How to Easily Cross the Nicaragua-Honduras Border

For a smooth transition, follow our step-by-step guide for crossing the Nicaragua-Honduras border. Find out everything you need to know.

Backpacking across Central America is extremely popular, especially because getting from one country to the next is so easy. Who wouldn’t want to see as many of these beautiful places as possible? 

Several regional bus companies make seeing three or four countries on one trip effortless. The Nicaragua-Honduras border is one crossing point that will allow travelers to take in all of the fun in San Juan del Sur and Managua in Nicaragua and Copan and Roatan in Honduras all in the same trip.

Crossing Borders Between Nicaragua and Honduras

map of Nicaragua Honduras border

It is possible to complete Nicaragua-Honduras border crossings by land or by air. No matter how you choose to cross, you should keep in mind the following information.

Border crossing at Las Manos Border / Frontera Las Manos

guard at the Nicaragua Honduras Border

This is the most popular land border between Honduras and Nicaragua. You can cross here by bus or in your own car. If you drive, you must have proof of car insurance and pay an additional fee.

You should expect your wait time to be anywhere from an hour to three or four hours, depending on how long the lines are at each border checkpoint and what kind of mood your agents are in that day. 

Typically Honduran border guards are friendly and happy to help. However, Nicaraguan guards tend to be slightly more surly and stand-offish. Still, if you have all your documents in order, you won’t have any issues.

The borders should be open 24 hours a day. However, availability in Central America is always subject to change. This is a popular route for trucks traveling through the region, so it should be open. If you book a bus ticket, you will arrive when customs/immigration is open.

Flying over the border

If you would rather fly, you can leave Nicaragua from the Managua Airport (MGA). It is possible to enter Honduras at either San Pedro Sula Airport (SAP) or Tegucigalpa Airport (TGU). Customs agents will help you complete exit taxes if this is your best option. Any entry visa fees are built into the price of your ticket.

Steps for Crossing the Honduras-Nicaragua Border

Leaving Nicaragua:

Nicaraguan flag

Before you arrive at the border, be sure that you have your Covid vaccine or proof of negative Covid-19 test and your immigration form completed. You can find the form online here. Trust me; this will save you time and hassle when dealing with border agents.

Getting to the land border on the Nicaragua side is relatively straightforward. The closest town on the Nicaraguan side is Ocotal. It is about 25 km (15.5 miles) outside Frontera Las Manos. 

If you are driving yourself or taking the local chicken bus (old, converted school buses used for public transportation in Central America), this is the best town to stop in if you need to stay the night before crossing the border.

From Ocotal, you can take the local chicken bus for a thirty-minute drive to the border.

Once you arrive at Frontera Las Manos:

Step 1:

Present yourself to the immigration officer. Turn in your immigration exit card (available at the border), and pay your $3 departure tax. Be sure to have exact change. It is not unheard of for them to claim they have no change to give you. This especially hurts if you only have a $20 bill.

Step 2

Exit the building and change any leftover córdobas for lempiras. Money changers will be waiting for you, and they typically give tourists a reasonable rate to exchange currency. Then, you will walk over to the Honduran side. It is less than five minutes from one border post to the next.

Entering Honduras:

Honduran flag

Step 3

Enter the Honduran side of the border. You will stop first to show proof of Covid vaccination or a negative COVID test from the past 48 hours.

Complete a health form and submit a picture of your passport proving your identity and proof of Covid vaccination with the link provided by immigration officers. 

Step 4:

Enter the immigration building. This is where you can pay the $3 entrance fee, and they stamp your passport. 

From here, it is easy to grab another chicken bus to El Paraiso, the next closest town in Honduras.

If you decide to take organized transport, those buses will wait for you on the Honduran side of the border to take you to your final destination. However, if you are taking a chicken bus or other public transport, they will not. 

If you are driving, be prepared to have your vehicle searched. You should also have copies of your car registration/proof of rental, passport, and driver’s license. This process can add an additional hour or two to your wait time.

Leaving Honduras (reversing the route):

Honduras drone view

You can drive to the Las Manos border or take local transportation from El Paraiso. Chicken buses run several times a day, and the ride takes about 40 minutes. 

On the Honduran side of the border, customs and immigration are located in the same building. There are also people waiting around to help you if you aren’t comfortable speaking Spanish. They may even try to help you skip the line, but the jury is out on whether this is an effective tactic. Be prepared to tip them if you use their services.

Once you arrive at the border, follow the steps outlined below:

Step 1:

Enter the immigration building and present your passport. There is no departure tax, so border agents will stamp your passport and send you on your way.

Step 2: 

Exchange any leftover lempiras for Nicaraguan córdoba. Keep your USD, as this is easier to use when paying your entrance tax on the Nicaraguan side of the border.

