HAVANA TIMES – As the Xmas and New Year’s season gets underway, travel agencies specializing in overland travel are poised to meet the demands of thousands of Nicaraguans, hoping to cross the border and celebrate together with relatives in nearby countries. They’re ready as well for Nicaraguans returning home to gather with their families there.
At different moments, the pandemic has forced travelers to reduce their trips. There’ve also been months when countries have instituted extreme safety precautions for those entering. Now, vaccinations against Covid-19 are giving a break to the travel agencies, which are already reporting a rise in reservations for December. The Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa consulted with four different travel agencies that offer one way or round-trip bus journeys from Nicaragua to other Central American countries: Nicaragua – Costa Rica; Nicaragua – Honduras; Nicaragua – El Salvador; and Nicaragua – Guatemala.
“Thank God, people are traveling between countries. We believe that the December season will be very good. Last year, there were many border restrictions; as a result, about 80 per cent of the passengers who normally travel on these dates didn’t do so,” stated Enrique Josue Quiñonez, operations manager for Nicabus, a company that runs buses between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Quiñonez indicated that although the company is operating at 40% capacity, they’ve seen an increase in passengers all this year. The rise dates chiefly from Costa Rica’s decision to let those presenting proof of complete Covid-19 vaccination enter the country without a Covid test, and without purchasing special medical insurance. Costa Rica accepts a vaccination card showing two completed doses of Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Covishield or Johnson & Johnson, as long as the last dose was administered at least 14 days prior to the traveler’s arrival. Other travelers must pay a daily charge for temporary medical insurance. Minors do not pay for insurance.
In the case of Nicaragua, those who have received the two AstraZeneca, Covishield or Pfizer doses are exonerated from the insurance payments. Others must present themselves at the travel agency to purchase a special insurance policy from an authorized agent. The cost of this depends on how long they plan to be in the country: for example, a person staying for a week must pay 48 dollars, calculates a representative of the Transnica agency.
Most frequent routes
Nicabus currently travels to San Jose, Costa Rica, three times a week – on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays. However, according to Quiñonez, they’re planning for daily departures in December. Their buses depart Chinandega at 5:30 am, and a one-way trip costs US $35 dollars. Those traveling from Managua board the buses at 8:30 am and pay US $28.75 each way.
The Transnica Agency also runs buses between Managua and San Jose. Like Nicabus, they’ve been gradually increasing the frequency of departures. In November, their buses leave four times a week, but in December they plan to make five trips weekly. The cost of a ticket from Managua to San Jose is US $30 dollars each way. Special return trips are scheduled between December 18 and 23rd, with buses leaving Costa Rica at 1:30 am, 2:30 am, and 3 am.
Besides their bus fare, Nicaraguan travelers to Costa Rica must also pay US $32 for a visa, plus $7.30 for the appointment to receive this visa from the Costa Rican consulate in Managua. When booking their return trip to Nicaragua, the travel agent will also charge them a US $8 tax.
Routes to other Central American countries
Transnica also offers trips to Honduras, a route that’s in high demand. They report that tickets to Tegucigalpa are “completely sold out” for December 18 and 19. For that reason, the company has opened some new schedules to Honduras for December 12th and 23rd. The one-way cost on this route is US $60 dollars.
It’s important to note that Honduras demands proof of a negative PCR test for Covid in order to enter the country. That test must be taken in Managua at the laboratory within the Ministry of Health complex. The test costs US $150.
Transporte del Sol [Sun Transport] is an agency that programs buses between Nicaragua and El Salvador, and Nicaragua to Guatemala. They agreed with the other agencies that demand has remained steady these months, despite problems with health and immigration policies.
The agency representative reports that they’re currently making daily trips to El Salvador, with a round-trip cost of US $110 dollars. Round-trip tickets to Guatemala cost US $130. The buses leave at 1:00 am.
Both Honduras and Guatemala require proof of a negative PCR Covid test. However, immigration authorities in El Salvador recently eliminated both the testing and vaccination requirements for travelers, and are allowing open entry into the country.
Ticabus is another of the international overland travel agencies that serve Nicaragua. Their social media posts state that they’ll continue running daily trips to Costa Rica, departing at 6 am. A one-way Ticabus ticket Nicaragua-Costa Rica costs US $25.
Their route between Nicaragua and San Pedro Sula leaves at 5 am every Thursday and costs US $51 dollars. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, their bus to Tegucigalpa leaves a 5 am and costs US $33.45.
A Ticabus departing Nicaragua for El Salvador is scheduled for Wednesday, December 1st at 5 am, with a cost of US $50.
Security measures will be maintained
The travel agencies note that all travelers are required to wear masks throughout the entire trip, and that their staff offers hand sanitizer and takes travelers’ temperatures prior to boarding.
For more information, or for help with immigration procedures for the country of destination, contact your preferred travel agency. All travelers should be sure to meet all necessary health and immigration requirements, in order to travel safely during this holiday season. The Covid-19 pandemic is still present, and travelers should be careful to protect themselves.