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At some point when Em and I were planning the next leg of the journey into Nicaragua, we contemplated crossing the Peñas Blancas border in the evening. We decided against it. So glad. There is absolutely nothing around the border if your plans go askew. Plan to cross during the day.
We stayed a night in Alajuela, Costa Rica which is just outside of San José. The bus to the border at Peñas Blancas starts in San José but stops at the bus station in Alajuela. It is difficult to find a schedule online but the people at the hostel were very helpful with regards to departure times.
We bought our tickets in the morning about an hour before departure. We were so surprised when a beautiful, new, air-conditioned, double-decker bus pulled up. We would be riding our six+ hour trip in style!
Cost: Bus ticket from Alajuela to Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica. $8.55 U.S ($12.00 Canadian)
It was a trip to reflect on four wonderful months in Costa Rica and to savour the lush countryside as we hurtled along to the border. There was one stop for food/ bathroom break where we met and chatted to some fellow travellers.
Em and I crossing the border
When we arrived at the border, the parking lot was chaotic. It is a busy border bustling with people, buses and trucks. There were people selling things and telling us in Spanish that we needed this form and that form. We grabbed our bags and headed to the immigration building. We lined up for a long time. We had colones ready to pay the exit fee but the official insisted that we pay with our VISA at the machine in the corner. So, we did just that and then lined up again ready with our departure cards in hand. Make sure you have your own pen!
The official gives you a receipt and then you line up again to get your passport stamped.
Cost: Exit fee Costa Rica $8.00U.S ($11.00 Canadian)
We trekked down the road, past many people offering to exchange money, and into Nicaragua and lined up again for a long time. Finally, we paid our entry fee and got our passports stamped.
Cost: Entry fee Nicaragua $12.00U.S ($17.00 Canadian)
More walking. Enter another building to have your bag scanned.
Ah!! Finally in! Hello, Nicaragua!
Nope…as you walk towards the taxi stand, there are booths manned by police/ border officials that check your passport.
Ah… now we are in!
We bargained for a taxi ride to San Juan del Sur. $25 U.S for four of us. San Juan del Sur is about a 45 minute drive from the border. In the end, he charged us another $10 U.S as he didn’t know the location of the hostel. Note to self: Sort that all out before the ride starts.
Cost: Cab to San Juan del Sur shared by 4 people $8.75 U.S each ($11.00 Canadian)
We stopped to get our first glimpse of Lake Nicaragua with Ometepe soaring. Welcome to Nicaragua!
The island of Ometepe rising from Lake Nicaragua
What a great experience crossing the border on foot. I loved strolling into Nicaragua or… in reality sweating and struggling with my pack!
When travelling on buses in Central America, keep your carry on bag on your lap. There are tales of people’s belongings being stolen from bags stored under seats. Also do not use the overhead compartments.
When crossing into Nicaragua, there is a strong military presence. A change from Costa Rica that does not formally have an army.
Alajuela, Costa Rica:
Accommodation: Maleku Hostel; convenient location to the airport and the bus station
Simply Delicious: Jalapeños Central: A Tex- Mex restaurant just north of the city park about a 15 minute walk from the hostel.
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua:
Accommodation: Hola Ola Hostel
First sunset in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua