Saturday, October 17, 2015

Run for the border - the "perpetual tourist"

Our Costa Rica gal-pals arrived in Costa Rica on July 1st so recently experienced their 1st border run to Nicaragua. I'll report on their trip soon but first thought I would tell you a little about the border run process.

(Also recently updated my blog banner - almost done with all the tweaking - hope you like it)

This post is meant to be a short overview/explanation of what it involves to make a border run in Costa Rica. Every expat that has done this for any number of times will have their own stories to share. All the forums are filled with tips and do's and don'ts (which vary widely). Some of stories will have you pretty nervous about having to make the run.

But run, you must!

We will have our own story to tell once we get to Costa Rica.


here's what I know

Juan SantaMaria International Airport, San Jose Costa Rica

If you hold a United States passport (and do not have a cédula = Costa Rica resident status), when you arrive in Costa Rica, immigration will most likely (subjective) stamp your passport with a 90 day stamp. This means, you are allowed to stay in country for a 90 day period, after which you must exit the country.  This can certainly be a big hassle for many expats, however unless you apply for residency (which can be a long process and involves some legal expenses - that's why we have a lawyer) this is the law and you better obey it! If you violate the law, you are subject to fines and also being prohibited from returning to the country for a certain length of time.

Border at Panama - a short walk across from the Caribbean side of Costa Rica to Panama

For those U.S citizens who do not have a cédula, making the "border run" becomes part of life in Costa Rica (hence these expats are called perpetual tourists). There are several borders where you can exit (to Nicaragua or Panama - choice usually depends on which border you are closest to), and lot of stories about which ones are best and easiest. There are also many ways to make the trip. You can take a bus (comfort varies) Most of the buses I've have heard about are very comfortable. You can also go by private taxi or small 4-6 person mini taxi/buses. Of course the nicer the transport, the more it will cost you.

Here is one available service we heard about on TripAdvisor - the service received excellent reviews!
Hola! My Costa Rica transport company, Walter's Taxi and Tours, is available to do visa runs to the Nicaraguan border. In only 12-14 hours round-trip, with breakfast and lunch included, you can get your 90-day visa stamp for just $150 per person. The visa run includes round-trip transportation from Atenas in a newer model air-conditioned van, breakfast and lunch in beautiful Restaurant Rincon Corobici near Liberia, and my services as your professional driver and English-Spanish translator. 

Of course there are also rules as to how long you must stay out of the country before you can return to Costa Rica as well as what documents you will need to re enter (which in typical Costa Rican style also seem to be a bit subjective - depending on the guy who is stamping your passport). The goal is to return to Costa Rica with a new 90 day stamp.

Here's what Walter's Taxi says -
Please remember to bring: --- Passport --- Tax document (receipt) from the bank that you have paid the $7 to leave Costa Rica. --- Tickets (air or bus) showing you will be departing Costa Rica within 90 days. --- Your checking account statement or $500 in cash. --- $25 to be paid to Nicaragua immigration. 
There are many pros and cons about whether it is better to obtain your cedula or make the border run every 90 days.  As we are visitors, the Costa Rican government would probably prefer that we obtain a legal residency status, but crack down to date has been lax and many expats have lived in Costa Rica for many years and continue to make the border run.

Each person will have to decide for themselves.

Back soon with an update on the gal-pals and their recent border run.
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