Border crossing fees suck but what makes it even worst, is not knowing exactly what the “real” fees are. There are almost never signs at the border, just people telling you what to pay and Central America is no different. While traveling throughout Central America, one of the hardest things to find out was the land border crossing fees for entering and exiting a country in Central America. Searching online was no help either. Every site had a different price and not to mention the scammers at the border trying to get rich off of every tourist crossing the border.
So to help everyone traveling by land throughout Central America, we collected border crossing fees and compiled a list so you don’t have to spend hours searching online or make the same mistakes as us. Of the seven borders, we have personally crossed six of them and can give you the exact fees.
Belize is one of the countries that has signs everywhere, informing you of the border crossing fee as well as what the fee is used for. There is no entry fee for Belize, however there is an exit fee. For the departure fee, you pay a combination of fees, $30 BZD for the border exit fee, $7.50 BZD if you’ve been in Belize for more than 24 hours, and $2.50 BZD for border development fee making your departure fee total 40.00 BZ$ ($20 USD) payable both in US dollars and Belizean Dollars.
VISA NOTE: Most visitors vising Belize do not need a visa. You will receive an entrance stamp at the border when entering and this stamp is good for up to 30 days.
Heading to Belize? Here are some of our articles to help plan your trip:
- Ultimate Backpacking Guide to Belize
- Tips for Backpacking Caye Caulker, Belize
- Guide to Snorkeling the Belize Barrier Reef
There is no entrance fee or exit fee for Guatemala. However, other travelers have reported paying 10 Guatemalan quetzeles (~$1.30USD), so be aware of this possible scam. According to the Guatemala government website the amount above is the amount a foreigner would pay for every day they overstay their 90 day visa. If they do ask for you to pay this fee, ask them for a receipt and you will notice that they miraculously changed their mind.
VISA NOTE: The visa you receive at the Guatemala border is good for 90 days and applies to the rest of the countries that are a part of the CA-4 Agreement (Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador). This means that you have 90 days to travel throughout the 4 countries. The 90 days will not start over when you cross the border of one of the 4 countries.
Here are some of our guides to Guatemala:
- Best Places to Visit in Guatemala
- Best Places to Stay in Antigua, Guatemala
- 10 Best Things to Do in Lake Atitlan
- Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey
- The Magical Chicken Buses in Guatemala
- Tips for Studying Spanish in Guatemala
- Ultimate Backpacking Guide to Guatemala
Honduras was probably the easiest to find online when we were looking for border crossing fees for Central America. Pretty much everyone online agreed that the fee is $3USD. That entrance fee can be paid in dollars, Honduran Lempiras, and Guatemalan quetzales (~30Q ). Keep the receipt that is given to you at the border to avoid reported scams from other travelers when exiting Honduras.
There is no exit fee for Honduras. Some officers might ask you to pay the $3 fee again when leaving but if you show them the receipt or even just tell them you paid that fee when you entered they will “let it go”.
VISA NOTE: The visa you receive at the Honduras border is good for 90 days and applies to the rest of the countries (Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador) that are a part of the CA-4.
Here are a few of our articles about Honduras:
4. El Salvador
Unfortunately, El Salvador was the only country we did not travel too while in Central America. However, after some research we found there was no entry or exit fee for El Salvador. If you have traveled by land to El Salvador recently, please verify or correct our information in the comments below and we will be glad to update the info.
For the country known for pupusas, there is no entry fee thanks to the CA-4 Agreement. Prior to the CA-4 agreement there was a $10 entrance fee but not anymore. That means you can get all the pupusas you want from the $10 you save at the border. (Hint: We love pupusas)
You can find our backpacking guide to El Salvador here.
