Day 41 – Granada Nicaragua to Playa Tamarindo Costa Rica
This morning Dachary woke up angry. I blame it on a combination of mosquito bites and her having her period. She was angry / grumpy and determined and nothing was going to get in her way. Especially her hair God Damn It! The Hair dies now!
It had gotten long enough that the front was starting to dangle into her eyes. She demanded the scissors from the first aid kit. She was going to do something about it. I pointed out that they were crappy scissors for hair, and we could just go to a hair place, but knew better than to push the issue. Scissors were procured.
I hoped she was going to just do the bangs, but my fears were realized when it took more than five minutes and I went in to find her standing next to a pile of hair with shoulders covered in it.
At breakfast I decided the best strategy was to simply avoid pissing her off. It worked and we made it to the border around lunch time, which I don’t think is a good thing, but is typical for us.
Leaving Nicaragua seemed quite easy. Unfortunately that was because we unknowingly skipped immigration. We went to a window where the guy claimed to be immigration, looked at our passports, and gave use some official stamps on some paper for two dollars each… actually, two per bike for one dollar each. It wasn’t a scam, I’m just not sure what exactly we were paying for. It didn’t surprise me that he didn’t stamp the passport though, because they didn’t stamp it when we came in. They just gave us each a piece of paper that said “Tourist Card” which they stamped.
Customs was pretty easy once we found it, and then it was off to Costa Rica, where I stood in a long snaking line for and hour and three quarters (listening to Harry Potter Audio Books read by Stephen Fry), where, upon reaching the terminus, I was told I needed to go back to Nicaragua to get a stamp out in my passport. The officially stamped pieces of paper didn’t seem to count for anything.
I went back to the bike and found the “Tourist Card” papers which I hadn’t showed him, skipped the line as per instructions from the guy after convincing the man with the large gun that I really had already done the line and I was returning. He didn’t get what I was trying to say, but he gave up and let me through. So, I count that as a win, but the “Tourist Card” didn’t work either… Yup, I had to walk the 1K back to Nicaragua because our bikes were already checked out, but apparently we weren’t.
I saw an immigration table along the way that we hadn’t visited, but that turned out to be a pre-immigration immigration table for Costa Rica. You have to go to Nicaraguan Immigration….
I then wandered from building to building asking if the current building was immigration and where immigration was until I finally found it (details on where everything is at the end of the post) got in a short line. Was handed the standard form for your name and info that they all have, but don’t need since they have RFID readers for the new US passports. Filled those out, was shunted to another line, paid 2 dollars per passport for a stamp, and was officially checked out of Nicaragua.
Back to the pre-immigration immigration table. Yup, you’ve got stamps… proceed. Back to the head of the line… no wait, there’s a nun. The line is short. I’ll get behind her. I’m not even Catholic….
Hooray the stamps work. Off to customs. “Go get insurance.” Off to Insurance. ($14 US per bike). Make copies of insurance next to some stamp in the passport. Back to customs. Fill out forms. Have vin checked. “Now you need to go to customs.” Take a right. Go to the end of the road. Get a permit for 30 days.
I do. I did. We’re free… ish. Go to the stop sign. show your papers. Hand over a receipt saying the bike had really been inspected. and we’re free! …no really. We’re free.
Off to Costa Rica. No bribes. No scams, and a grand total of $4 to officials and $28 to insurance.
We were planning on staying in Liberia, but figured we might just make it to Playa Tamarindo before dark, so we pushed on. We didn’t make it of course, but we found a hotel, next to a nice restaurant. I can’t really comment on the town so far. But we came here for the turtles to see them come up on the beach and lay their eggs. We spoke with a local and he says there’s a better than average chance to see it this year, but there’s no guarantee. We’ll take a tour tomorrow night I think.
The room’s meh, and the guy at the office warned us there was no hot water. My first reaction was “oh that’s not good. ” But, my second reaction was “Oh wait, even when they claim they have hot water it isn’t. ” We gave it a try. The water was actual some of the warmest we’ve encountered. So that was good.
Initial thoughts on Costa Rica? Holy fucking shit this place is beautiful. Good vibes. Can’t wait to ride through more of it.
Penas Blancas Border details from Nicaragua to Costa Rica
When you arrive you’ll see a small official looking blue building next to a gate with a single lane next to it that cars and trucks take turns going into and coming out of. That’s Nicaraguan Customs stage one. To the right of that, next to a restaurant / tienda thing is a yellow building with a metal grill over the windows and a small hole to feed documents through. Feed your passports in there with $2 US each.
Get back on your bike and take it to the far side of the little blue Nicaraguan customs building at the gate. Hand them the papers Nicaragua gave you for the bikes when you came into the country. They’ll glance at the bikes and sign the paperwork.
Drive forwards taking a left at the road just past the large official looking building. Drive until the road T’s. In front of you is a budget rent-a-car. All the way to the right before the road turns is a piece of shit looking blue building. That’s customs. But first go all the way left to the pale blue building next to the pale blue water tower. That’s immigration. Fill out the standard who are you border forms, $2 per passport, get a receipt, make sure they stamp the passport and you’re out. Head over to the piece of shit looking customs building. Hand them passports, and the paper the initial customs building signed. They’ll stamp it, pass it one seat to the right to the police, who will stamp it and you’re free of Nicaragua.
Get back on the bikes, continue on the road past the customs building you just left to the end, go left, and keep an eye out for a covered table on the left with police looking dudes at it. That’s Costa Rican Immigration stage one. They just check to see if you’ve got the stamp out of Nicaragua as far as I can tell. Continue down the road until you get to the Costa Rican buildings. You can’t miss them. The big building is immigration. There is parking to the right of it. Which is what you want because there’s a small yellow building next to a sign about luggage inspection. That’s the Aduana.
Get in line at customs. Bring a book. You’ll be there a while. It goes in spurts. Whenever the room at the end empties they fill it with more people. Repeat. Eventually you get in. Hand them your passport. Get a stamp. No cost. Leave that room and take a right to a small unmarked room next to it with photocopiers. That’s where you get your insurance. Hand over the passports and your bike’s registration. Pay $14 per bike or 6,736,00 of whatever the currency is here. I can’t count that high in Spanish so I paid the $14.
Get a copy of your new insurance next to your passport stamp. The guy at the machines will do it for you. You’ll also need a copy of your passport main page, your drivers license, and your registration. Take all of these, plus the new insurance paper across the street to the yellow customs / Aduana building. Get a form from them where you fill in all the info about your bike. It’s written in an “I ___ do swear to ____ for ____ …” type format. Fill it in. Hand it to them with the paperwork and passports. Man comes out and checks your Vin. They give you a small square of paper that they sign saying that it’s been inspected (probably before they come out to inspect it) and they’ll staple all the paperwork together. No cost.
Then get back on the bikes. Just past the aduana you’ll see what appears to be a large parking area for trucks with a road between two lines of trucks. Go down the road between the trucks until you get to the end. There you’ll find a small building on the right with a sign for copies. You don’t want that building. Get off your bike and go up the human sized concrete ramp onto the loading dock. There you’ll find windows. Hand them all the bike paperwork. They’ll give you back the insurance and the proof of inspection. They’ll also give you a certificate saying you can temporarily import the bikes. No cost.
Ride away into Costa Rica, going around any stopped vehicles (even if stopped in the road seemingly legitimately) until you hit a stop sign at a gate. Hand them the proof of inspection stamp. Drive away.
You’re now in Costa Rica. Welcome to some sweet scenery.