket that is refundable, you can get your money back at any time and this goes for any airline they should all have a refundable ticket option. If you happen to have internet, you can buy a regular ticket but you MUST refund it within 24 hours or you will lose your money. That option you might not want to risk since you will probably not have access to internet. I’ve refunded my ticket for American Airlines and United and have had no problems (AA was more annoying though). The only thing is that it takes a few weeks for your money to come back :/
This is the most fabulous walk through ever! Thank you so much for posting this. It’s going to make going through with my pouty husband so much easier! :O)
Thanks Loopy! Now your husband doesn’t have anything to pout about hehe
I am travelling to Central America in April/May 2014. I will from London to Belize City, intend to travel through various countries by bus, and fly out of Panama City back to London.
Would it suffice to present the border officials in Costa Rica (or any other CA country for that matter) with my flight from Panama City to London? Or would they need to see proof of me travelling onwards from Costa Rica to Panama?
If not, I imagine one practical option is to book a flight from San Jose to Panama – would this be acceptable?
It should be sufficient – it has been varying on the level of acceptance from immigration officials recently. But just in case, I would book a flight because if for example, your flight from Panama City to London is a long ways away say 6 months from your entry to Costa Rica, that won’t be enough to prove you will be out of Costa Rica within 90 days.
Sammi — When entering back into Costa Rica & needing to show proof of the return ticket home, do you know if they accept an email print-out of your flight itinerary?
Yep an email print out works perfectly! Sometimes they will accept it on a cell phone too.
Namloh Drareg says
A cautionary note – if you doing the perpetual tourist thing, leaving Costa Rica every 90 days to get your passport stamped again, for another 90 day stay, don’t be surprised if any of the following things occur – you get another stamp for 90 days, you get a stamp for 60, 30 or 15 days, or as is occurring more frequently, you’re denied entry. Especially if your passport is full of entry stamps. Costa Rica is enforcing their immigration rules, and taking on perpetual tourism. Tourist hot spots, rental cars, buses are being checked more often also. Being deported is becoming a reality for many people. Just like in the country you carry a passport for, does.
True, they have been getting a bit more strict so be sure to check your passport and see how many days they give you on your stamp. It’s not always 90 now.
Great post! So let me get this straight, I have to stop by a bank and pay the $7 exit fee before I leave? I’m flying in to San Jose on a saturday at 6am and was going to head straight for the border. This may lead to a complication or three. I’m a little nervous anyway about the whole border crossing. I’m 50 and have dreadlocks, can I expect a full body search? Thanks
HI Klete, yes you need to pay it before you go to the border. You can check the locations online for BancoCredito or Coopealianza. You can take the bus from SJ to Liberia, pay it at the bank in Liberia then take the bus to the border from there if you like. Also they do not do body searches there. I’ve seen people with some really … interesting outfits and hairstyles and they don’t check unless they’ve been told they are smuggling drugs or something.
Hi. Can I do a one day border crossing at Penas Blancas or do I need to stay at least one night?
You can do a one day border crossing.
Hi! LOVED your post about border crossing. I am volunteering in Nica in April and will need to cross into CR to travel around Liberia afterwards. I have a larger group–me, my husband, our two small children, my mother, and our teenage neighbor who is also volunteering–and we won’t be able to reach the border until Sunday afternoon–one week after Easter Sunday! What is the easiest/fastest way for us to cross? I have a CR shuttle waiting on the CR side, so is walking through from the Nica side likely to be time efficient or is there a better way? We are light backpackers and don’t mind walking, but with the little kids and the long day, we want to get through and make it to our hotel in CR as early as possible on Sunday. Also, in Central America we usually experience being moved to the front of lines due to having the kids with us…any chance that kind of thing happens at the border? Thanks for your advice!!
You can actually pay for a rickshaw to take you guys all across plus your luggage. It’s only 5 bucks and it can be a big help if you got kids and lots of luggage. Depending on how small your children are, they do usually let people with young ones ahead but they tend to favor children around 8 and younger and especially babies and toddlers. If you have a senior traveling with you, they will most likely let you go ahead first as well. I really recommend hiring one of the carts as that’ll help speed things up. It’s not a long walk but with small ones it can make a big difference!
Greg C says
I just did this yesterday – it is very accurate. Great post
Thanks Greg! Glad it helped!
You can book one just in case… or if they don’t accept it, prepare yourself for some heavy discussion and debating. I’m actually not sure if they have Wifi..I never checked. I would book one just in case, better safe than sorry and better than holding up the line at the border! You can always refund it once you get home and most airlines will give you 100% if it’s within 24 hours.
