Little did I know as I packed up to leave San Juan del Sur that crossing the border at Penas Blancas into Costa Rica was the most frustrating border crossing to date.
It turned out my studying was of minimal help and even Google Maps was, and is, out of date.
I arrived at the Nicaraguan side of the Penas Blancas border crossing and was confused right away. The building I was looking for wasn’t there. Well … it was … but I guess they must have redone it because it looked nothing like the picture I had studied. Now it had all glass walls on the outside. To make matters worse, there were no signs on where to go.
So, of course, I ended up going into immigration to enter Nicaragua! And I had to pay $1 US to do it ha ha. I was soon directed to the back of the building labeled #2 in the picture below. There is a door for immigration and one for customs that are not signed. Of course I did things backwards and went to customs first.
Once at the back, the customs officer wanted a form. What form???!!! I was told to go outside and look for a police officer to get the form. The police officer could be anywhere outside!
I walked around aimlessly looking for a police officer. Finally I found one at a shack at the far end. It is labelled #1 on my picture below. However, don’t count on a police officer being there again.
He gave me a form to fill out. I was being badgered by fixers outside, and it was hot, so I went back inside the air conditioned customs/immigration building to fill out the form.
Now you would think a completed form was enough. But oh no … I had to go back outside and find the police officer again to have him sign it. Then I also had to find a customs officer outside to sign it as well. Once again, they could be anywhere outside.
I headed back to where I saw the police officer last. He wasn’t there. I walked around the parking lot and across the street looking for a police officer.
Following me was a fixer who wasn’t saying much. No badgering like most of them. He told me to follow him and he located a police officer in the parking lot.
This police officer was not the friendliest and didn’t speak English. He asked me a couple things in Spanish which I didn’t understand. The fixer translated for me and the officer signed my form. I now had to find an immigration officer. At this point I was hot and frustrated and agreed to hire the quiet fixer.
The fixer, with me in tow, looked around for a customs officer. We finally saw one getting off of a bus parked in the lot. He walked with us to my bike where he looked at my VIN and looked in one of my paniers before signing the form. Back to Customs I went.
Finally, after providing them with copies of my documents, Customs approved the form and stamped my motorcycle permit to exit Nicaragua.
Since I ended up doing things backwards, I now needed to go through immigration in the same building at the back.
I handed the immigration officer all my documents and she wanted $2 US and didn’t have change! Back out I went again looking for a money changer. They are everywhere so that wasn’t difficult.
The fixer wanted $10 US for his trouble. Pretty pricey, but at this point I didn’t care. I just wanted out of there. Off I went to tackle the Costa Rica side of the border.
Entering Costa Rica
As I approached the Costa Rican side of the border I was sure hoping things would go smoother.
The first thing I needed to do was go through fumigation at the fork in the road labelled #3 in the picture below. However, when I turned down the road I was told by the “fumigator” to turn around and go down the other road. When I did that, an immigration officer said to go back to fumigation! Here we go again. With hand expressions I told the immigration officer that fumigation had sent me this way. Finally he smiled and waved me through. Phew. Onto the next hurdle.
The immigration building was as I had studied. Finally!
I waited in line inside the building labeled #4 in the picture below, only to be told when I reached the immigration officer that I needed to fill out a form. At least she gave me the form and didn’t send me outside searching for a police officer.
With the form filled out, immigration stamped my passport and it was on to the first customs.
Yes I said the “first” customs. It was right across the street.
I have labelled it #5 in the picture below.
Here I handed in copies of all my documents along with the originals. THe customs officer gave me 2 forms to fill out and said I also needed a copy of the passport page where immigration stamped it. Next door a woman said she would copy it for me.
After filling out the forms the customs officer gave me a document and I was onto the second customs building labelled #6 below.
Once again my studying DID NOT pay off. I went to the building where others before me had went but it was now vacant! I had no idea where to go. I did see a new building down a path towards the main road and walked down there. At the first entrance I was told to go to the next entrance.
I knew motorcycle insurance was required in Costa Rica and the booth for that was on the right as I entered the building. $30 US later I had insurance. The main booth in the building was the second customs office. I have no idea why there are two customs. Perhaps I could have done everything at this office. I don’t know. Anyways, I handed the customs officer my passport, insurance, registration, the first customs document and everything else I could think of. After a lot of data entry onto his computer he handed me a temporary import permit for my motorcycle. I was finally done and riding to the beach at Tamarindo!!!!