Crossing Borders – El Salvador to Nicaragua

On the 28th of February, I crossed over from El Salvador to Nicaragua by boat. This experience was extremely adventurous and definitely one of the most enjoyable ways I’ve ever crossed borders.

There are three ways to travel to Nicaragua from El Salvador, either by plane, by road via Honduras or by boat through The Gulf of Fonseca. Although, finding a boat was not easy but we managed to arrange it! There is no official ferry company and for some strange reason, the information on the internet is not exactly helpful but Frederik and I still decided to head to La Union to try our luck. Look, the boat ride chops hours off of the trip while delivering a sublime nature experience. All we knew was that there may be small fishing boats that leave from El Salvador to Nicaragua.

Getting to La Union, El Salvador

We arrived in La Union from Santa Ana. First, we took a bus from Santa Ana back to San Salvador and then another bus to La Union, covering about 200 km. La Union is a small fishing town and can easily be navigated by foot.

La Union, El Salvador

Finding a boat

The only organised ferries that are available from La Unión are to the nearby islands; Isla Conchaguita, Meanguera, Zacatillo or Martin Perez. Why aren’t there ferries to Nicaragua? Surely, we weren’t the first travellers to think of this idea.

We asked at our hostel, spent hours researching online, but nothing! Two days after we arrived in La Union, we met Jeremy, a fellow traveller from France who is currently cycling throughout Central America! I asked if he was also planning to take a boat to Nicaragua and HE SAID YES. We figured that our best bet was to head over to the port and ask around.

The next morning, the three of us went to the port at 6 am and asked fishermen, policemen and even random locals. Finally, we found a local fisherman who was planning on leaving for Nicaragua that morning. We agreed to pay him 35 USD / R 490 pp. This was no luxury boat, everything that you can imagine was on-board – speakers, boxes of food and even barrels of oil.

(Please note: While researching for this post, I found that Gekko Trails Explorer recently added this trip to their services, at a cost of 40 USD / R 560 pp).

The small boat we used to cross over from El Salvador to Nicaragua.
I spotted this boat filled with bricks, LOL!

The Gulf of Fonseca – boat ride over the waters

We travelled through The Gulf of Fonseca and appreciated a panoramic view of Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador from the ocean! The long neglected islands host small fishing communities and the vegetation here is predominately mangrove, with tangled wetland forests. The journey was a lot of fun, especially because the sea was not rough and we saw pelicans, ospreys and seagulls.

Cruising through The Gulf of Fonseca
Gulf of Fonseca
The Gulf of Fonseca
One of the islands we saw along the way

Did I mention that there were no seats on this boat? LOL, I literally sat on a thin metal bar for over 2 hours! Is this still adventurous or am I just crazy? Besides my painful butt cheeks, the views were priceless. From a distance we could see several volcanoes and islands, and at that moment, I felt at peace and extremely grateful. We really do live in a beautiful world! I’d do this trip again in a heartbeat.

Hello Nicaragua! We had arrived and were welcomed by kilometers of unspoiled black sand beach shores in Potosi. After paying 12 USD / R 170 pp to enter the country, we said goodbye to Jeremy.

What a day! And it wasn’t over yet…

Frederik and I then took a chicken bus for about 2 hours, at a cost of 2 USD / R 28 pp, from Potosi to Chinandega. This was our pit-stop for that day.

Potosi, Nicaragua
Potosi, Nicaragua

First impressions of Nicaragua

After several decades of civil war, political strife and disastrous American interventions, this country is slowly repairing itself. Prior to visiting, I heard so many negative stories about Nicaragua, like with most of the other countries in Central America. Tourists keep asking if it’s safe. Well, just like with any other country in the world, my advice is to be vigilant and take a few extra precautions.

We were fortunate enough to explore Nicaragua with friends we met on Utila, Honduras. It’s a beautiful country that offers a lot, from volcanic landscapes, colonial architecture, sensational beaches.

Visa Requirements

Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua all share a visa called the CA-4. This entitles certain visitors (including South Africans) to a 90 day stay across all four countries, NOT 90 days in each. As it is a visa on arrival, you don’t need to obtain one prior to visiting any of the above mentioned countries.

Would you ever travel like this? Tell me in the comment section below.

Thank you for reading,

Dineo Zonke.

5 Replies to “Crossing Borders – El Salvador to Nicaragua”

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