Friday, September 14, 2012

Passport Stamps and travel within the C-4

We recently traveled with a group of 33 friends from León, Nicaragua to San Salvador, El Salvador via the border crossing at Guasale, Nicaragua.

Generally speaking the border crossings were easy and uncomplicated as long as your paperwork was in order. There is a $2.00 US exit fee from Nicaragua and a $3.00 US entrance and exit fee for Honduras (foreigners only). There was no cost to enter or exit El Salvador. We were charged an entry fee when we re-entered Nicaragua of $13.00 US.

So... what happens if your paperwork isn't in order??? Well, it will be a nightmare!

Here is the story:

One member of our group recently lost and replaced their passport while in Nicaragua. That meant that when the passport was inspected at the Nicaraguan border the border official noticed that there was no stamp to indicate when the person had arrived in Nicaragua. It was explained that an extension to the visa had been purchased in Managua on "such and such" date and that subsequently the passport had been lost and replaced. The border officials would not accept the explanation or the fact that the other members in the family had had their visa extended and all 3 had been done on the same day. Finally, it was agreed that the officials would contact Managua when the office opened at 10:00 am.  After repeated phone calls to the Managua office the border official finally accepted the date for the visa extension and allowed the individual to pass through the border to Honduras. Good news, right? Well, Honduran officials didn't like the fact that there was no entry stamp and were not going to let the individual continue through their country. After a LOT of discussion and about 1 1/2 hours later the individual was given permission to continue through the country and on into El Salvador.

There was no problem exiting Honduras but when the passport was examined in El Salvador the same roadblock was encountered. This time there was no flexibility with the decision about the entry stamp. The individual ended up being fined (about $20.00) and was given 5 days to exit the C-4 or risk further penalties. Rather than returning with the group by bus and possibly having the same problems the whole way back to Nicaragua the individual decided to fly out of San Salvador to the US (basically moving a prearranged trip home up a week).

In retrospect it probably would have been wise for the individual to take a trip to the Migración office in Managua and explain the situation about the replaced passport before attempting to leave the country. They are the only ones who can issue the necessary stamp (or at least that is what we were told).

In spite of this complication the trip was very enjoyable. If you decide to take a trip out of Nicaragua and explore the C-4 go and enjoy it - just be sure all of your paperwork is in order.