Has anyone found a good price option for getting a ride across the boarder from CR to Nica? I looked from near Liberia to San Juan del Sur and can’t find anything for less than $230. I know once you cross into Nica, the ride to SJDS is only about $30, so there is a big cost added for boarder crossing. Also, has anyone taken the Tica bus across? We want to find the most cost effective but also time efficient way to cross. If walking means waiting for 4 hours, that would not be worth it. Thank you!
As for the cost, we usually take public buses across the border from Liberia which is cheaper. They drop you off at the border, not take you all the way across.
We have taken Tica bus before but it only goes from certain bus stations and for CR and Nicaragua, it leaves from San Jose to Managua but I think it does make a stop at the Liberia bus station. If you take Tica Bus, I think you’ll have to pay full price no matter if you’re getting dropped off in the middle which is around $30 to $50 a person depending on what ticket you get.
If all you want to do is cross to get your stamp renewed but don’t want to do it on foot, I suggest going on a tour. If you want to go to San Juan for a little trip, there is no bus that takes you all the way there. Public or private bus, either way you’ll have to get dropped at the border and take a taxi.
Each time I’ve crossed the border into Nicaragua on foot, it’s only taken about half an hour total, even when I went right before the holidays. If you go on the day of the holiday, expect much longer lines.
Also the taxi from the border to San Juan is $20-$25, if they are charging you $30 they’re ripping you off.
Mike Grove says
I have a question, we have a group flying into Nicaragua for a 10 day trip and would like to cross the border to visit some friends in Liberia, Costa Rica. OUr plan is to cross on a Sat and return Sunday. We have a rental van, but it sounds like we can’t take the rental across the border. do you have any suggestions…. And is crossing for just 24 hours too much sugar for a dime…?
Thanks and I really need some help, trip is in a few weeks!
First I would check with the rent a car company and see if you can get a car in Costa Rica as well, I used to do that on my old job, I used to rent a car for 5 days in costa Rica 2 or 3 in nicaragua and 3 more in Costa Rica. They used to charge an extra fee but the rent a car offices are right in the border.
What I am not sure is if they will car cars available due to the season, but you dont lose nothing checking with them, and insist a little bit 😉
The second option that I would do, is to take public transportation, if your friends live in liberia downtown there is buses every hour (maye every 45 minutes not sure) this will be easy and if you talk with your rent a company I dont see why you cannot leave the van at the border at their office. Also if you rent a car company does not have a office at the border there is places where you can leave the car they charge $5 for 24 hours. I have done that too and I always find my car on perfect condition what I mean is that is safe.
Another option is to hire a local costa rican van to pick you up and bring you back, I am not sure about prices but it could be around $300 round trip, If you want we can get a quote for you, but yes from $15 to $20 a person is the rate.
Right now those are the ideas I have 🙂
hey Sammi, I am also in coco. a 24 year old guy, and i’m by myself crossing in about 2-3 weeks and im very nervous! help me relax! lol, also, could you provide me with an airline that allows for refundable tickets? i am also planning to go by foot, and i think that if I have a plane ticket I should be trouble free? thanks
Hi Jesse! Border crossing on foot is not as bad as it seems. I detailed everything in the post including pictures but if all else fails, follow the crowd 🙂 Remember not to take any bribes or take any forms from people who are not officers. If you are confused/lost, ask ONLY the officers.
There are several checkpoints so have your passport handy. You will need to bring cash – dollars in small bills as you have to pay $1 municipality tax, $12 entrance tax to Nicaragua and then going back to Costa Rica, another $1 municipality tax. If you are going to San Juan or Rivas, you can pay in dollars and it is a $20 taxi ride to San Juan.
When you cross back into Costa RIca they’ll ask for a plane ticket out. I usually buy a refundable ticket the morning of and refund it once I get back to the border. Print out the ticket (I’ve showed it on my phone a few times and it was OK) and show it to them.
Erica Roulier says
Thank you for the information! We tried to pay the exit fee at the Coopealianza in Canas, but they told us that we could only pay at the locations in Liberia or La Cruz. We successfully paid the fee in Liberia.
You are very welcome! I know there is a lot of confusion about the new tax and I think the government is still trying to figure it out themselves haha. But it’s always helpful to find information from someone who’s done it all. Hopefully they get a system so we can pay at the border soon
Hi Sammi, I posted detailed steps on how to bring your own car across here. I added your info on the new tax – thanks!
