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Category: Border Crossings

Crossing the Border into Costa Rica

This is a continuation of the series reporting from our Panamerican roadtrip on what to expect when crossing the border by vehicle in Mexico and Central America. For more articles on crossing the border (including Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua) click here.

In Nicaragua the roads outside of León, through Managua, and towards the Costa Rican border were well paved. Yet we still managed to get lost, this time in Managua. We could not find the turn off for the CA-1 so we turned onto a probable highway, hoping for the best. Of course it wasn’t the right highway, but it took an hour before it dawned us, so with a bit of map sleuthing and road maneuvering we got ourselves back on track. The rest of the drive to the border was smooth sailing.

Entry Point: Sapoa, Nicaragua to Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica

Paperwork

  • Passport
  • Driver’s License (DL)
  • Vehicle Title
  • Copies of: passport and DL for all drivers, title, insurance, passport page with stamp

Cost

  • $3 exit fee for Nicaragua
  • ? fumigation (Costa Rica)
  • $35 for insurance (Costa Rica)

Leaving Nicaragua:

  • Before reaching the border you will stop at a small booth towards the middle left of the road. Present passports and vehicle permit to the guard. The guard will sign the vehicle permit and return along with a declaration form to fill out.
  • Continue driving past a set of buildings, turn left and park in the lot on the other side of the buildings.
Parking lot and customs building
Parking lot and customs building
  • Outside of the building an official with a DGA shirt will ask for your vehicle permit and declaration form. She will sign and return.
  • An old man outside of the building, not an official DGA, but some sort of guide will give you a Sistema de la Integracion Centroamerica form to fill out.
  • Then go to the window on the left side of the building (the middle of the building has a sign that says Banjercito) with a sign that says “DGA Direccion General Servicios Aduanos.” Give vehicle permit, declaration card, and vehicle owner’s DL. The official will sign and stamp the documents before returning them.
DGA Direccion General Servicios Aduanos office with DGA officials standing to the left
DGA Direccion General Servicios Aduanos office with DGA officials in white
  • Next walk to the police office to get the declaration form stamped.
Police office
Police office
  • Then walk around the police office to a booth with a sign that says “Despacho de Entrada.” Pay the $1 exit fee and you will receive receipt and slip of paper with a stamp.
Office for "Despacho de Entrada"
Booth for “Despacho de Entrada”
  • Next walk across to the window with a sign saying “Todo Despacho Migracion.” Present passport and Sistema del la Integracion Centroamerica form. Pay $2, receive a passport stamp, and receive a receipt.
Office for “Todo Despacho Migracion”
Office for “Todo Despacho Migracion”
  • Return to your car, pull out and drive towards a small shaded table on the left. A guard will ask to see the sign and stamped declaration. Then further on at a second shaded booth a guard will ask to see your passport.

Entering Costa Rica

  • When entering into Costa Rica, stay to the right and enter the fumigation booth to be sprayed. Before entering into the booth a fumigation official will collect the fee, however we only had US dollars which the official would not accept. Happily an aduana (customs) official came by to see what the situation was and just waived us through without payment. I can’t imagine that always happens so be prepared with Costa Rican colones.
  • Continue driving until you reach a large white building on the left and a little row of buildings to the right. Pass through and park to the right past the row of buildings.
Big white building
Large white building where you get your passport stamped and luggage screened
  • Walk back to the large white building. A guard outside will give you a declaration form. Fill out the form, enter the building and stand in line. The official will ask for your passport and declaration form before stamping your passport. *Please note that Costa Rican policy requires that you have a return ticket, either by air or bus, before allowing you to enter the country. If you fly into Costa Rica the airline agencies will not let you board the plane without a return ticket. But since we drove in we were able to circumnavigate the policy. When the official asked for our return ticket we explained that we drove in and would be driving back out so we had no airplane ticket. That explanation was accepted. However, if it had not been, we were advised that simply purchasing an inexpensive bus ticket would have sufficed.
Sign to follow to find the insurance office
Sign to follow to find the insurance office
  • Next you will need to purchase insurance at the Seguro Obligation para Vehiculos office. To get there you walk past the row of small buildings to the right, and enter through a gate where many semi-trucks are parked. There is a large gray building with a window at the far end to purchase the insurance. You will need to present title, driver’s passport and license. Pay the fee and receive the insurance document.
Building with insurance office
Building with insurance office
  • Then go to the copy shop down the ramp and to the right of the building. Make a copy of the insurance and passport page with stamp.
Copy office
Copy office
  • After, go back to the little row of buildings, find the little white building with “aduana” sign and present all copies and originals (passport, passport page with stamp, DL, title, and insurance). The official will give you two forms to fill out. Complete the forms, return to the official and she will keep the declaration form and return a packet of documents.
Aduana office
Aduana office
  • She will ask you to remove your luggage, which you need to take back inside the large white building. Inside are luggage scanners where you will put the luggage through. Return to the aduana office and show the official your luggage. The official will then go with you to your car to have a look inside.
  • After the official approves your car take the packet of paperwork back to where the insurance office is. Around the corner from the insurance office is another office with a sign saying “Oficinia de Atencion Turistas y Vehiculos.” Enter the office and give the official behind the counter the complete packet of paperwork. She will process the paperwork and give you back a vehicle permit.
Oficinia de Atencion Turistas y Vehiculos
Oficinia de Atencion Turistas y Vehiculos
  • Return to your car, drive a few meters and stop at small exit booth to present the vehicle permit. Continue on.

