This was by far the most difficult and time consuming border crossing that we’v had in Central America so far, and by the sounds of it, it’s been the most difficult and time consuming for most travelers driving the Panamerican Highway.
First things first, if you’re planning on crossing in to Nicaragua, you need to fill out their Solicitud form, which is basically you asking for permission to enter their country. It needs to be filled out by all foreigners. Here’s the link, to make it a little easier for anyone that needs the form. When we were looking for it back in 2021, the website was really discombobulated and hard to maneuver, so much so that when I finally found it (literally after hours of searching on every government website and just googling “Solicitud Nicaragua” and yielding ZERO results), I bookmarked it on my computer for future travels for friends and family that wanted to visit. To save you time and trouble, here’s the site https://solicitudes.migob.gob.ni/. Much easier to find now than it ever was for us.
They like to have this form completed about a week in advance. If you don’t have an entire week, just fill it out as soon as you know you’re crossing the border, you’ll usually receive an e-mail back from the government in Spanish that basically tells you their expectations of you while in country. There’s no “here’s your permiso de entrada” or anything that tells you that you’ve successfully applied and have been granted entry. If you get an e-mail from the government, you’ve been granted entry. It usually takes a day or so up to a week. Keep a copy of the e-mail accessible just in case. The borders don’t always (actually almost never) have reception or WIFI, so keeping a screenshot and saving it to your photo’s is helpful.
Back in 2021 when we crossed over, Covid was still a huge thing and the borders were tightly controlled. Not as bad now as before, but as per usual, when you get to the border, there will be a long line of truckers waiting at the border. Pass the truckers to the front of the line for passenger vehicles, you’ll be directed to park and go see the health inspector. It’s usually just a nurse that takes your temperature and a copy of your vaccination card or negative PCR test. Yes, PCR test is mandatory if you’re not vaccinated.
After the nurse checks that you’re symptom free or tested negative, she’ll hand you a stamped piece of paper, that’s basically saying that you’re free to go to immigration.
Head over to immigration, where they’ll ask you for the solicitud form and that slip from the nurse. Tell them you already filled it out online. They’ll take forever to go check their records and come back maybe an hour or a few hours later. If you have any food in your vehicle, dried goods, you’ll probably want to start making lunch. By the way, the border is HOT. There is NO SHADE and no area in which to stay cool if you leave the immigration building. We literally sat there for 3 hours and were the only ones in there until two bus loads of people came and were processed before we were. It was super frustrating.
When someone finally comes back and stamps your passport, they will take payment in cash only, USD. It cost us $12 to enter, and nothing for the vehicle. They will have someone from Aduana come and inspect your vehicle, they will have you remove everything from your vehicle that is loose and take it in to be scanned. If you have a Drone… HIDE IT! Unless you want to get it confiscated. They are illegal in Nicaragua and you have to have special permission to fly one. If you’re certified commercially to fly one, you have to request permission prior to entry to Nicaragua from the Civil air patrol in Nicaragua and wait for their response.
This is what caught us up for an additional couple of hours. I had to argue (mostly politely) with the customs guy for nearly 2 hours before he finally called his boss and the boss (after having dealt with more than 6 calls) about us, finally relented and gave us a permiso to have the drone. I don’t recommend this option. Just don’t declare it. They will ask you point blank, whether you have one or not. I don’t like lying and when it’s a very pointed question like that, I have a really hard time trying to skirt around the truth.
If you have a pet, make sure all of your paperwork is in order. You should have been issued a health certificate in the country you left from (we left from Guatemala and had 10 days to get to the Nicaraguan border at Guasaule) and on your paperwork they will declare which border you’re crossing at. declare it to the DGA person and they will take your paperwork to the sanitation inspection officer who signs and stamps your paperwork allowing your pet to enter without quarantine. We did see 3 dogs that were in quarantine, and it looked miserable. It’s hot, the dogs have shade, but it’s not somewhere I’d feel comfortable having my pet in quarantine, to be sure.
Once we finally cleared customs, we had to get our Import Permit for the vehicle and the Aduana that issues the permits is right behind where you scan your bags… However, we spent so much time in the immigration office and at customs that when we literally turned around to hand all of our vehicle paperwork to the lady behind the desk, she closed the window on us and left the office. It was after all, 5 pm and the office was officially closed. We spent 7 hours thus far, just trying to get into Nicaragua and we still needed to get our vehicle permit.
The Aduana official took us to the office where the truckers go and we were able to get everything done there fairly quickly. That actually was the easiest part.
Once they clear you and issue you the TIP, you’ll have a couple of checks to go through. First they’ll check that your passport is stamped and that you paid the entry fee. Then they’ll ask to see the TIP. Then someone will come out and try to get you to purchase insurance. We have an international insurance policy from Clements Worldwide and it covers just about everything, so we told them we already had insurance, showed them our documentation and they let us go.
So after almost 8 hours, we finally were legal to drive in Nicaragua! The roads here are exciting. From animals grazing on the side of the road to the horse drawn carriages that take up the lanes and the vehicles parked in the driving lanes, Nicaragua roads will keep you on your toes for sure!
Enjoy the ride and pack your patience.