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167715My recent Los Chiles, CR to San Carlos, NA border crossing

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  • gringo_ed
    Aug 15, 2014
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      I recently did this trip for touristic reasons, not for visa renewal. We did the entire trip except for one taxi using local transport, public bus and boat. Unlike the land border crossing into Panama at Sixaola that I made last year, there were absolutely no problems, questions or ongoing tickets requirements by the immigration officials in either country using the Los Chiles route.
      The following is a trip report that I posted on tripadvisor in early August,
      Hope this helps....

      In early July 2014 two of us crossed into Nicaragua by boat from Los Chiles Costa Rica.
      We arrived in Los Chiles about 8 am coming by bus from Ciudad Quesada, hoping that we could catch an early boat to San Carlos Nicaragua. When inquiring with the woman selling tickets for the boat, we found out that the boat to San Carlos left at mid-day. After buying tickets for the boat($14 ea I think...), and paying the Los Chiles Municipal exit fee (600 colones ea) we went across the street to the immigration office and got stamped out. They would not stamp us out until we had boat tickets in hand and our names on the boat passenger list. We had paid the land exit tax a few days before at Banco Popular in San Jose where they collected the $7 and entered our passport information into their computer. After having been stamped out we waited for the boat at the dock at the end of the street.
      The boat from San Carlos arrived at noon and docked a half block away where the passengers disembarked and went into a large open shed with chain link fence walls for customs processing.
      After unloading, the boat docked where we had been waiting, the ticket woman and the boat operators conferred and traded paperwork. The boat crew loaded everyone's bags onto the boat first, the immigrant official arrived after a while, and the names were called from the passenger list, passports examined and we boarded. Having arrived early in the day we were 3 & 4 on the list and were able to get plumb seats in the front of the boat...an important factor later.
      The boat departed at about 1:15 pm. Going downriver was quite beautiful and largely uneventful until we crossed the border into Nicaragua and docked at a military checkpoint a km or so further on. As we pulled up, the senior officer became quite agitated hollering about one of the passengers taking pictures...no pictures allowed here!! Turns out he was listening to music on his cell phone, which was discovered after a quick examination of his cell phone by one of the soldiers. Back slaps, paperwork exchanged and waves found us on our way once more.
      We arrived at San Carlos at about 2:45 pm and docked at the end of a pier sticking out into the river. As we were in the front we were some of the first to exit the boat collect our bags and walk up to the building at the shore.
      I noticed about 6 people in white lab coats standing at a folding table at the building at the shore along with a few soldiers. As the passengers approached, passports were taken, names written on slips of paper which were then stamped, and each passenger received an injection of German Measles vaccine. I didn't turn to see if anyone objected but it was apparent one was not proceeding without having received the shot.
      After the vaccine, we filed over to the next building where we waited to enter and have our passports stamped for entry. $12 entry tax each. After getting stamped we were directed to the right and around the corner where other officials inspected our bags for customs. As we had waited in Los Chiles we had overheard some of the people commenting that on earlier trips their bags had been completely empties and examined meticulously. The officer opened the top flap of my backpack, loosened the top drawstring, touched my leather toiletry bag at the top of the pack and then closed my pack and waved me on....zip!
      Once outside, we were inundated by money changers and taxistas. We inquired about the mid-day fast boat to El Castillo to find out we'd missed it by 15 minutes. It was now 3:00 pm and the next boat, a slow one, wouldn't get to El Castillo until well after dark. Not wanting to spend the night in San Carlos and wanting to enjoy a full day in El Castillo, we negotiated a fast taxi ride to Boca de Sabalos, the end of the road downriver toward El Castillo. Off we flew and arrived in Boca de Sabalos just as the fastboat left the dock.
      To make a long tale brief we made it to El Castillo and spent two nights at Nena Lodge and one full day exploring town. The second evening we went and had our names put on the list for the 5 am fast boat to San Carlos the next morning.
      The 5 am boat left about 5:30 and we got to San Carlos about 8 am. We had breakfast and then started asking about the Los Chiles boat. It leaves San Carlos at 10:30 and by 9 am we were in the line to begin the exit process. Went through immigration, stamped out, names on boat list, paid boat ticket and boarded boat. After everyone was aboard a Nicaraguan immigration official came through the boat and crosschecked passports and boat list. That done we left about 10:30. We did not stop at the border post but motored straight through to Los Chiles.
      Docked down from the loading area were exited and were directed straight across into the chainlink walled shed where we lined up, had our passports checked against the boat list and our bags examined. Again our backpacks were caressed but not searched, the local's bags were searched thoroughly. Guess backpackers aren't a concern to customs for some reason.
      We then exited the shed walked around the corner past the loading dock, stopped at the municipal building on the left, paid the 600 colones Los Chiles fee and proceeded to the immigration office where we were stamped in. I was given 90 days with any question about airline tickets or whatever.
      Best we could tell there was only one boat a day from Los Chiles to San Carlos. Inexpensive, beautiful but not for the uninitiated.
      I was the only gringo on any of the four boats we took on this trip though there was a German woman on the last boat back to Los Chiles."

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