As I stated earlier this trip was primarily to renew my visa in Costa Rica. I get occasional letters from people considering a move to Costa Rica with questions of all kinds. Well, just today, a regular reader of this blog asked the following questions about getting the visa renewed every 90 days. The questions are in blue and my answers in black. Maybe you have had the same questions? These photos are not from this week’s trip, but a group trip I did December 30, 2015. This week’s trip was solo and much more than just getting a visa! This week in two days I birded in two reserves and photographed colonial churches in Leon. A lot more fun than just a border run! But both give you the 90 day visa needed:
Has the 90 day visa situation worked okay for you?
One of several “Visa Run” groups I was a part of – at border.
It has worked fine for me for a year and a half now, but I’m kind of hoping today’s is the last visa I have to get as I am completing residency requirements and will then be able to get a CR Driver License. I do not have a car but rent one occasionally, mainly for birding trips. You have to have residency before you can get a Costa Rica Driver License, so I have to use my Tennessee Driver License which requires a current Visa. Once my residency was in process I could have lived here without renewing the visa, but could not drive (legally). It is interesting to note that there are actually a lot of expats who, for whatever reasons, do not want to fool with residency application red tape and elect to be permanent tourists, living here legally on tourist visas. There have been rumors about the government “putting a stop to that,” but since it brings money into the country I doubt they will. If we could just get a Tico Trump for president of Costa Rica, he would put a stop to these damn yankees! 🙂 Fortunately, Ticos love Americans and Canadians and are all very welcoming of us and all foreigners, all races and all religions.
A reasonable wait in line coming out of Nicaragua.
How many times have you had to leave and return? I think this week was number 6. The first 4 times I used a local tour operator who organizes “Visa Runs” for local expats. We left at 5 AM, stopping for breakfast and then in Liberia for the exit tax certificate. At the Nicaragua border town of Penas Blanca we cross over and then turn around and come back. About $25-$30 of border fees plus tipping a local Nica expediter. We payed the tour guy $150 for the drive, technical assistance and two meals enroute. It was a 12-14 hour day with some good fellowship, but I got tired of that and for two times now I have made it into birding trips. Did you ever have any problems returning (as some online sources say you are at the mercy of the agent and the agent doesn’t have to let you back in for a full 90 days). I’ve heard of that and agents do have that power, but it has never happened to me (or anyone in our groups). Well, one time a lady was given 30 days and our tour leader went back and talked to the agent and he changed it to 90 days. I always get 90 days. Now you do have to show proof that you can leave the Costa Rica within the 90 days and that is easy by purchasing an open-ended bus ticket at the border for just $25. It is good for 12 months. I also read that you cannot depart to the same country two times in a row. Not true.It is funny to hear rumors like that and wonder how they get started. 🙂 I just departed Nicaragua 6 times in a row with 90-day visas every time. I go there because it is closer from Atenas than Panama or other country further away. If I have to do it again, I plan to go to Panama next time, which I will do anyway at some point. Birding is very good in several spots along the canal which I have done, but I haven’t been to northern Panama yet or seen Boco Toro which is mainly snorkeling I think, but sea birds I’m sure.
Many of the “Snowbirds” only stay here 3 months or if longer take one trip out. And there are Americans with a lot of family who go home to the states every 3 months or so, which gives you the visas. So there are many angles, but if you are really going to make it your retirement home, I recommend getting residency. It will make life here easier. And of course I already have a bank account with debit card, have my SS check deposited here, attend a local church, joined clubs and made friends; all of which makes it more like home.
I’m back home from the Nicaragua trip but too busy to process photos, so this little break in my photo blog by answering questions. And remember that the SEARCH box top right will help you find answers like this somewhere in my blog!
Where some of the Cubans slept at the Costa Rica Immigration, Penas Blanca. Most are away from the border in tent camps or old school buildings. The cans are for donations to their cause.
