Tuesday, April 28, 2009

La Fortuna / Arenal Volcano Costa Rica

The trip to get from San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua to La Fortuna / Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica took about 10 hours. I left San Juan Del Sur at 10am on the Chicken bus, you take the bus marked Rivas and get them to let you out at the Pan American Highway (La Virgen) the cost of the bus was $10 NIO's. You then walk across the highway and catch a bus to the boarder, cost of the bus was $20 NIO's. There was a bit of an issue with this bus, the buses are old school buses and the bus was packed which of course doesn't mean that they don't try to cram more people in. I spent the trip standing on the front stair at the front door (with the door open) and my ass hanging out clutched on to the side handle. All was going fairly well until the big bang and the bus started swerving all over the road. Got to say I thought they might end up scraping my ass off the Pan Am HWY. We had blown a tire, kudos to the driver who managed to keep us on the road and not flip us. A 15 minute break for a tire changed and off we went, except the reason the tire blew was because too many people were on the bus so 10 minutes later all you could smell was burning rubber as the wheel well rubbed on tire #2. No problem we pulled over and they took a hammer to it and dented it up more, problem solved.

The boarder between Nicaragua and Costa Rica was brutal, it was so busy it took over an hour to just get the "get out of Nicaragua" stamp on the passport there are no signs telling you what to do and it is a bit confusing. So tips for crossing the boarder.

Don't buy any papers off the guys selling them, you don't need them

There is someone at the entrance gate to the actual boarder from the bus stop with offical ID tag etc, I don't know if you have to pay them to go through, they charged us a 1 but then no one asked to see the paper she gave us so watch the locals and see if they pay it... If not politely decline as it probably isn't offical.

Once you are through the little hole in the fence go straight ahead to the building in front of you (far one not the closest one that would be too easy) Go around back where all of the people are lined up and get in line

There is a 2 dollar charge to get out, You get a stamp

Once you have it head back to where you came from and hang a left towards were all the big trucks are walk past the weigh scales and on the left hand side a guy will check your passport to make sure it has a Nicaragua exit stamp. This is not customs keep going straight then follow along to the right where you will see lots of people on the left side there is a sign for a restaurant, go into that building walk to the end of the hallway and on the left is customs, no charge to enter Costa Rica and very fast, one stamp and you are done

The bus stop for local buses is right across the street from the restaurant when you come out of the building. There is no ATM so you can't get the local currency (Colon's) but they take American money or if you have Cordobas (NIO's) you can change them with a money changer at a not so good rate.

I caught the Upala/San Carlos bus it does not go directly to La Fortuna but it will go to the fork in the road (San Carlos is 1 way, La Fortuna the other) this was a 6 hour ride on some very bumpy roads, the cost was $8.00 US. When they drop you at the corner see which way the bus goes and walk the other way 2 feet to the bus stop, the bus comes by every hour and it is $1.00 (500 Colon's) to go to La Fortuna.

I stayed at a hostel called Gringo Pete's in La Fortuna. Cost for a bunk in a dorm room was $5.00 a night or $2686.00 Colon's, there is a kitchen. I ended up getting a bunk in the shed LOL a separate building in the back yard, it was actually very nice and clean. Pete is a great guy, very helpful when it comes to tour and local info. I took a hiking tour up the Arenal volcano, 2 hours up then back down and they take you to an observation point to watch the lava at night. After that you get a trip to the hot springs, cost for the trip was $21.00 US ($12028.00 Colon's). Food in restaurants can get expensive, the usual cost is about $3000.00 Colon's, beers are $1000.00 Colon's, the national beer is Imperial. We had a BBQ at the hostel one night which was great, everyone brought something including marshmallow's a great little bonding experience.

La Fortuna is a pretty touristy place, there is a souvenir shop every few blocks but it is a cute little place. I found a local bar to hang out in and most nights I was the only visible tourist in the place.

As previously mentioned I lost all of the photos on my camera of this leg of the journey so I have a few I took on the way out of town, the rest I am hoping to get from the nice Dutch couple I traveled with on this part of the journey. Some more folks I have run into a few times in various places, we finally just gave up and did this part of the trip together.

Next stop Puerto Viejo Costa Rica.

1 comment:

Trekker Shar said...

UPDATE ON BORDER: Someone I sent the border info to came through about a week after me. She tried not to pay the people at the fence and 2 thugs blocked her way and wouldn't let her through, they said they were officals and had ID (probably fake)and no uniforms but they wouln't take her to immigration just told her she had to pay. She eventually paid it just to avoid the hassel.. So the "official" at the fence is not real but has thugs. Someone else said they just pushed past them.