There’s a lot of bureaucracy to enter Nicaragua, but it surprisingly didn’t take much time, just 1.5 hours for both crossings (including 15min waiting for the Costa Rican customs to open at 9am). Interestingly I didn’t need any copies, as they had copy machines this time!
An online form has to be done one week before entering Nicaragua: https://solicitudes.migob.gob.ni. Without that form, you may be stuck at the border for some hours until it get approved.
I took the smaller border crossing at San Pancho.
Leaving Costa Rica
There’s a big parking lot on the back where you must park. I didn’t really like it because I couldn’t see my motorcycle back there while doing the paperwork. But as it was early in the morning (8:45), there were not many people around.
You have to walk all around the fenced area, as there is no entry from the parking lot. All the buildings are just white containers with the offices in there. The descriptions below (right/left containers) are referring to the entrance of this area from the West.
Go to the first container on the left and pay the 7$ or 5000 colones exit fee. You’ll get a ticket, which is needed for the immigration. Alternatively you can pay at the provided ATM, but I didn’t try it. At this office they also made me a copy of the TIP (Temporary Import Paper) for the customs.
Go to the second container on the left side to the immigration to get the exit stamp. They open at 7am, but the customs (aduana) opens at 9am! I had to wait 15 minutes for the customs to open.
The customs is in the last container on the right. They stamp the original TIP and the copy, which you keep.
Took me half an hour, including 15 minutes waiting for the customs to open.
Back on the main road there’s a police check point on the left and you have to show your stamped passport and TIP before you are allowed to proceed to Nicaragua.
When I got to the Nicaraguan side I got approached by two officials, both wanted to see my passport and vehicle registration. One guy seemed to be responsible to write down the information of all persons which enter this border crossing area. The other handed me the immigration declaration form and wrote my motorcycle number plate onto it.
Then I had to proceed to the fumigation a few meters further, where a guy sprayed my tyres. After that I could go to the parking on the left side on the road.
There you are supposed to go to the police officers to get your declaration form stamped. They are just sitting there at a small table in front of the immigration office and are looking bored. Not sure what this stamp is for, but without it the customs won’t accept your declaration form later…
Now you have to pay 4$ for the fumigation process. The caja for this is on the left side of the immigration (I needed to ask, didn’t see it at first). You get a ticket, which is needed for the customs.
I got approached by another official (outside of the immigration building) and he started to ask me the same questions as the online form. So I showed him my email with the online confirmation number and he was very happy! He then sent me inside to the immigration. This costs another 12$ (2$ bureaucracy fee and 10$ tourist tax), you get your stamp in the passport and two receipts.
Go back outside to the round building, that’s the customs. You need to give all the papers and tickets to the lady there and she will do copies and give you the TIP. At the same place but at a different lady you’ll get the insurance, it’s 12$.
Finally go back to the police desk to get the TIP stamped. This seems to count as an ‘all done, free to go’ stamp.
When driving out of the border crossing area, there are two other guys which want to see your passport and paperwork again. One guy is the opposite of the very first one and ‘signs you out’ of the area and the second one seems just to be there to feel important.
My luggage never got searched or scanned nor have I been asked if I carry a drone with me (which I did).
There are no shady ‘helpers’ on this border, just officials. And they always help you out when you are looking lost and don’t know where to go and what to do next. So although it’s more complicated than other borders, it was no issue at all and everyone was friendly and helpful.
I didn’t surf myself, just filmed the ones who know how to do it 😆
I took the middle border crossing in Rio Sereno from Panama to Costa Rica. It’s not busy as the big one in the south. I was the only one leaving Panama and met just one couple on the Costa Rica side. The whole crossing took more than two hours, but most of it was just waiting for the Costa Rican insurance to be processed (details below). Without this waiting time, it would be done in less than an hour.
Make sure you drive in from the north east between the Panamanian buildings (see map below). Somehow I came from the south and was technically already out of Panama. The customs got confused why I came from the other side, but wanted to leave Panama…
The immigration office is the building north of the road and the customs (aduana) on the south. Just park the bike/car on the road between the buildings. At the immigration they take a photo of you and your fingerprints. He wanted a copy of my passport, although he had a copy machine right behind him…
Head to the aduana south of the road to give the TIP (temporary import paper) and you are free to leave.
The Panamanian side took me just 15 minutes.
Entering Costa Rica
Drive right up on the gravel road to the second and third buildings. The white containers under the roof is the immigration. This took only 5 minutes. The new building after the containers is the customs. This will take some time here.
They start the process and need passport and the vehicle papers to make copies. Meanwhile you need to complete two forms: one for the vehicle and one for importing goods (or money over 10000$).
Then she will hand you a paper with the bank account information to pay the vehicle insurance (seguro). It is 37$/20159colon for a motorcycle and has to be payed at the supermarket south of the customs. You can see the red roof of the supermarket from the customs.
Go into the supermarket and there to the back and walk up the right stairs. If there is nobody sitting at the computer, then knock on the white door. You can pay with USD also for everything else in the store.
Go back to the aduana with the payment confirmation. From here on it will take about an hour for the insurance: they send the information to an insurance company in another city, which will process and print the paper, make a photo of it and send it back to the customs. After getting the photo of the new insurance, the customs will further process the TIP. You will not get the original insurance paper, but a print of the photo, stamped by the customs. Now she asked me for copies of the passport and vehicle paper, although she already did some an hours earlier… just make sure you always have copies with you.
Another customs officer came to see the bike and check the plate and the chassis number. I didn’t need to open the luggage.
If you ride a motorcycle in Costa Rica, you must wear a reflective band! I got one for free from other bikers, but I’m sure you will get some at motorbike shops in the next town.
Two signatures later I successfully entered Costa Rica!