Practice makes perfect & despite what I thought would be the “hardest” border crossing was he easiest. Was it that my Spanish was getting better or was it that I understood how the immigration & car registration process worked? I am not sure which reason or if it was a combination of all of these answers but the customs process crossing from Honduras to Nicaragua was a breeze.
One thing that I did notice was that all of the locals paid bribes at this checkpoint just as they had done at the Guat/Honduran border and also at the Mexican/Guatemalan border. The local hands their passport to the customs agent and a small bill is folded inside. The customs agent opens his drawer a few inches, opens the passport and allows the $ to fall into the drawer. When my passport was opened and no $ came out, sometimes I was directly asked for a bribe and I refused to pay.
This is a big problem in Central America. People have to pay bribes to get regular government services. This causes bureaucracy that is unnecessary and impedes the flow of goods and services. In short, it stifles the economy. That people don’t accept bribery as a regular part of business in America, Canada and Europe means that the gross domestic products of those countries is much higher than in Central America. Much of the poverty and corruption in Central America (likely in much of the third world) is caused by this “buying” of government services. Ok, rant over ;-)
Back at the Guatemalan/Honduran border, there was a list of fees on a billboard and it said in English and Spanish that these were the official fees. The Guatemalan border guard tried to charge me some extraneous fee that was not listed on the billboard. Some German and Finnish tourists paid the fee but I refused. He argued with me and then I took out a pen and asked for his name. He angrily stamped my passport and then returned it to me. I thought that if the Germans and Finns had done the same, it would have discouraged this kind of behavior. But, so long as someone will pay, the guard will ask.
I was really quite excited to enter Nicaragua; I have always had a fascination with the former Soviet Bloc Communist governments and I was curious to see how Nicaragua was coping in the new world of democratic reform…
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