Costa Rica’s immigration service, the Dirección de Migración y Extranjería, reports that a total of 26.409 people headed north, crossing the Peñas Blancas border to Nicaragua, during the weekend.

This is due to the annual exodus of many Nicaraguans headed home for the Christmas holiday.

The number of Nicaraguans travelling to their home country increased 50% this over over last, according to an official statement.

Migración said that 90% of the 26.409 people crossing the northern border between December 22 and 23 were ‘foreigners’, mainly Nicaraguans spending Christmas and New Year’s with their families in Nicaragua.

Of the numbers 2.600 were Costa Ricans headed north. No numbers were given on how many North Americans (Americans and Canadians) headed north for Christmas.

The new immigration building at Peñas Blancas has now 14 “counters” for checking in and out of the country, this more than double the typical number of people attending to the border crossing.

Come the first week in January the traditional return home occurs.

Crossing the border at this time of year takes some patience.

If travelling by bus allow for about 2 hours (1 hour on each side of the border).

If by car and you have all the paperwork – MOST IMPORTANT IS THE EXIT FROM COSTA RICA PERMIT – calculate about 30 minutes on the Costa Rica side (coming or going) and about 2 hours on the Nicaraguan side (coming and going). The Permit is obtained from the Registro Nacional, which is now closed until January and most of the time on the Nicaraguan side is spent to find an official to inspect the vehicle.

If walking across the border, between 30 and 60 minutes. Most of the time is taken up waiting in line on both sides. If you can, avoid arriving at the border crossing during the same time the buses arrive. Best to get there a few minutes before, or enjoy a nice cold one waiting for the buses to clear. Not so bad on the Tico side, a madhouse on the Nica side.

For more see QTIP: Crossing The Nicaragua Border At Christmas

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