Here is the mud and tear less guide to getting from Monteverde, Costa Rica to Granada, Nicaragua.
GETTING TO THE BORDER
Step 1: Make sure that you have enough US dollars for the exit fees. Honestly, I would travel with very few colones because you can pay for the buses with US dollars and the Nicaraguan border only accepts US dollars. I’m not sure if the Costa Rican exit fee can be paid in colones, we paid in US dollars.
Step 2: Wake up at the butt crack of dawn and walk your tired self to the bus station. Purchase a bus ticket for the 6am bus to La Garto ($3.25 for both of us). There is also a bus to La Irma at 4:20 but we missed that bus which you can read about in my post Bed Bugs and Bogus Border Crossings . The bus to La Garto takes about two hours and is bringing you down the mountain to the Pan-American Highway. There is a stop at a restaurant on the way down so if all your food got locked away like ours don’t fret you won’t starve.
Step 3: They will announce the stop at La Garto which is just along the highway. After getting off the bus to the right and down the highway a little ways, seriously it’s not far at all, there is a tree with a bench under it. This is the spot to sit and wait for the bus. The bus to Peñas Blancas (the border) is a big charter bus just flag them down and they will pull over. It came a few minutes after 8 and cost us $15.
CROSSING THE BORDER
Step 1: Upon arriving at the border there will be tons of people swarming the bus screaming about paying the exit fee and changing money. Keep calm, tell them to wait which they will, grab your bags and when you are ready look for a person in a red shirt who will take you to pay the $8 exit fee. DO NOT I REPEAT DO NOT EXCHANGE YOUR MONEY RIGHT AWAY!! We made this mistake then discovered that US dollars are only accepted for the Nicaraguan entrance fee ($12 each) and had to re-exchange. We did not get a good exchange rate at the border. It is 27 córdoba to the dollar and we only received 24 so try to exchange as little money at the border as you can and wait until you get to a bigger city to use the ATM.
Step 2: After paying the Costa Rican exit fee go to immigration and get your exit stamp. If you ask for immigration people will point you in the right direction.
Step 3: Walk to the Nicaraguan border, down the road passed all the trucks waiting to cross. There will be a few passport checks along the way. Don’t accept immigration papers from the men standing on the side of the road around the passport checkpoints. They seem really friendly and helpful but they WILL ask you for a tip. The only reason we got away without giving one is because we truly only had enough to cross the border. You can get these papers for free at immigration.
Step 4: Enter the Nicaraguan immigration building to get your passport stamped and to pay the $12 (each) entrance fee. To enter the municipal building each person has to pay $1.
Step 5: After going through custom you will arrive outside in front of a gate. Hand the guards your passport and welcome to Nicaragua!
There is a ATM after going through customs but before crossing the border with an exchange rate of 26 córdoba to the dollar. It’s in a big ugly building that has tons of Nicaraguan flags hanging from it. If you go to this ATM beware of the mud! Don’t become a muddy mess like me
GETTING TO GRANDA
Step 1: After crossing the border there will be lots of taxi drivers asking you where you want to go and saying that their fare is very cheap. Just say “no gracias” and ask around for the bus to Rivas. Most people are very friendly and will point you in the right direction, the buses have their destination printed on the front and the bus drivers yell out where they are going. The bus to Rivas cost us 24 córdoba total (.88).
Step 2: Once in Rivas there many different options of places to go. Once again just ask people. Even if you don’t speak Spanish well,or at all, as long as you know the name of the city you’re golden. The bus to Granada cost us 62 córdoba total ($2.29) and took about two hours.
Welcome to Granada, the world is your oster!
Total amount we spent= $55.42, $27 each
It took us about 8 hours to travel from Monteverde to Granada. We were lucky and didn’t have any delays (minus me eating a face full of mud).