Living as an expat we have to leave the country every 90 days and with Nicaragua just to the north of us, it’s a popular place for expats to get their passports stamped so they can stay in the country for another 90 days. Many expats have to do this while they are waiting on certain work visas or waiting on their residency to come through.
You are suppose to be out of the country for 72 hours, however, many people go up and back in a day and they are just fine re-entering the country. My husband and I leave the country a lot for business so usually we don’t have an issue getting close to going over the 90 days, but we did have to make a run for the border once last year. The rules about children needing to leave the country every 90 days has never been made clear to us, so I do not want to give false information regarding kids or the details of ours. (If you are in Costa Rica on vacation, then none of the above applies to you.)
Crossing the Nicaragua Border
We booked a shuttle to take us over the border and straight to our hotel in Granada Nicaragua. Rumor has it you don’t want to drive yourself and you can’t take a rental car across the border, if you have a rental car they make you leave the one car in Costa Rica and change cars in Nicaragua. Sounds like a pain to us, so we just hired Papagayo Plus to help us navigate the border situation and get us to Granada safely. We had them pick us up at our house and then we stopped at their offices in Liberia to fill out all necessary paperwork, pay them and pay the fees to cross the border. They were very nice and professional, our driver was great and the shuttle was clean.
The drive to the Nicaragua border from Liberia takes about 2 1/2 hours. When you get to the border the shuttle driver will escort you over to the passport agent windows with all your paperwork. We then had to pay some small amount of about $1.00 per person at the window. We have no idea what that was for, we just stood there and did what we were told like we were trained monkeys, or gringos.
The Nicaragua border crossing facility is pretty dull and uneventful, nothing to be afraid of. We got lucky and it wasn’t very busy the day we went. Think of it as like an old run down DMV. Most of the people waiting around are just waiting for buses to take them either to Costa Rica or Nicaragua. There were some people selling some shoes and clothing items but for the most part it was pretty civilized. However, do not leave any valuables in an unlocked vehicle and I wouldn’t go waving any expensive electronics around.
Duty Free and Toilet Paper for Sale
There is a duty free shop so be sure to pick up your supply of Flor De Cana rum, it’s the cheapest at the border! They also sell American candy, cigars and other random items inside the duty free shop. There is a bathroom at the border and you don’t have to pay to use the bathroom, but when you enter there is a woman sitting at a table with a cardboard box selling wads of toilet paper for 50 colones ($1.00). McKenna was so disgusted by this she immediately turned around and said “never mind!” However, I bought the toilet paper and went.
When we finally got back in the shuttle and headed out and across the border, the shuttle was sprayed by some chemical from a hose, all vehicles were getting sprayed by it. We have no idea what that was about and probably never will. Then, one last time we were stopped and a patrol officer opened the shuttle door and wanted to see our passports and paperwork. All was okay and our shuttle driver gave him a bottle of water and away we went.
The shuttle ride from the Nicaragua border to Granada was about an 1 1/2. Most people head to the popular beach town of San Juan del Sur, which is only about 30 minutes away but we wanted to get away form the beach for awhile, so we opted for a weekend in the colonial town of Granada instead.
Check out where we stayed in Granada Nicaragua!
Disclosure: I am in no way a border crossing expert and I am not responsible for your legal or non legal passport stamping ways.