Have any questions or comments – let me know in the comment section below or email me at shanontheroad@gmail.com.

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Crossing the Border into Nicaragua

This is a continuation of the series reporting from our Panamerican roadtrip on what to expect when crossing the border by vehicle in Mexico and Central America. 

Part 2: Exiting Honduras and Entering Nicaragua (read Part 1 here)

The pot hole marked highway of Honduras continued into Nicaragua for a bit, before transitioning into freshly paved road. Of course this also ended up being the day that we broke our rule and drove at night. Going about 20mph we followed a long line of semi-trucks who helped to light our way in the pitch black as we followed their maneuvers to crisscross the highway to avoid the pot holes.

Entry Point: Guasaule Border/Somotillo, Nicaragua

Paperwork

  • Passport
  • Drivers License (DL)
  • Vehicle Title

Cost

  • $12 for visa
  • $3 for fumigation
  • $12 for vehicle insurance

Leaving Honduras:

  • Before reaching the border you will reach a small shack to the left where you present your vehicle permit to the guard.
  • Then continue driving, staying to the left, and park in front of the large white building.
  • First go to the far left of the building, enter inside and go to the migracion window. There the official will give you a tourist card to complete and stamp your passport.
  • Next go to the far right of the building, enter the door and stand in the land for the “Transito” window. The official will collect your passport and vehicle permit. The official will return your passport with a stamp canceling the vehicle permit.

Entering Nicaragua:

  • When entering the border stay to the right. Go to the fumigation area and get fumigated. Next go to the window to pay the fumigation fee and receive a receipt.
  • At the fumigation area there will be a woman walking around with a clipboard. From her purchase insurance (seguros). She will need vehicle title, driver’s passport and license.
  • Continue driving, making a left, then park either in front of the long building or to the left of it. Walk to the far left of the building and enter. You will see a Banjercito sign. Go to the round window with official inside. Present passports, pay tourist card fee, and receive a receipt. You will also receive a tourist declaration card to complete.
  • Then go to the far right of the building to where a sign over a window says “Ventanilla Tourismo.” Present to the official your title, driver’s passport and DL and tourist card. The official will issue a vehicle permit.
  • Go to your car, drive just past the building to the right of immigration where an official will ask for the vehicle permit, tourist card receipt, fumigation receipt, insurance, vehicle registration, and tourist card. Then official will check inside the vehicle before returning the documents.

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Crossing the Border into Honduras

This is a continuation of the series reporting from our Panamerican roadtrip on what to expect when crossing the border by vehicle in Mexico and Central America. 

Part 1: Exiting El Salvador and Entering Honduras (see Part 2 for Exiting Honduras and Entering Nicaragua)

Before our roadtrip we deliberated on how long we wanted to travel in Central America before reaching Costa Rica. We ultimately made the decision to skip visiting Honduras and instead traveled straight on through. Between El Salvador and Nicaragua is a small slice of Honduras that only took us two hours to travel, but for such a short drive this border required the most paperwork and the most money. We traipsed back and forth between different buildings and the copy shop before finally settling the paperwork. So without further ado, following is the steps for crossing the border into Honduras.

