We were ready to leave San Juan del Sur and move on to Costa Rica. We boarded a bus in SJDS headed for Rivas, although we weren’t going all the way to Rivas. We asked to be dropped at La Virgen, which is simply the intersection where the road to SJDS meets the Panamericana Highway. From there we would flag down pretty much any southbound bus that would get us to the border city of Penas Blancas.
After waiting for a few minutes on the side of the road, a “collectivo” taxi stopped that had 2 seats available. These taxis will collect passengers until they have a full load and give everybody a break by sharing the fare. He offered to get us to the border for a little less than $5.00 so we took it. Penas Blancas seems to exist only to serve the “needs” of those crossing the border with Costa Rica. It’s more than a tad seedy, very busy and confusing. When we exited the taxi, we were immediately handed 2 immigration forms and asked to pay $1 each which I think is a fee levied by Penas Blancas. We then had to clear a checkpoint where our passport and immigration form were glanced at and asked to pay another $1 each for exit from Nicaragua. As an aside, I would also mention that there were long lines of semi-trucks with trailers waiting on both sides of the border. Apparently, the process for them to clear is quite time consuming.
In a moment of weakness, I agreed to allow one of the “guides” to conduct us through the remaining exit process and to get us onto a bus that would take us to Liberia, CR. Subsequently, we stood in the immigration exit line for a while and encouraged to change some currency (dollars or cordobas into CR colons). We then paid for a relatively expensive bus ticket for the Tica bus bound for Liberia and San Jose, CR. The Tica bus company runs throughout Central America, from Mexico to Panama and if you ride on a Tica bus across the border, they take care of some of the complexities of the crossing. Also, the Tica buses are the nicest, most modern (and air conditioned) buses in Central America. The Tica bus representative took our passports and we were told that we would get them back on the bus.
We and our luggage were taken to the bus and told to wait until the immigration official came to board us. She arrived with a stack of passports and read out the names one by one for boarding. At this point, we had our Nicaragua exit stamp. Once everyone was boarded, the bus took the short tide to the Costa Rica entry point some 2km away. When we got there, everyone had to get off and go inside to get the once over from Costa Rica immigration and get an entry stamp, then everyone pulled their luggage from underneath the bus and took it to a counter to be “cleared”. The official seemed to give only a passing glance to the tourists but checked the contents of a few of the entering Nicaraguans.
Once everybody and their luggage was loaded back on the bus, we headed off into Costa Rica. Most everybody on the bus was going to San Jose. We were the only ones to drop off in Liberia. The trip from the border to Liberia was about an hour.