Nicaragua to Costa Rica Border Crossing at Peñas Blancas
Almost the same as the Costa Rica to Nicaragua crossing, but you don’t pay the Costa Rican exit tax.
As you are approaching the border from Nicaragua, you will go to the right of the blue/white fence if you are going on foot.
If you are returning a rental car, this is where you return it, this building will be on your right. If you have a lot of luggage, the rental car company will drive you right up to the gate after you have returned your car and checked out.
If you are walking with the blue and white fence on your left, food venders and small stores will be on your right. Eventually you will come to a blue gate. Walk through it. Someone at the gate may ask for your passport. There may be a line at this gate.
Then walk in the building immediately in front of you a few steps to your left. In this building you will pay $1 per person in a little booth, then pay $3 per person at the main booth. Next you will come out and walk away from the gate you just came through and walk towards Costa Rica. After you pass the colorful tires along the road, you will cross the street so that the Costa Rican police can check your passports.
Then you officially cross the border. Rental cars (Alamo/Enterprise/National) will be on your left on the Costa Rican side. If you parked a car next door to the rental cars, this is where you pick it up. If not, keep walking straight towards the customs building and go to the right side of the building.
You will approach the main customs building behind the blue sign, on the right side of the road.
You will see doors to bathrooms on the outside of the building. Pass the bathrooms and get in line to get your passports stamped. The line may extend all the way outside.
You don’t pay anything on the Costa Rican side to enter the country. If you are driving, you will have to drive past the building to park, then go inside. If you are traveling with children under 3, they allegedly have a separate/faster line, or let you skip.
In general, people will try to scam you at the border crossing, however, when we were returning, I rolled the dice. We had a ton of luggage and gifts we had bought in Nicaragua. We had been in Nica for 10 days and had acquired a lot along the way.
When a guy named Arial who spoke English and had an official looking blue and white badge offered to help, I agreed. If anyone offers to help you do anything, it will not be free and you should be upfront and negotiate the price ahead of time.
He put all our luggage (and our children) in a cart that he wheeled to the border, checkpoint then his Costa Rican friend met us at the border and rolled our luggage all the way to where our car was parked on the Costa Rican side. I payed him and his friend what was negotiated and it was a pleasant experience. Especially for my kids who rode in the cart.
But as a general rule of thumb, if you can carry your own baggage, don’t let anyone help you because there will be a fee for it. And don’t let your bags out of your sight.
Also, be aware that when you enter Costa Rica, whether by flight or foot, if you are not a Costa Rican citizen, the officials want to see proof that you are leaving the country again. So have a copy of your return flight, or your next flight out of the country.
Note: it will have to be a flight in the next 90 days.
Side note: Most airlines and Orbitz let you book flights online then cancel within 24 hours.
Side side note: If you get caught in Costa Rica staying past 90 days there are financial penalties and if you are a repeat offender, you can get banned from ever coming back into Costa Rica.