TODAY NICARAGUA – Passenger land transportation lines are closer to resuming their functions among all the Central American countries. Costa Rica already gave the green light to reopen its borders this month, but in a staggered manner, while Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have already done so since the end of October, which has generated hope among the Nicaraguan tourism sector that depends mainly on regional travelers.
December is key for the return of Nicaraguans from Costa Rica, who come to visit their families and spend the end of the year festivities.
Through an executive decree, Costa Rica’s President announced the reform of the decree issued on April 11, 2020, which prohibited the circulation of land transportation on authorized international routes.
The borders reopened on November 1.
“The circulation of land transport of international authorized routes will be subject to the authorized cases according to the sanitary measures in migration matters issued by the Executive Power for the process of reopening the borders, as well as to the corresponding provisions issued by the Public Transport Council to effects of regulating the transit of this type of public transport,”, reads the reform published in La Gaceta, from Costa Rica last Friday, October 30.
Leonardo Torres, president of the Nicaraguan Council of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (Conimipyme), expressed that this is good news for land transportation lines, which has been idle since March of this year, after the COVID-19 began to spread in the region, forcing governments to close their land, air, and sea borders.
“This is a task that we have been doing for more than a month, but we have finally found the solution and yesterday the president of Costa Rica issued the executive decree … Costa Rica is supporting us in that sense, opening its land border, in such a way that the regional international transport lines are already going to start operating, possibly after the first week of November ”, expressed Torres.
However, the precise date of which transport lines may operate is not yet available.
“There will be a qualification of land borders, but it is important that they understand that it will be staggered, first residents would enter, then people with ties to Costa Ricans and in the end tourists,” explained Raquel Vargas, director of Costa Rica’s immigration service.
More tourists expected
The news of Costa Rica’s border opening is also encouraging for the tourism sector, since every year thousands of tourists enter Nicaragua through this route.
According to the latest public data from the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism (Intur) of 2018, 69% of the arrivals of tourists was by land and of these 90.7 percent came from Central America.
For this reason, the closure of land borders has dealt a severe blow to the tourism sector. “Last year we managed to close with US$515 million dollars in foreign exchange generation in 2019, right now we have only US$220 million more, I think that in the best of cases, we are going to close with US$250 million dollars, which is 50% of what we did in 2019 ,” estimated Torres.
Measures that must be met to travel by land
On October 29, the international bus line Ticabus began trips to Honduras and therefore in the next few days they could have connections with El Salvador and Guatemala.
Here is the required to allow entry into their land borders.
In the case of Guatemala, it is necessary to present the PCR test with a negative result no longer than 72 hours prior to admission, this applies to people over 10 years old and not to frequent travelers and the mandatory use of masks for people over two years old.
El Salvador requests the PCR test for COVID-19 with a negative result, required for foreigners and temporary residents, the printed certificate of the result must be delivered to the immigration officer of that country.
In Honduras, for Nicaraguans it is mandatory to send at least 7 days before the trip the immigration pre-check of entry, either for transit or tourism; the PCR COVID-19 test 72 hours in advance and mandatory use of a mask.
Costa Rica has only reported requirements for foreigner resident that they complete the “health pass” available online; present immigration document or identification; finally, have current insurance from the Costa Rica Seguro Social or insurers authorized insurers, “which must cover at least the accommodation and medical expenses generated by the COVID-19 disease”.
Land connectivity is an opportunity that arises to attract tourists in the last two months of the year, because so far in Nicaragua, Avianca is the only commercial airline that is operating in the country, while in the rest of the countries of the region, the other airlines such as United Airlines, Aeromexico, Spirit, among others, have resumed commercial flights.
Regarding the operation of the airlines to the country, Lucy Valenti, president of the National Chamber of Tourism, said that there is no new data on the return of other airlines to the country because so far the tentative restart dates are in the first days of December.
“They are waiting to see if there is any kind of agreement with the government on the measures they have imposed and if they are going to make the issue of delivering the test directly to the government more flexible, which is one of the problems, and the issue of testing from Covid to the crew and that is in the hands of the government to change it, then it will depend on the government deciding in that sense, as long as that is not changed, I doubt that the airlines will start flying,” said Valenti.