We are in Costa Rica on a tourist visa which allows a maximum of 90 days within the country. As a consequence, language school students must exit the country periodically and re-enter 72 hours later to obtain another 90 days within Costa Rica. Nicaragua is Costa Rica’s northern neighbor and the closest foreign country from San José.
We recently went to Granada, Nicaragua on our visa renewal trip. There is nothing like traveling between countries to make one appreciate the United States, our freedoms, and our high standard of living.
Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America, whereas Costa Rica is one of the richest. The United Nations ranks countries by a “human development index” which attempts to measure the relative quality of life of different countries. Here are seven, including the first and last rankings:
We took a taxi at 5:00 a.m. to catch our “Tica Bus” for Nicaragua that was scheduled to leave at 6:00 a.m. from downtown San José. After a couple of hours on the bus, the air conditioning stopped, never to return. For unknown reasons we were detained for about five hours at the Nicaragua border; we finally arrived, dirty and tired, at our (six room) hotel in Granada around 6:00 p.m. Total distance = 240 miles.
Granada is a very old town, with many historic buildings, and is a popular tourist destination. It is located on Lake Nicaragua, the 18th largest natural lake in the world. Once you leave the tourist section of the city (our hotel was about a mile away), you are struck by the difference between Nicaragua (a long-time dictatorship) and Costa Rica (a more progressive republic with a history of political stability).
Granada was hot, with high temperatures around 98 degrees, in contrast to San Jose with highs around 80. As tourists we were hot and sweaty and always looking for the shady side of the street. In general, life seemed to move slower. In the evenings people would sit in their doorways or on their sidewalks and eat and talk, which was a big contrast to San Jose’s high-security, uber-locked houses and yards.
The heat, crowds, smells, poverty, cheerfulness, and slow pace of life reminded Scott of his Peace Corps time 40 years ago in Ghana, West Africa.
After an interesting three days, we traveled back to San José. The return trip was similar, albeit a bit shorter as we only spent three hours at the Costa Rica border; however a later departure in Granada and more bus stops on the way back eventually got us “back home” at about 6:00 p.m.
Here are some pictures of our trip: