Border Crossing – Costa Rica

Lucky number seven. Costa Rica was the seventh border we crossed since leaving Wyoming and we were feeling lucky. With each border crossing our adrenaline always increases as we come down to the final few miles before arriving, for no good reason at all. The process for every border is almost exactly the same just a different order of processes. Oh, and they are all a pain in the ass.

Before heading directly to the border from our ferry from Ometepe, we had three stops to make – fuel, groceries and to pick a bone with the DVD guy in Rivas. Costa Rica is expensive and was explained to us as the equivalent of US prices plus tax so stocking up on groceries, beer and topping off our fuel. Also, we bought some DVDs of the Game of Thrones from a guy in Rivas who said they were in English, but turned out to be Spanish only. He was our first stop.

The previous week, we bought the DVDs from the DVD guy who grabbed the DVDs from a different seller when we asked to buy them. He didn’t happen to be working on the day we showed up in order for us to get a refund. We explained that we bought the DVDs from him and didn’t really care that the other DVD guy wasn’t working, friendly of course. He explained that he didn’t have enough money to refund us the $16 we paid. After he realized that we would wait there until he gave in, we settled on receiving cash back for half of our discs and trading the others for different DVDs. In the end it was a fair trade.

Next, we stocked up at the grocery store buying everything from beer and rum to soup and sugar as we knew prices of everything in Costa Rica are about three times as much as Nicaragua. We were reluctant to buy much meat or vegetables as they are sometimes questioned at the border, but we wished we had in hindsight. We completed our errands, gave a quick interview to some high school students about sex education in the grocery store parking lot (super random, especially while eating lunch) and began heading south to our border.

It was around one in the afternoon, 100 degrees and about 90% humidity as we arrived at the Costa Rican border. We passed the enormous line of trucks, often driving on the shoulder on the left hand side of the road to allow oncoming traffic to pass. As a side note, we wouldn’t dream of driving out of our lane, let alone the shoulder on the left hand side of the road before leaving the US, but now we do it without hesitation, mostly near the borders. After crossing back to the correct side of the road between the trucks, we parked and found the immigration building.

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Immigration was quick and easy, requiring us to wait for less than a minute and pay a $1 municipal tax and $2 exit fee per person. Next, was the customs to cancel our import permit, which wasn’t nearly as straightforward.

The customs lady seemed to be annoyed that we would interfere with her time plugging away at her cell phone and informed us that we needed to go to the other side of the building for our paperwork. We went to the other side of the building which happened to be the Nicaraguan entrance side and were told that we had to go back to the customs desk where we just came from. Annoyed, we went back and found a different lady to talk to who was extremely helpful and explained that we needed to have our import papers signed off by the police so away we went in search of a police officer. After waiting for an officer to finish his business in the john, we were directed to another police officer who deferred us to a different customs official and finally sent us to “the” DGA (I have no idea what this stands for) lady who then completely blew us off. We laughed and waited some more. Finally, we had our paperwork ready to return to the customs for final cancellation and we were officially out of Nicaragua. Whew!

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We cranked the A/C after I had completely soaked through my shirt with sweat, halfway to Costa Rica. The border official helping to get us around the line of trucks had us start entering through the fumigation machine into oncoming traffic, but decided to have us wait in line instead. Twenty minutes later, we were parked by the Costa Rica migration building where we filled our our declaration papers and were stamped in, less than five minutes after arriving.

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Next, we went across the street to customs building #1 where we got our paperwork to fill out to import the truck. We began to fill it out when a “helper” attempted to grab Laughlin’s passport informing us we needed a copy of the immigration stamp for the temporary vehicle import permit. She held her passport firm and swiped his hand away, politely telling him we didn’t need help and he threw his hands up in annoyance, and walked away. I was a proud husband!

Following customs #1, we took our paperwork to customs #2, which we were told was 2km down the road but was less than a 30 second drive and we promptly passed. Confused, we circled back around by the fumigation and back by immigration and customs #1 and stopped at the most obvious customs building which turned out to be the correct place to buy insurance. We bought our insurance, made some copies of our insurance paperwork and returned to customs #1 where the official blew off the aforementioned helper guy, glanced at our license plates and signed off. We were elated that the helper guy was blown off after trying to cut us in line and trying to grab Laughlin’s passport. Lastly, we returned to customs #2 where we received our import permit and completed our entry to Costa Rica.

Neither border was hard to tackle but we certainly had the run around from both sets of border officials. If we had our GPS tracker on, it would resemble a two year old trying to complete a maze. We were back on the road about two and a half hours after arriving at the Nicaragua border, which isn’t too bad. Most importantly, we completed the border crossing without helpers which kept us true to our vow not to use helpers.

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Another day, another border crossing.

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