Another week, another border crossing. The post doesn’t coming with much exciting photos but I think it’s worth posting, just for people’s reference in case they want to try it out.
With the Volcano hike complete, we were ready to call the beautiful Guatemala done and dusted. Honduras & El Salvador were never really on our list of places to visit. A mix of safety record and lack of interesting places to visit put us off spending our precious time there.
Luckily, a travel company called Gekko Explorers had started to do tourist shuttle buses directly from Antigua to Leon, Nicaragua. Shuttle busses are starting to now become the “thing” in Central America you can conveniently get picked up from your hotel and brought to the next tourist destination of choice in any of the countries from Mexico to Panama, all for a few extra dollars. This meant we could avoid going to the scary Guatemala city to get the international buses. We would also avoid staying in the equally scary San Salvador for the night and dodgy capital of Nicaragua; Managua. With all that and the promise shorter lines at border control as it was just 8 of us. Too good to be true right? Right. It’s a 15 1/2 hour bus ride which starts at 2AM!
The journey was simple. Leave Antigua at 2AM, arrive at the El Salvador border after 5 hours. Another 5 hours would bring us to Honduras and then on to Nicaragua. We were going to have a pint in Guatemala, breakfast in San Salvador, lunch in Honduras and dinner in Nicaragua. Here is the route:
The bus arrived right on time but with some bad news. He’d taken an Indian citizen a few weeks previously and the guy was denied access at the Nicaraguan border and was dumped there while he waited overnight to apply for a border visa to Managua. OUCH!! We knew the visa laws and as far as we could tell, there should not be an issue. The driver made it clear that he would not wait or would not be responsible if we were denied access. He also made it clear that we were already in a rush to leave which didn’t give us time to discuss. It truly was a game time decision to get on the bus and risk it.
At about three in the morning, seven of us packed into the bus and away we went in this lovely little automobile.
A British girl called Sophie, two French who refused to speak English and two cranky Israeli born American girls. They were expecting a limo of some sorts and they got two un-reclining back seats. They nearly ran back out of the bus when our driver pointed out the police escort to take us on the night journey due to previous car-jackings. It came as a bit of a shock to us all really as these things don’t get mentioned when you go to book your “Luxury VIP Service”.
We were one of the first to exit Guatemala and enter El Salvador. Neems passport had a bit of bother entering the new country. They had to revert to some rule book for 15 mins before she was let through. That added a little bit of nervousness about the Nicaragua crossing.El Salvador don’t stamp your passport at all on entry or exit, nor did they seem to have any electronic system. One new border down, two to go.
No expense spared for this welcome sign!
We stopped at a gas station in San Salvador for breakfast. With no veggie option in sight and very few places open we had a little bit of toast in a fried chicken shop. We should’ve made our now famous and reliable ATC (avocado, tomato, cheese) sandwiches. It was good to get a stretch though as the bus was a little cramped.
Honduras border was a crazy one. People packed the area with little order at all. People came into our bus trying to sell us food and exchange our currency. We really should’ve gotten rid of those Guatemalan $$$ which is still weighing down our bag a few months later. Thankfully we stayed in the bus and our driver sorted everything out for us. There was a slight air of being smuggled into the country in how were were brought in there.
By 2PM were made it to the Nicaragua border. Our driver again went into the office with our passports, hoping to get them all stamped without an issue. 2 minutes later, a big burly officer came out holding a nice navy Indian passport. Picture an un-interested driver, two bare bones Spanish speaking tourists and a very non English speaking officer in the middle of no man’s land trying to agree on an entry path into Nicaragua. I acted as translator here with my pigeon Spanish and luckily enough found the the language which needs no translation. Money! $50 & 30 minutes later the big burly El Señor came out with a “special” stamp on the passport. He was going to be eating a fine meal tonight thanks to us. We felt a little sorry for all the passengers waiting for the visa to come through for us. Thankfully, us travellers have nowhere important to be any time soon. We’re not in New York anymore.
Also, a big thanks to Sophie who gave us $20. God knows what we’d have to do if we couldn’t source that.
Personally, even though it’s a long long day, I would highly recommend this way of getting to Nicaragua (or vice versa). It wasn’t very painful given the breaks we got for meals and borders.
Back on board, and from one colonial style town to the next, we arrived in the hot and sticky college town of Leon. Everyone there came for one main reason… Volcano Boarding. Sounds safe, right?