Crossing borders in Central America – What to expect

Crossing borders in Central America – What to expect

crossing borders in central america

When you travel between countries in South and Central America crossing borders is just one of the hassles you have to deal with. Crossing borders Central America can be a daunting experience. Nobody speaks English, confusing signs, no helpful border personnel and other travelers who are as lost and confused as you are.

When you cross a border you typically get a `90-day-stamp` in your passport, this functions as an entering Visa with a stay of a maximum of 90 days. However you should always check beforehand if you need a visa, depending on the country you are from. For example Cuba still requires official visas.

TIP: You can get really good information on Wikipedia, searching for “visa requirements for” followed by your nationality.

Also, the countries Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua (called the CA-4) count as one for your 90 day stamp (unfortunately this does not make you exempt from the border fees travelling between these countries).

Tips on Crossing Borders in Central America:

  • Once you get off the bus you will be immediately surrounded by money exchangers who can get pretty obnoxious. But relax. First of all you don’t have to use their service, use a simple ‘no gracias’  and walk away. However be aware that in general you cannot exchange the currency from one Central American country in one of the other countries, so it might be a good idea to exchange whatever you have left at the border. Try to get to know the exchange rate before you leave. Use for instance
  • Have your passport and other documents ready with you (not in your big bag) and try to bring a pen with you. Most of the time there is some form to fill out and it is just easier if you have a pen with you.
  • Most of the borders in Central America are set up with a small immigration office of one country on the side of the road, you then walk a bit further up the same road and go to the immigration office of the other country. Sometimes you can leave your bags in the bus but this is not always aloud and not always a good idea. When you are in a bus crossing borders ask the driver if he stays at the bus.
  • Try to get information about the border fees before you leave for your next destination. That way you won’t be surprised. Always have a small amount of dollars with you. The fees you have to pay crossing borders in Central America are rarely more than a few dollars (exception: Belize!).
  • Stay polite and relaxed. Sometimes it feels that the border officers are in a continuously bad mood and just trying to be as unfriendly as they possibly can. Try not to take it personal!

Let us know in a comment if you have any interesting experiences crossing borders in Central America.