Or for those of you of a certain age:-
“Here we are at
(For those of you too young to remember this song check it out here.)
12/2/17. This is the story of our celebratory bus ride from Panama to Nicaragua – which was nowhere near as bad as we feared and even quite good fun in places!
The bus left Panama City at 11 yesterday morning and it was like being on a plane with food snacks and drinks being brought around. It took 2 hours to cross the Panama/Costa Rica border which was a right palaver and we were glad that we had people to follow!
Firstly we had to get all the luggage off bus, have it inspected by a sniffer dog, and then reload it onto the bus. Next we had to queue to pay the Panamanian exit tax (a whole $1 each), then queue to get an exit stamp in our passports.
The next stage was a walk to the Costa Rican side get an entry stamp in our passport, before unloading the luggage to get it inspected again. This time it was not done by a dog but involved some people having to empty their suitcases and bags. Thankfully the inspection of ours was extremely cursory – Christine didn’t even have to open hers!
The border is not ‘closed’ like in Europe. It is full of people and businesses and you have to walk around finding the correct places to get stamps and to pay! Chaos!
We arrived in San Jose (the capital of CR where we had spent some time already) at midnight, 2 hours early. So a 1 hour layover in the middle of the night became 3 hours! Joy of joys!
The bus for Nicaragua left at 3am. The luggage for passengers with onward transfers was left in several piles in a locked area depending on where they were going. As we pulled away Stephen noticed that Christine’s pannier was still in one of the piles.
He made a quick rush to the front of the bus to say that our ours were left behind! The bus stopped and then we ran back to the bus station to get the pannier from extremely unhelpful baggage handlers who insisted that the bus had gone with all of the luggage. Eventually they relented/ understood and we recovered the bag and made a check that Stephen’s bag was already loaded.
Back to bus we tried to get some sleep with varying degrees of success (it was perhaps marginally worse than sleeping on a plane as the road was quite bumpy) before arriving at the CR/Nicaragua border at 7 am.
We had already paid the CR exit tax ($8 each) before boarding the bus so we just had to queue to get the exit stamp from Costa Rica. Then all our passports were taken by the bus staff along with $15 per head entry tax for Nicaragua. We unloaded our luggage and had it examined (this time by an airport type scanner) before reloading it and getting our passports back with entry stamp for Nicaragua.
Thankfully there were no questions about our onwards travel or yellow fever! Hurrah!
We arrived 2 hours early in Managua (the capital) which does not get a good write up in the guide books. As a result, we were a little apprehensive about the transfer we had to make to a different bus station. So, without quibbling we accepted the proposed fare from the first taxi we met and paid $5 for a 2 km journey.
Arriving at the minibus station a man asked “Granada?” We nodded and he directed us onto an almost empty bus which pulled out almost immediately. It went 50 yards up the road, did a U turn and stopped at a stop on the other side of the road. Another 20+ people got on and it was standing room only for a while.
Stephen in particular found the ride most enjoyable as it was a real “local” bus with the conductor hanging out the door shouting at people standing at the side of the road, whether at a proper stop or not, to persuade them to get onboard.
And best of all, the 30 mile/1 hour trip to Granada cost the princely sum of 90 cents each!
Definitely a memorable way to spend our wedding anniversary!