What a diverse drive!
This morning, we left our beloved Central American pearl, Playa El Tunco (and Hotel Mopelia)…
This past border crossing went by like a pleasurable dream. Who would have thought our past vehicle permit had been saved electronically? The border patrol found it in a matter of seconds! All we had to do was to reactivate it, get a couple signatures and a stamp, and we were good to go! Our insurance from before was still valid, hence we did not have to figure out where to go and get it. Less than an hour after leaving Panama, we were in Costa Rica. Definitely a new Central American border crossing record!
We have spent the last couple of days and nights in Dominical. It is a pretty chilled out beach town with some surf, fun and lots of Americans (much like all of Costa Rica). The beach line is stunningly beautiful due to Costa Rica’s restrictions on building by the beach. Good thing!
We are now in the process of packing up our Honey. We are heading up the coast!
The last border crossing going South – We have reached Panama!
Pavones had no cash machines and not many places accepted cards. Since we were buying Popsicles and lollipops at the local store, our stack of cash diminished and our stay came to an end. Monday morning we hit the road and headed for the Costa Rica/Panama border.
Compared to other border crossings we have made in the past, this was easy breezy! Only an hour and a half to figure out the usual game of “which office where and what papers there.” A quick evil eye and anybody trying to take advantage of us were gone. Easy!
We are now in David, Panama’s second largest city. Honey is safely parked for the night, a massive load of laundry is in the dryer and we are getting ready for dinner! We will be moving on tomorrow morning, full of excitement to check out a country we have heard many great things about!
We woke up at our homestay in San Juan del Sur ready for another adventure. As we were walking out to get some breakfast, before hitting the road, we bumped into the family from Quebec that we got to know in Antigua more than a month ago! What a fun reunion! As it turned out, they were on their way to the Nicaraguan/Costa Rican border as well. It’s a small world!
We made a right turn out of San Juan del Sur to go South instead of going left to go North, like we did in 2007. New territory!
We met up with our fellow traveling friends at the border and helped each other out. It is a lot more fun crossing borders together with somebody else! We figured out where to get your passports stamped on one side. They helped us out with what to bring to one of the officials on the other side. Win-Win!
In order to get our vehicle import permit cancelled on the Nicaraguan side the vehicle was inspected by a border patrol, then another border patrol, a police officer, a border patrol behind a desk and then another police officer. The permit looked like this when they were done with it:
We were out of Nicaragua and drove through to the Costa Rican side of the border. This entire border crossing was quite time consuming (3 hours in total,) but pretty straight-forward. Fumigation of our vehicle, some more copies, a couple visits to the bathroom, a cold Coca Cola, chats with the border patrol, some more paperwork and we were through.
We are now in Costa Rica!
Easy? – No!
Logical? – No!
Straightforward? – No!
Quick? – No!
Did we get through? – Yes!
Border crossings in Central America are complete gong shows!
We woke up early with the turkeys in El Salvador and hit the road. We had a big day ahead of us, as we were to cross two borders in one day.
In order to leave El Salvador and enter Honduras with a vehicle the following events had to take place:
– Recognize which unmarked building on the El Salvadoran side you must go to to get the registered to leave the country.
– Find another unmarked building to have vehicle importation permit cancelled.
– Drive through no-man’s land and wonder which country the people you see belong to.
– Approach Honduras’ border, get stopped by border patrol, hand over passports and title of vehicle. Vehicle VIN is checked.
– Be lead to unmarked office number one. Get our passports and title of vehicle back.
– Be told to go to unmarked office number two. Have our passports stamped.
– Return to office number one. Be told to go get copy of passport stamp, passport and vehicle title.
– Return to office one with copies.
– Fill out form outside office.
– Return with form to office one. Be told to go to the bank to pay vehicle importation fee.
– Walk across border area and over a pile of rubble to enter bank. Bank only accept local currency and only cash.
– Go outside to shady guys with big wads of cash to exchange money.
– Go back to bank. Pay vehicle importation permit fee. Get change from different teller before getting the receipt from teller one.
– Return to office one. Be told to get copy of form and receipt of payment.
– Go to copy shop (again!)
– Have passport stamped with car importation permit (two pages!)
– Two hours and a lot of head scratching later: Good to go!
We drove through Honduras in three hours. The road was horrible, at best. Deep, crater like pot holes covered the road in both directions.
The border crossing between Honduras and Nicaragua went by in a similar fashion. In addition to the time consuming, illogical events of entering Honduras, we had to buy a specific third party insurance, fumigate the vehicle and have a curious, non-thourough vehicle inspection by a chatty police officer.
We are in Nicaragua!
The borders are becoming more Central American! Compared to how we knew them from our past trip in 2007, they are fairly straight forward. However, when you realize the past entrance stamp was the completely wrong date and you therefore lack the appropriate exit stamp, it starts getting complicated…
Whether the El Salvadorian border officials believed me when I said it must be the Guatemalan border patrol’s fault and not mine, I don’t know. After a long while of me sweating my t-shirt to a drip with worry and heat, they came over and said it’s okey as long as I leave the CA-4 countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua) within 90 days of the original entrance stamp (the wrong one, saying I entered Guatemala Sept 7.) A-OK with me!
After some more waiting for the car papers…
…and then some more waiting…
…we were finally in El Salvador!
The heat is blazing, the palm trees are swaying in the breeze, the smiles are wide and the sun is hanging high on the blue sky. We have found ourselves a beautiful spot and will be staying for a week before we venture over another border.