Road Routes: El Salvador to Nicaragua Bus

** 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.

el salvador to nicaragua bus

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.


El Salvador to Nicaragua bus


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.

World Nomads Insurance Central America

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.


Moving On

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!


Did this article help? Please let jus know, we love hearing your stories! Drop us a comment below or find us on Facebook and Twitter

39 thoughts on “Road Routes: El Salvador to Nicaragua Bus”

  1. perfect! that’s exactly what i was looking for! great description! since i am already in san miguel it won’t take me that long and i am glad not to have paid 30 usd for a direct bus – it is so much less fun!

    • Absolutely, it’s heaps more fun! Just remember to load up on the pupusas before you leave the El Sal border, you might not find them as often down south 🙁
      Enjoy the ride and travel safe.

    • Hi there!

      I am traveling from Costa Rica to Guatemala City for a music festival in lake atitlan. I originally planned on taking the Tica bus but turns out they are all booked up. I am wondering if there are any chicken buses or buses that go from Managua to Guatemala City.

      Thank you!

      • Hey Megan thanks for writing. What i would recommend doing is taking a bus from Managua to the border (or to Leon) and then you can use this as a guide in reverse to get yourself to San Salvador. Then you can use our other guide (Guatemala to El Salvador Bus) in reverse to get yourself to Lago Atitlan. That would be my only suggestion of a sure thing 🙂 Good luck!

  2. Super helpful! I am currently planted at La Tortuga Verde in El Cuco and I’ve been told my options are a $50 shuttle to Leon or a $75 boat ride to Potosi, Nicaragua–neither of those things are in my budget! I have been chicken busing it around Central America for 2 months now, but for some reason was intimidated by needing to pass through 3 countries in one day.
    I’ll be taking this route in a few days!

    • Awesome! I’m glad you found the article and it’s going to help you save some funds. If you’re already familiar with the chicken buses then this is going to be easy. Just make sure you get an earlier start so you don’t miss the last bus going to Leon from the Nica border. Otherwise it’s very straight forward. Let us know how the trip goes. Where you off to next?

  3. I’m so thankful for your blog and how much easier it has made traveling! When you say leave early, are we talking about 4am?

  4. Do you have any experience driving in Nicaragua? We’re planning to visit and were hoping to have an old car shipped over so we’ll have something to tool around in. Can’t really find any reliable information on the internet aside from some basic stuff I found about paperwork and import taxes. We know it won’t be cheap, but we’d much prefer to have our own way to get about. I’m curious if that sound reasonable or like it would be too much of a hassle?


    • Hey Larry, unfortunately we don’t have any info on what you’re looking for. We can only imagine it’d be expensive and difficult to organize, but if you get onto it please let us know. We met people who had rented cars in the country and that sounded difficult enough. Have you thought about just buying a car while you’re over there, or renting one?

  5. Hello, we completed this trip today and everything was as stated, perfectly. We can only thank you for this information as we would have been stuck for new year when we wanted to get to Leon to meet friends. Muchas Gracias

  6. I am hoping to do this but in the opposite direction in a few days! Heading from Leon and/or Managua to San Salvador!
    Hopefully it’s as easy as it sounds being a solo woman backpacker!!!

  7. Hey guys, my friend and I used your other 2 Central America routes and they worked perfectly. Was such a huge help, so thanks. This one unfortunately we didn’t use as I had a touch of food poisoning so a shuttle was the safest way to go, but I am doing this route again in a few months time solo, so will definitely be using it. Thanks for the tips, enjoy S.E.A

  8. Just to let everyone know. We just made this exact journey today and it worked perfectly! Just a word of warning, immigration on both Honduran and Nicaraguan sides took ages and we just made the last bus from Guasaule. We set off from San Salvador around 6.30 AM so you might wanna play it safe and leave around then or earlier. Anyway thanks a bunch for the great post!

  9. We just completed this exact trip today and it went smoothly! We left with the 8 am bus from Terminal Oriente and was able to catch the last bus which actually left Guasaule at 6 pm. (Leaving 7 am would be better.) Immigration on Honduras side lined up and took about 39-40 minutes.
    Thank you do much for great detail information.

  10. Hey there =)
    We did this trip yesterday & nothing changed.
    thanks for the information. Absolute correct.
    We started a 6.15am and got the bus 7.30 Terminal Oriente. (wait half an hour)
    We also had to wait 1 hour for the shuttle to Gausaule & 1 hour for the ride to Leon. because we arrived at 16.30pm… so we also got the last chicken bus on 17.30pm. Arrival time in Leon 20.45 but everything works fine.
    Thanks alot & travel safe 😉

  11. What are the chances that this route works with a bicycle in tow? People rarely seem phased by bus cargo, but just curious if the size of some of the shuttles would be limiting. We are mainly interested in the portion from Santa Rosa, El Salvador to the Nicaragua border. I imagine we could ride the other portions. Thank you for your information!

    • Anything is possible in Central America if you’re willing to pay for it. If the price is right they’ll strap it on top or do whatever they need to in order to get your business. As for the price, I’d have no idea. If you find out please let us know and we’ll add it to the post 🙂

  12. Hi guys, awesome blog!
    I’m planning on doing this route in a few days, but I will be going from El Tunco. I know there is a 102A bus that runs between El Tunco and San Salvador, but not sure where it will drop me off in San Salvador. Do you have any knowledge about this? 🙂

  13. Hiya sites really helpful!
    I’m planning on doing this in the next couple days from el cuco, was wondering the best route to take? 🙂

    • Hey Bex thanks so much 🙂 All you need to do is get a bus up north from El Cuco to connect with the route in this guide. You should be able to do that if you get to San Miguel and then onto Santa Rosa de Lima. Good luck and enjoy!