Entry Point: Pasaquina, El Salvador to Goascoran, Honduras   

Paperwork:

  • Passport
  • Vehicle Title
  • Vehicle Registration
  • 2 copies each: title, registration, driver’s passport, driver’s Driver License (DL), driver’s passport page with Honduran stamp, driver’s Honduran tourist card, receipt for tourist card, canceled El Salvador vehicle permit, receipt for Honduran vehicle permit

Cost:

  • $3 for Visa
  • $45 for vehicle permit

Leaving El Salvador took us longer than anticipated. In San Salvador we got stuck in morning rush hour traffic and then we took a wrong turn near the Honduran Frontera (border), which required some back tracking. The drive from El Salvador and through Honduras to reach our destination – Leon, Nicaragua – ended up being the longest day of driving for our whole trip, we clocked in at 12 hours. Road weary and hungry we arrived in Nicaragua in the pitch black of night.

Leaving El Salvador:

  • About 1 km before the border stop at a white shack to the right. An official will take the vehicle permit and sign it to cancel it.
  • Drive forward and take the fork in the road towards the left to reach the Oficina de Migracion el Amatillo. Park to the right of the building.
  • Go to the aduana (customs) building, present passport, and receive back a stamped slip of paper.
  • Drive to the start of the next bridge where an official will collect the stamped slip of paper.
  • Continue on to a second stop where an official reviews the canceled vehicle permit.

Entering Honduras:

  • Cross over the bridge to enter Honduras. Continue driving until you reach the aduana (customs) buildings to your left. An official will stop you and ask to see your title, passport and DL of the vehicle owner. Receive the documents back and park to the right. (Many guides will approach you to try to help you though the process for a fee. If you are not interested only show your paperwork to officials with shirts that say “aduana”.)
  • First go to the Oficina de Migracion (immigration building) which is the Administrative Building to the right of the aduana, with red bars across the windows and doors. Fill out a tourist card and pay the $3 Visa fee. Receive a passport stamp, receipt, and tourist card.
  • Go to the copy shop which is a little yellow building to the left of the aduana. Get two copies of driver’s passport page with stamp, tourist card, receipt, and canceled El Salvador vehicle permit.
  • Go to the aduana building, which is the large white building in the center. At the row of windows in the wall an official will ask for the copies just made along with two copies of title, registration, and passport, plus the original El Salvador vehicle permit. Fill out a Declaration de Aduana form. A vehicle import stamp will be added to the vehicle owner’s passport. The official will also give you two documents: Permiso de Entrada and Consejo Hondureno de la Empresa Privada.
  • Next go to the bank, to the left of the aduana, next to the copy shop. Give them the Consejo Hondureno document and pay the vehicle permit fee. Sign and receive a receipt and they will also stamp the Permiso de Entrada.
  • Go back to the copy shop and make two copies of the passport with the vehicle import stamp and Permiso de Entrada.
  • Finally, go back to the aduana, give all the copies you made and the receipt from the bank. You are now done.
  • Return to car, continue driving past buildings until a guard stops asking to see passports and vehicle permit.

Driving through Honduras only took us two hours. The road up to the town of Choluteca was well paved and maintained. However, once you reach Choluteca and turn onto CA-3, a whole other experience awaits. The road was filled with pot holes and we found ourselves driving on the other side of the road many times to avoid them. The pot hole marked road continued for a while into Nicaragua before a newly paved road took over.

 

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Crossing the Border into El Salvador


From Antigua to the border of Guatemala the drive took longer than anticipated due to getting lost in Guatemala City while trying to find the Panamericana highway. There are absolutely no road sides in Guatemala City and after becoming hopelessly lost we finally pulled over to pay a taxi $10 to lead us to the Panamericana. After that ordeal the drive to the border passed uneventfully. The road was paved, if a little bumpy at times.

