This is the border crossing Pena Blanca, from Nicaragua to Costa Rica on the West side of both countries, as experienced by myself, on 19.05.2016, crossing on my motorcycle. Total crossing time: 1h30min

Leaving Nicaragua

Money spent
– fee for entering the customs- 1 USD
Paperwork needed:
– customs declaration (given to you) signed by someone (customs)
– a copy of passport, license and registration to get a police stamp on the above declaration
– vehicle import paper

Even though it claims to be a ‘more civilized’ country in the Central America, the people at the Nicaragua border show no interest in helping you. They would just point in the general direction but not tell you what you need to do next (I speak Spanish). Obviously, there are a lot of helpers eager to make some $$$.

Customs building in Nicaragua - Penas Blancas

Customs building in Nicaragua – Penas Blancas

customs office Nicaragua

customs office Nicaragua

On the way out of Nicaragua, as you get close to the border, the road is splitting in two: a center lane full of trucks and another lane/parallel road to the right, that goes to some market. Follow the center lane and go in front of the trucks. Right after passing the gate you must stop for someone to briefly check your passport. Proceed then past the building on the RIGHT side, and park in its parking lot (it is around the corner). Pay the processing fee at the booth outside and then go inside the building to get your passport checked and stamped out. You will receive a customs declaration, or someone will approach you and give you one in the parking lot. Once filled up, they will inspect your VIN and sign it. But that’s not all. You must then go to a police officer (few of them around, chatting or sitting on the chairs) and give them a copy of your passport, license, and registration. In turn, they will stamp the customs declaration and give it back to you. With the customs declaration and the import permit, you must go to the diagonally opposite corner of the building, the door at the end of the corridor. There’s a desk in the corner where you sign your bike out. With the paper you receive you can proceed to the border. Someone will check and keep the paper, and 100m further someone will check your passport.

Total time: 45min
Difficulty: medium – due to lack of information and interest in helping you. The process is also not straightforward, so you have to go back and forth a few times.

Entering Costa Rica by motorcycle (Penas Blancas)

Money spent:
– 26USD insurance
– 100 colones for 2 copies
Paperwork needed:
– 1 copy of passport (picture page)
– 1 copy of entry stamp in the passport
– 1 copy of the drivers license
– 1 copy of the registration card
– 1 copy of the insurance

Penas Blancas Costa Rica - customs office

Penas Blancas Costa Rica – customs office

vehicle declaration office

vehicle declaration office

Avoid the fumigation tunnel (keep left) – not needed for bikes. Stop at the barrier for a quick passport check then keep going to the main customs building. Walk in and get your entrance stamp in the passport. From the office outside, labeled “ADUANA. Revision de equipaje” get an import paper, fill it up, and return it to the clerk to stamp it. Proceed further to the big building of “Aduana” (keep right, through the parking lot). There, you need to purchase insurance – there is only one small window selling it for 26USD/3months. Before going to the “Vehitur” for the import paper, you must make a copy of the insurance and of the entry stamp in your passport. The copy center is right outside. With the insurance, the paper from the first desk, passport, and copies of all above, plus copies of the driver’s license and registration, you may obtain the import paper (Certificado de importacion temporal de vehiculos). Prepare this, the insurance, and the first declaration for the final check-up, 200m further. They will keep the paper from the first desk. 200m further there is another police check point, checking the passport, insurance, and the import paper.

Total time: 45minutes
Difficulty: easy