Contains 4% of the World’s Biodiversity and at Least Two Canadians: Entering Costa Rica
There was a sale the day we left Nicaragua. 1 litre bottles of 7 year Flor del CaÃ±a rum for 238 cordobas ($9). We bought two.
As we were in a shopping mood, we stopped at a ferreteria (hardware store) and Phil bought a machete for $4. He came out to show it to me, debating buying a fancy leather sheath for it.
When he told me it was only another $6 I told him to just buy it. Our budget can stand it and he’d been talking about buying a machete since Mexico!
Laden with rum and a huge knife, we stopped in Rivas for lunch and a boot shine. (Gotta love these inexpensive, time saving services in Latin America, available wherever you happen to be sitting.)
While waiting for our pizza, and having our boots shined by a very jovial Nica, I felt the guy at the table behind me shifting his chair into mine. The tables were packed pretty tightly on the sidewalk, but when I looked back at him he had his arm draped very unnaturally behind his chair. I gave him a withering look and passed Phil my riding jacket, which until then had been hanging on the back of my chair.
Shortly afterwards the two guys left, without ever having ordered anything. As soon as they left our ever accommodating boot shining man told us he had kept his eye on those two for us, because he was sure they were trying to rob us.
Glad I trusted my instincts and moved my jacket!
Phil hadn’t realised all this was going on and was disappointed he hadn’t had the opportunity to confront the would-be thieves. He has sworn to chop the pinky finger off anyone he catches stealing from us. It would have been an interesting first use of his new machete!
After demolishing a “family size” pizza, we took ourselves and our shiny boots to the Costa Rican border at PeÃ±as Blancas.
Our pockets were still full of Nicaraguan Cordobas, so we decided to spend them on gasoline. Except there wasn’t a gas station to be found anywhere in the small border town.
Not to be deterred, we discovered the man at the corner store, who sells 850 litres of fuel a week, from various 1 gallon containers. He happily filled our tanks and accepted all our coins and remaining Nica currency.
Jayne’s Guide to Crossing the Nicaragua/Costa Rica Border:
When entering the border keep left. Don’t follow all the big trucks, the uniformed man at the gate will send you back. Once you go the correct way, a man will ask to see your bike import docs and will sign and date them. This is a “sign” of things to come. You will need 5 or 6 signatures on your doc before you are allowed out of Nicaragua.
First take your passports to be stamped out. On the way to the counter you’ll pass a lady in a box wanting a dollar for local tax. The man who stamps your passport will want a form filled out and two dollars. (Both payable in Cordobas, or if you’ve spent all your cordobas on gas, US dollars are accepted.)
After getting our passports sorted, I was at a loss for where to go next. So I asked a lady selling insurance. She said I had to find the customs man. When I asked her which building he was in she shook her head and looked around the crowd outside. Turns out the customs man doesn’t have an office. You just have to find him wandering around.
Luckily for me, my lady spotted him coming out of the washrooms, and sent me to go catch him. I hesitantly asked him what I needed to do to export our motos. He smiled and took our paperwork, asking where we parked the bikes.
I walked him over to the bikes. He was like a disheveled pied piper, as he inspected the VIN numbers on our bikes, more and more people gathered around, trying to get his attention. He studiously ignored them while he stamped and signed our paperwork. I asked him where I needed to go next and he said I needed to see the policia. Deja vu as I asked where I would find the policeman and he started looking through the crowd. Turns out that, like the customs man, there is only one policeman, and he hides in the crowd too!
Studiously ignoring the growing gaggle of people trying to get his attention, the customs man walked me back over to the building and found the policeman chatting up one of the insurance ladies. Customs man provided our paperwork to the policia to sign and stamp before showing me the line to stand in for our next signature. What great service!
This final queue was nearly my undoing. All the other signatures had been quick and easy, but this line was moving glacially, and I was melting from the extreme heat. I made friends with the fan hanging from the ceiling, and after what seemed like years, I finally collected our last stamps. I think this lady was cancelling our import permits, but I never found out exactly.
The man at the gate counted the signatures on our documents, and let us through into Costa Rica.
There should be a word for the exasperation one feels between borders. You are stuck in no-man’s land and you know that in order to go anywhere you have a long, tedious process ahead.
Entering Costa Rica wasn’t bad. There was no line for “migracion” to get our passports stamped.
Across the road there is a man in a box. He wants you to fill out a form and give him a copy of everything. License, title document, passport photo page, stamp they just put in your passport and insurance.
Unfortunately to buy the insurance you have to drive about 500 meters down the road and take an unmarked road to an unmarked window in an unmarked building. There you buy 3 months insurance for $30, get some copies made across the parking lot, then drive back to the man in the box. The insurance and the copies (10 for $1) were the only things we had to pay for.
Give box man your copies, which he will check and give back to you with a slip of paper. Then drive back to the unmarked building (I think it does say Aduana over the door you are now looking for).
Give the people in there your stack of papers, and they will give you your bike import doc.
Leave a sticker on their window for prosperity.
Realise that your Nica SIM cards no longer work and you can’t call your couchsurf host.
Welcome to the country with 4% of the world’s biodiversity but only 0.3% of it’s landmass – Costa Rica!