Q TRAVEL – The coronavirus pandemic has reduced the ease of traveling from one country to another. Though are fewer border restrictions now than when the pandemic first began in March 2020, those wanting to travel still face many limits.
Between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, transport options decreased for the thousands that moved freely between countries, in particular for Nicaraguans in Costa Rica who previously crossed borders easily, in buses or planes, becoming more difficult for their family visits, as well for Nicaraguan and Costa Rican tourists.
Also affected is business travel.
The airlines and travel companies have been reactivating little by little, adapting themselves to the new reality. At the same time, the number of travelers seeking to go from one country to another has slowly begun growing.
The following is a guide, prepared with files from Confidencial.com. ni, for travel between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Despite their differences, these two countries share strong ties, and remain socially and economically interdependent.
Who can enter Costa Rica?
Costa Rica closed its borders completely, beginning in March of 2020. For a time only Costa Rican nationals could enter the country, who were required to fulfill the regulations indicated by the health ministry.
For months, while legal residents (of any nationality) in the country could leave Costa Rica, they faced a possible temporary forfeiture of their immigration status, thus barring their return.
In August 2020, the country began gradually reopening its air and sea borders to certain countries. In November, air and sea borders reopened to all, including Nicaraguans. Tourists, legal residents, and citizens could enter through the international airports in San Jose and Liberia and authorized seaports.
While the land borders with Nicaragua and Panama remain closed to tourists until at least February 1, 2021, Costa Rican citizens and legal residents, either with temporary or status, can now enter by land also. Also permitted are those who work on international merchant vessels or cargo transport.
In addition, controls allow selected Nicaraguan agricultural workers to enter. An agreement signed in December established procedures for the entrance of these migrant laborers.
Flying from Nicaragua into Costa Rica is an option for tourists (non-residents), however, that is limited due to the lack of commercial flights available from Nicaragua, where only one international airline, the Colombian airline Avianca, has resumed regular flights from Nicaragua.
The Avianca flight connects Managua (MGA) and San Jose (SJO), with a stop in San Salvador (SAL),. Currently, the airline confirmed, there are three flights a week: Monday and Friday afternoons, and Tuesday mornings.
Prices and availability of these flights are subject to change, according to the date of purchase. Prices vary according to demand, and to how far in advance the ticket is purchased. An online survey of prices for different dates in February and March yielded a round-trip ticket cost between US$500 and US$700 dollars.
Charter flights are another option offered by travel agencies and tour operators. The companies rent an airplane for making the trip and then sell tickets to their customers. The dates and fares are announced on social media, and vary from one company to the other.
According to a survey the roundtrip options, tickets for a January charter flight started at US$455 dollars.
Overland travel to Costa Rica for citizens or legal residents
After several months of closures, some bus companies have resumed their trips between the two countries. However, they’re running on a greatly reduced schedule, compared to pre-pandemic. Before the pandemic, each bus operator averaged two or more trips daily.
Ticabus is charging US$29 for a one-way ticket between Nicaragua to Costa Rica, US$58 round trip. The trip frequency has still not been determined. Rather, they’re scheduling specific dates in the month.
Nicabus operates trips twice a week. Roundtrip tickets are US$57.50 for Managua departures and US$80.50 for those traveling from Chinandega.
Transnica is charging US$29.50 for a one-way ticket to Costa Rica, and US$59 round trip. Central Line is charging is US$25 one way and US$50 round trip. The buses leave Nicaragua for Costa Rica twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Requirements for entering Costa Rica
The new entry requirements for Costa Rica are part of the country’s preventive measures during the pandemic. They include an online health pass that must be completed 48 hours before travel.
Those arriving in Costa Rica by air don’t need to present a negative Covid-19 test. This requirement was discontinued on October 26, 2020. However, they must show proof of current medical travel insurance, purchased either from a provider in Costa Rica or internationally.
The price varies according to the number of days the person is staying.
