Okaii!! So the adventure of three border crossings within our 72 hour window of our COVID tests expiring continued right after we crossed into Honduras.
To cross the border into Nicaragua you need to fill out a prechequeo online and have a PCR test administered within 72 hours of you arriving in the country.
We were beyond stressed out for the Nicaragua border for multiple reasons. Our tests were expiring at 4 PM and we honestly had no idea if we would make it since the El Salvador > Honduras border crossing took almost four hours. We drove through Honduras in 3 hours. We stopped 2/3 of the way through Honduras in Choluteca to print out extra copies of our COVID tests and take out cash because we ran out of both.
Another reason we were stressed out about the Nicaragua border crossing is because they require you to fill out a prechequeo online, which we did a week prior to crossing but never received any confirmation that we were good to go. We had read something on iOverlander about a man being stuck there for 30 hours because he didn’t fill out the prechequeo, so we honestly had no idea what to expect.
So, we drove through Honduras racing the clock with knots in our stomach hoping we’d make it.
As we approached the borders without fail we came up to a loooong line of trucks waiting to exit Honduras and enter Nicaragua. As per usual we drove in the wrong lane opposing traffic until we passed all the trucks. We approached the blue and white Honduras immigration building on our left, pulled up and parked.
Outside of the immigration building there were currency exchangers and helpers. The helpers are there in case you don’t speak Spanish or need help with the process. They offer you their services by directing where you should go, asking if you need copies, saying they will help for a tip, etc., I have yet to hire one as I’m fluent in Spanish, but I imagine for some borders they would be very helpful. I don’t recommend getting one to exit Honduras as the process was so easy and took all of ten minutes.
When you walk into the immigrations buildings on your left hand side there will be two rows of windows. To exit Honduras you need to walk to the second row on your left. Here the immigrations official will stamp you out of Honduras and take your fingerprints from one hand. After you’ve been stamped out head to the other row of windows with your Honduran Temporary Import Permit (TIP) and close it at one of the windows. You aren’t allowed to pause your TIP in Honduras if you are leaving the country, so you have to close it. It took five minutes to close our TIP and they stamped my passport as well. Once you’ve done both of these things you get back into your car and drive straight ahead.
The first place you’re going to approach as you’re entering Nicaragua is the COVID checkpoint. It’s a little blue building with a small set of stairs in front of it. They directed us to pull over on the side of the road in the dirt, park our car and walk up to the tiny blue building with our passports, PCR tests results and a copy. Once in the building a nurse will ask for your paperwork, take your temperature and give you a little white piece of paper to bring into the immigrations building with you.
We got back in our car and were elated that we made it before our COVID tests expired. The nurse at the checkpoint even joked with us about how close we were cutting it. He was like “You know these expire in one hour right?” We were sooooo glad we made it. Our backup plan was to go back to Choluteca, spend another $80-150 to get tested again, get a hotel for the night and make our way to Nicaragua again once we had the new results.
It was a huge relief to make it. We got back in our car and continued driving straight ahead towards the big blue and white Nicaragua Immigrations building. You can’t miss it. We pulled up to it, parked and went to the entrance on the left if you’re facing the building where immigrations is.
When you walk in here there are multiple booths set up much like at an airport. You wait in line at one of the booths and when it’s your turn, walk up, hand over your passport and your pcr test results. They’ll want to keep the copies again. The immigrations official will ask where you’re staying and want proof of a reservation. He’ll also ask the address, what your occupation is and your reason for travel. He’ll stamp you into the country, give you an aduana form, a stamped “tourist card” (little white piece of paper) and a receipt to instruct you to go to the first booth and pay the $13 entry fee to Nicaragua.
We grabbed our passports and walked over to the first booth, waited in line and paid $26 for both of us to enter Nicaragua.
Once we finished this we had to go back to our car to get our duffel bags and bring them into the entrance on the right if you are facing the immigrations building. We filled out the aduana slip (same slip you get on a plane) and waited in line to have our bags scanned. It’s the same process as when you are going through TSA except they didn’t take our knives away 🙂
When you’re done having your luggage searched the aduana official will sign your slip and if you’re importing your vehicle temporarily like we were he/she will instruct to have your vehicle searched before you start the TIP process.
So, we brought our duffel bags back into our car, found the official who had to search through our car and let him get to work. He searched the glovebox, trunk, backseats and cooler. We didn’t have anything exciting in the car so he signed our slip and instructed us to go back into the aduana building and wait at the first window on the right when you walk in to begin the paperwork.
He also asked if we were traveling with a drone. We are not, so we said no. Drones are not allowed in Nicaragua and I believe if one is found in your car you risk having it confiscated.
We went up to the window only to find out that the system was down and no TIPs were being issued at the moment. We stood around waiting for a little over an hour in 101 degree heat (April is the hottest month in Nicaragua) before the aduana official heard back from the office in Managua and got the ok to write out TIPs. Normally when opening a TIP your information is put into their system and your TIP will be typed up. In our case they gave us a handwritten TIP.
To take out the TIP I needed the title of my car, the registration, my passport and my drivers license. I needed copies of all of these documents as well as the originals. I needed copies of the front and back of my drivers license. This was also the first time I was asked for my registration and it was only because the license plate number isn’t listed on my title. Luckily, I had the registration and copies of it ready to go. Once our TIP paperwork was actually started it only took 15 minutes. There is no cost to take out a TIP in Nicaragua. The aduana official gave us 30 days for the TIP.
We got back in our car and began driving into the country. Before we could drive in we hit one last checkpoint and here the police officer asked for our passports, our TIP and our COVID test results. He made sure everything was in order, gave our documents back and instructed us to buy car insurance. He let me know that it’s illegal to drive without insurance and if we don’t buy it we’ll have problems if we are pulled over.
Buying insurance was the easiest part of entering Nicaragua. A nice young lady came up to the car, asked for my TIP and filled out the insurance form for me. It cost $12 and took all of 30 seconds. I didn’t even have to get out of the car.
We continued our drive in and after almost four hours at the border crossing and a 14 hour day so far we were THRILLED to have driven through three countries in one day and be 2 hours away from our destination.
About 20 minutes after we drove into Nicaragua, we hit a police checkpoint. Here we were asked to pull over, asked for our TIP, passports, drivers licenses and the insurance for the car. We had everything ready and handed it to the officer. Everything checked out, he welcomed us into the country and wished us a safe trip. He was really nice and we were happy we had purchased the insurance!
2 hours later we made it to Hotel El Convento, where we were staying in Leon. It’s a really nice fancy hotel located in the center of Leon. It’s an old convent that was restored into a hotel. The rooms are beautiful, there’s cool Catholic art all over the place AND they leave their rooms empty for 24 hours in between guests checking in to ensure they are aired out and properly sanitized. Breakfast is included in their rates and it is HUGE. It costs between $75-100/night, but it was worth it. We were so tired after a 16 hour day and it was one of the few hotels in Leon with secure private parking.