Nicaragua has by far the most disputed border crossing fees of any country in CA. It seemed like almost everyone paid a different fee. When I was researching the entry fee, someone wrote “no one would ever know the true fee, just expect to pay between $10-$20 USD for entry”. After some serious digging online we found that the fee was $12 USD + another $1 USD fee to enter Rivas making it a total of $13 USD. However, when we got there we had to pay $15 USD. We took the Tica bus over the border. The driver collected the fee and our passports while we were on the bus and they did not give us a receipt or an entry stamp in our passport (suspect). (A reader mentioned she took Tica bus in 2017 and paid $18 USD, so I think they upped the price) I am pretty sure the fee was suppose to be $13USD they just took a $2 bonus for their service. But hey, I guess we win some and we lose some .
As for the exit fee, we are 100% sure it’s $3USD. The exit fee is paid at two separate windows. The exit fee is $2 USD (55 Nicaraguan cordabas) per person at one window and then you pay a $1 USD (26 Nicaraguan cordabas) municipal fee at another window. I guess all the money you save from the other participating C-4 countries you pay for at the Nicaragua border.
Don’t forget to check out backpacking guide to Nicaragua here.
6. Costa Rica
There is no entrance fee for Costa Rica however you do need to show proof of onward travel. And yes, they will check.
Crossing the Costa Rica to the Panama border was my least favorite and frustrating border crossing. I just felt like I was being scammed and couldn’t do anything about it and regardless of how I felt, apparently it was all legal. Costa Rica’s exit fee is $7 USD and can be paid in dollars or Costa Rican colones. The $7 fee consist of a $5 exit tax and a $2 luggage search fee, regardless of whether the traveler has luggage or not. The extra $2 fee foreigners pay must not be enough for the luggage searchers because the cops that searched our bags took everything out and then had the nerves to look at us like “umm can you hurry up and pack your shit.” Like we were the ones that threw all our stuff on the table. I definitely wasn’t feeling it at all and neither were they.
There are several ways to pay this exit fee. There is a kiosk machine in the departure building that apparently is always “broken”, at least according to the guys that are trying to get you to pay through the second option.
Outside the office, there are two houses not to far from the border where you pay an $8 fee for an exit fee sticker. People by the border will do anything in their power to get you to pay $8 bucks instead of $7. They even wait for you by the bus terminal whispering crap in your ear. We felt that this had scam written all over it and we decided to take our chance with the “broken” machine. And it worked.
So for paying this exit fee you can pick your poison. We picked the cheapest one.
NOTE: You cannot pay the officer at the window booth in the departure building, he will not accept it. He is only there to see proof that you paid and give you an exit stamp. The kiosk takes cards only.
After crossing the bridge from Costa Rica to Panama, the same guy that was trying to get to pay an $8 USD exit fee instead $7 USD was waiting for us at a little office (which is not the official immigration office) trying to tell us to pay another fee for another damn sticker. He said we had to pay $3 USD for a stupid sticker on our passport, and we weren’t buying it, so we refused. But of course, the guy dressed in army gear that he called over told us we had to pay. So unfortunately, I will have to say that there is an entrance fee of $3 USD that can also be paid in colones. No matter how much you argue, you will pay this fee and then walk away frustrated as shit to the real Panamanian border office to get the official stamp in your passport.
As for the exit fee for Panama, it varies depending on whether you choose to leave panama via plane (almost the only way to exit Panama if you plan to go to South America) or continue to travel north into Costa Rica. If you choose to fly, like we did the departure fee mostly likely will be included in your plane ticket price. We took a flight out of Panama to Colombia and our departure fee was $40 USD. The land exit fee is $3 USD.
Note: You are required to have proof of onward travel to enter the country. Yes, they do ask. You can stay up to 180 days in Panama.
Summary of Border Crossing Fees for Central America
- Belize: No entry fee | $20 USD exit fee
- Guatemala: No entry fee | No exit fee
- Honduras: $3 USD entry fee | No exit fee
- El Salvador: No entry | No exit fee
- Nicaragua: $13 USD entry fee, or $18 USD if you take Tica Bus | $3 USD exit fee
- Costa Rica: No entry fee | $7 USD exit fee
- Panama: $3 USD entry fee | $3USD exit fee
Have you ever been scammed at a border crossing before? Please share below, so we can all learn from each other.