90 Day Nicaraguan Tourist Visa Renewal

Every 90 days we need to renew our Nicaraguan tourist visa. We have been living in Nicaragua for the last 4.5 years as perpetual tourists. These quarterly junkets to the border are uneventful and rather tedious. The alternative is to leave our paradise so we don’t complain too much.

An obvious question is, “Why don’t we have residency?” The short answer is, “We don’t qualify.”  The long answer would significantly side track this post, so we will get to that another time.

Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica

Costa Rican Immigration Office

Step by Step Instructions on How to Renew Your Nicaraguan Tourist Visa

When you enter Nicaragua from Canada, the USA or many other countries you automatically receive a 90 day tourist visa.  This visa covers all CA4 countries. These countries include Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

If you want to stay in Nicaragua longer than 90 days you have a few options.

Apply for residency, apply for an extension of up to 90 days or leave the CA4 and return with a shiny new 90 day tourist visa. The details of the first two options are extensive, so we will cover them in a separate post.

Today we will only discuss the infamous border run to Costa Rica.

Toña stop at the Frontera

Our parking spot at the Frontera.

Getting There

We ride my trusty steed and park it at this store to be watched ($2 USD once you return) by one of the many border “helpers”. Those without a vehicle can use the plethora of taxis and busses running back and forth to the border. They are easy to find and provide a cheap mode of transport.

Peñas Blancas border

Nicaraguan Immigration Office

Leaving Nicaragua 

Nicaragua has a new immigration office. The new office is easy to find (directly in front of the entrance gate) and you no longer need to complete any paper work to exit the country. You will need to pay a $1 USD tax to the city of Peñas Blancas at the entrance to the building. Once inside you wait your turn to see an officer, pay your $2 USD departure tax and get stamped out of Nicaragua.

90 Tourist Visa Renewal

Vehicle Fumigation Station at “No Man’s Land”

From here you walk a couple hundred meters to the check point in the area we refer to as “no man’s land”. It is just past the vehicle fumigation station. A representative from Nicaragua will check to see you have an exit stamp in your passport. Then 20 meters later a Costa Rican representative will repeat the process. Be friendly because you will be back here repeating this process in reverse very shortly.

90 day tourist visa renewal

Costa Rican Immigration

Entering Costa Rica

200 meters further down the road you will find the Costa Rican Immigration office. The line to enter the country is on the right side of the building. The most important thing is you will need proof of onward travel. We have done this enough times to fill a passport and twice we were not asked. You can buy an open ended (12 month expiry) bus ticket from a vendor on site for $20 USD. You can also show a flight itinerary leaving Costa Rica (not Nicaragua) within the next 90 days.

90 Day Nicaraguan Tourist Visa Renewal

You complete a small exit form and get into line to be stamped into Costa Rica. There is no entrance fee. Extremely welcoming as long as you can prove you are leaving soon.

90 Day Nicaraguan Tourist Visa Renewal

Leaving Costa Rica

Enjoy a little stroll into Costa Rica but don’t enjoy it too much. Less than 50 meters down the road on your left you will find a few not especially official looking offices to pay your $8 USD Costa Rican exit tax. Once you have your receipt turn around and walk back to the Costa Rican Immigration Office. Just make sure you go to the opposite side this time.

90 Day Nicaraguan Tourist Visa Renewal

Obtain another immigration form and complete it before stepping up to the officer. They will need to see your form, passport and exit tax receipt. Once you are stamped out of Costa Rica start walking back to “no man’s land”.

Going Back Home to Nicaragua

90 Day Nicaraguan Tourist Visa Renewal

The small, white building in the above photo is the check point at “no man’s land”. The Costa Rican official will check to see that you have stamped out of Costa Rica. The Nicaraguan official will do the same with one addition.

This is the place where we often hear about the “shakedown”. Often the officer will say you need to be out of Nicaragua 3 hours before returning.

First of all this is not true and they will not be able to show you any regulation. Secondly your passport is not time stamped so the whole thing is ridiculous and a ploy to inconvenience you just enough to pay a bribe.

Just remember these are government officials and they are in control. To get angry, loud or demanding is considered disrespectful and you may have a really long day.

I have handled this a few different ways that were all successful but took varying amounts of time.