Entry Point: Valle Nuevo, Guatemala/Las Chinamas, El Salvador

Paperwork:

  • Passport
  • Copy of vehicle owner’s passport
  • Copy of vehicle owner’s driver’s license (DL)
  • Copy of vehicle title
  • Canceled Guatemalan vehicle permit

Cost:

  • No cost

Leaving Guatemala:

  • A little past the town of Valle Nuevo, but before the border is the immigration/custom buildings, park to the right of the buildings.
  • At the Delegacion Migracion building look for the 3rd door after the open window in the middle. There get your exit stamp on your passport plus a slip of paper with a cancellation stamp.
  • Next go back to that open window in the middle of the building, a sign will say “SAT Confirmacion de Exportaciones.” You will need: title, DL of vehicle owner, passport of vehicle owner, and vehicle permit.
  • The official will process your paperwork and give you two copies of the Permiso de Importacion Temporal. Get in your car and head out.
  • You will pass a security official who will collect one copy of the Permiso de Importacion Temporal and he will check in your vehicle. Keep the second copy of the Permiso for El Salvador.

Entering El Salvador:

  • Pass across the bridge into El Salvador. Once across an official will stop you asking if you need a 24 hour or 60 day vehicle permit. We asked for a 24 hour permit as we were only spending one night in San Salvador.
  • The official collected: copies of driver’s passport, driver’s DL, title, and canceled Guatemalan vehicle permit. While he checked the documents he had us park to the right, then he took us to the customs/aduana building. He brought the paperwork inside, left it with another official and told us to wait outside until our name was called.
  • We waited outside next to a long line a men clutching paperwork. This line worried us, but after about 20 minutes the official inside called us in.
  • Once inside at the counter the official processed the paperwork (slowly). He will have you sign several forms. You will receive: Direccion General de Aduanas Division de Operaciones, Auto de Prevencion, and the original and several copies of Direccion General de Aduanas de El Salvador Documento de Transito de Vehiculos Usados.
  • Return to your car and drive out, stop at the first table to give an official the slip of paper with the canceled Guatemalan stamp.
  • Continue driving to a speed bump with a second official who will check all the paperwork you received, stamp it, and give it back.

The drive to San Salvador was surprising quick and easy. The road was well paved with a few speed bumps in towns, we reached the city in two hours.

Any questions about the border crossing? Ask in the comments below or email me at shanontheroad@gmail.com.

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Crossing the Border into Guatemala

The drive from Palenque to the border ended up taking almost the whole day. What we thought would be a two hour drive through the mountains from Palenque to San Cristobal became an excruciating five hour drive going from 5 to 25 miles per hour to accommodate the vast number of speed bumps strewn along the road. Finally dropping out of the mountain, feeling irritated and road weary, we decided to risk the oncoming evening and continued to the border. We arrived to the border at dusk, stressed but relieved to have made it into the next country.

Entry Point: Cuidad Cuautemoc, Mexico

Paperwork Required:

  • Passport
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Vehicle Title
  • Driver’s License (DL) of vehicle owner
  • Canceled Mexican vehicle permit

Cost:

  • 18Q ($2.35) for fumigation
  • 160Q ($20.90) for vehicle permit

Exiting Mexico:

  • About 3 kilometers before reaching the border you will pass through an area with a large cement building with an overhang to the left. There are guards standing about, but no signs stating that this is the area where you cancel your vehicle permit, but rest assured it is.
  • Pull into one of the parking spaces in front of an one story building with barred windows and doors.
  • Then walk towards the large cement building with the overhang, where you will see a small sign stating you are at the Banjercito. Inside the building, on the left, is the office of the man who will cancel the vehicle permit. Give him the vehicle permit paperwork you received when crossing into Mexico. He will check the paperwork, then go outside to check the VIN on your vehicle, take a picture and remove the permit sticker. After processing the paperwork you are done.
  • Next got back to the building with the bars, heave open the sliding glass door, greet the grumpy man behind the counter. Present passports and tourist cards, he will stamp the passport and keep the tourist card. You are done.
  • Continue driving to the border past a burning dump on the right. The border crossing is just a single lane with a gate on either side.

Note about the deposit: since we paid the $200 deposit by credit card there was nothing to do except wait for the money to be credited back to my card which took a few weeks.