Residents must show that they’re up to date with their payments to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS). If not, they must purchase temporary local insurance for a 22-day period. They are then issued a notice to catch up with the CCSS payments they owe.
Quarantine and other requirements for land arrivals
Entry to Costa Rica by land is restricted to legal residents and Costa Rican nationals, who must isolate for 14 days.
While both, nationals and residents must complete the health pass, residents must provide proof of current health insurance – travel insurance by a carrier of paid-up with the Caja.
Travel from Costa Rica to Nicaragua
Anyone can enter Nicaragua from Costa Rica, since Nicaragua never officially closed its borders for the pandemic. Travelers – be they, foreigners, Nicaraguan residents, or citizens – can enter from Costa Rica.
To enter all must show proof of negative results on a PCR COVID-19 test, taken within 72 hours. No one can enter the country without this.
What routes can be used to enter Nicaragua?
Nicaragua can be reached by air, sea, or land routes. Currently, as mentioned before, the only available commercial option for air travel is Avianca airlines. They have three flights a week, with a stop in El Salvador.
On Ticabus a one-way ticket to Nicaragua from Costa Rica costs US$28.75. The return trip to Costa Rica is worth US$25 dollars more, for a total of US$53.75. The bus operator posts specific dates in the month when they’ll be traveling, generally twice a week.
Nicabus leaves Costa Rica for Nicaragua twice a week, on Saturdays and Sundays. A one-way ticket to Managua costs US$28.75; a ticket to Chinandega costs US$35.
Transnica offers tickets for US$29.50 each way, US$59 round trip. They have set only 5 departure dates in January.
Central Line tickets cost US$25 each way, US$50 round trip. They leave Costa Rica for Nicaragua twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays.
Buses require masks and hand washing
All of the bus companies must comply with the protocols of the Costa Rican Health Ministry. These include wearing a mask during the entire trip, washing hands, and using hand sanitizer.
Before the pandemic, there were people who made the trip to Nicaragua by changing buses at the border. That is, they would take a local bus from San Jose to Peñas Blancas, then cross the border on foot, and continue their trip by flagging a local bus in Nicaragua.
The Deldu company, which runs buses to and from the Costa Rican border, has resumed this route. The cost of this part of the trip is ¢5,030 Costa Rican colones, about US$8.23.
It’s important to recall that foreigners without residency in Costa Rica can’t return by land, if they leave Costa Rica. The country is still not allowing foreigners to enter as tourists, except by air or seaports.
Reiterating, all, including children, who travel to Nicaragua must present proof of a current, negative PCR COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours. This applies to all ports of entry, be it air, land or sea. No one can enter the country without this.
For those flying with Avianca, the below link gives the requirements and procedures for sending the test results: https://www.avianca.com/us/en/about-us/news-center/avianca-news/requirements-travelers-nicaragua/
In the case of the bus companies, passengers must submit a printed copy of the results of the COVID-19 test. This must be shown before boarding any bus to the border. Staff will verify the negative result and the test date and time. The test must have been administered within 72 hours of the moment the bus crosses into Nicaragua.
At the point of exit from Costa Rica, authorities there will also demand to see the negative Covid test result. This is only a requirement if the traveler is heading to Nicaragua.
Cost of the test
In contrast to Nicaragua, where the government alone conducts and processes all Coronavirus tests, there are private laboratories, clinics and hospitals in Costa Rica that can administer and process the standard PCR Covid-19 test. These are offered at different prices.
Some of the bus companies have partnered with laboratories to offer discounted tests. In such cases, passengers would be asked to present their bus ticket to the laboratory to qualify for a special price.
The general cost of the test runs from ¢53,000 colones to over ¢80,000. A discounted test with a bus ticket could be as low as ¢42,000 colones.
Other requirements for entering Nicaragua include the usual travel documents: passports, visas, and tourist entry fees that vary according to the traveler’s nationality. Foreigners are also asked to fill out a form seven days prior to the trip.