  • Once I sat cross legged beside the officer and asked him to tell me when the three hours was up. (5 Minutes)
  • A couple of times I just kept repeating “I don’t like Costa Rica that’s why I live in Nicaragua. Why would I go to Costa Rica when I love Nicaragua. (2 Minutes)
  • Once I said “We do this dance every 90 days. Sometimes we dance for five minutes and sometimes you don’t want to dance at all. How long would you like to dance today”. Then I took up position to lead a Waltz. (Zero Minutes)

Each time it seems like less of an issue. In fact, on our last border run the officer waved us to the front and said welcome as he shook our hands and sent us on our way.

90 Day Nicaraguan Tourist Visa Renewal

On the way back to the Nicaraguan Immigration office you will have lots of opportunities to grab a drink or a snack. You can also stop at the duty free stores to stock up on inexpensive wine or any other vice you may have. The duty free shops are next to the old immigration office which is 150 meters east of the new office. If you aren’t looking for them you won’t see them which would be a crying shame.

Renewing Your Tourist Visa

Now that you have your bounty from duty free walk over to the Nicaraguan Immigration office. You will need to pay another $1 USD tax to Peñas Blancas at the door. We always show our receipt from earlier in the day and half the time they accept it.

You do not need to complete any paperwork to enter Nicaragua but you do have to pay $12 USD for a 90 day tourist visa. The officer may ask things like where are you staying, how long you are staying, what is your profession, etc. Our passports are littered with Costa Rican and Nicaraguan stamps so they know we are living in Nicaragua. They sometimes ask if we are working in Nicaragua and how we support ourselves.

Since the new Immigration office opened, the officers have been quite friendly and professional. Sometimes they recognize us, smile and reach over the glass to shake hands.

Getting Home

This is always a the best part for us. We have our wine and more importantly another 90 days in paradise with a fresh tourist visa. We celebrate by stopping for an ice cold Toña at the little restaurant/store where we park our vehicle. Door to door round trip including our duty free stop and Toña pitstop is usually takes just over 3 hours.

Tips for First Timers

We have done border runs so many times that it is easy and relatively stress free. If you have never been to the border to renew your tourist visa the experience can be confusing and a little stressful. There are very few signs and no way to know where you need to go next.

We encourage first timers to post on the Life in San Juan del Sur Facebook group asking if someone with experience is going around the same date. You can offer to pay for gas or lunch or something in exchange for their guidance on the trip.

Once you have completed your first border run you will be ready to help out the next newbie that needs some help.

Posted on June 3, 2016, in Making the Move, Travel & Transportation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Thank you Gord and Elisha… we will soon experience this ourselves… although the time will be elongated with residing in Esteli. Appreciate the photos and first hand report.

  2. Rachel Llewellyn

    This is great thank you so much for sharing. We are planning to move down in October and this has been something I have wanted to know…step by step…you are so kind to have offered all that great advice!!!

  3. I appreciate your posts so much! I have been following them for almost 4 years when I went to Honduras to decide if I wanted to retire there. The answer was NO….then I found Nicaragua and have followed you since.

    It was our plan to be there three years ago but we had an opportunity to live in Italy for three years which is just coming to an end:) We can’t wait to utilize your home finding service and appreciate all of your information that you provide to us!

    We will qualify for the “retiree visa” when we arrive in April/May next year. Have you heard of the difficulty in this process and do you recommend it to those who do meet the min requirements?

    Thanks guys…..can’t wait to join you in the new chapter:)

  4. Dana LeTourneau


    My wife and I have lived in Bocas del Toro, Panama for the past 8 years and I have had to traveled to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica more times than I can remember. My wife is a pensionado so she doesn’t have the same issues I have with Migration.

    Same procedure as you describe but I live on a sailboat and have to produce ALL of my vessel documentation when coming back into Panama.

    Recently, Panama instituted a Maritimo Visa where you can have your tourist visa tied to your annual Cruising Permit. Now all I have to do is visit the Migration Office every 3 months (on the dot) and pay $5 for another 3 months. I’m guessing this saves me about $150 every 6 months because I would have had to round trip to Puerto Viejo ($60) and spend the night and eat ($ 90).

