Crossing the Nicaragua-Honduras Border With Dogs and a Van: Step by Step

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If you’re on a tour of the CA-4 countries or driving the Pan-American Highway for a dream expedition, you may find yourself wondering how to smoothly cross the Honduras-Nicaragua border. I have crossed this border three times, most recently northbound (Nicaragua to Honduras) in January 2023. 

Crossing international borders can be tricky and Nicaragua has notoriously lengthy border proceedings, but the CA-4 Agreement makes borders between Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras slightly less difficult. 

If you are taking a bus or tour that helps you across borders, this process will be much smother. Most of the delays and difficulties I hit during border crossings are due to my vehicle or my dogs. As such, this article will focus on crossing the Nicaragua-Honduras border with your own vehicle and pets.

Basic Tips for Crossing the Nicaragua-Honduras Border:

  1. As a general rule, don’t leave a window until someone gives you a clear hand signal or verbal confirmation that you’re done (or instructions for what to fix before returning)
  2. Keep careful track of your originals – don’t accidentally leave them anywhere!
  3. Bring photocopies and originals of all documents: passport, license, COVID vaccination, title, registration, pet vaccines.
  4. Sort all of your papers in plastic protectors and tabs in a 3-ring binder. This is a lifesaver! I have separate tabs for me, the vehicle, the pets, original documents, and past countries. I carefully keep copies and originals separate and NEVER throw out ANY receipts or slips of paper I’m given. Never.
  5. Bring water and snacks in a bag. These borders can take AGES and sipping on water or munching some chips can really save your mood and patience.
  6. Have $100 in cash in a variety of small bills – ideally USD for this border. This is more than you’ll need, but that’s better than not having enough. There are no ATMs at the border and they will not take card. I’ve had to walk for 30 minutes each way or take a cab to ATMs at two different borders, and it’s not fun.
  7. Have a pen in your bag. You probably will only need it early in the process for your Aduana form, but it’s nice to have on-hand anyway. 

As you prepare, you may also want to read WikiOverland (Nicaragua entry and Honduras entry) for this border and check iOverlander for recent trip reports at this border. 

Frequently Asked Questions for Crossing the Honduras-Nicaragua Border

How long does the Honduras-Nicaragua border crossing take?

Southbound this border took me about three hours each time.

Northbound on January 11, 2023 it took just under two hours – I also got to the border around 9am, which always helps with lines. Entering Honduras from Nicaragua was VERY smooth.

What are the road conditions like in Honduras and Nicaragua? 

Nicaragua has generally good roads, especially on the main highways like CA3 and CA1, both major Pan-American Highway veins. Offshoots to volcanoes, ruins, and beaches will vary based on how undiscovered a place is.

Honduras does have worse roads (though in my opinion they’re still better than Guatemala’s). Almost immediately after crossing the border from Nicaragua I started needing to dodge potholes. There are also WAY more checkpoints and street side vendors, selling everything from dead iguanas (real story, today I saw three) to peanuts and popsicles. In the 90 minutes that it took for me to get from the Guasaule border to Termas Ribot (a hot spring/cool spring I found for camping), I passed at least six checkpoints and was stopped at two.

What paperwork do I need to cross the Nicaragua-Honderus border?

For Yourself:

  • Passport + copies
  • Vaccination card
  • Driver’s license + copies (if you have a car)
  • The online form to enter Honduras (fill out before you travel) https://solicitudes.migob.gob.ni/)
  • $3 USD for exit from Nicaragua
  • $3 USD (roughly 80 limpira) to enter Honduras

For your vehicle:

  • Title + copies
  • Registration – they’ll want to see your license plate (placa), which doesn’t appear on US titles. Show your registration instead.
  • Import form from the country you’re leaving, plus exit stamps
  • Nicaragua entry: $18 in USD – $3 for fumigation and $15 for vehicle import
  • Nicaragua entry:  $12 in USD or Cordoba for insurance
  • Honduran Entry: $35 USD (850 lempira, roughly) for vehicle import

For your dog or cat:

  • A health certificate that is less than 10 days old. Despite extensive Googling in English and Spanish, I wasn’t able to find these forms online. Go to a SENASA vet in the country you’re leaving and ask for the export permit paper; they should be able to help you out.
    • I had this form (Nicaragua, Costa Rica) https://www.aphis.usda.gov/pet-travel/health-certificates/non-eu/nicaragua-dog-cat.pdf  
  • Copies of vaccinations
  • Nicaragua: $10 per pet
  • Honduras note: if you have more than two pets, you must do special paperwork. I was told that this would be in Tegucigalpa, so I opted to promise them I was going to do it and then not go through with that (Tegucigalpa wasn’t on my route). No one has ever asked me for documents for my pets, EXCEPT Nicaragua, which wants your pet’s IPSA entrance papers when you exit the country. 

Crossing the Border from Nicaragua to Honduras with a Car and a Dog: A Step-by-Step Guide

I will start by describing the northbound (Nicaragua to Honduras) border crossing. 

I will add southbound instructions by May of 2023 when I cross that border next. I last crossed southbound on Christmas Eve and it was extremely hectic with multiple closed windows and a huge crush of travelers, so my experience was not typical!

Many people will cross at the Guasaule border, which is located on the Pan-American Highway along the Pacific side of both countries. This is the only Nicaragua-Honduras border that I’ve crossed since 2018, so we’ll focus on that here.