Hi Mike !
Good job on that post 😉
Adrian Carswell says
I purchased a airplane tix to leave C/R in February but my 90 days are up in January. Money is tight and I would like to know how long am I required to leave Costa Rica and where is an inexpensive place to lodge for the time required to be out of country.
What is the penalty if I just wait until February and leave for the states?
Where are you staying in Costa Rica and which country are you planning to go to? If you can, I would go to Nicaragua, it is very easy.
The official rules is that you need to be out of the country for at least 3 hours. I know the customs form will say 3 days and I know that everybody else will tell you 3 days, but I have done a visa run more than enough times and my friend (Italian guy) and I who go together have talked to nearly every immigration official because we’re tired of staying 3 days, we don’t want to keep spending money either. Everyone told us 3 hours and it was perfectly fine.
So you can cross the border to Nicaragua at Penas Blacas, grab a taxi to San Juan ($20 each way), hangout for a few hours, come back in the evening and get your new 90 days stamp. I know some people who don’t even want to spend that $20 and just hang out at the border/duty free story all day.
I would not overstay because believe it or not, as easy it is to get into Costa Rica, if you break any laws or overstay your visa, it’s very very difficult to get back in. Yeison is always checking when my 90 days are up or else I wouldn’t be allowed back in the country.
If you are closer to Panama, you can go through Paso Canoas and head to Panama City. It’s cheap there (lodging- $30, food). You can stay for a day, see PC and come back. If you are at Sixaola, there’s pretty much nothing there… you can walk around and check it out for awhile.
Thuy Nguyen says
Thank you for this post! This will definitely be helpful for my trip. I am arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica on the 28th at 2:00 pm, I think it’s pretty much doubtful that I can make it to Nicagauara that same day..
What would you recommend is the best route for me to get there as soon as I can? I am not backpacking (unfortunately) so I will have one luggage with me.I would like to make it across as soon as possible as I have booked a room for the night of the 28th which I will not be able to make it to.
I also hear it’s terrible to cross the border around this time! Any recommendation will be very helpful. I am a young (24 yr old) Asian-Canadian doing my first trip to Central America on my own. At this stage, price isn’t an issue as I do realize it’s last minute/busy busy time of the year.
Thank you in advance!
Where are you going to in Nicaragua? Because the best way, especially at the time you are coming (you are right holidays are terrible border crossing time) is to take a charter bus.
There are quite a few companies you can choose from and most of them stop either in Managua or Grenada in Nicaragua.
And you can also book your ticket online. You’ll see that you can actually grab a night bus to Nicaragua the day of your arrival and then arrive in Nicaragua the next morning if you want to! The ride will be around 10 hours depending if you go to Grenada or Managua and how long the border takes. It’s quite a bit of travel with the flight + bus ride but you could make it to Nicaragua by the following day.
The buses are very safe, comfortable, AC and depending on which class you book, provide breakfast and lunch. They will take care of the border crossing for you as well and they store your luggage on the bottom so it is safer.
The regular ticket is around $30 and the executive is around $45 which is actually not that bad. We have taken Tica bus before and have been pleased with the service. They have a bus station in San Jose that you can just grab a taxi to from the airport and a terminal where you can sit and wait.
Sounds great! Yes you definitely should, we love meeting up with other travel bloggers 🙂
For your question, do you mean do they accept bus tickets when you show them at the airport as you fly into Costa Rica? At the airport, they just ask you how long you’re staying, they’ve never asked me to show a ticket.
Or are you talking about a bus ticket to show you are leaving Costa Rica when you cross the border into Costa Rica because that’s very different. Land crossings will always always ask you for a plane tix OUT of CR and I wish I could say yes or no to the bus tix because I’ve been in situations where they accept my bus tix and then many situations where they will NOT and this has happened to many other people =/ I stopped presenting bus tix and just showing refundable airplane tix. I have been hearing they are getting more strict on it.
Great stuff, guys! I love these border crossing posts full of detailed information – and updated to boot! After our Mexico to Guatemala post, we’ve decided to keep doing it for every land crossing we do. There’s a lot of info out there, but a lot of it is outdated or just wrong. As a traveler thinking of other travelers, I find these extremely useful. We’ll be coming back to this one if we ever make it to Costa Rica. Thanks and good luck!
Thanks guys! I know it can get really confusing with all the information thrown at you and all the things you hear about the border crossings. In reality it’s actually not that bad but it’s always helpful to have good solid updated information from people who actually have done it.