Well, sort of. I traveled (Wed 30 Dec) with Walter Ramirez and others to Penas Blanca where thousands of Cuban refugees are in refugee camps near this border with Nicaragua. While the Costa Rica government has spent about $2 million housing and feeding the refugees trying to get to the United States by land, Nicaragua refuses to allow them passage in transit by bus through their country. Costa Rica plans to fly them to El Salvador to continue their bus journey through Mexico but wants them to pay for their own flight cost. And today I learned that the U.S. Congress is finally doing something by offering to help with the cost of the flights (pretty low cost for 15 minute flight).
Okay, the reason we were there is the 90-day Visa Renewal Trip to the border which happens to be a famous or notorious border crossing now. Otherwise, our visa renewal went quickly and smoothly and we actually got back before dark, the first time in my four trips. Hoping this is my last of such trips. If I need to renew it again in March I will plan a trip to see Granada and some of the good bird-watching national parks in Nicaragua. Or I just may do that anyway! 🙂
Melvin, 2nd from left, our Nica Helper in the process & Walter in white hat. Plus my traveling companions, 1 Canadian & 6 U.S. Expats. At Penas Blanca, Costa Rica border crossing to Nicaragua.
Rio Corobici where we stop for breakfast and lunch enroute.
Dry season begins and these trees in my yard begin to bloom
and if like last year will continue through March or April.
I zoom in for the flowers because . . .
They are on the opposite side of trees from my terrace where the afternoon sun
shines, but maybe later they will bloom on this side too! Summer has begun!
“Where flowers bloom so does hope.”– Lady Bird Johnson, Public Roads: Where Flowers Bloom
Busy days ahead!
Tonight I go to Su Espacio’s “Arts Festival” which is more of a dance recital. I’m the photographer.
Tomorrow, Thursday, I go to San Jose early to be fingerprinted for my residency application, which is no guarantee that I will get it soon, but at least it is in the process!
Friday I may have to help shop for any angel tree kids we have not received gifts for.
Saturday is the Angel Tree party in the morning and I get a rent car in the afternoon for my Sunday to Wednesday birding near Volcan Turrialba.
Then just a couple of more Spanish lessons for this year before I get a break from conjugations and verbs! I’m considering a trip to Nicaragua over Christmas but if I don’t do that, I will make the border visa run on December 30.
A 15 hour day and nearly $200 for a bloomin’ rubber stamp with “90” handwritten over it. But I cannot rent or drive a car without it.
Nine Canadian and U.S. Expats joined tour guide Walter on “Visa Run” today. Canadians in the majority this time! 5 to 4!
Ten of us squeezed in and out of his new van all day today!
At the border we wait in lines at Both Nicaragua & Costa Rica Immigration. This was twice for each country, out, in, out, in! 🙂 A “helper” in Nicaragua did most of our line waiting for us while we shopped.
On the way up a late breakfast at Rincon Corobici Restaurant overlooking river. Then a late lunch or early dinner here on the way back. Great food & views!
And why do I do this? Only to keep the option of driving open for me until my residency is finalized and I can get a Costa Rica Driver License. (Maybe next March) As a residency applicant, I have a letter saying I can live here without renewing my Visa, but the transportation department says that to drive here with my Tennessee Driver License, I must have a current Tourist Visa. 90 Days is the max you can get per trip out and in. Some people are doing this instead of applying for residency, but not practical in my thinking. So I will continue this every 90 days until my residency and a local driver license is obtained. Two more times probably. And I may decide to do some tourism in either Nicaragua or Panama and accomplish the same purpose on my return.
