16 Dec

Nicaragua-Honduras Border Crossing @ Las Manos

A new country! One we hadn’t spent any time in during our trip south, and one not as frequently traveled by overlanders who follow the PanAmerican Highway down from Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina. The Las Manos border we used to cross into Honduras was tiny with only a handful of travelers, but hoards of transport trucks clogging the roadway. There were surprisingly low levels of bureaucracy; they were happy to admit us and we were happy to have arrived!

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Leaving Nicaragua – Wednesday, November 25, 2015 @ 10:00am.

Border at Las Manos, 20 minutes northwest of Ocotal, Nicaragua.

Objective: Cancel temporary vehicle import permit with Customs and receive exit stamps in passports from Immigration.

The Nicaragua side of the border was under construction, which added to the complete chaos of it all. There is no building on this side of the border, only shacks. Maybe this “construction” state is the perpetual norm, or perhaps they really are intending to build permanent structures. ¿Quién sabe?

The entire border crossing can be done in US dollars or the local currency. We finished off our Nicaraguan cordobas, then used dollars. There is no way to get cash at the border, so best to come prepared.

At the first shack on the right, you will be flagged over by Aduana (customs) personnel wearing light blue shirts with “DGA” name tags. There is barely enough room to pull off the single-lane dirt road. Tip from Bruno: fold down your side mirrors so they don’t get clipped by a semi. So, so many semis!

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A lady collecting the municipal tax came right to the passenger window. Grandma is not very official looking, but she has official-looking receipts. We pay $1 USD per person and keep the receipt as proof of payment.

The Aduana people who initially flagged you down will hand you a Customs form to be completed. At some point, someone else thrust 2 immigration forms through the window. All of this before we even exit the vehicle.

With your completed Customs form and your Nicaragua Temporary Vehicle Import Permit, the Aduana agent will inspect (glance over at) your car and sign off on the form. You can get back in your car and roll on down a little ways until you see the customs window to have your permit canceled. Again, carefully pull to the side and approach the window on foot. Hand over the vehicle permit with your passport. It gets canceled with no questions asked.

The Migracion process is very straightforward. Fill out the immigration forms you received, and hand them over at the Salida (exit) window with your passports to be stamped out of the country. Pay the exit tax of $2 USD per person in dollars or cordobas. Best to have exact change, if you can (they don’t accept US quarters, I tried). Remember to ask for a receipt, as the last border official will ask you for it before you leave the country.

Drive along, only to be stopped one final time on the Nicaragua side. The final border official will check: exit stamp in passports, receipt for municipal tax, receipt for exit tax, canceled TIP.

Entering Honduras – Wednesday, November 25, 2015 @ 10:45am.

Objective: Receive entry stamps in passport and pay for temporary vehicle import permit.

Mooove along to the Honduras side. There are no signs to announce your arrival. You may sound idiotic, but ask someone if you have reached Honduras (Soy en Honduras?). The answer was No the first time we asked, so we kept driving.

Soon after, you’ll see the red BAC sign for the bank and people lined up for Immigration entry. There is better signage here than on the Nicaragua side, and an actual single story building to boot!

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Line up for Entrada (entry) at the blue and white Migracion side of the building, but first ask at the front of the line/window for blank immigration papers – one per person (Dos papeles por favor). Fill these out while you wait in line. Passports get stamped in, pay the entry fee of $3 USD per person and receive receipt.

Move on down the building to the orange Aduana section. They have a lengthy vehicle import form that you can ask for ahead of time and fill out while in the Migracion line up. The process for importing a vehicle is clearly spelled out (in both English and Spanish) at the Aduana window.

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With your completed form, originals plus 2 photocopies of the documents listed in the photo above, find one of the young guys in green vests who work there (or better yet, they’ll find you). The nice young man took all of our paperwork inside the building, came back out for a few clarification questions and to request payment of $36 USD for the vehicle permit (payable in dollars or Honduran lempiras). They can make change, if needed.

An additional 15 lempiras ($0.67 USD) was needed to make photocopies of the vehicle permit and passport with Honduran entry stamp. We handed over money and the young dude made copies across the street for us. Awesome. Finally, we were handed back all our originals with a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit and we were free to go. Once back in the car, one final border official wanted photocopies of the permit and passport, the helper jogged over and explained that these had already been submitted. We tipped the helper a few bucks and were on our way.

Travis shook off the border cross by downing a bag of platanos in the shade of this massive supermarket in Danli, Honduras. Estamos aquí, Honduras!

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  • Jay

    Wow. Just curious, have you ever felt unsafe while travelling through Central and South America? Sounds like you haven’t had any problems, but just curious as there doesn’t seem to be a lot of law enforcement around some of these border areas. Safe travels, looking forward to following your journey!

    • Travis

      Hi Jay! Ironically, law enforcement officers are usually the characters that we try to avoid the most! Although we’ve been lucky so far and have not had to deal with any police seeking bribes or anything. All in all, we’ve not had any problems on our journey so far, and everyone we’ve run into have been extremely friendly and helpful! Hopefully our good fortune will continue!