Northbound Nicaragua to Honduras Border Crossing Steps with a Car and Pets

Step 1: Get to the border. As you approach the border, you’ll start to see semi trucks lined up on the right shoulder of the road. Pass them carefully and gently, but DO NOT get in line with them. They have their own process that can take days, and you don’t want to wait with them.

Step 2: Acquire your Aduana form. As you pass the trucks, you’ll hit a kiosk where you’re stopped and given the Aduana form. They’ll glance at your passport and may ask for a COVID vaccine too. To exit Nicaragua, you must fill out the same Aduana form you used to get into the country. This requires several stamps (I ended up with five) in order to exit Nicaragua. Fill it out and do not lose it.Step 3: Head to migration. Follow the road to the far right until you hit a small parking area by the huge migration building. A helper or two may approach you, but you just need to park and head to migration. Facing Honduras, that’s on the righthand side of the building a ways towards Honduras. If you hit the bathrooms, you’ve gone too far. 

Hop in line and show them your passport. I paid a $3 exit fee.

Your blank aduana form to exit Nicaragua

Step 4: Aduana inspects your vehicle. Now head back outside and find an “Aduana” official. They’re generally in sky-blue with lanyards around their necks. Two of them will inspect your vehicle, opening a few drawers and poking around. A police person should be there as well. You need stamps and signatures from BOTH of them.

Step 5: Ensure you’ve got a stamp from the police. Despite having a policewoman search my vehicle at step 4, she forgot to sign and stamp my papers. I had to go around to the left side of the building and find her again to get her signature. A second official signed and stamped at this point as well; I now had three stamps and signatures. Theoretically this could have all been done at step 4.

Step 6: Export your pets from Nicaragua (IPSA). I think Nicaragua is the only Central American country that REALLY requires this step – now you’ve got to get your pets signed out of the country. Head across two roads to the far left side of the border (if you’re facing Honduras). There’s a big building where all the trucks get inspected, and you’ll hook around to the far left side of that building. Look for the IPSA office. 

Show them your pet’s paperwork from Nicaragua – all of it. There was some confusion because I didn’t have all the right papers from entry (see my post on Nicaragua/Costa Rica), but that was resolved quickly. Next the official thought I owed them an additional $11 fee for transporting pets (rather than just staying in-country with them). After speaking to his boss, this was waved. I got his stamp and signature and headed back to the building where I got my police stamp (step 5).

Step 7: Export your vehicle from Nicaragua (Tramite Vehicular). Back to the first building, but that lefthand side (facing Honduras). There are three windows on the Nicaragua side of the building – heavy trucks, IPSA (but not the one you need for pets, don’t bother), and Tramites Vehiculares. Get in line for that one. You’ll need to show your import paper from day 1 in Nicaragua, your stamp-covered Aduana form, and potentially a few other things like your passport. This is your last step in Nicaragua! Yay!

Step 8: Exit Nicaragua. Visit the bathroom if you’d like, then hop in your car and head to Honduras. Along the way you’ll be stopped and they’ll take that precious stamp-covered Aduana form away. Off to Honduras!

Step 9: Migration for Honduras. You’ll cross a big bridge before stopping at a building on the left side of the road. A few helpers and money-changes approached me. To diffuse them lightheartedly, I tried asking for “a moment to breathe” and they all laughed and backed off. This worked much better than shooing them off! I did end up changing my Cordoba to Lempira at this point. 

Head into the migration building and hop in line for migration. It can look a bit like a scrum, so just ensure you’re in a line. I waited a few minutes in a small group before realizing that they weren’t in line at all! You need to be in one of the windows to the far right of the building (facing Honduras). The middle section is for heavy transport or exiting Honduras.

Show the official at the window your passport and answer some basic questions about where you came from, where you’re going, where you’ll say,  your purpose in Honduras, and your work. Pay $3 USD (roughly 80L at time of writing). Keep that receipt!

Step 10: Import your car to Honduras. Now shuffle all the way to the left to window 1. Show the official your title, registration, and passport. He’ll ask you about your car’s color, cylinders, make, model, etc while filling out a rainbow piece of paper. Pay $35 USD (roughly 850L in January 2023). 

I had to give over a copy of my passport, title, and registration at this step. 

Step 11: Import your pets to Honduras. Ask for agropecuaria/cuarantena for pets (mascotas) and follow hand gestures until you find this office. Show them your pet’s vaccine records, USDA APHIS forms, or SENASA/IPSA forms from past countries. Fees and stamps are very variable for this step; I’ve had this step range from 2 minutes and free to a drawn-out negotiation where I was told I’d need to finish in Tegucigalpa. In that case, I simply said I was on my way there and drove off with my pets. It did not cause a problem, but obviously isn’t ideal.

In 2018 the Honduran official inspected my pets – be prepared for someone to don gloves and check your pets for fleas, ear mites, etc. 

Step 12: Drive into Honduras. Hop in your car and head north. Per usual, you’ll be stopped at a little kiosk where they inspect your papers. Here they wanted to see my payment receipt for that $3 fee as well as my rainbow car import form. They returned both forms to me. Always confirm that you don’t need a form back before driving off! You may need a form to exit the country, and they won’t tell you preemptively which form(s) you’ll need. 

Comments 2

  1. As I plan a trip to Nicaragua-Honduras with my dogs, I am looking for safety tips and information regarding things I must do and things I must avoid. Thank you for this valuable information Kayla. It has helped me a lot.

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