Step 3:

Walk over to the Nicaraguan side of the border.

Entering Nicaragua:

Nicaragua drone view

The Nicaragua side has separate buildings for aduanas (customs) and migracion (immigration). Look out for signs or ask officials if you don’t know where to go, but you should be able to navigate on your own.

Step 4:

Head to the aduana building and show your completed forms. To enter Nicaragua, you must present a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours or show proof of vaccination. You will also have to complete a Precheqo form online. 

Once you have shown your forms, you will pay a $13 entry fee. Again, have exact change if possible. Keep your receipts! Agents are notorious for asking for more money, so you want to hang on to prove that you have paid.

Customs agents may also check your bags at this stage. Don’t be alarmed if they ask you to present all of your luggage—it is usually a quick cursory glance, and then you’ll be on your way.

Step 5: 

Walk to the migracion building. Officers will look at your receipts and stamp your passport.

After you have cleared customs and immigration, you can wait for a chicken bus to Ocotal, the first town in Nicaragua. You can organize transportation to other locations from here.

If you have prearranged travel from Honduras to Managua, the bus will wait for you to reboard, and then you’ll be on your way!

What do you Need to Cross the Border?

Nicaraguan money

Staying organized is crucial for a quick border crossing. Whether you are going from Nicaragua to Honduras or vice versa, you will need the following to ensure an easy entry. 

  • Your passport (must be valid for at least the next six months).
  • Two passport photos: Sometimes they collect these, sometimes they do not. It is always better to be prepared, though.
  • Visa: EU citizens, Americans, Canadians, and many other countries do not need a visa to enter Honduras or Nicaragua. It is always a good idea to double-check visa requirements before you plan your travel to ensure you do not need anything extra to enter the region.
  • Documents: Your completed immigration form and proof of Covid 19 vaccination or a negative COVID test from the past 48 hours.
  • Departure Tax: $3 departure tax to exit Nicaragua. There isn’t one to leave Honduras.
  • Entrance Fee: $3 (Honduras) or $13 (Nicaragua) border crossing entrance fee–be sure to have the correct change. Officials do not.
  • Proof of onward travel: This can be a bus or plane ticket to prove you have confirmed plans to exit Honduras or Nicaragua before your 90-day stamp expires.
  • Cash: You can exchange your local currency at the border for your new money. Central America has no common currency like the Euro, so you need lempiras in Honduras and córdobas in Nicaragua. It is also a good idea to have some USD for the border crossing.

Other Important Info for Crossing the Nicaragua-Honduras Border

persons feet at Nicaragua Honduras border

Safety Tips

Officials on both sides of the Nicaragua-Honduras border are known to ask for extra cash. They may ask you flat out for a “tip,” or they may try to insist that you pay extra because you didn’t follow instructions for crossing the border properly. To avoid this, keep all your receipts and carry the exact change just in case any extra fees pop up.

Covid Restrictions

As of March 14, 2023, you must show proof that you are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or present a copy of a negative PCR test from within 48 hours to enter Nicaragua and Honduras. Always check for the most up-to-date information and Covid-19 requirements so you are not denied entry.

Map of the Honduras-Nicaragua Border

Honduras is located northwest of Nicaragua. The Coco River provides the majority of the border between both countries, so you will cross towards the southern end of the border.

How to Cross the Nicaragua-Honduras Border

Leon Nicaragua

Nicaragua and Honduras are both firmly on the backpacker route. Getting from one country to the other is actually very straightforward. 

You can find buses from Managua, León, and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. And Iskra Travel offers routes from Leon to La Ceiba.

However, some of the bus trips will be long. Think 10+ hours. But these bus journeys are an affordable way to get from point A to point B, so if you cannot afford to rent your own car or fly, this can be a good option.

FAQ

How much should I expect to pay when crossing the border?

You should expect to pay approximately $6-$13 per person. 

Is there a minimum stay?

There is no minimum stay—you can do this border crossing on a day trip if you want to. However, you can only stay for 90 days in the CA-4 region, which includes Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Do I need return tickets (proof of exit)?

Yes. You must have proof of onward travel to enter both Honduras and Nicaragua. They may deny you a visa at the border if you do not have it.

Is it easy and hassle-free to cross the Nicaragua-Honduras border?

Crossing the border is relatively easy; however, be prepared to wait in line. 

Posted May 3, 2023
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Isobel Coughlan
Isobel is a keen traveler and writer from London, UK. With 40 countries under her belt and months spent on the road, Isobel knows what it’s like to travel without a concrete plan. Her love for freelancing started while studying, and now she embraces the on-the-go life. When she’s not writing, Isobel can be found planning her next trip!
photo of blog writer Isobel