Costa Rica

Nicaraguan Border Run

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Everyone knows that in order to enter Costa Rica, you need an outbound ticket. I don’t know why I forgot that when I left the country for 3 days before my visa expired. Three friends and I got an early start and took the 5:30 bus from Tamarindo to Liberia. Then from there, we boarded another bus headed to Nicaragua. The trip took us about 5 hours and by the time we arrived at the border, my legs were feeling cramped from sitting so long. It took us less than 30 minutes to get our papers stamped and processed and we were on our merry way. I don’t know if we were lucky, or simply left early enough, but I was heaving a big sigh of relief since we didn’t get the go around or wait hours to be processed like I’d been previously forewarned. Everything was simple and hassle free. Walking along the stretch of road to actually get to Nicaragua, we passed herds of people offering to exchange our money or give us rides. “Just say no and keep walking” a friend suggested. At this point, I was feeling a little over prepared. All the scary things I’d heard about Nicaragua seemed to exist, but on a less dramatic scale. I cautiously watched as a man yelled for everyone to board a bus that would take us to Granada. It was the most colorful unofficial bus I had ever seen and I wondered if he would actually take us where we wanted to go—or is this just another tourist trap? I really needed to loosen my belt buckle because I was a little too paranoid. After all, everyone had warned me about the horrors of traveling to Nicaragua: don’t take rides at the border, they’ll drive you to a remote place and rob you; if you’re a woman, even if it’s blazing hot, never wear shorts unless you want some unexpected attention; don’t drink the water (that one was true); don’t go out late at night…Ok, these precautions are there for a reason, but by the end of the first day, I just didn’t think I was in that much danger. Yes, I did receive the catcalls as I decided against wearing long pants in 100 degree weather. And I was offered a lot of rides, but I always used public transportation. Overall, I had a pretty safe and memorable trip—up until it was time to go home. I was feeling quite accomplished, having spent 3 days traveling and less than $150. As I swung my passport out at the register to be stamped, the lady looked at me twice before asking me where my outbound ticket was from Costa Rica. “Uh….” I tried to offer her a sweet smile and she sweetly smiled right back at me and told me that I couldn’t cross the border until I had an outbound ticket. “Well where am I supposed to get that?!?’ I spat, worried that I would be forced to remain in Nicaragua for more days. She kindly pointed behind me to a little shack that sold bus tickets. My friends and I all shuffled our equipment outside, annoyed that we couldn’t get through—and that we had all forgotten something so obvious. “$30 each person” the lady in the shack told us. Our mouths dropped to the ground at her price. “Really though?” $30 for a ticket I wont use? I was beyond frustrated at having to spend an additional $30 for something I could have gotten for free online (there are ways around this stupid law if you do your homework). It took me 10 minutes to hand over my debit card to be charged, before she told me that she only accepted cash—which none of us had, of course. Where is there a bank around here? She told us about 15 kilometers and that she was closing in 5 minutes. Is there an ATM? She pointed to the right where there were some ATMS waiting for oblivious travelers such as ourselves. Grudgingly, I pulled out $100 to cover all of us, praying that the bank fees wouldn’t be too high when I checked the following week. The lady gave us a huge grin and I sucked my teeth, knowing we were being slightly taken advantage of-but I guess after having such a successful time in Nicaragua, if I had to choose one thing to go wrong, I’m happy this was it. It took us about 30 minutes before we were once again sitting on a bus heading back home. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that things could have gone much worse—not knowing that the next morning, and traveling companion and I would both wake up with a stomach virus that left us visiting the toilet every 2 hours. Lessons learned: don’t forget your outbound ticket and definitely don’t drink the water!
granada nicaragua from about costa rica

1 Comment

  1. Ivonne

    January 2, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Don’t believe everything Ticos tell you about Nicaragua. It’s not that dangerous… They just say that so that you stay more time in their country and don’t visit their neighbour.

    Nicaragua is pretty safe, the food is delicious and way cheaper than Costa Rica.

    The water thing is true though.

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