I had big plans for Granada. I was going to dive, surf, travel the country, see the rainforest! That was before I got here, realised it’s 38 degrees most days and the surfing/diving infrastructure doesn’t really exist in most places. That’s ok though, I’ve been getting comfortable with a lot more relaxing than usual and catching up with reading, netflix and some yoga prep.
I found the journey from San Jose to Nicaragua hideous! It took 10 hours instead of the advertised 6, the bus was hot and there was a lot of time spent standing around with no idea what was happening. Worse still, the hostel kitchen which contained all my carefully prepared food for the bus was locked when my 4.30am taxi arrived so I had to abandon it!
The bus station itself was straightforward. They asked that you arrive 45 minutes before the bus so you can go up to the counter, check in, stow your baggage and pay the departure tax. The tax is $9 at the terminal but if you can make it to a bank in advance it’s $7. I also saw a terminal that hardly anyone was using at the border to pay it and the bus waits for everyone to come through so you could use that. We absolutely crawled to the border. Luckily a local seeking sandwiches got on about 4 hours in and out I bought the soggiest ham and cheese sandwich I’ve ever eaten. I didn’t care, I was starving!
When we finally arrived at the border the Costa Rican side was straightforward straightforward. Just queue, get your stamp and leave. The TicaBus staff handed out the necessary forms when we got on the bus so they were filled out and ready.
The Nicaraguan side was a different story. The bus staff took our passports and $14 for the cost of the tourist card (I’m pretty sure it should only be $10!) then bundled us off to pick up our bags. There was no obvious customs office and eventually someone worked out we were meant to put our bags on some tables in the middle of a bunch of market stalls. Eventually a single customs officer came out and started checking them. After about 30 minutes and only about 10% of the bags checked, another woman joined him, took my form and told me they didn’t need to see my bags.
On returning to the bus we were told that our bags could go on but we had to wait outside. We did so and I bought cake for lunch and ate it under moderate shade. Eventually at 2pm we were called back to the bus and an immigration office handed back our now stamped passports. They didn’t seem too concerned with checking our pictures matched.
2 hours later I finally arrived in Granada. There were taxis waiting by the bus but I asked the bus guy and the centre was only 5 minutes away so I walked the short distance to my hostel. I managed to drag myself into town to a great falafel place called Pita Pita for a quick dinner which ended up being the biggest pita I’ve ever seen. It was the size of my head! Afterwards I headed back to my hostel and hid from the heat there for the rest of the night.
A note on the Nicaraguan tourist card-it says that you must leave after 30 days and that it can’t be extended. I was so concerned (I needed 90 days) that I went to the immigration office at the Metrocentro in Managua to check. There I was told that this is just a receipt and it’s the number that’s written in your passport stamp that counts. This was indeed 90 days for me so panic over and no more land border crossings for me, wooooooo!