Border Crossing Peñas Blancas, Nicaragua to Costa Rica with Vehicle and Pets

This is the Rear of the immigration office at Peñas Blancas. The front is the same, except there is no OSI building as pictured here on the right.

We’ve been trying to get to this post for a REALLY long time, but a lot of things have been preventing us from actually crossing the border with our vehicle for a while. HOWEVER, we finally did it!!! And now we’re here to share our knowledge of how to cross the border with your vehicle and a pet!

List of Documents you’ll need:

  • 4 copies of the face page of your passport
  • 2 copies of your passport stamp
  • Copy of your vehicle title/Circulación
  • Vaccination records of your pet
  • Permiso de Salida from Nicaragua
  • 2 copies of the IPSA page of your pets health certificate

Always make sure to keep a copy of your License, vehicle registration/Title and Insurance. They don’t always ask for it, but at the borders, there isn’t always a place to get copies. We keep 2 of everything and we often run out and have to make more.

First things first, if you have a pet, you have to get the paperwork done in Nicaragua about a week prior to leaving. Make sure your pets vaccinations are up to date and NO, you pet DOES NOT have to be micro-chipped. It takes time for them to get all the paperwork back from the Ministry of Agriculture to sign off on the health of your pet. Make sure to allow for some time for this. You can go to the vet first to ask what paperwork you’ll need to bring. We did all of our paperwork with SOS veterinarian in San Juan Del Sur. They charge $90.00 USD for all the paperwork and hand you a file with all the necessary documentation that you simply hand over to the border agents (they’ll take what they need, stamp and sign it and return it to you).

The vet office needed me to bring a copy of the face page of my passport, they also asked for a copy a Covid-19 vaccine card, if I had one. The process doesn’t change if you don’t have one. (I think they were just used to asking for it because Costa Rica was being very restrictive on allowing passage to tourists who were unvaccinated until recently- April 2022, when they did away with the mandates).

After you have the paperwork, Nicaragua gives you a health certificate for your pet that is good for 90 days. However, the vet needs to know when you plan to cross the border so they can let the border agents know and help to make the process easier. It didn’t seem to make any difference, nothing was noted on the documents about the day we had planned to cross the border.

Make 2 copies of the health certificate. It comes with 2 “originals,” Nicaragua will need one copy for you to leave. Costa Rica keeps one original and you keep the other original for your records. Nicaragua will take the other original if you’re returning to Nicaragua with your pet. Costa Rica will take a copy upon leaving with your pet to return to Nicaragua. If you’re traveling on, you will need another health check done in Costa Rica before hitting the Panamanian border.

A lot of people try to do this process by themselves, but for a nominal tip, you can get one of the tramite personales to go to the inspeccion de agricultura to make the process faster while you’re dealing with all the other immigration processes.

Before you get anywhere at the border, you have to get out of Nicaragua. Go park in the parking lot right in front of the Pasajeros building (pictured above). The huge white building in front of you, you cannot miss it. You have to go in and get stamped out of Nicaragua. For non-residents it’s a $3.00 exit fee. This time they didn’t ask us to pay the $1.00 municipal fee. However, because we’re residents and don’t get an entry stamp and Nicaraguans have to have a visa to enter Costa Rica, we had to pay a fee for all three of us to exit, which cost $40.00 for all three of us, so roughly $13.33/person.

After you do this, you get back in your car and drive around to the rear of the building and park. You have to bring in all of your packed and removable items, luggage, cooler/fridge, camera gear…etc. There are men there that have carts that will help you unload all of your luggage and get you to the conveyer belt for scanning. Of course, they only ask for a tip, but it’s better than making multiple trips and potentially hurting your back (in our case due to our previous injuries, we always seem to use this option, saves time and energy). They will give you a “Declarations” form to fill out and bring it with you, literally everywhere. There may or may not be a DGA officer that will inspect your vehicle.

One of you can be getting the bags scanned, while the other, takes the passports and licenses of whoever plans on driving in Costa Rica (you can have multiple drivers) to the officer over at the inspection station. He/She will sign off on it, then you take it back into the “Entrada” side of the Nicaraguan Customs building. There you pass everyone trying to enter Nicaragua and pass the conveyor scanning machines, to the Tramite desk and request your permiso de salir (Permission to leave) and get your Nicaraguan TIP cancelled and hand over your declarations page that gets stamped and signed, again. Very important to keep the Permiso de Salida, because they will ask for this form in Costa Rica at Immigration, especially if you don’t have proof of onward travel.

After getting the Permiso de Salida, return to the person scanning your luggage. He/She will ask you a few questions. Answer the questions, confirm the details of your declaration page, take it and sign off on it. That’s three different people looking at and signing off on your declarations page.

You are now officially out of Costa Rica and officially in No-Man’s Land.

Drive over to the exit, on the right side of all of the truckers waiting to be scanned. Drive over to the fumigation area and have your vehicle exterior fumigated. Once out of the fumigation station, head back out to the main road on your left, and immediately turn right, about 100 meters down the road you’ll find the immigration office/ Aduana for Costa Rica. Park here, go in to immigration with your permiso de salida and all passports. They will ask you how long you’ll be in the country. They can grant up to 90 days and if you tell them less, they will give you only what you ask for.

They will stamp you in and now you’re officially in Costa Rica. Head out of the building and get all of your luggage that you had scanned in Nicaragua, and have it re-scanned in Costa Rica. DO NOT BRING VEGETABLES AND DAIRY PRODUCTS!!! Costa Rica will confiscate all of it, even if it’s unopened. They even took our block of cheese that we bought at PriceSmart, which is the Costco subsidiary of Latin America also located in Costa Rica who sells the same exact product. But they took it anyway. You’re better off not bringing in any fresh groceries and stocking up at a local grocery store.

After you scan your items, head out the doors, and to the olive-green shack that doubles as an Aduana. If you have a pet, let them know. You have to pay a pet deposit at the bank that’s connected to the immigration office. It’s 8080 Colones. The equivalent of $12.00 USD. Keep the receipt, the Ag inspection station will need it. Fill out the Aduana paperwork for your vehicle and all drivers, make sure you bring your passports and drivers licenses and/or Cédula (if you have one). They will log the form in the book and give you a slip of paper that you will hand over to the inspection station personnel. If you don’t have it, they don’t let you pass.

Once you’re past the initial inspection station, you have to go about 100 meters down the road and get the national insurance. This is required of all drivers no matter how long or short your stay is. You will stop at the “real” Aduana. You will need a copy of the face page of your passport, you can get copies at the Aduana here. Here you go to the seguros window first to get the mandatory insurance. Tell the officer that you’re here for the insurance and he’ll tell you which person in the lobby that you’ll be after. Bring copies and originals of your title, the picture and stamp page of your passport and your license.

Once you’ve paid $40.00 USD for a three month insurance policy, you sit back down in the same lobby and follow the same process at the to get the actual TIP/CIT (in CR, they call it the certificado importacion temporal de vehiculos- CIT). This will be your actual permit to drive in Costa Rica. You cannot apply for the TIP without first having the insurance, don’t even try. It will only take you longer. Show the official at the window your new insurance policy, and all the other documents listed above and they will issue you your CIT/TIP.

Once you have that done, if you have a pet, go to the agriculture sanitation area, which is literally out the door and immediately around the left side of the Aduana. Give them all the paperwork for the dog including the receipt. They will take one of the original health certificates and the receipt, stamp a document and hand you back all of your paperwork.

You are now free to drive in Costa Rica and your pet avoids quarantine!!!!

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