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Once through the border there are shuttle vans waiting to take you to San Carlos. They cost 60 cordobas and take maybe 40 minutes. I was glad I had my hat, but regretted my jeans at that point. It was incredibly hot in a thick air kind of way; even though we were by water, the San Juan Rio and Rio Frio, there was no wind. The tiny bus/van terminal is directly across from their large market. There was no point of looking in there since I wasn’t about to buy any produce (prohibited from crossing borders). The city itself is quite small with a few larger restaurants near the waterfront.
We took a short walk down the main road; there wasn’t much to see–I didn’t even find a postcard! Above is the dock area where the boats from Los Chiles come in. The immigration building is directly at the end of the wharf. Karol confirmed, from his personal experience, what I read elsewhere about that process–you’re processed in the order you come off the boat and if you were first on, you’re last off; in other words, you could have a long wait.
We ate at a little soda where I got quite a reasonable meal including a refreshment for 90 cordobas. By the time we were done it was about time to turn around and go back. With the travel time on the shuttle, we were gone the required 3 hours. As I described, both entrance and exit were at the same open counter, so it would be kind of hard to turn around and come back through after 30 minutes. The guy at the exit recognized us from earlier and had us approach together.
The exit fee was 40 cordobas, which is under $2, and there was no re-entry fee into Costa Rica; we just followed the same process in reverse. I wasn’t asked for proof that I was exiting again in 90 days, though I had printed a flight ticket just in case, and we weren’t asked to prove income, as I read is required for Panama. It was a rather lighthearted experience overall.
The drive there and back is on a single lane, curvy road up and over mountains, so can take a while, particularly when you get stuck behind one of the many trucks carrying either oranges from Nicargua (which apparently are most frequent in February and March) or sugar cane/pineapples from that area on the Costa Rican side. We got stuck behind many, and there was construction on the road near Muelles (where the giant iguanas are) so it was longer returning than it was going in the morning.
I left home in Heredia at 6 am to meet Karol in Grecia by 7 am and arrived back home in Heredia by 7:30 pm. It was a long day, BUT now I have another 90 days to remain warm, out of Canadian winter, exploring this beautiful country with my amazing partner…
ps. He (my partner) is so sweet that I had flowers waiting for me in the car when he picked me up in the evening to welcome me back.
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