Costa Rica To Nicaragua Border Crossing

Literally Everything You Need To Know

what to do in san juan del sur

Costa Rica To Nicaragua Border Crossing 

Literally Everything You Need To Know


Costa Rica and Nicaragua are two of the most common countries travelers will visit along the Central American backpacking trail. With that being said, out of all the border crossings in Latin America, the Costa Rica to Nicaragua border crossing was by far the most frustrating. 

Whether you are traveling from Costa Rica to Nicaragua or Nicaragua to Costa Rica, crossing the border between these two countries is a guaranteed headache.

However, in this detailed guide, we will guide you through the entire process and hopefully help you avoid some costly mistakes. 

Shout-out to Megan (Owner of Naked Tiger Party Hostel in San Juan Del Sur) for helping me out with this blog.  For anyone visiting San Juan del Sur, I highly recommend you book Naked Tiger Hostel, which is hands down my favorite hostel in SJDS.


DISCLOSURE:

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Where Is The Costa Rica and Nicaragua Border Crossing? 

Peñas Blancas is the official border crossing between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. No matter whether you are crossing from Nicaragua into Costa Rica or vice versa, this is the place you need to get to. 

Find Peñas Blancas Here On Google Maps

Costa Rica To Nicaragua Border Crossing

Getting To Peñas Blancas From Costa Rica

San Jose To Peñas Blancas – Total travel distance is 176 miles and takes 4 hours by bus. 

Jaco Beach To Peñas Blancas – Total travel distance is 239 miles and takes around 7 hours by bus. (Stops in San Jose first)

Liberia To Peñas Blancas – Total travel distance is 48 miles and takes around 3 hours by bus.

 

Getting To Peñas Blancas From Nicaragua

San Juan Del Sur To Peñas Blancas – Total travel distance is 28 miles and takes 40 minutes by taxi.  However, if you took the bus, it would take an extra hour because you must first travel to the town of Rivas.

Grenada To Peñas Blancas – Total distance is 79 miles and takes around 2 hours and 25 minutes by bus.  However, the taxi would only take around 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Managua To Peñas Blancas – Total distance is 87 miles and takes around 3 hours and 20 minutes by local bus (chicken bus). However, if you take an express bus, the journey only takes around 2.5 hours. 

Costa Rica To Nicaragua Border Crossing chicken bus photo Chicken Bus

 

What Time Does The Costa Rica and Nicaraguan Border Close?

The Peñas Blancas border crossing hours are between 6 am10 pm from Monday through Saturday. However, be aware on Sunday it closes early at 8 pm. 

Though there is a common misconception that you can cross at all hours of the night, this is not true and attempting to do is rumored to be quite dangerous. 

In addition, I highly recommend you cross during daylight hours. It can get quite sketchy at night. 

Costa Rica To Nicaragua Border Crossing

How Long Does The Peñas Blancas Border Crossing Take?

The amount of time it takes to cross the border varies depending on what time you arrive at the Peñas Blancas border. Arriving earlier in the day will guarantee the quickest crossing times taking only around 45 minutes.

However, arriving around 10 am – 6 pm travelers can expect to be there 2-3 hours and occasionally longer if it is a holiday.    

Costa Rica To Nicaragua Border Crossing

Peñas Blancas Border Crossing Fee’s

Listed below are the Peñas Blancas border crossing fee’s from both Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It’s best to have USD currency on hand when crossing the border because neither of the two countries accepts each other’s currency, however, both Costa Rica and Nicaragua accept USD.

Peñas Blancas Crossing From Costa Rica To Nicaragua

  • $9 USD Costa Rica exit tax (only when leaving by land)
  • $12 USD Nicaraguan Entrance Tax
  • $1 USD Nicaraguan Entrance Municipality Tax

Peñas Blancas Crossing From Nicaragua To Costa Rica

  • $1 USD Exit Municipality Tax (paid on entry to the Nicaragua Immigration building)
  • $2 USD Exit Tax (paid at immigration counter)

What Is It Like Crossing Border From Costa Rica To Nicaragua?

It’s almost as if these border crossings were designed to be as difficult and exhausting as possible.  Crossing from Costa Rica to Nicaragua is a drainer and if you’re not extremely careful about the process, it’s very easy to miss certain checkpoints like the Costa Rican exit tax checkpoint.


If you forget to pay this tax, you have to double back and pay it before you can leave the country. However,  if you’re like most people and don’t realize this until you’ve already waited an hour in the line that follows the exit tax checkpoint, then you have to go back and pay the tax before restarting that the same hour-long line.


There is a lot of things going simultaneously at the border crossing so its very easy to get confused.

Costa Rica To Nicaragua Border Crossing 

 Important Things To Know Crossing From Costa Rica Into Nicaragua  

  • The Costa Rica to Nicaragua border crossing is definitely the most frustrating and expensive between the two.
  • The only things needed to cross the border from Costa Rica to Nicaragua are your passport and some cash (preferably USD.)
  • Make sure you pay your $9 USD Costa Rica exit tax before you get in the exit line. This line can sometimes take hours before you finally reach the front and if you don’t have your ticket of proof that you paid your Costa Rica exit tax, then you will be forced to wait in that same line twice.
  • Despite only having to pay a total of $22 USD when entering Nicaragua, you are only required to pay a total tax of $3 USD when departing Nicaragua.

