Crossing Central America by bus - Day 2
Managua Travel Blog› entry 66 of 184 › view all entries
We rose at 2:15 am to get on the bus which left right from our hotel at 2:45am. Luckily this was a pretty nice bus, as nice as any of the buses in Mexico, so sleep came easily, only to be interupted every few hours by yet another border crossing ... from El Salvador, into Honduras, then Nicaragua and eventually Costa Rica.
One nice thing about El Salvador was that the US Dollar is the official currency so we could draw some dollars at the ATM without having to incurr currency conversion fees. We still had some Quetzales left over which I changed to USD at the border and here I got ripped off. I noticed the scam about 3 minutes later but by that time we were across the river and in another country so there was nothing I could do. Basically the exchange rate was 1 USD = 7.5 Quetzales so they should have taken my Quetzales amount and divided by 7.5 to get my USD amount, or about 0.13 USD for every quetzal. I saw him enter the numbers on the calculator and I assumed this is what they did but when I checked it mentally about 2 minutes later I noticed that I should have gotten about double. What I figured out they did is that they entered all the numbers correctly but pressed on multiply instead of divide. I was initially confused by the big number but they pretended that the decimal point was broken and the last two numbers were cents. This amounted to taking each Quetzal 1 * 7.6 / 100 = 0.076, so I got 7.6 cents per Quetzal instead of 13 as I should have. Anyway, luckily I didn't have too many Quetzales so my school fees weren't too high. Still annoying though but you learn. I got conned because I saw the numbers on the calculator were correct and didn't expect this conn.
However, what hurt us a lot more monetarily was when we tried to cross from Honduras into Nicaragua. The border guys said that we were illegaly in the country and now had to pay a fine of 150USD. We had been in the 4 country zone (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua) since we entered Honduras but what had happened is that when we left Honduras for Guatemala we got an exit stamp in Honduras but no entry stamp in Guatemala so there were about 3 weeks unaccounted for. The reasons the Guatemalans didn't want to give us the entry stamp is because usually you don't need to get stamps while you're staying in the 4 country zone but because we had got an exit stamp in Honduras this was necessary but they just assumed that we wouldn't have gotten an exit stamp. Anyway, this one really hurt but once again it was a learning experience.
Otherwise, the bus ride was pretty uneventful but by the time we got to San Jose we were so tired after getting up at 2:30am two days in a row and having spent all that time on air conditioned buses we also felt slightly sick which is not surprising given the exhaustion we felt. In San Jose we got a taxi to a nice hostel near the bus terminal (Backpackers JC & Friends).