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.
* 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.