For the myriad expats who have to cross the border every ninety days, here are several ways to get to Nicaragua from San Jose. Those who can afford the price may fly, at a cost of over five hundred dollars. Driving is always an option, but my license has expired, and I wouldn’t want to attempt the six to eight hour trip anyway.
For those making the trip by bus, there are more choices. The least expensive costs less than ten dollars, but it involves a chicken-bus in Nicaragua, and a walk across the dreary, dusty border. Both Tica Bus and Trans Nica offer round-trip fares ranging from fifty-two to seventy-six dollars.
I chose the more expensive executive bus option from Trans Nica, mainly because it leaves San Jose at noon, instead of the 3 AM departure offered by Tica Bus. I’d done the regular Tica Bus once, and found the quagmire at the border tiresome. I’d heard that crossing the border on an executive bus was easier, and it was.
I visited the Trans Nica website, hoping to buy a ticket online. The options on the site look great, though they’re only in Spanish. I clicked on Reservas en linea, (online reservations) but I found myself on an empty page. “You have to go to the terminal and buy the ticket the day before,” said my friend Mireille, who had recently to make the trip in order to renew her driver’s license, like me.
I took an hour-long bus ride from Puriscal to San Jose, at a cost of just under a dollar fifty. Luckily, the Trans Nica bus terminal was located just two blocks away from the Comtrasuli terminal, where I got off the bus from Puriscal. I purchased my ticket and got on a bus back to Puriscal. The round trip took about three and a half hours, including the ride from home to Puriscal.
The next day, I boarded the Puriscal bus at ten, and the bus to Granada at eleven thirty. The bus was air conditioned and comfortable. The line provides a boxed lunch, and stops only three times— once to pick up our food, and once at each border. Three movies were shown on the trip, alas they were in Spanish, with Spanish subtitles, for the hard of hearing, I guess.
At the Costa Rican border, some twenty or more young man crowded the bus door, offering to exchange our Costa Rican colones for Nicaraguan córdobas. I declined, having lost money at the border the first time. The line at immigrations was short, and we were on our way to the Nicaragua border within minutes. The bus steward collected our passports and took them for us while we stood for a few moments while our suitcases were checked, then we headed for the first stop in Nicaragua, Rivas.
I’d decided on Granada, because I was by myself, and thought Rivas a little seedy. We finally arrived in Granada at about eight thirty, late for a woman traveling alone. A taxi driver told me it would be ten dollars to my guest house, which he said was very far away. I knew he was hijacking me, but he was the only driver at the bus stop, so I reluctantly agreed to the fare. When we arrived at my destination, the Dolphin Guest House, about seven minutes later, I paid with a twenty dollar bill, and received 40 cordobas for change, about two dollars.
After a morning trip into the center of Granada with the owner and several guests, I was driven back to the bus terminal, where I waited until about one thirty for the bus to San Jose. Including the cost of a night at the Dolphin Guest House, fifty-five dollars, the border crossing ended up costing about a hundred and fifty dollars.