 

Continuing Into Nicaragua From Costa Rica

After successfully crossing the border into Costa Rica there will be plenty of taxis waiting for you outside the gate. However, take a moment to celebrate and pat yourself on the back because you just achieved a major life accomplishment.   

  • There is no bus that goes direct to San Juan del Sur, so instead, I suggest you organize a taxi for around $20 – $25 USD. The ride only takes around 40 minutes. However there are buses going to other popular parts of Nicaragua.  

naked tiger san juan del sur nicaragua

What Is It Like Crossing Border From Nicaragua To Costa Rica?

So, the border sucks. No doubt about it. Full of transport trucks and zero sign postage makes it hard to know if you’re walking in the right direction or missed a passport stop.
It costs $1 municipal tax (paid on entry to the Nicaragua Immigration building) and another $2 (must be USD) at the immigration counter to get your exit stamp.
To get to the Costa Rican side, you just follow the snaking semis and in true Central American fashion, you get ushered along the way by someone official-looking.

Once on the Costa Rican side, it’s slightly easier. It’s free to enter but you may be asked to show your exit ticket (plane or bus ticket out of the country). You pass the pointless X-ray baggage machines and then you have 4-5 bus ticket stalls to buy your bus ticket onward through Costa Rica.

There are no restaurants or food stalls offering anything on the Costa Rica side, so bring snacks if you have a long journey.

Important Things To Know When Crossing From Nicaragua Into Costa Rica

  • Most North American and European travelers will be granted a 90-day Visa, however, those from Canada will only be granted a 30-day Visa.
  • The only things needed to cross the border from Nicaragua to Costa Rica are your passport and some cash (preferably USD.)
  • Most travelers are unaware that in order to enter Costa Rica, they must also already have a scheduled ticket to leave. If you fail to provide proof of future departure then you will be denied entry into the country.
  • Though they do not always check for proof when you are in line at the border crossing, if they decide to, you will be forced to lose your spot in line in order to go purchase an open-ended bus ticket from Transportes Deldu. An open-ended ticket to from San Jose to Peñas Blancas can be purchased just around the corner, however, you will be subjected to wait in the long and excruciatingly slow line once more.   

 

Continuing Into Costa Rica From Nicaragua

After successfully crossing the border into Costa Rica you have 2 options.

  1. You can purchase a ticket to San Jose from the TransNica booth across from customs for $10 USD per person and the last bus departs at 1 pm. Although most people may tell you it’s travel time is shorter, the bus legitimately takes around 6-8 hours before you finally arrive in San Jose.
  2. You can purchase a ticket to Liberia for around $3 USD per person and the last bus departs at 5: 30 pm.

Costa Rica To Nicaragua Border Crossing-11 _ costa rica beach manuel antonio

Top Tips For The Costa Rica Nicaragua Border Crossing  

  • Make sure to have USD on you when at the Costa Rica Nicaragua border crossing. Colones are not accepted in Nicaragua and Córdobas are not accepted in Costa Rica. However, USD is accepted in both countries.
  • Be careful when exchanging money with the locals at Peñas Blancas exchanging money. Often times they will assume you don’t know any better and will attempt to give you the wrong change back. The XE Currency Exchange app can help you avoid getting ripped off. 
  • Make sure to keep your passport in a safe place when crossing the Peñas Blancas border. You will be required to show it several times throughout the process which makes it very easy to misplace, drop or forget it somewhere.
  • Although it is occasionally possible to make it through quicker, it’s best to plan for the crossing to take at least 2 hours. For some particular reason, they choose to move very slowly at Peñas Blancas going in either direction.
  • When riding the buses be sure to keep all of your valuables on you or the seat next to. It’s common for people to get their items or bags stolen when riding on the bus.

Costa Rica To Nicaragua Border Crossing

Frequently Asked Questions


How Close Is Nicaragua To Costa Rica?

Well considering they share a border, I’d say pretty dang close.  However, depending on what cities you are traveling from the Costa Rica to Nicaragua distance varies greatly.  

 

Should I Just Fly from Costa Rica To Nicaragua (Vice Versa)?

Well, this depends on what your budget is for the trip because trust me flights between Costa Rica and Nicaragua are not cheap. Despite the fact that these two countries are located right next to each other, flights can average around $300 USD for a one-way ticket.

Hence why so many people opt for the more frustrating, sketchy yet incredibly affordable border crossing. 

 

Can I Cross The Peñas Blancas Border With A Rental Car?

No travelers are not permitted to cross the Peñas Blancas border with a rental car. However, if you are planning to return to Costa Rica, you can leave it with the customs office for only $10 USD per day.

 

Central Content Guide

The 11 Best Things To Do In San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua


The 3 Best Party Hostels In San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua


Sunday Funday San Juan Del Sur {The Nicaragua Pool Crawl}

 

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