Hi! I also have a question… I will be travelling through Central and South America, and I will be getting to Costa Rica from Nicaragua, then move on to Panama etc. I fly into Guatemala, back from Chile. Is this proof enough that I am leaving the country, although there is no actual flight or bus booked from Costa Rica, or am I really forced to buy something from San Jose to somewhere in Panama or Nicaragua to show proof? I thought this kind of restrictions were only going to happen at airports… but since I am travelling via land…
If you ask around, some people will say yes you do, some people will tell you no a bus ticket is enough.
In my personal experience, I have been asked every single time at the border to show an airplane ticket out of Costa Rica. And it’s not just me, they ask everyone who is NOT a Costa Rican citizen for proof. Lately, a bus ticket doesn’t cut it and I have many friends who tried to show a bus ticket and immigration didn’t accept it. But it honestly depends on the officer you get, sometimes they care, sometimes they don’t.
I just buy a refundable airplane ticket and refund it afterwards. Also it needs to be on paper. I’ve shown them on my cell phone a couple times and they accept it, a few times they didn’t. So my advice is to buy a refundable airplane ticket or you can try your luck at a bus ticket but I’ve tried that so many times where they have rejected it that I don’t even try my luck anymore.
You can buy a refundable ticket from any airline, just make sure it’s within 90 days of your entrance date.
As per volunteering, I don’t know too many off the top of my head since there are so many organizations. I know most people who do that just figure it out when they’re actually in Costa Rica because positions open and fill very fast. We can look more into that for you since I don’t know all the names.
Hope this helps!
Lindsey Monge says
Sammi, since you are staying in Costa Rica, what kind of proof do you give for your exit from Costa Rica when they check it on your way back in? Do you pre-book a bus to Nicaragua every 90 days or is it a plane ticket out that they look for?
That’s a good question. I actually show a plane ticket because I’ve had situations where they didn’t accept my bus ticket. It all depends on luck whether you get someone who cares or not but I’d rather not take the risk. I usually buy a refundable ticket and then refund it once I get across the border.
Can you tell me from which airline you buy a refundable ticket?
I’m leaving in a couple of weeks and I’m planning on doing the same but I’m not sure which airline I should take. Thanks in advance!
Hi Freya! You can do it from any airline just make sure you’re buying a refundable ticket. I like jetblue personally.
My 18 year old son and I crossed the border yesterday. We were traveling on a TICA bus. We presented Immigration with a future TICA bus ticket from San Jose, CR to Panama City, Panamas. We had not a single problem. WE did NOT need an airline ticket. I am glad I read this blog because it reminded me that I needed to show proof of exit from the country, but unfortunately it also caused me a lot of stress and anxiety about the inaccurate information stressing the “likely” requirement of an airline ticket.
Hi John! Glad to hear it all worked out well for you guys! The reason why I always recommend travelers to have a airplane ticket is because it is never a 100% guarantee when it comes to border crossings and a plane ticket is the safest most hassles free option. I’ve actually heard Panama is easier than Nicaragua, it’s also easier if you are on a chartered bus such as Tica Bus than if you crossed on foot. But speaking from my own experience, I’ve had officers who couldn’t care less if I was leaving Costa Rica, I’ve had officers who demanded a ticket ONLY on paper, I’ve been able to use my phone, I’ve been given a hard time about a bus ticket so it also depends on the mood of your officer. Costa Rica is cracking down on immigration and is getting stricter but in my opinion, there shouldn’t be any problem using bus tickets! So I’m happy to hear you guys didn’t run into any problems 🙂
Thank you for the extended information for the border cross, it made our travel from La Cruz to Ometepe very easy ! 🙂
I do have some questions for the way back. My sister has to catch a flight at 21:00 in Liberia the 4th of January. She will be in Rivas around 14:00 and we couldn’t find any shuttle options from there (do you perhaps know any?). We learned a cap from there to the border is +/- 20 $ and about half an hour ( so14:30 at the border). How busy is it the 4th of January at the border? Are there a lot of people living in Costa Rica coming back from Nica at that time? I mean, if it takes 3 hours, being 17:30, taking a cab to Liberia is maybe the only option then to get on time at the airport? How much time in advance is adviced to be at the airport of Liberia? And how much would that long cab drive take?
Thank you so much!!
I don’t know of any shared shuttles options from the border so I think the best option will be private or according to the Moovit app and Centro coasting website, there are public buses from the border to Liberia on Saturday and Sunday every 45min from 5am until 8:45pm.
You need to be at least 2 hours before your flight at the airport