** Updated October 2015 ** Despite this article being a couple of years old, we still receive regular feedback from travelers that this is still the best and cheapest way to do the border crossing from El Salvador to Nicaragua. Please continue to leave comments if anything changes. Gracias!
Need a quick and cheap way to travel to Nicaragua? Looking for an El Salvador to Nicaragua bus? You don’t need to book a Tica bus or with a tour agency, local travel is the only way to go. It’s an easy trip that costs $13 and takes between 10-12 hours, so try to leave early and avoid crossing borders in the dark and missing your last bus at 5:30pm.
Here’s a great step-by-step guide that will ensure more money in your pocket and less in the hands of over-priced tour companies and buses.
San Salvador to el Terminal Oriente
First make your way to the main bus terminal in town. If you’re staying at Cumbres de Volcan it’s super simple. Walk to the corner, flag down the #52 and ride it till the end. Otherwise a lot of other public buses head there from the crack of dawn. 30Mins – 20c
El terminal oriente to Santa Rosa de Lima
Traveling in El Salvador is pretty easy to organize. At the terminal buses to Honduras run more frequently in the morning and surprisingly aren’t chicken buses, which makes the journey a lot more enjoyable. The express bus, which seems to stop frequently anyway, costs $6 and takes 3 hours. While the routine bus costs $4 and takes a little longer. 3 to 4 hours – $4/$6
Santa Rosa de Lima to the Honduran border
Once you get off the bus you can connect straight onto the public bus #330 which takes you within walking distance to the border. Don’t listen to the taxi-drivers who tell you journey is too far. 20Mins – 90c
Leaving El Salvador at the Border
Walk to the El Salvador immigration and disregard the peddle tricycles. Once again they’ll tell you it’s too far to walk, but it’s not. It’s a refreshingly easy walk after hours on a bus and only takes a few minutes. They’ll be plenty of people out and about so no need to worry.
Crossing the Border into Honduras
Yep you need to pass through a whole country just to get to Nicaragua. Honduras immigration officials take a handy $3, even though you’ll only be in the country for 2 hours. It’s a simple process and they’re pretty used to tourists crossing the border. On the other side you’ll find a lot of transport options ready to jet you across Honduras to Nicaragua.
El Amatillo to Guasaule
Straight through from border of Honduras to the border of Nicaragua. In Honduras the official currency is the Limpiera, but you’ll be able to pay in USD if you’re only passing through and don’t want to exchange money at rip-off rates. You’ll find a shuttle leaving just past the border that’s quick and breezy. 2 hours – $6
Honduras to Nicaragua Border Crossing
Exiting Honduras is easy, but entering Nicaragua may come as a surprise to your wallet. Be prepared to pay $12USD! Old guide books will tell you it’s just a US thing, but they were unfortunately outdated. There is an ATM at the border and you can pay in USD or the official Nicaraguan currency Corbodas. You won’t get a stamp because you’re still in the C4 region and they’ll continue to count from your initial 90 days when you first entered the C4 region.
Guasaule to León
Walk a couple of hundred feet past the border and ask people for the buses to León. The last one leaves just after 5:30pm, so make sure you get there in time. The last thing you want is an expensive taxi ride or being stranded at a dodgy border. 2 1/2Hrs – 50 Cordoba – $2
León Bus Station to Town
Once at the bus terminal in León you’re a little out of the main hostel centre. It’s walkable, but if it’s dark save yourself the potential hassle and get a taxi. Nicaragua is generally pretty safe, but you are exposing yourself to risk anytime you travel, so just have your wits about you. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it! $1 per person.
Enjoy the Activities
There’s a host of places to stay and activities to do! While we were there we took a tour of the famous Flor de Caña rum factory, surprised Christine with some salsa classes for her birthday and also volcano boarded down the famous Cerro Negro.
Looking for the next location? Why not head to the our favorite beach location in the Caribbean, the amazing Corns Islands. Or perhaps you’re a hiker and want to tackle the impressive lake volcanoes of Ometepe Island!