Nicaragua was a very short visit for us. Because of the civil unrest we didn’t do any tourism and just drove through this beautiful country in two days. We met up with two other travelers near the Honduras/Nicaraguan border and convoyed through the country. We avoided all the big cities and most of the main roads so that we could avoid most road blocks. We started early and were at the border at 7am.
On the Honduras side things took a while due to a few Nicaraguans crossing into Honduras. We got all our exit stamps without any problems and moved on to the Nicaraguan border. This border was fully staffed even though we were the only ones there. We thought this might make the process quick but it turned out that there were some fees to pay ($12 per person) in US Dollars and not in local currency. We could not use any coins, only bills, and they didn’t have change. Finding money changers to break our $20 bills took a long time, but finally we found someone. Buying the mandatory insurance was quick and two hours later we were finally in Nicaragua and ready to blast through.
We took some backroads that were beautiful but slow going and didn’t encounter any road blocks until La Paz Centro. We told them that we are tourists on the way to Costa Rica and asked them if they would let us pass. After some internal discussions they let us through. We drove on and hit the next road block at El Tamarindo. Here again, they people blocking the road were really nice and waved us through quickly. They were more relaxed here than in La Paz and they wrote “Turistas” on our windshields to help with further blocks.
Just a few kilometers after the block, on a long straight road we came up to a slow truck. He signaled us to overtake and so we did, driving over a solid yellow line. By the time we are on the other lane we see the police waiting for us. They wanted all of us to pay a fine for crossing a solid line. This seemed so bizarre to us, to have these traps waiting in between road blocks. Luckily the French couple in our little convoy are retired French police. They talked with the jefe at the police stop and they let us go. Note to self: Make a Swiss police ID for future corrupt police encounters!
After that we decided not to push our luck any further and we headed to the coast for the night. The coast was beautiful and eerily devoid of tourists. The hotels along the coast were empty. There was one Nicaraguan family on the beach, and our group of 5. The coast is so far removed from the unrest but feeling the impact of drop tourism greatly.
The next day, we got up even earlier and left our camp at 5:30am. We passed by some more road blocks but they were only starting up and let us “Turistas” through without even stopping.
In Jinotepe however everything was closed. With the help of locals we navigated through the many neighborhoods and around uncounted road blocks and we were back on the main road. One last big block in Rivas was passed quite quickly. We arrived at the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border at about 10am. No bribes payed, no violence encountered, and with a happy yet sad feeling – happy that we made it through without any issue yet sad that we had to skip this beautiful country.