Nicaragua/Costa Rica Border Crossing with Dogs

We crossed at the San Juan del Sur (NIC) – Penas Blancas (CR) border on April 11, 2014 at two o’clock in the afternoon, the Friday before Semana Santa. NOTE: Don’t cross a border the Friday before Semana Santa. Big mistake. Huge. This border crossing was not very straightforward and because of the holiday it took us almost 6 hours to get out of Nicaragua and into Costa Rica. No one at either of the borders really spoke English and the helpers actually listened when we said no thank you.

Documents needed

  • We needed:

    • Passports

    • Drivers Licenses

    • Vehicle Title

    • Nicaraguan Import Permit

    • Nicaraguan Customs Declaration Form

  • Neli needed:

    • International Health Certificate from the US

    • Spanish Language Health Certificate from Mexico

    • Valid Rabies Vaccination Certificate (not more than a year old, not less than 30 days)

    • Vaccination Record

  • Maya needed:

    • Spanish Language Health Certificate from Guatemala

Exit Nicaragua

  • Approaching the border on the PanAm, stay to the left and go through a fenced complex. There may be a line of trucks on the right, just drive into oncoming traffic to get around them. You will see a tent set up directly beyond the fence. We assumed they would check passports here but they just waved us on.

  • Nicaraguan Immigration: Look for the smaller building that looks a bit like a bus station. At the entrance there is a ticket booth where they will charge you 1 USD before you are allowed to get in line for Migracion. Once at Migracion, fill out a short form and pay 90 NIO, answer questions about why you don’t speak fluent Spanish in a Spanish speaking country, and receive your exit stamp. 1 USD/per person PLUS 90 NIO.

    • NOTE: If you do not ask for your change, the guy in the ticket booth will just keep it…

  • Nicaraguan Customs: On the other side of the road, across from the Immigration building,wait in the longest line imaginable. When you finally get up to the window present the driver’s passport, vehicle title, driver’s license, Nicaraguan Import Permit and Customs Declaration. The friendly, but tired, customs agent will look everything over, sign and stamp the Customs Declaration Form and keep the Vehicle Import Permit. Find a police officer (they are wandering around, just find one) to sign and stamp the Vehicle Import Form AND a Customs Agent (Light Blue Shirts) to do the same. Note – get those first signatures and stamps while your overheated traveling companion waits in line. Once through the Customs process, find a police officer to AGAIN sign and stamp your Customs Declaration Form. No Fee.

Enter Costa Rica

  • Drive out of the parking lot towards Costa Rica. A Customs agent will stop you to check your passports as well as take your Customs Declaration Form.

  • Costa Rican Fumigation: At the fork in the road, veer to the right and drive through the Fumigation Station. No charge.

  • After Fumigation, make a sharp left and then a right onto the road into Costa Rica.

  • Costa Rican Immigration: You will see a large building on your left and some smaller buildings on your right. Drive past these buildings and park on the right. Walk back to the large building on your left. Wait in line, if there is one at all, before entering the air-conditioned Migracion office. Present your passports and receive your entrance stamp. No Fee.

  • Costa Rican Insurance: After leaving Migracion, they will direct you across the street to Customs. Do not go here, instead get back in your vehicle, drive (or walk) a bit further, enter the fenced off area on your right, drive towards the back past all the semis and buses. You will see a ramp to the 2nd Customs office, park here. Walk up the ramp, go past the Customs office to the Insurance window. Hand over your Title, Vehicle Registration, Driver’s Passport and Driver’s license. They will look everything over and issue you 3 months of insurance. 36 USD.

    • Take everything, along with the Insurance Certificate, to copy shop and make 1 copy of each. NOTE: If you are traveling with a dog now is a good time to make copies of all their paperwork as well. 50 CRC per copy.

  • Costa Rican Cuarentena: Further down the building, away from the ramp, second to last door on your left is SENSA. The door is not marked. Go in here and present all your original paperwork along with one copy or each. They will look everything over and stamp your paperwork. No Fee.

  • Costa Rican Customs Window 1: Drive (or walk) back to the Aduana across from Migracion. Give the friendly customs agent your stack of copies, they will attach them to a form for you to fill out. Once you have filed out the form, return the copies to the customs agent for him to review and stamp. No Fee.

    • NOTE: If you are traveling with dogs, they will also ask to see your stamped paperwork here.

  • Costa Rican Customs Window 2: Get back in your car and drive back to where they sell insurance. The first office at the top of the ramp is the second Aduana office. Hand over your packet of copies and stamped form to the customs agent behind the desk. He will keep your packet and issue you the Temporary Vehicle Import Permit. No Fee.

  • Drive into Costa Rica. We were stopped by a customs agent who looked at our passports and at the dogs’ paperwork.

 Total Cost: 42.24 USD

  • Nicaraguan Migracion Exit Stamp: 2 USD plus 90 NIO (5.60 USD)

  • Costa Rican Insurance: 36 USD

  • Photocopies in Costa Rica: 350 CRC (0.64 USD)

3 thoughts on “Nicaragua/Costa Rica Border Crossing with Dogs

  1. Shan Foisy

    Thanks for the detailed info! We will be crossing this April with our 9 month old Aussie. We are flying from the states and staying in Popoyo for a week then bussing down to Nosara CR for a months stay. Do you think we will just need the U.S. Health Cert, rabies and vaccination records?

    Also, how did you find the locals in each county to be towards having the dogs around. Beckett is used to going everywhere with us.


    1. Neli Post author

      Hi Shan (and Beckett)!

      Flying you will need different information than what we have provided, so check with your airline on that. You will definitely beed the US Health certificate, rabies and vaccination records but I think you need to have the USDA approved Health Cert. The airline will have the most current information for you. Wish we could help ore on this but driving is completely different from flying…

      The locals, for the most part, are simultaneously afraid of dogs but love them too. They’ll mostly ask if they bite (we always say sometimes) and once they realize the dogs are friendly will happily play with them. On the beaches we have been able to take them everywhere, including restaurants and bars. The cities are less dog friendly, and almost none of the national parks permit dogs.

      Sounds like you will have a wonderful time! Have fun!

  2. Sierra

    HI! Thank you so much for all the info we plan to do a similar trip starting from the U.S. in the fall. When you were crossing borders and filling out paperwork did they allow the dogs to stay with you the entire time?
    When you reentered the U.S. was there ever and quarantine period?
    Thank you for the help!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.