Entering Guatemala:

  • Pass through the gate and pull into the orange coned area on the right hand side to fumigate. At this time people with fannypacks, known as “cambios,” will ask you if you would like to exchange money. We exchanged the last of our pesos to quetzals to pay for the fumigation and vehicle permit, but the exchange rate was not the best.
  • A man with a uniform will come out to your vehicle to tell you he will fumigate, make sure to roll up your windows. When done get out your vehicle and walk into the small fumigation office to pay the fee and receive a receipt.
  • Next get back into your vehicle and pull into a parking spot immediately after the fumigation office. There is a row of parking spots available.
  • First, go to the building that is immediately next to the fumigation building. Here they will stamp your passport and give you the form to fill out for the vehicle permit.
  • Take the completed vehicle permit form past a windowed kiosk to an office with two barred windows and an armed guard. Stand in line to present passport of vehicle owner, DL of vehicle owner, registration, title, and canceled Mexican vehicle permit. The official will make copies of the documents and check the VIN on the car. He will process the paperwork and then give you a “bolete declaraguate” to take to the bank just next door to the right.
  • Inside the bank pay the fee for the vehicle permit and receive a receipt.
  • Return to the official at the barred window, hand over the receipt. He will have you check over a document for accuracy of information before having you sign several copies. Then he will give you the vehicle permit paperwork and receipt. The official will walk to your vehicle to place the sticker on the windshield.
  • Before leaving the parking area, a second official will come by to check the documents you just received.
  • Pass through the second gate and head out of town.

Have you experienced a border crossing, what was it like? Any questions about crossing the border into Guatemala? Leave a comment below or shoot me an email  at shanontheroad@gmail.com.

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US to Mexico Border Crossing Guide

US to Mexico Border Crossing Guide

The first accomplishment of our Panamerica road trip was successfully driving across the border into Mexico. The crossing was not without a little anxiety and a whole lot of research. That is why I decided to document our experience to share with anyone out there who might be like I was and searching for any information on what to expect when crossing.

Without further ado – this guide is for those planning to drive across the US border into Mexico and would like to know what to expect and how to prepare.

There are many entry points into Mexico, and the process is generally the same at each, however this guide is geared towards the entry point at Nogales, Arizona.

How to Cross the Border into Mexico (2015)

Entry Point: Nogales, AZ

Paperwork Required:

  • Passport
  • Driver’s License (DL)
  • Vehicle Registration
  • 1 copy of: passport of vehicle owner, DL of vehicle owner, vehicle registration, tourist card
  • Credit card for $200 vehicle permit deposit

Cost:

  • $63 vehicle permit fee
  • $200 refundable deposit for vehicle
  • $22.65 tourist card fee

Background

From the Arizona side we entered on Highway 15D to surpass driving through the town of Nogales, Mexico. The border crossing is a single lane road through a gate with an office, however there was no person present when we passed through. We continued to drive through a fenced area past a bank to the right.

We kept driving and eventually passed a government area with a customs and declaration building before reaching the highway. The vehicle registration office is another 12 km past that point, make sure not to miss it. Pull over when you see a large sign in English on the right side of the highway announcing the Vehicle Permit registration area.

What to Do:

  • Park anywhere in the large parking lot in front of the migración/banjercito* buildings.
  • Enter the first medium sized white building to fill out the tourist card.
  • After completing the card, go to the copy machine office just outside the white building to the right. Make copies of the tourist card, driver’s passport, driver’s license, and vehicle registration
  • Next go to the Banjercito behind the white building, the clerk will ask for your passports, all copies and originals. Pay the vehicle registration fee and deposit, they take both pesos and dollars. Then you will receive the vehicle permit sticker and receipt. Pay the tourist card fee and receive the receipt.
  • Go back to the white building, show the receipt of the tourist card payment. They will stamp your passport and hand you back the receipt attached to the top portion of the tourist card.
  • Finally you are done, return to your car, place the permit sticker on the windshield under your review mirror.

Not going through Nogales? Check out Life Remotely for their comprehensive guide or Vangabonds for their write-up on crossing through the San Ysidro border at Tijuana

Notes:

Car Insurance – no one will ask you for your insurance at the border, but it is required in Mexico. Typically your US policy will not cover your vehicle into Mexico so you will need to purchase a policy. We got ours through Sanborn Insurance. The process was simple and the person we worked with was very helpful. The only downside was we could not do a midterm cancellation to get a prorated refund. We only drove in Mexico for one month, but had a six month policy. I noticed that Esurance now offers a Mexico Insurance policy, I’m curious to know how their policy compares to Sanborn.

*Migración – immigration

*Aduana – customs office where the tourist card and other traveler transactions take place

*Banjercito – essentially a military bank, this is where vehicle permits are paid for and issued

Do you have any questions about the border crossing or looking for more information? Ask in the comments or shoot me an email: shanontheroad@gmail.com.

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