Nicaragua Road Trip – Part 1 The Preparation

By Fran Butler – Granada Expat


Okay, so Wayne and I are retired, but we’d like to go on a vacation! “What, but you already live in paradise”, I can hear the protests now! Being retired, we have time, but not too much money, so we thought we could take advantage of a week at a time-share resort. That way, our only expenses would be food. We also own a car, so why not just drive to our vacation spot? Brilliant idea! I located an available 2-bed/2-bath condo at an eco-resort in southern Costa Rica and a great 1 bedroom Airbnb apartment in Panama. What follows is a description of the steps you must follow to legally take your car from Nicaragua to Costa Rica and on to Panama.

First, I read through some forum posts and learned a few things: a) you need an exit permit to take your car across the border and it’s good for 30 days, b) you need insurance to cover you while in a different country, c) you can buy insurance for $10 at the border, d) you need to go to Managua to get the permits, and e) it’s a big hassle, so don’t do it! 

Being an inquiring sort of person, I called our local attorney who stated the following truths: a) you need an exit permit, but you can get it for a longer period of time, b) you need insurance while in the foreign country, c) you need the insurance before you can get the permit, so no buying it at the border. (Note: Costa Rica charges $40 at the border for “seguro” which is really a road tax and not insurance.) d) you can do all of the paperwork right here in Granada, and e) it’s not SUCH a big hassle.

Here are some facts about our situation:

• We are legal residents with cedulas

• Our car has current registration, and the circulation is in our name.

• We have current stickers, etc. for emissions, mechanical, and rodamiento.

• The insurance policy covering us here in Nicaragua is full coverage and in our names.

• We have Nicaraguan driver’s licenses.

And, I speak pretty decent Spanish.

If these facts don’t fit your situation, your mileage may vary.

Also, DO NOT attempt the following without really good Spanish skills. If necessary, take a Nica friend. 

First step, off to see our attorney who prepared a document called a “Poder Especial” which detailed all of our residency information as well as vehicle information. All of this was written in very flowery Spanish and took two complete legal-size pages. We were advised to make copies of this form, copies of our cedulas, obtain the insurance rider, and proceed to the Policia.  Sounds simple, so far.

Next, we went to the insurance desk at our local bank through whom our policy was issued. No one was at the desk, but the extremely friendly and helpful branch manager came out and began the paperwork to get the policy extension. We discussed getting an extension for 30 days or for a full year, and we opted to get the policy extended for a year. It was roughly twice the cost of a 30-day extension. We were told to come back at 9 am the next day to pick it up.

Next stop, Policia Transito division. After explaining what we needed, we were ushered to the office of the Jefe (boss or chief) of the Transito. She said for us to find an officer named Enrique Arias. Off in search of Enrique Arias, who apparently handles all of these kinds of matters? Officer Arias looked at my legal-sized folder and wrote a list of what we needed to bring back. We needed copies (enlarged) of the following documents, all in a legal-size folder:

• Poder Especial

• Cedulas

• Passports

• Vehicle circulacion

• Driver’s licenses

• Insurance policy and extension declaration (complete coverage page, not the carnet)

• Receipt from the Alcadia for the rodamiento sticker

• Receipts and copies of emissions and mechanical inspection reports

• Receipt from bank showing that we paid the 650 Córdoba fee for the permit. We opted for a 6-month permit instead of the 30 days. Why go through all of this again next time?

We went home to recuperate, have liquid refreshment, and round up all of the paperwork. We had everything except for the insurance declaration, made copies, and rested up to go back the following day.

Next morning, back to the insurance desk at the bank. Even though we were assured that everything was listo, we still waited for an hour while the declaration was printed. Next, with everything in hand, in a legal-sized folder, we went in search of Officer Arias. He told us we needed to go see the Jeff again to have the documents checked. We waited patiently in line, and the Jefe agreed everything was in order. She sent us off to see Officer Arias again. After we waited in another line, Officer Arias did a physical inspection of the vehicle, including obtaining both the chassis and engine numbers. We went back to his office, and I was given a form to complete. Guess what, the form asked for numbers for the passports, cedulas, registration, and driver’s licenses. Didn’t I just give them all of that stuff? After the form was completed, Officer Arias sent us back to the Jefe. She looked at all the documentation, gave the folder to her clerk, and told us to come back at 3 pm. We did, and we got the elusive form. So now we are the proud owners of an official Permiso de Salida de Nicaragua.

Whew! Details on the drive and border crossing to follow!


  1. Lorine

    August 24, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    You could augment your retirement by holding the hands of others through the process for a fee!

  2. Teresa

    August 25, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Your information was helpful as hubby & I are researching a move to Nicaragua but you use Spanish terms I have had to stop & look up!! It’s taken me hours to read your information 😯!!