The Thrill of Crossing a Border

February 17, 2012

The Writers' Roundup is on vacation until I reconnect with my Google Reader in late February. I need a break from RSS! If you really miss it, you can always browse old Writers' Roundups; they may be old, but they're still bursting with information.

My lover travel gave me the best Valentine’s Day gift ever — a border crossing.

Border crossings fascinate me because life can be so different on two sides of an artificial line.

On the Nicaraguan side, trucks lined up for nearly a mile waiting for inspection so they could deliver their goods into Costa Rica. People rode in beat-up taxis and chicken buses (aka old American school buses), and paid their fares in cordobas (200 = $1).

But once we walked into Costa Rica, the buses turned into coaches, relative luxury. This is, no doubt, the wealthier country. In many parts, dollars are used as often as colones, the local currency (500 = $1).

Here’s the other reason I love crossing a border: it means I’m deep inside a region, in the thick of local culture. It means I’m really experiencing the place. Most tourists don’t cross borders — we usually fly from one place to another, and don’t get far enough from the airport to cross into a neighboring country. But literally walking from one country into another is one of the most interesting travel experiences out there.

Exiting Nicaragua and entering Costa Rica required at least half a dozen passport checks. First we paid a municipal tax to leave, then waited in a short queue (and in the rain) to cross the road toward Nicaragua’s exit building, where we got exit stamps and exchanged the last of our cordobas for colones. (If you think it’s confusing to go from your currency to that of another country, try figuring out the exchange rate from the country you’re leaving to the country you’re entering.)

Then we walked across a parking lot and literally across the boder into Costa Rica:

My travel mates walking from Nicaragua into Costa Rica.


Entering Costa Rica!

Entering Costa Rica!

Once across the border, several sets of border police checked our passports alongside the road until we entered a building, where we waited in a line for our entry stamps. Soon we were sitting on a coach bus, waiting in comfort for a ride to the nearest city, Liberia.

Of course, we could’ve boarded a bus in Nica with 40 other tourists and been ushered through this entire process…

But where’s the fun in that?

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    14 Replies to “The Thrill of Crossing a Border”

    • Adam says:

      Agreed, nothing quite like crossing a border. When I was crossing into South Africa from Mozambique, we actually end up having to sit at the border for six hours because we missed one of the (many) checks when we initially crossed a week earlier. So technically, we were in Mozambique as illegal immigrants! Trying to pursuade them to let us back across was quite the challenge, especially since the boarder agents from Mozambique barely spoke English. But looking back, it was an incredible experience.

      Hope you enjoy the rest of your trip!

    • That is the best Vday present ever!

    • Srinivas says:

      HEHE. I’ve crossed that border myself and got a good laugh out of the half dozen passport checks (aka bribe extraction points). That border crossing takes forever. But you’re spot on about the CR being the richer of the two countries. You’ll also see that its more expensive. I hope you enjoyed the 50 cent beers in in Nicaragua.

    • Kurt Swann says:

      Alexis, crossing borders like that is the BEST! Have done it a few times in different parts of the world and I agree . . . it is fascinating how different it is on either side of an artificial line. Just walking across is often one of the most memorable parts of a trip. I’ve been to Costa Rica but not Nicaragua so it’s inspiring to read about what you’re up to . . . sounds like a great adventure! Kurt

    • Misti says:

      I’ve entered several counties by boat and that is always interesting, but the only place I’ve literally walked across the border (or rather taken yet another boat) was into Mexico from Big Bend National Park. This was pre 9/11 and there were no passport checks then.

      Love reading your adventure!

    • Shae says:

      Just love reading your adventures Alexis. Looking forward to the next one.

    • Anne Belov says:

      Guess what”¦I’ve awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award! I guess it’s a little like a blog chain letter, and you can take it or leave it, if you like. Should you decide to accept this award, there are a few things you need to do:

      1. Thank me in a blog post, and provide a link back to my blog,
      2. List 7 things about you that we, your readers may not know. (my favorite part)
      3. Pass the award on to 7 more people, with a link to their blogs as part of the list. There may at one time been a requirement to add them to your blogroll, but I can’t remember, as I have procrastinated doing this for long enough that I lost track of the original email instructions.

      Be the Bear!
      Bob T. Panda

    • Shuni says:

      You are writing about my feelings 😉

    • nikkilao says:

      This is a great article and very inspiring and crossing in edges part around the world and to be sure it’s fascinating how different it’s on each side of the artificial line. Just walking across is frequently probably the most memorable areas of a visit. I havent visited the place you have visited so it’s inspiring to see by what you’re as much as. Seems like an excellent adventure hope that at some point i’m able to perform the adventure you had.

    • I really enjoy your adventures, I just with there would me more photos. I have my own personal “adventure” blog too.. And I believe having nice photos would really captivate a lot of readers.

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