Guide to TicaBus: From Costa Rica to Nicaragua
So you’ve decided you’re going to travel your way to Nicaragua! You will not regret it – but you will need to be ready for the interesting experience of crossing the border!
The whole process felt extremely safe, but it takes time and is slightly disorganized.
We decided to go with TicaBus as it is a well recognized, Costa Rican coach company, which travels all through Central America (from Mexico to Panama). They have an easy to use website, with booking and route options, and although you cannot get a refund, they allow you to make as many changes to your booking necessary, free of charge! Having a TicaBus ticket booked before entering Costa Rica is a good idea, as sometimes the customs agents will ask for your proof of exit (you have 90 days), but you can change your bus ticket to earlier or later if need be!
We have provided what seems like a lot of information, but it will all be helpful to prevent you from wondering or worrying about what is going on during your processing across the border.
Arriving at the Bus Station
- You will give your bag to a gentleman who will tag it and take it from you, giving you the second half of your tag.
HOLD ON TO THIS. It seemed strange, because all of the bags were together and we were wondering, how are they going to know when we’re getting off or when we need our bags? Don’t worry. Trust the system. You have to take your bags off the bus at the border, THEN they sort out your departure location.
- You will stand in a line at the bus station, show your bus ticket and passport, and pay $7USD pp to exit Costa Rica.
Often the payment is handled at the border, but your driver will take care of all payments for you.
- You receive your Nicaraguan entrance papers.
They need to be filled out before you reach the border, but not at the bus station. Do not panic. Your bus driver will take the papers before you cross the border.
Riding with TicaBus
- Ticabus has free WiFi
It isn’t the best service, but it’s decent. You can check your email, Facebook, and Google Maps, but watching Netflix wasn’t happening. The password is at the front of the bus on the top right of the window.
- Free movies on the screens!
The first movie was in English with Spanish subtitles, then the next 2 were in Spanish, but it was still fun to watch!
- Bring your own toilet paper!!!!!
The coaches have bathrooms, which is awesome. But they are not luxury by any stretch. Bring your own toilet paper to wipe down the seat and your bottom.
The Costa Rican Border
- Exiting Costa Rica
The bus will drive past an insane amount of shipping trucks parked on the side of the road. Upon stopping, everyone exits the bus, but you leave your luggage below. Bring your valuables, but your driver stays with the bus so you don’t have to bring everything off.
- Costa Rican Customs
You wait in a long lineup, while many people yell at you “CAMBIAR, CAMBIAR CAMBIAR!” (Change, change, change!) They will have lots of money in their hands. They are the ‘currency exchange’ and they are decently aggressive, but not dangerous. Just keep saying “No, gracias.” You’ll have to say it to probably 15 guys by the end of it all.At the end of the line you’ll meet the agent. You’ve already paid your $7, and you have a little receipt in your passport to prove it. The customs agent will stamp your passport, and you’re free to go back on your bus.
- Back on the bus.
Your driver will now come around and ask for $14USD/pp for entrance into Nicaragua. He will take your passport. It is safe to trust him!
The Nicaraguan Border
- Getting off the bus.
Here is where everyone disembarks again, but this time, you take ALL OF YOUR LUGGAGE. The pieces from below too. You carry them through the doors and past the customs agent. Make sure to have your Nicaraguan paperwork in your hands.
- Passing the customs agents.
You won’t need to speak to anyone, because your driver has handled it for you. You will see the agent stamping all of the passports for the people from your bus as you just walk on through.
- X-ray machines and finally giving your paperwork away.
Passed the customs agent there are large x-ray machines. The people manning these machines will take your customs declaration paperwork, and you will place all of your bags onto the machine, and retrieve them from the other side.
- Exit the building, and you’re back to almost where you started. Do not go back to where your bus is, follow the crowd and go to a new bus stop point and wait for your bus there.
There are many street vendors walking around here, and they are all extremely friendly and not pushy (in contrast to the Costa Ricans)! We recommend purchasing food if you are hungry – it is super cheap and tasty!
- When your bus arrives around the corner…
You put your luggage on, based on where you’re departing. The driver will call out locations, the last stop being first. Wait your turn, and if you don’t hear your location called, just ask. After your bag is aboard, you go back to wait -you can’t get on your bus yet! Follow the crowd, keep your eyes peeled for a customs agent walking with a bunch of passports to the door of your bus.
- The customs agent comes out and stands by the door of the bus. Get there quick and listen intently, they will not yell your name but say it gently.
They go through the passports for all of the passengers, and once your name is called, go up to them, they will check that it is you in the photo, hand your passport back to you and you can safely go back on the bus and find your seat. As you climb back aboard, your bus driver will check off your name to ensure that you’ve arrived back on safely.
- Keep the Nicaraguan Border Receipt that is hiding in the pages of your passport!
Nobody tells you this, but you need this paper to exit the country! Hold onto it with your passport, keep it safe. I’m not sure what the penalty is if you lose it, but it probably isn’t worth finding out. Once in Mexico, John lost his exit form and it was $75USD to sort a new one (thankfully we found it hiding in a ‘safe place where it couldn’t get lost.’).
- Leaving the bus.
When your stop comes around, you will get off and give your luggage ticket (that you better still be holding on to) to the luggage handler, and he will confirm that your bags are your bags, and you’re free to go!
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