Central America Border Crossing

All you need to know about Border Crossing in Central America – find it here!

As this is a very important, and often requested topic when traveling Central America, I wanna give you a general overview of how border crossing works. PLUS you´ll find some personal tips that make it easier for you to get to your next destination. AND all the details to the borders I have crossed while my trip.

First of all,…

…there are a lot of rumors on the internet and also a lot of people you meet traveling will tell you another horror story about beeing stuck somewhere. BUT: Not all of them are true, of course. And this leads me to the important information that I can only tell you what I experienced! Also, I wanna state once more that I am traveling with a European (Austrian) Passport.

Wherever I crossed a border by myself in Central America, you will find a blog post on detailed information about that specific border here on my blog. I´ll leave you all the links at the end of the entry. Also I will be doing regular updates on this blog post, as I am still traveling trough Central America and wanna let you know all my experiences.

Nr. 1: You need to have an exit / onward ticket out of the country you are entering.

I can totally agree with that, as far as I can tell, as I have until now been through Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Whenever I was entering a country I was asked why I am entering, how long I am gonna stay and when and how I will exit the country. Moreover, I always had to show an onward ticket. When crossing the border via land a bus ticket is valid for that purpose. and of course your flight ticket in case you got one. At all the borders I have been to there is a representative of one of the international bus companies offering you return tickets with an open date. That is probably one of the easiest ways. Another option is: there are online platforms where you can “book” an onward flight.

Nr. 2 Your passport still needs to be valid for at least 6 months.

I had a friend who made it through although the passport was almost expired, but only, as he had a flight back home from the country he was entering. So you rather wanna check that first.

Nr. 3 Check the opening hours of the border and make sure you take your time to cross.

In my experience crossing the border can take you half an hour if you are lucky, or maybe half a day if worse comes to worse. That’s the reason I am always plan one full day to get to the next destination. You don´t wanna be stressed and also: you don´t wanna stress the border control, don´t you? 😉

Generally, you can cross the border by…

  • …taking the public bus to the border, walking over “nowhere land” and taking a bus or cap in the other country to travel on
  • …with one of the bigger, private Bus Companies that offer to help you with the border crossing. Those are: TicaBus, OCC and Transnica
  • …drive with your own car/van (more info about that soon! 🙂

Unfortunately, you can not cross the border with a rental car!


Last but not least: 5 steps to entry your next destination

When crossing the border on your own there are some general things you always have to keep in mind. These steps are (most of the time) the same no matter which country you exit and enter (in Central America). So here is your little Central American exit/entry 1×1:

  1. There is an exit tax to pay (keep the little stamp you get in exchange!)
  2. Go to the Emigration office, where you hand over your pass and the exit stamp.
  3. Cross the border.
  4. Pay the entry fee to the country you wanna get into.
  5. Fill out the immigration sheet.
  6. Hand over immigration sheet, entry stamp and your passport to the immigration officer at your next destination.

It always helps to stay calm and be friendly. Don´t rush your way throughLeave me a comment in case you are missing any information or for any questions, I hope I can help 🙂

Find all the borders that I have crossed in Central America with detailed information here (links online soon, will be updated regularly)

  • Panama – Costa Rica: Sixoala
  • Costa Rica – Nicaragua: Penas Blancas.

last updated: 4. February 2017

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2 Responses
  1. Nadia W.

    Border crossing by rental cars:
    Thank you for important information. But I would like to know more about travelling by rental car and crossing borders in Central America. We like this way to travel, even it’s more expensive, but we like privacy in the car and comfort. Flexibility what time to cross the border and not to meet and change cars. Carry bags, walk, maybe get wet because it’s raining to cross the border and have transfers is not up-to-date travelling when pay for a carrental. Crossing borders with a rented car, we could do in Asia, Orient, Africa, Europe and South America. Why is it not possible in Panama and Costa Rica? Those rental car companies are far away from offering what travelers like? Why they tell, because of a car could be stolen, when they have anyway GPS-Trackers in the cars? Insurance is something to arrange! We heard now it’s possible to travel with the same rental car in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. There might be a car rental company which allows Nicaragua and cross border to Costa Rica. When it’s possible in the other countries, why not Panama and Costa Rica. This would say, those two countries are more dangerous and cars get easy stolen? Is there any company, they rent out private cars? Because they can cross the border?

    1. malindkate

      Hello Nadia, and sorry for my late reply. I remember, that I asked a friend to help me with that topic (as I myself have traveled central america with the public bus, which was totally fine for me and way cheaper, as I was traveling solo) but he couldnt give me a proper answere as well. I have met a lot of people who buy a car and then it is possible to cross the boarders. I am sorry I cant help you with the topic of the rental cars! Let me know when you have an answere! I would love to hear about the details! Thank you, best Kate

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