Today we entered Nicaragua!
And as most border crossings around here, it takes some time and energy. The Schengen space in Europe is really a good thing!
So we started with a first bus from Liberia to Peñas Blancas, the border town between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. We hadn’t even stepped out of the bus that we were told to follow women who “worked for the exit tax office”.
We knew we had to pay a 7$ exit fee per person to Costa Rica, and that at the immigration office there is a machine where you can pay the tax with credit card. Of course, at the exit tax office, it was 8$ (1$ for service…). And of course if you ask them, the machine at the immigration office “doesn’t work today” (which of course was a lie…). But for us it didn’t change much, as if we pay by card we have a 1€ surcharge anyway. And we had read online that this office existed in case you want to pay cash or the machine doesn’t work (which really happens sometimes apparently), so we paid there. But it still feels a little shady 😉 .
Once the exit tax payed, it was hello-stamp-goodby at the immigration office. Then you walk 500m to the Nicaraguan immigration office, while warding off the horde of change/transport/etc… agents that are always present in numbers at these type of borders. At the immigration office, a first women asks for 1$ per person “city entry fee”. Ok, we also had read this existed (even though it actually might already be included in the country entry fee, but it’s not clear). Then the next immigration agent just asks where we’re headed and our profession (and as most places here, not currently having a job is not a valid answer, probably for the software…). Then it’s 12$ per person country entry fee and a luggage scanner, same as the airport’s.
But in total the administrative part wasn’t a hassle (as long as you pay, if possible with the exact amount of change). But as soon as you leave the official building on the Nicaraguan side, you’re immediately harassed by different “transport agents” wanting to sell you bus or shuttle service for the usual very high price (12$ for Rivas or 25$ for Ometepe, whereas it cost us less than 6$ for two to get to Ometepe by public transport). They really do try, and tell the usual lies (the bus won’t come, it’s Sunday, it’s very complicated,…).
Once the right bus spotted (which is always quite difficult, probably on purpose so that the less patient tourists pay the overpriced shuttles), it was quite simple. It took 40 minutes to get to Rivas, where we got some Cordobas (the local currency) at the ATM. Then we tried to get the bus to the ferry terminal (about 4km away), but it wasn’t very clear. We asked some people and found the bus stop, where a women was waiting and told as the bus would come in 30 minutes, but she left after 15 min telling us it was Sunday and the bus wasn’t running, so we should take a taxi.
Meanwhile a dozen taxis stopped at the bus stop and we tried to negociate the price, but they all had the same fixed price, and wouldn’t go down. So we did some hitch-hiking instead, and were picked up by a romanian couple that had been living in Canada for 25 years. They were super nice, and seemed to have traveled quite a lot. They dropped us of at the ferry terminal, where we ate with a great view of Ometepe island and the lake.
The ferry took about an hour, and was very easy (well, it’s a lake not a sea, so it’s pretty calm waters), and we met our Romanian friends again, so we talked a bit more about life and traveling. They very nicely invited us to their home in case we’re in Toronto 🙂 .
Once settled down at the hostel (and shopping for tomorrow’s breakfast done), we explored the town a bit (not much to see), and worked on the blog (so now we’re up to date!). Then we had a beer on the lakefront with a few dutch travelers at sundown.
So, that’s all for today, now it’s shower time (well deserved, it’s quite hot here, but it should go down to like 25°C tonight…). See you soon for more adventures (and swims in warm waters 😉 ).
P.S : there were a lot of firefly flying around near the docks at sundown, it was blinking everywhere like a Christmas tree (but way cooler!).