To save some money we decided to do the border crossing from Nicaragua to Costa Rica independently. There is the option of using a bus service such as TicaBus or NicaBus. The cost is $29 per person regardless of where you catch it from in Nicaragua and there is no cost reduction for jumping off earlier than San Jose, Costa Rica.
As such we opted for the local bus route. We took our free shuttle from Playa Maderas to San Juan del Sur where we jumped on the local bus for Rivas for 15 Cordoba per person.
Once at the Rivas station we took the bus for Penas Blancas which is the border for Nicaragua, this was 20 Cordoba each. When we arrived at Penas Blancas it was somewhat chaotic to work out what you needed to do and where to go.
There are people swarming you offering you immigration forms,but you can’t actually seem to buy one from them as they want to fill them in for you and charge you for the service. However, you can pick these up at the actual border exit by giving the person a “tip” for them.
From the bus stop you need to follow the crowd and in essence go through a fence where security checks your passport. Once through you need to head towards the building across the road to pay your exit fees and hand in your forms. Exit fee is $3 per person.
Once stamped out and payment processed you need to walk about 300 metres to the Costa Rica entry point. Along the way there is more security who may ask to see your passport.
When you arrive at the immigration building head to the right hand side as the left is for exiting Costa Rica. We were extremely unlucky and the queue went around the building, it took us over 3 hours of slowly moving in the queue in the lunch time sun to finally reach the entry office.
The process for entry is very easy. You fill in another immigration form which are free on this side and hand over your passport. No fees and no hassle. We were simply asked how long we would be staying and then were stamped in.
From outside the building you can catch local buses to places such as Liberia. We had got talking to a semi retired Canadian couple who now live in Costa Rica and they were nice enough to offer us a lift all the way to Liberia, which helped us keep our costs down for the day!