5 tips for crossing the border.
Doing the Passport Shuffle: a Tica Bus driver shuffles through his passengers’ passports at the border, trying to remember who’s who (photo/ Katie Jackson)
By Katie Jackson/ guest blogger
March 26, 2013
Come prepared. Obviously you’ll need your passport, but also have a pen handy to fill out forms. Sharing is caring, but it’s more efficient if you bring your own.
Know your number. At some point the bus driver will collect your passport, and sometimes he does this before you fill out your forms. Have a copy of your passport on hand and/or memorize your passport number. Otherwise you have to track the bus driver down and try to get it back from him. Yes, the bus driver WILL take your passport, but he will give it back!
Cash is king. You’ll need to have cash to pay the entry fees. To enter into Nicaragua, we paid 8,000 colones (about $16) each, and the American couple sitting in front of us paid in USD. The bus driver should have plenty of change in both currencies as well as cordobas. The mysterious part is theamount you pay seems to vary according to the source. Try to have at least $20 or the equivalent in local currency easily accessible.
There’s a reason it’s called hand luggage. Keep your hand luggage in your hands at all times. Even if you unload the bus and are told to leave your big bags below, always carry your hand luggage with you. Never leave it on the bus unattended.
Be prepared to be bombarded. “Cambio, cambio?” men will yell as soon as you step off the bus. Although they’re offering to change money for you as you wait, they may be ripping you off if you don’t know the current exchange rate, or even what the currency looks like. Also, your first welcome is likely to come from the many vendors who approach you. They sell everything from snacks to sandals and cellphone cards. Others will straight up ask you for money, providing a toothless grin in return. As we understand, the men wearing navy blue vests are authorized to search your luggage, but they too can be aggressive and demand tips if they help you carry it.
Good useful information for anyone who is coming across the Costa Rica/Nicaraguan border via bus. Thanks to Katie Jackson of Green Travel!
Regarding the bus situation, the deal is that there are at least three different official bus stations that I know of for inter-Nicaraguan trips. Mercado Huembes for points South, Mercado Mayoreo for points North and East and Mercado Israel Lewites for points Northwest. So if you are coming from the South but heading further afield, you likely need to get yourself to the appropriate market. Taxi is really the only way to go between the different bus stations, especially if you have baggage and such. Another reason to travel light!
(There are also the areas where TicaBus/NicaBus leaves from for international trips and “la UCA” for minivan expressos to most anywhere.)
As for Granada to San Juan del Sur, see if you can find a bus that goes to Penas Blancas (the border/la frontera). They would drop you off at the turnoff/empalme to SJdS, and typically a local bus would come by or if you are lucky be waiting for you. Alternatively there are always taxis at the empalme to take you to SJdS.
I’m not up on whether or not minivans leaving from SJdS would go to “la UCA” where as you rightly say, expressos to Leon leave from. The buses and expresso vans I am familiar with end up at Mercado Huembes and from there you would need to taxi to la UCA for minivan or Mercado Israel Lewites for regular buses.