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How to cross borders in Central America

[ 6 ] March 4, 2011 | Alison Adey

Planning to travel through Central America? Crossing borders is fairly straight forward but occasionally tourists have trouble. Read these top tips for crossing borders safely:

* Avoid crossing borders at night

There’s usually a fair bit of walking to do between immigration offices so don’t leave yourself in a vulnerable position by arriving at night. You’re an easy target.

* Get stamped

Make sure you get stamped in and out of countries – this is really important as you could get refused entry/exit.

Crossing borders in Central America - Tips and advice for crossing borders - Fabulous Travel Guide

Crossing borders in Central America - Tips and advice - Fabulous Travel Guide

* Keep tourist cards and documents safe

It’s a good idea to buy a passport wallet so you can tuck away forms and tourist cards.

* Proof of onward travel

Read the latest entry requirements before travelling. Some countries, such as Costa Rica and Panama, require proof of onward travel. So print off flight documents or bus tickets ready to show them.

* Ask for receipts

There is usually a departure tax/entry fee when crossing borders in Central America. However, always ask for a receipt (see Spanish phrases) as tourists are often ripped off. It’s a good idea to carry extra cash in case of emergencies.

* Change your currency before you get to the border

You’ll get a better deal if you change your currency before you reach the border.  If you do need to change money, make sure you know the exchange rate before you start negotiating.

* Be wary of fraudsters

Don’t hand your passport over to anyone until you’re safely inside the immigration building. Some fraudsters try and get you to ‘buy’ a stamp outside and insist you give them your passport. Don’t!

* Don’t leave valuables in your backpack

If you take a bus over the border it will usually drop you off at immigration and drive through separately. Don’t leave any valuables in your backpack – keep them on your person at all times (a money belt is a good idea).

* Travel in a group

You’re less likely to get ripped off if you’re in a group. If you’re travelling solo don’t worry, there will always be other people crossing at the same time as you so try and stick with them.

* Don’t carry drugs!

This may seem like an obvious one but it’s surprising how many travellers get into trouble because they forget to check their pockets.

Planning a trip to Central America? Get more tips for travelling safely abroad and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!

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Category: Advice, Belize, Central America, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Solo travellers, Staying safe abroad

About Alison Adey: I was previously Channel Editor for IPC's Homes network (;; and but I bid them a fond farewell in December 2010 to embark on this trip. I also worked for as a features writer for two years. View author profile.

Comments (6)

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