The concept of crossing a border is rather simple. The process consists of 4 steps:
- Check yourself out of the country
- Check your bike out of the country
- Check yourself into the new country
- Check your bike into the new country
In practice, it’s never quite this simple. Most of our border crossing have been relatively straight forward though. However, it takes us 4.5 hours to get out of Nicaragua and into Costa Rica…
Step 1: Check yourself out of Nicaragua
Before we can even begin this process we’re told me have to each pay $1 USD for some random fee. Everyone is paying it so we do the same. We get a ticket with stamp (they love stamps down here). Now to find the immigration office. There’s a building 200 meters away that has lines that seem just as long. We get in line and pay some lady walking around with a pad of forms 5 Cordoba ($0.25 USD) for an exit form. We wait in line for an hour before we arrive at the window. After answering a few questions – where are you from, where are you going – we get an exit stamp in our passport along with an exit ticket.
Step 2: Check your bike out of Nicaragua
We’re told we need to get a stamp from a customs official. We do this and ride towards the gate. They won’t let us through because we need more stamps or something. We ride back to the entrance gate and we’re told we have all we need and we can leave the country. We go back to the exit gate and tell them the guard said we’re good to go. They don’t agree and now we’re getting frustrated. We’re told we need to go find a police officer to sign our exit ticket. The guard tells us to talk with a helper. No way! So we walk around for 10 minutes trying to find the police man. Finally we located him and he signs our ticket. Back to the exit gate. They want more stamps. UUUGGGGGHHHH!!! Some friendly kid about 10 years old takes pity on us and tells us which unmarked building to go to. He’s nice and doesn’t even ask for money (I had no small currency, otherwise I would have given him a few cents). We wait in the line at the building for 15 minutes and hand the papers to the girl at the desk. She completes it and then puts it into a pile for the police officer to sign when he returns (if he ever does…). I tell her that I already have his signature but my pleas fall on deaf ears. Another 15 minutes later the policeman comes back, signs and stamps the papers, and we head back to the exit gate. FINALLY we’re out of Nicaragua after 2 hours! Here’s both sides of the ticket with countless illegible signatures and stamps.
Step 3: Check yourself into Costa Rica
Drive into Costa Rica (no signs stating that we’re in Costa Rica). Some guys wave us over and tell us we need to be “fumigated” for $3USD. They spray our tires for 3 seconds with a splash of water – a lot of good that did… We don’t really want to pay so we drive forward and the policemen wave us on. No looking back now. A little bit down the road and we see the line for entry into Costa Rica. It too is about 200 meters long. Charles goes to by some lunch and I hold our spot in line. An hour later we make it to the window. The organization in the office doesn’t make any sense (but I won’t go into that…). We get our stamps and we leave the
Step 4: Check your bike into Costa Rica
Across the dirt path we find the Aduana (customs) office/shack. We hand our paperwork over and he tells us we need insurance. We show our USA cards and tell him it’s valid. He doesn’t care and won’t process our paperwork until we purchase the $14 USD insurance. Back across into another building we purchase the insurance. Again, back across to the Aduana building and he completes the paperwork but tells us we need to drive further down for more paperwork. Huh? We move on and Charles spots some random unmarked building. We drive up and look confused but some guys tells us to park and go to the window. After 10 minutes waiting in line the lady takes our papers and basically types everything into the computer. The first guy didn’t have a computer so he wrote it all out on paper. Now this lady types it into the computer? Efficient… I see that I’m not the first to think this and there’s scribble on the wall at the window.
So, after 4.5 hours we’re out of Nicaragua and into Costa Rica!