Crossing into Nicaragua at Peñas Blancas

Costa Rica and Nicaragua share a busy border crossing at Peñas Blancas, 18 km (11 miles) north of La Cruz along a paved highway. Rental vehicles may not leave Costa Rica. Tica Bus and Transnica bus companies travel direct between San José and Managua via this route. You can also take a Tralapa bus to the border from other points in Costa Rica. You'll make your crossing, then catch a Nicaraguan bus or taxi to Rivas, 35 km (22 miles) farther, which is the regional hub for buses departing to other parts of Nicaragua. The fee to cross the border is $7 (paid on the Nicaraguan side), plus a $2 surcharge if you cross from noon to 2 pm or on weekends. Nicaraguan shuttle taxis transport people between the border posts. Returning to Costa Rica is basically the same process in reverse; you are charged a $1 municipal tax and $2 exit tax to leave Nicaragua by land. The crossing is open daily 6 am to 10 pm, but only until 8 pm on Sunday; get there with time to spare or you will be stranded. Banks on both sides of the border change their own currency and U.S. dollars. Colones are not accepted or exchanged in Nicaragua; likewise for Nicaraguan córdobas in Costa Rica. Overland border-crossing procedures can be confusing if you don't speak Spanish, but attendants on the cross-border buses can help shepherd you through the formalities. The colonial city of Granada, the twin volcanoes of the island of Ometepe, and the lively beach town of San Juan del Sur—site of two consecutive seasons (2010 and 2011) of the television series Survivor—are the draws in southern Nicaragua.

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