01 Jun

Getting Your Car Onto Isla de Ometepe

This post could be titled: “Bruno Goes For A Boat Ride”. It’s the only way to get him over to Isla de Ometepe with its two prominent volcanoes, out in the middle of Lago Nicaragua. Detailed below is all the gory details for overlanders planning to undertake this wonderful adventure.

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May 14, 2015 12:30pm

We arrived at the ferry dock in San Jorge without a reservation to get Bruno on the island. Unsure of how busy it would be, it’s probably a good idea to get here as early as possible. We waited for the next available car ferry, which was at 2:30pm. Know that if you arrive on a Sunday, there are significantly fewer ferries to take you across. Since we didn’t have a reservation, we can’t give much advice on how to get one, but there are phone numbers and a ferry schedule here. Note that only the boats marked “Ferry” on the schedule will take cars across.

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There is only one road that leads from Rivas direct to the lake, and it ends at the ferry dock at Puerto San Jorge. You’ll reach a point where the road is roped off and guarded, you can’t go any further (1 on above map). It’ll just be you and a bunch of cabbies; you’ll want to pull over and park wherever you can.

As an overlander, you have now come to realize that your foreign plates behave like a beacon on a dark night, and you will probably be approached by a helper. Someone who may or may not be wearing a badge, knows all about the entry requirements, and for a small tip will very pleasantly assist you. However, with this guide you can do it all very easily on your own and avoid the need for hand-holding.

There are security guards manning the roped off road, but you are free to roam back and forth out to the ferry terminal on foot. Walk all the way out straight until you see a small building housing a bodega or snack shop on the left hand side (3 on map). On the way to this building, you will have passed something that looks like an airplane hangar (2 on map). Note this, as you will need to come back here at the end. The bodega is where you can purchase tickets for your own personal ferry crossing, as well as secure a spot for your vehicle on the ferry.

There are a limited number of spots for vehicles on each ferry, which is why reservations are recommended. We were lucky enough to show up and get a spot on the next ferry with only a couple hours wait. At the bodega, you should expect to pay for your trip TO the island, as well as pay and reserve your spot for your return trip back FROM the island.

Summary of costs to pay at the bodega:

50 Cordobas per person TO Ometepe
420 Cordobas per vehicle TO Ometepe

50 Cordobas per person FROM Ometepe
420 Cordobas per vehicle FROM Ometepe
81 Cordobas per vehicle for impuesta/tax FROM Ometepe

Notice that you did not pay the impuesta/tax for the trip TO Ometepe at the bodega. This is what’s done back at the airplane hangar (2 on map). With your personal ferry tickets, receipt for payment for the vehicle and separate receipt for payment of your return trip, head back to the hangar. There are two cashier windows, where you show payment for the vehicle for your trip TO Ometepe. You pay the 81 Cordobas for impuesta/tax and he hands you a receipt. This receipt is what the guards at the roped off entrance will need to see in order to allow your car through. A reasonable amount of time to enter with your car is ~ 1 hour before your ferry. Once the guards let your car through, wait for the ferry at the end of the dock (4 on map). Someone will approach to check your vehicle receipts and guide you on when the time comes.

A final cost will be charged to you upon exiting the island on your return trip. Someone with a clipboard approaches all cars (foreign and domestic) at the dock in Moyogalpa, and charges 50 Cordobas for island exit tax per vehicle. He will provide a receipt.

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Note that there are no ATM’s in San Jorge, so stock up in Rivas. We only found two ATM’s on the entire island: one was out of money and the other – JACKPOT – actually had money! Many hotels and restaurants will accept credit cards, but we used cash to pay for fruits, veggies, and our campsite. On that line of thought, if you plan to camp and eat your own food on Ometepe, shop in Rivas before heading over. We found a fruit & vegetable market in Altagracia on the island, but it is pretty limited.

Enjoy the ~1 hour ride on weekdays, or the ~1.5-2 hour ride on Sundays when EVERYTHING is slower. Buy some cashews from the endless vendors who don’t remember one tourist face from another (you JUST asked us! ok fine, we’ll buy some).

