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Border Crossing: Nicaragua to Costa Rica at Peñas Blancas

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The Nicaraguan government opened a brand new all-in-one Immigration and Customs building at Peñas Blancas during the week of Aug 17, 2015. This article provides updated instructions on how to exit Nicaragua with a vehicle at this border crossing. The process to enter Costa Rica with a vehicle remains unchanged.

We crossed when the Nicaraguan Immigration and Customs building was only 1 week old, so there was absolutely no signage at the time of writing. The Nicaraguan staff wearing baby blue golf shirts labelled “DGA” were very helpful in orienting us at the new building.

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Port of Entry: Peñas Blancas
Date of crossing: Wednesday, Aug 26, 2015
Time of arrival on Nicaraguan side: 9:45 am
Time of departure from Costa Rican side: 1:00 pm
Total time to cross border: 3.25 hrs

Documents Needed
– passports
– Vehicle title/registration papers from your home country
– Driver’s license of each person who will drive the vehicle
– copies of the above documents
– Nicaragua Vehicle Temporary Import permit (TIP)

Costs
– Nicaragua: Exit Tax $1 USD per person (can be paid in cordobas)
– Nicaragua: Tourist Fee $1.64 USD per person (can be paid in cordobas)
– Costa Rica: Vehicle Insurance ~$35 USD (can be paid in colones)

Exchanging Money
Money changers are easy to find at the border. Since we had a lot of Nicaraguan cordobas left over, we changed them to US dollars at a Banco Lafise in San Juan del Sur at a pretty good rate. The bank opens at 8:30 am on a weekday. It saved us the hassle of haggling with money changers at the border.

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Exiting Nicaragua

1. Get Customs Declaration form
As you approach the border crossing complex, there is a shade tent with a few people milling around. At this point, you will be given a Customs Declaration form to complete.

2. Park at Immigration and Customs building
The big white building is another 100 metres further from the shade tent, on the right hand side of the road. Park in the lot on your right-hand side, directly in front of the big white building. Avoid parking with the tour buses next to the food stalls.

3. Complete Customs Declaration form in your vehicle

4. Get Custom Declarations form signed by DGA official
Find a DGA official in the parking lot (they wear baby-blue golf shirts labelled “DGA” and have ID cards around their neck). The DGA official will inspect your vehicle, sign the Declaration form, and then return the form to you. Note that this form must be signed before cancelling your Vehicle Temporary Import Permit (step #7).

NOTE
There are 6 poorly marked entrances to the Immigration and Customs building:
– 3 entrances facing the tour buses and food stalls
– 3 entrances on the opposite side of the building
Go to the opposite side of the building, towards the blue iron gates.

5. Pay Exit Tax
Go to the kiosk/ticket booth near the blue iron gates. Pay $1 USD per person Exit Tax and keep your receipts.

6. Get Immigration Exit Stamp
From the kiosk/ticket booth, walk into the building and go to the counter labelled “Vehiculos Liviandos. Entrada y Saliendo Inmigracion”. Tell the official that you are leaving Nicaragua with a vehicle. Fill out the Tourist Card (“Registro Migrato”) and pay $1.64 USD Tourist Fee per person. Official will process the paperwork and stamp your passport.

7. Cancel Nicaragua Vehicle Temporary Import Permit (TIP)
From the Immigration counter, walk through the glass dividing walls to the Customs desk. The official will take your original TIP, sign your Customs Declaration form, and then return the form back to you.

8. Get Customs Declaration form signed by police officer
Find a police officer in the parking lot or in the food stalls. The officer will stamp your Declaration form. As you drive out of the complex, a Nicaraguan official will take the Declaration form.

9. Drive towards Costa Rican side of border
Drive through a fumigation drive-thru (we didn’t have to pay). After fumigation, drive a dirt road to a T-junction and turn left to the Costa Rican Immigration and Customs buildings.

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Entering Costa Rica

My Overland Adventure provided some great instructions (with photos!) to enter Costa Rica from Nicaragua in this article. The first part of the article that describes how to exit Nicaragua is now inaccurate due to the new Immigration and Customs building. However, the second part that describes how to enter Costa Rica was very accurate. Thanks Martin and Nicole!

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2 thoughts on “Border Crossing: Nicaragua to Costa Rica at Peñas Blancas

  1. mike

    do you have a sense of how long this crossing would take if done on foot? i’m planning on dropping off a rental car on the nica side, crossing on foot, and then getting a ride to the liberia airport.

    cheers

    1. Gregor

      I think if we do not include the time it took to bring the van through, it would be about an hour.