New business card ordered from Vistaprint with new PO Box & Phone
NEW BUSINESS CARD EXPLAINED The palm tree business card I did before leaving Tennessee was nice but it did not have my phone number and that is what I need to share the most here! Plus the PO Box mailing address on it was for the apartment’s mail box. I receive the mail addressed to it, eventually. It is slowed by the additional layer of apartment office manager. Now that I have my own PO Box and a phone number, it was time to get a business card I can use here in Costa Rica. Note the two addresses. The first is mailing address, a box at the Atenas Post Office. The second is called the physical address. With no street signs, house numbers or other physical addresses, one needs landmarks. This is the shorter version of my description. I sometimes add “300 meters north of the blinking light on Ruta 3.” The card has a stock design again which is quicker and easier than working with my photos. Simple and utilitarian!
And if you wonder why Atenas is listed twice in mail address; well, because that is how the PO told me to write it. One is the canton and the other is the town or pueblo. Plus you will notice that Alajuela (the province) is listed first which is the way they said to do it. And the postal code is in front of the country name! Why do we Americans think everyone should do things the way we do? Plus remember that in Spanish, adjectives follow nouns. So this address order is very logical in the Spanish language and culture.
I used Vistaprint’s link to share it on Facebook, but the above detailed description is only on this blog! This is where I share everything about living in Costa Rica. Occasionally I click a link to share something on Facebook but mostly do not use it or even regular G+.
MORE ABOUT MAIL & DELIVERY TIMES
I just got two letters from a friend in Nashville addressed to the apartments, the PO Box I gave earlier. One letter was postmarked January 14 and the other January 29, fifteen days apart! I don’t know if the delay was the post office or the apartment office. That is more than a month for delivery, 6 weeks on the first one. Some earlier mail and Christmas cards were nearly that long in delivery. I think the Miami address is quicker, but it can take two weeks, occasionally quicker. Both channels have to work with Customs Office which is another delay. Customs can open all mail, but doesn’t always. They open most boxes. I’ll be watching my new PO Box and write down the delivery times and do the same with the Miami address for a better comparison and report back in a month or so. I haven’t gotten a package via Post Office yet, so don’t know, but suspect it will take longer than Aerocasillas, the Miami address. All of these mail times are good compared to my years in The Gambia when delivery time was measured in months.
PREPARING FOR A “VISA RUN” Next Wednesday I am joining a few other expats with Walter, a local tour guide and driver. He is driving us to the Nicaragua border where we cross over and then return into Costa Rica to get another 90 day Visa stamped in our passports. Because I am an official applicant for residency with a document to prove it, I don’t have to do this to stay in the country. BUT, to use my TN Drivers License to drive a car, including getting a rental car, I must have a current Visa. (My current one expires March 24.) Like in the states, one government office does not coordinate with another one. What does Immigration know about Motor Vehicles and visa versa? So they each have different requirements.
Fortunately Immigration now allows you to do it in one day where formerly you had to stay out of the country for 72 hours or 3 days. I would have done it as a vacation, but this one day trip is quicker, easier, and less expensive with all I have happening right now. We leave from the Central Park Church at 5:30 AM and will be back in Atenas by 5:30 PM. That includes stops for breakfast, lunch and Liberia to purchase an exit tax and a bus ticket from Costa Rica to Nicaragua. (Oh! A beautiful Oropendola just flew by! Camera never ready!) Well, the bus ticket is required when they let us back into Costa Rica for 90 days to prove we will be leaving within 90 days. Working the system! Probably about a $30 cost, better than an airline ticket.
Plus I have to get U.S. dollars to pay Walter and the Nicaragua entrance fees. Crazy! It is how they stay ahead of the fluctuating currency rate. But the whole day and three months of Visa will cost only about $200 USD unless I want to buy something in the duty-free shop (not). Worth it for me and I look forward to getting my first rent car here which will make the sight-seeing trips with Kevin a whole lot easier and we will get to see and do more than my usual walking, bus and taxi.
Here’s a photo of me the only other time I was in Nicaragua. We stepped off the boat from our Rio Frio Jungle Cruise to snap photos by this pitiful welcome sign with an armed guard standing nearby. I doubt the visa run Wednesday will be as exciting, but you never know!
On the Nicaragua side of the Rio Frio Jungle Cruise, 2010.