First I am going to tell you step by step about the border crossing. We went through by Los Chiles.
I would recommend paying your exit tax before getting to the border, it is much easier and it was $9. There is a place to pay it in Los Chiles next to the bus terminal which is across the street from Gollo, it is at a little soda. You can pay it at the border, but it is done at a machine, which is similar to an ATM machine, and it will be the same as doing a cash advance on your bank or credit card. I know many banks charge an extra fee for this and you cannot get money out of this machine. When you go up to the office there is a tent outside with a table and a couple of border police there. You need to show them your passport, they will write down your name and passport number. You will need to fill out the form for leaving, make sure to take a pen with you. Next you will go to a window marked “Salida”, this is for leaving Costa Rica. There you show them your exit tax form and the form you filled out inside the building. After that you will proceed to the border. There is another tent with two border police at it, you need to show your passport again here. After that you can finally get to the Nicaragua border. You walk through a gate and show your passport to the guard. You continue up to the building where there is another tent with a table and some more border police, again you must show your passport and you will need to fill out a form for entering Nicaragua, it is the exact same form that you filled out for leaving Costa Rica. (Get used to filling this form out) Next you will pay your entrance fee for Nicaragua, $12. Now you can finally be on your way. It is the exact same procedure for leaving Nicaragua, the exit tax is $2.
I would recommend having local currency for Nicaragua, it would have really made things a lot easier there. I was told to bring US dollars and that is what I did, so everywhere we went it was a matter of pulling out the calculator or phone to do the conversion. There are vans at this border crossing now and they will take you to San Carlos, Nicaragua for $3 or 70 Cordobas. $3 is more than 70 Cordobas. The ride up there took us about 40 minutes. They dropped us off and told us that they would be running about every 30 minutes, this is not entirely true, they run when they have a full van. Remember that the border does close at 4pm.
The lake and water front was very beautiful. The breeze was very strong, but the heat was unbearable. Even in the shade it was ungodly hot with the breeze. We did have a nice lunch for cheap and picked up a few items. My friends got some alcohol and some gifts for family. I got my husband a wooden hand painted turtle, and I got myself some ibuprofen. I know it sounds weird, but it was extremely cheap there. I didn’t like the market, it was too dark and dingy for me and it seemed that all the stuff was of really low quality. Then there were the guys walking around selling jewelry and belts, and no matter how many times you said no if they seen you again they would still ask. I had one guy shoving spices in my face. I really didn’t like it there. I am thankful for the experience though. I am not judging all of Nicaragua based on this one experience in this one town. I have heard that other towns are very nice and would possibly like to visit those someday. But if you have to do a border crossing to renew your visa, this one is very easy to do. Just cross over, take the van, and then grab some lunch and come back.
This is the soda in Los Chiles where you can pay your exit tax.