If you’re leaving Costa Rica by land, remember to pay a new $5 exit tax – no wait, it’s $7 – at Bancrédito branches before arriving at the border, as there are no Bancrédito branches or ATMs at the Nicaraguan and Panamanian border to facilitate the payments. Oh, and by the way, the extra $2 is being charged as a “luggage-scanning fee,” which the Costa Rican government forgot to tell you.
Good to know.
Travelers have had difficulty leaving the country because of the new taxes, particularly at the northern border in Peñas Blancas, Guanacaste. The nearest location to pay the $7 tax is a Bancrédito branch in the provincial capital of Liberia, located some 50 miles away – a one-hour trip each way.
Beginning on Dec. 2, the government began charging the new taxes at Bancrédito branches, and a receipt from the tax payment must be presented at border crossings.
The $5 tax – to be used to upgrade customs facilities in Costa Rica – was approved in July. The Tax Administration signed an agreement with Bancrédito to begin collecting the tax at bank facilities across the country in December. The $2 tax for luggage scanning is being implemented by the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry’s Phytosanitary Service (SFE), and the scans aim to detect potential plagues or diseases.
The luggage inspection fee was first approved in November 2011 for airports only. Last November, the decree was modified to include inspections at land crossings, according to SFE spokeswoman Sussana Hütt. However, in announcing the new $5 tax, the Finance Minister made no mention of the $2 luggage scan tax, leaving travelers completely in the dark.
A press release from the Finance Ministry sent on Nov. 26 stated that Bancrédito will install ATMs at Peñas Blancas and at local cooperative Coopealianza to facilitate payments, but the bank has yet to do so.
According to the director of Bancrédito’s Contracts Department, Neftalí Garita Sánchez, the agreement with the Finance Ministry says the bank must provide payment options at border crossings by February 2014.
“Currently there is insufficient security and infrastructure at that location [Peñas Blancas],” Garita said on Friday. “It is impossible to open a bank branch there. We agreed with the Finance Ministry to install ATMs at locations where is not possible to open a bank branch.”
Bancrédito did sign several agreements with travel and transportation agencies to cover the $7 tax, so that’s one way travelers can pay it.
But don’t try paying the new border taxes at airports. The Finance Ministry’s contract with Bancrédito forbids the agency from collecting the tax at any Costa Rican airport, Garita said.
Responding to a tsunami of complaints about the poorly implemented new taxes, last Friday Bancrédito and the Finance Ministry released a list of phone numbers travelers can call to get more information:
Bancrédito call center with English-speaking agents: 2550-5060
Bancrédito branch (Liberia, Guanacaste): 2666-0611
Tica Bus: 2291-1193
Central Line Transportes: 2248-9929
Agencia de Viajes Colón: 2547-2525
Agencia de Viajes Faytur: 2494-7878
3 Monkies Tours: 2667-4012
Cast Corporación: 2228-1470
Coopealianza (Liberia, Guanacaste): 2666-9284
Coopealianza (La Cruz, Guanacaste): 2679-8310
Coopealianza (Ciudad Neily): 2783-5785
Coopealianza (Sabalito): 2783-5829
Daily Tours: 2291-8989
Excursiones Marvi: 2214-2828
Italiabella Travel: 2228-7010
New World Quality: 2256-5383
Swiss Travel Agency: 2282-4898
Servicios Turísticos Ecológicos: 2262-3424
Suerte Tour Pura Vida: 2654-5293
Agencia de Viajes Cactus: 2261-7942
Viajes Nacionales Isla Bonita: 2257-0505
Plus Papagayo Tours & Transfers: 2667-0422
Librería y Bazar María José (Sixaola): 2754-2204