  14. Has anyone done this going to Somoto instead of Leon? This would mean crossing the border into Nicaragua at El Espino instead of El Guasaule.

  15. I did this trip 2 days ago. Everything worked perfectly till the border of Nicaragua. There was no (still is no) bus directly to León. I had to change the bus in Chinandega, but in total it was 2$.
    Problem in the end was, that i was kicked out of the bus 5km outside of the city center. To everyone: Please take a bycicle-taxi and do not walk the 5km (1$). Highly recmmended by the locals!!

  16. I just did this route and it works out perfectly as described above. Only some prices and times slightly changed.

    Price changes:
    1) Bus from San Salvador to Santa Rosa 5$
    2) Bus from Santa Rosa to Border 1$

    Time changes:
    1) last bus from Honduran/nicaraguian border: 6pm (direct bus, no need to change busses in chinandenga) 2$

    Borderfees + timings/prices for rest of transport stayed the same.

    PS: I highly recommend to take a taxi in Leon when arriving in the dark. Seems a little dodgy by night.

  17. Good morning guys,

    I did the trip yesterday. Some updates:
    – bus from San Salvador now leaves from the new bus terminal. Go to Oriente and change there to bus number 29 to the new terminal. It costs 0.25$ to go to Oriente and then onwards to Terminal Plaza Amanecer another 0.25$.
    – bus from Santa Rosa de Lima to the border costs now 1$
    – Nicaragua crossing took me 40min, they are now super strict it seems
    – last bus to Leon leaves at 5.55pm
    My total journey time was 15hours, due to the waiting time for buses…
    But it’s doable and the guide helped!

  18. Good morning ,

    We did the trip with my girlfriend but to go to Somoto, passing by El Espino.
    I confirm Vanessa updates:
    – bus from San Salvador now leaves from the new bus terminal. Go to Oriente and change there to bus number 29 to the new terminal. It costs 0.25$ to go to Oriente and then onwards to Terminal Plaza Amanecer another 0.25$.
    – bus from Santa Rosa de Lima to the border costs now 1$
    – Nicaragua crossing took us 40min, because we didn’t pre-check, you need to do it 7 days before it seems

    – So, from El Amatillo we took a bus to Choluteca (Or Gausule Direction ans stop at Choluteca) 65$Lempira or 3USD (better to change at the border)
    – in Choluteca, an other bus to San Marcos de Colón, not easy to find on the middle of the market, but people are really helpfull.
    – in San Marcos don’t miss the last bus for the border at 5pm, otherwise you will pay 100$Lempira(4$) each for a minibus for a 10min drive.
    – after the Nicaraguan border, our host came to find us but you can find a bus before 5pm at El Espino or have a taxi to the town of Somoto.

    The travel took us 11hours, that’s why I would advice to leave your Hostel in San Salvador at 5 am to have the last bus in El Espino at 5pm.
    We didn’t lost so much time waiting buses and people have been really helpfull.

    If you wish to make a new post for this road, i’ll be happy yo help you.


  19. Just did this for a visit to Nica for Christmas. From the airport in El Salvador, SAL it is route 138. There were no buses running on January 1, as it is a holiday. Other holidays are probably the same.. Note this in your plans, as it cost me $140 for taxi rides on that day. Still saved $850 over a direct flight to Managua. A great adventure!

  20. Thank you so much for your blog!

    Did this trip yesterday, some updates:
    1. Bus from San Salvador to Santa Rosa de lima leaves from new terminal called: Terminal Plaza Amanecer and cost me 6USD, took me almost 4 hours, departed at 6am

    2. Bus from SR de Lima to frontera Honduras 1USD and took me 1 hr due to traffic

    3. El Salv-Hondu border are really super easy. PCR test needed, but no need to print it and they don’t really check it properly. Paid 3USD at Honduras border.

    4. There is no direct bus anymore from Honduras border to Nica. Instead chicken bus driver took 5USD from me and helped me arranged all trip. Had to change bus in Choluteca. All trip costed me 5USD and took me more or less 3 hrs.

    5. Hondu exit are really easy, but huge line, which i was able to skip, otherwise would take me 1-2 hrs. Then Nica border, really very strict, PCR test printed required and seems like they really check it. Paid 12USD at the imigration, but they didn’t have change, so i need up paying 15(!). They ask so many questions like, travel plans, money income, how much cash do you have and from where, what are you doing for living etc..took me 2 hours at that border.

    6. Luckily i was able to catch last bus to Leon, which is direct, but it cost 100 Cordoba nowadays and it took 3,5 hrs to reach Leon.

    I started my trip at 6 am, was able to catch last bus, but if i would delay 10-15 min would miss it. So all trip from San Salvador to Leon took me 15 hours and 15USD for buses only.

    My recommendation: depart as early as you can, take plenty of food with you for the whole day. And have fun! Its not the easiest journey, but fun and more or less safe. I am young, solo female traveler.

  21. Hi,
    We’re planning on doing this trip from El Espino in El Salvador to Leon. Has anyone done this or is the route still accurate as described above?
    Thanks 🙂


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