A Cheapskate’s guide: How to do a Costa Rica Visa Run to Nicaragua

The easiest and cheapest way to extend your Costa Rican visa is by spending a couple of days in Nicaragua. In this blog post I’m going to explain you how to do a quick and cheap Nicaragua visa run!

HOW TO DO A COSTA RICA VISA RUN to Nicaragua: Getting to Nicaragua from Costa Rica on the cheap

Before getting to the border you should stop by a Banco Credito to pay the $7 tax otherwise it’ll cost you $9 at the border.

A guide on doing the Visa Run through Nicaragua

A guide on doing the Visa Run through Nicaragua

I took the Deldu bus which cost a measly 4625 colones..around $9. Ticabus and transonic a stations are across the street from the station and cost $25 but are direct. I left at 9:30 and arrived around 3:30 to the border. A direct route is around 5.5 hours.
Getting to Deldu station in San Jose

Bus schedule to Penas Blancas border crossing

A Rest stop with a stunning view in Costa Rica

What a view at this rest stop!

At the border you’ll see lots of people trying to grab your luggage, change money, offer taxi services, etc. Just smile and say “no gracias” or “no necesito, gracias” They can be pushy though. They’re just trying to make a buck.

You’ll need $12 in US bills to pay a tax to enter Nicaragua. There is a bank with an ATM as well as the ability to change money in the same area as the processing, shops, etc.
When I was at the window to pay the tax and the immigration official told me I had to have US dollars and go to the bank he kept my passport. Bus drivers do this too! Make sure you have a copy of it or you can’t exchange your money.

You’ll also need to fill out a form while they ask you about the purpose of your visit and where you’ve been. Do not pay anyone money for forms. I was told the questions are making sure you aren’t coming from places with high risk of communicable diseases. They’ll also scan you for your body temperature to make sure you aren’t currently carrying any mosquito-borne diseases.

It may be a bit more cramped and take longer but $1.50 beats $20!

It may be a bit more cramped and take longer but $1.50 beats $20!

After I finished all of that (about an hour or so since I wasn’t crossing by bus) the guys in taxi’s offered a ride to San Juan for $25 or $5 with a group.

I chose to pay $1.50 or 36 Cordobas taking two small buses. It can be crowded and is not for the claustrophobics out there.

That ride took about 45 minutes including wait time.

I decided to stay at Pachamama Hostel which was the only hostel with life at the time.

These surfers were so much fun! The pizza was delicious!

These surfers were so much fun! The pizza was delicious!

Grabbing a drink after arriving to Pachamama Hostel in San Juan Del Sur...that's how to start a good stay.

Grabbing a drink after arriving to Pachamama Hostel in San Juan Del Sur…that’s how to start a good stay.

Israelis are some real sharks at Poker. They'll eat you alive.

Israelis are some real sharks at Poker. They’ll eat you alive.

Party time at PachaMama Hostel in San Juan del Sur


How to do a Costa Rica Visa Run and get BACK into Costa Rica with a new visa

Before returning to Costa Rica I’ll purchase a round trip Ticabus ticket (necessary to re-enter Costa Rica).

A Roundtrip ticket showing you will leave Costa Rica again.

You need to have a bus or plane ticket as proof that you don’t plan to stay in Costa Rica, so I bought this. Some people buy refundable plane tickets.

However, If you are on a really tight budget there is a trick for the bus tickets to return to Costa Rica for a visa run. Instead of buying a round trip ticket with Tica bus, just purchase a 1-way ticket to Nicaragua three months in advance and then you can take the Deldu bus back to San Jose.

If you are on a REALLY tight budget, you can do what I did and hitchhike from San Juan del Sur to the border. It didn’t take me long at all to get picked up.

You’ll need to pay $4 in taxes to enter Costa Rica and show your return or on-going ticket.

IMPORTANT: This method will only work 1 or 2 times from the same border crossing. After which, it will be to the discretion of the immigration officer whether they think you are skirting the rules.

The reason they might deny another visa are
– overstaying the 90 days prior to leaving
– passport not valid for minimum of 6 month
– illegally crossing the border and no proof in your passport of legally crossing
– passport stamped by official which later got fired for taking bribes
– not having proof that you will leave within 90 days

SAFETY TIP: The Deldu bus station in San Jose is NOT in a safe neighborhood. Grab a taxi to the bus station that you want to go to next. Especially at night.

Time to hit the beach!

San Juan Del Sur WM

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