FILIPINO BACPKPACKERS: A Guide for first timer vacationers in Nicaragua
What did I prepare?
* I prepared food for my snacks on the way like sandwich, chips, water or soda.
* I went to money changer 1 day before my trip to change my colonies to dollars but I leave some colonies with me for my fare. You gonna use USD$ for tax payment at the immigration.
* I print out my ticket, the one they needed to show my itinerary going back to my home country. This will be needed when coming back to Costa Rica.
* My backpack with personal things like toiletries, extra shirt, etc.
* My purse where I put my passport, pen, money and ticket to easily access every time there is a passport check on the way.
The Start Of My Journey
The night before my trip I prepared my things to bring before I slept because I was planning to take the bus at 6a.m. I was planning to take bus going to Jaco at 5a.m. so I can have a seat if I take the bus going to Puntarenas. I had a research about how to go to Penas Blancas without going to San Jose since I'm living in Herradura. I found out that I can take bus going to Puntarenas and stop at Barranca then take bus over there coming from San jose going to Penas Blancas.
The following morning, I woke up late. Even though I was late I observed that no bus as early as 5a.m. at Herradura going to Jaco. So, I decided to wait for the Puntarenas bus at Herradura bus stop. Luckily, I still got a seat right behind the driver. But, I observed that I better get the seat at the middle area next time since the bus will always pick up passengers in each bus stop and a lot of senior citizen passengers where you will give priority for the chair. I gave up my seat and moved to the back where I stayed at the middle. When one family got off after few minutes, I was lucky to have my new seat again.
After about an hour or so the bus stopped randomly before the road sign to Puntarenas where a bunch of taxis were on the side of the road, no stop or station or anything else was there. I couldn't miss it since half the people got off so I asked one passenger what was going on and he said to get off for Nicaragua. So I got off too and got in a taxi with some locals having no idea how much was the fare and it took us to a bus stop a couple of miles away where buses to Penas Blancas pass by from San Jose. This route was over 2 hours faster than the bus schedule when you take the route from San Jose.
Note: You should pay the taxi driver same as local price, he asked me 10$ so I gave 5000 colones, I know he tricked me but I didn't have smaller bills that time. (Always bring small bills)
Penas Blancas Costa Rica Border
I took Transportes Deldu Bus to take me to Penas Blancas from Barranca. After an hour or so, we stopped over the Restaurante Lapampa. All passengers got off to take lunch or use toilet. After I had my lunch for 20-30 min., I saw other passengers went back to our bus. So I moved quickly since I don't wanna be left alone.
Note: I had a lunch worth 3$ (rice, chicken, banana, bread, juice)
Before we reached the border, we passed by the check point where a police officer got into the bus and checked our passport. As soon as I got off the bus, I saw people selling stuff right next to it and some people asked you to change your money. I went straight to the office where I paid the exit tax worth 7$. It was on the right side corner before entering the departure office of Costa Rica.
After paying the tax, I went to the departure office where I saw color orange blocks that serve as entrance line for travelers. Before I entered the door I asked the guard to give me custom forms. I lined up while writing on my form. I filled out two copies of custom form, I gave one to the Costa Rica Immigration officer together with my passport and the tax receipt at the departure office of Costa Rica and kept the other one for the Nicaragua Entry Office.
I walked few meters away from the exit of Costa Rica, I kept walking on the right side where I saw police check point where they checked bags. After that, I walked again towards Nicaragua border. At the entrance, some officers checked my passport. One officer thought I couldn't enter because I would need a visa as a Filipino Citizen. He asked the other officer if he could let me in because my passport has no visa stamp to enter the country. The other officer said just let me in because I could get it inside the entry office. So they let me passed them. Near them was a small tent where I saw some people sitting for registration. They checked my passport and asked some questions like my age, how many days would I stay in their country, where would I stay, what was the last country I visited for the last 15 days. After my registration, they gave me small piece of paper like square stub to show to immigration together with my passport at the entry office. I observed all nicaraguans they got injection each, I fell in line too but they said I was not included, only Nicaraguans. So, I went straight to the entry office.
At the entry office, before falling in line I stopped over the counter at the entrance where I paid municipality tax worth 1$. They gave me another stub for that. Then, at the window when it was already my turn, the officer checked the list of countries that need visa. He said I need visa to enter the country. So instructed me to photocopy my passport the front page and the page where the Costa Rica stamps located. So I went out the office and saw photo copier nearby. I went back to the office and fell in line again. It was just a nice day where few travelers during that time. I did not wait for long time in line. The officer said to wait for few minutes. I waited for 30 minutes sitting on the floor. Because they don't have chairs, it's a small building anyway.
Then, The officer called me and asked me for 50$ for my visa and another 12$ for tax. He asked me where would I stay in Nicaragua and how many days I would stay. I gave my hotel name and I said I would stay for 2 days. So he gave me stamp and visa for 30 days and the receipt of my visa/tax payment. I also had the tourist card.
After that, I went to the exit at the left side where I saw some officers checking bags of people coming to Nicaragua. Their exit door is so small like a gate of a house. After checking the bags, another officer checked my passport at the door. Then, gotcha! I was free....
Welcome To Nicaragua!
As soon as I entered Nicaragua, I saw people coming to me asking if I wanna change my dollars to Cordobas or If I wanna take taxi only 10$ with other travelers, 25$ if alone. So I took the taxi going to Rivas with other passengers. I found a cheap hostel beside the Cathedral worth 10$ for two persons. I said only me so the old lady gave me the room for 5$ a night. I spent the night in Rivas. I checked the surroundings that night where the park's walking distance only.
Rivas Park during night time
Rivas during day time
Coming Back To Costa Rica
The next morning, I walked through the market where I took the taxi going back to the border. I gave the driver 170 Cordobas, that was all my remaining money in Cordobas since he was asking me 200 Cordobas. Well, he has no choice but to accept it, I gave too much.
So, it was the same process. I went to the small gate where officer checked my passport. I left my hostel at 7.30am. When I went to the departure office, too many people were in line. I waited 30 minutes on that line and another 30 minutes inside the office. Same process, I asked guard to give me custom form. This time they gave me only one form because at Costa Rica Entry Office, they have different form. I also paid another 1$ for municipality tax at the entrance where I saw a counter before falling in line to the window of immigration officer. At the window, I paid another 2$ for the exit tax.
Then, I headed to the Costa Rica border. Officers at Nicaragua exit and Costa Rica entrance checked my passport, respectively. After that, I walked all the way to the entry office of Costa Rica, just always keep right where the ticket booths for bus are located.
At the entry office, I asked guard to give me custom form. I filled out the form while in line up. The officer checked my passport and my return ticket going back to my home country. She checked my itinerary and put 90 days stamp on my passport. I went to the exit where I put my bags to the machine. Then, I was free and happy because I did it!
I went to the ticketing booth and I bought ticket going to San Jose. I wanna know where the bus station is located at San Jose. I left the border at 11am and arrived at San Jose at 5.30pm.
I took the 6pm bus going to Jaco and I arrived home safely. That was some kind of a trip! I wanna try Panama next time.
The Immigration Offices (Nicaragua/Costa Rica) And The Bus Ticketing Booths
My Travel Expenses
1$ + 12$ + 50$ + 1$ + 2$ = 66$
10$ taxi + 6$ taxi + 5$ hostel = 21$
3$ bus +10$ taxi +10$ bus + 3$ lunch + 10$ bus + 3$ lunch + 6$ bus = 45$
I did not eat at Nica, I just ate my prepared snacks because I was so tired
I spent a total of 139$USD (Not Bad)