Short video of the Ometepe Ferry:

Arrival at the dock in Moyogalpa, with beautifully active Volcan Concepción as backdrop:

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Enjoy!

  • Alexis

    SO glad to have found your blog posts about this CA road trip. We are in the final planning stages for our road trip from the Bay Area down to Guanacaste, Costa Rica and have found your detailed boarder crossing experiences and budgets REALLY USEFUL. THANKS SO MUCH!!

    We are traveling with our two kids, ages 12 and 15 and taking a bit more direct route than you two…planning about 15- 20 days in total for driving, with most of our time back at our house in CR. Definitely inspired by your positive outlook and experiences. Pura Vida!! Alexis

    • Amanda

      Hello Alexis! We’re really glad you’ve found the information helpful 🙂 We’ve been in Guanacaste for just over a week now and are really loving it. All the best for your road trip! Feel free to email directly with any questions: amanda@freedomwithbruno.com

  • Eric Engel

    Hi Amanda!

    Thanks for posting the info on your ferry experience. We’re headed to Ometepe next week with a car from Managua, but I can’t find contact info to make a ferry reservation. Every link I click is lacking a phone number or other form of contact.

    Any suggestions?

    Thank you, Eric

    • Amanda

      Hi Eric! Since we didn’t make a reservation for ourselves, I never really took the time to look for contact info. You’re right – lots of sites recommend making one, but without info on HOW to do it.
      I had the most luck searching for ferry phone numbers in Spanish. Here are a few sites I found with contact info:
      https://villaparaiso.com.ni/ubicacion.php
      http://www.isladeometepe.com/comollegar.htm
      http://ometepeojodeagua.blogspot.com/p/horario-de-los-ferry-schedule-to.html

      Do you already know where you plan to stay? If your Spanish isn’t great and you don’t want to make the phone calls, a few of the hotel sites I went to offered to assist in making the ferry reservation for you (one in particular: http://www.hospedajesoma.com/en/ometepe.html)

      If you decide to give up, I doubt you would have any trouble without a reservation by just getting there early, especially on a non-Sunday. Let us know how it works out for you! With your recommendations I can update the post. I really hope you enjoy your time on the island, it’s quite magical 🙂

      • Eric Engel

        Thank you Amanda. Greatly appreciated!

  • Maria Connor

    Wondering if you happen to have the phone number of the ferry to make reservations. We are going in June….

    • Amanda

      Hi Maria,
      Please see response below that I made to Eric Engel with accompanying links. Thanks!

  • Ben Nowell

    Thanks for posting this. We plan on taking the ferry in a few days, and having read this makes me feel much more confident!

    • Amanda

      You’re welcome, Ben! I would love to hear if our write-up is still accurate. Have a great time!

      • Ben Nowell

        Still very accurate. We arrived very early, because we were afraid traffic might be heavy. It was Sunday, of course, traffic wasn’t bad. We went grocery shopping in Rivas. Then we headed to San Jorge still like two hours early, where we got snagged by a vendor-hawker kind of guy, who eventually brought us over to Hector who speaks English. Aside from helping us book a volcano guide, he literally walked us through the payment process. Only slight difference in locations. We paid the ferry in the front of the hangar building, then walked around the side of the same building to pay the tax. 603 all total for 2 pers. & vehicle. We had called the day before for a reservation for our pickup truck. It ran smoothly. We still had an hour to kill, had lunch, and hawker dude came and got us when it was time to load. Mind you these guys work for tips, and we did tip probably better than average. But for me it seemed worth it, others probably may think it a scam. They do really pack the vehicles like sardines tho, our rental could have been smaller. Sunday is fewer boats, therefore more people per boat? Ours at 14:30 was last car ferry for the day Sunday. I waited to respond because I wanted to see what the journey back was going to be. We ended up spending 5 nights, and took the Friday 12:30 ferry. When you arrive on Ometepe there’s a small building to your left just as you drive off the ferry. This is where you go back to, to pay for the return trip. Can’t explain why but the return cost more but included a similar 80+- tax, but there was also the man with clipboard collecting a 50 tax. 660 all said and done. The ride back wasn’t as full. So yea, worth the adventure, and not that scary!