    But we’re already planning a visit to Nica to scope it out as our next residence. You can’t live on a sailboat all your life despite what my wife says. You’ll need a land base when you get old and decrepit and can’t take care of your boat any longer. By which I mean, our boat’s in perfect shape, we’re in good health, now is the time to think longer term.

    Love your blog.

  5. Hi Elisha and Gordon,

    I will be crossing the border tomorrow to renew my tourist visa, leaving from Managua, and I was wondering about the proof of onward travel. If I buy a two-way ticket from Managua to Peñas Blancas, do you think that’ll be sufficient? Or do you really need a ticket leaving from a place in Costa Rica?

    Thanks for your help 🙂


    • Hi Mathil,

      You must have onward travel from Costa Rica, not Nicaragua. Proof of onward travel from Nicaragua will not be accepted. We tried it once the first time unknowingly. We had a flight itineraries from Managua to Calgary, AB, Canada and the immigration officer would not accept them.

      Good luck tomorrow!


  6. Hi, I just noticed that my husband and my entry tourist card says 30 days not the 90 days it mentions online, on your blog & on the immigration site….any recommendations? Have you ever heard of this before? We are Canadian citizens. I appreciate any advice 🙂

    • Sorry, I just thought of something and looked at my passport stamp and it has a messy looking 90, so I am assuming it is fine? Do you actually show your tourist card at the border? -It is the only thing that says 30 days. Thanks 🙂

      • Hi Anna,

        No, you do not need to show your tourist card at the border. The immigration officials will check your passport for the entry stamp into Nicaragua to ensure you haven’t overstayed your 90 days.

        Kind regards,

    • Hi Anna,

      The immigration officials will look at the date stamp in your passport, not the tourist card. You should be fine.


  7. Do you know of anyone who has tried buying the 90-day extension in Managua lately? Last time I went with someone else they told me that if it’s not the first time you’ve done it you have to go to Central Office. And I’ve heard nothing but bad stories about central office not wanting to give you the extension if you’ve been here for a few years. We will need to renew in April and I’m wondering if it’s going to be a hassle to get our 90 day extension. Thanks for the tips on how to not wait three hours at the border though! That’s happened to us twice and we just went and sat around for 3 hours!

    • Fortunately we live in San Juan del Sur and it doesn’t make any sense for us to apply for an extension. The border of Costa Rica is closer to us than Managua and a new 90 day tourist visa is never an issue. The total cost for all fees is less than $25 compared to nearly $20/month for an extension. Likely the expats in Nicaragua Facebook group will be a better source for current extension experiences.

  8. I am assuming the onward ticket, is needed when walking. If on the Ticabus, the return portion would be enough?

  9. Hello. We are in SJDS and want to go to the border to have a new visa of 90 days, We have a plane ticket for Panama/Montreal, Canada in April do you think they will accept that AND do I have to print it or only show it on my iPad ?
    Thank you

    • Hi Diane,

      A plane ticket from Panama is not acceptable. You must show proof of onward travel out of Costa Rica.

      On Fly Onward you can rent a ticket for $9.99 USD.

      Another option is to purchase an open ended Ticabus ticket for $29 USD, which will be good for one year.

      You may find this article this article we published on onward travel interesting.


  10. Hola! I’m here in Nica now (exciting!) and my passport stamp very clearly outlines 90 days. I was also given the mandatory little ticket looking thing that stipulates 30 days and says on the back that when you leave Nicaragua you hand this ticket in.

    The 90/30 day business is really confusing to me. As I was hoping to stay a little past 30 days, is it likely that my 90 day passport stamp is okay to get me home to Canada when I decided to book my flight out of MGA?

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Cara,

      Welcome to Nicaragua! Hopefully you’re enjoying your time here so far.

      What matters is the number that was written on the stamp on your passport. The little slip of paper is just a receipt. We have never been asked for it when leaving Nicaragua.


  11. Do you need to know spanish or are there some english speakers?

    • Hi Kathryn,

      Most immigration officials do not speak English. It definitely make it easier if you speak a bit of Spanish.

      What a lot of people do for their first time crossing the border is to find someone that has gone before that they can tag along with.


  12. Hola! Do you happen to know how many days before the expiration date you can renew your visa (in an migration office)? From what i have heard some say that you cannot renew it before 10 days of expiration/30 days of expiration.

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