I went on my first border run to the Tablillas crossing, better known as Los Chiles.
Many of my clients need to go on the 90-day border run. Usually, that’s because they have not received their residency papers yet.
Generally, when you come into the country, they give you a 90-day visa. Once that is up you need to leave the country and come back in. Many people incorrectly think it’s necessary to leave the country for 72 hours. There used to be a 72-hour vehicle restriction on cars, which is where this confusion came from.
Even after you have successfully applied for residency and have your “expediente” number to keep your driver’s license legal you must leave and get a new stamp. The número de expediente is the file number that Immigration gives you when you are waiting for your residency and all of your paperwork is complete. You can always check for the status here.
If you travel out of the country often (withing ever 90 days), you don’t need to do a visa renewal border run. Most people go to Nicaragua because it is the closest border if you live in the Central Valley.
Border Run Service
The reason I went was that clients asked me to join them. I have legal status in Costa Rica, so I just went to see what it was like. My client contracted Jorge Vasquez, who does this visa renewal border run for a living, to take us up and walk us through.
For those interested in his services, Jorge Vasquez is on Facebook. He organizes trips to the border to renew your visa every month. His phone number is 8848-5488 and he speaks great English. He now charges $55 a person for the trip (check with him).
Starting at 5 AM
We left at 5 am! Jorge picked us up at our own home and then dropped us off at the end of the trip.
I was excited about a road trip. There was one more seat, so my mom came as well. She is always ready for a road trip. We did a trip like this 15 years ago and had car trouble. We got stranded in Muelle San Carlos for a couple of days… a not so pretty town. We knew that we were going to be passing by so both of us were curious to see if it had changed.
I was interested to do the border run because lots of my clients have done it and many in the future will. So, I thought it would be good to experience it myself.
Jorge was very helpful and fun to talk to. He told us exactly what we needed to have. He got us out of Costa Rica and was waiting upon our return 1 hour later! I had recommended Jorge to other clients based on the great reviews he receives as a border run guy…he also does lots of tourism. He is a great driver and is a pleasant person to deal with.
The trip is about 4-hours’ drive from Naranjo to the border. It is straight north basically; the route is Naranjo-Zarcero-Cuidad Quesada-Muelle-Los Chiles. This beautiful drive goes through several climate changes. You pass by the Zarcero park famous for its’ topiaries, and Ciudad Quesada (San Carlos) the biggest city in the northern part of Costa Rica. On the way, we stopped at a soda and had breakfast.
At the border
We arrived at the border at about 9:00 am. Jorge shuffled us through to the special preference line because my mom was with us. Due to Christmas and coffee picking time, there were lots of Nicaraguans coming or leaving. Despite how busy it was everyone was calm, polite and nice. Once we were stamped out of Costa Rica we crossed into Nicaragua on foot.
There we were greeted by the Nicaraguan police who checked our passports and waved us through. We then had to go into Nicaraguan Immigration. That was very busy, and the line was long. Everyone had tons of bags and luggage.
We made it into the small air-conditioned room with about 6 windows and waited our turn. They took us as a group, and I was made the spokesperson. Our immigration agent was a young handsome Nicaraguan that I quickly hit it off with, so we joked and laughed.
He asked why we were visiting Nicaragua. I told him we were just there for the stamp and would leave the same day. He suggested we go to the San Juan River for fish and a beer. It was 10:00 am in the morning! A little early for beer and fish for me. Once we finished with immigration we opted for a cold drink at a tiny little covered stand. Again, everyone was very nice, and they accepted dollars, colones or cordobas.
We hung around about an hour, chit-chatted with the border police, watched the cars coming in get inspected and took a couple of pictures. Then we headed back to the immigration building to get stamped out. The cute guy that checked us in popped his head in and asked how we had beer and fish so fast! I told him that we will next time. He asked for my card. But as usual, I ran out of cards, so I’ll have to try to get him one next time! Maybe a new client?
Back in Costa Rica
We walked back over to the Costa Rica side and began our stamping in the procedure. Thanks to Jorge’s help that was fast and flawless. It was pretty hot, and the line was long, so people were a little more subdued than when we went in. I did see other clients of mine in line and we said hi to each other.
On the way home, we stopped at the Crazy Iguana north of Muelle. There, we saw some big… I suppose crazy iguanas! The food was terrible, but the ambiance was ok.
Jorge sped us home safely and we were home by 3:30 in Naranjo. A long day of driving and talking but it was fun.
If you need to do a border run don’t be scared, it’s not a traumatic ordeal. Have patience and you will do just fine!
As a footnote, I’d like to assure you that I don’t promote perpetual tourism.
Nonetheless, many of our clients need to make a visa renewal border run before they receive their legal residence.
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