Baggage inspection at MGA

Arrived at MGA on Tuesday. Found that there is a new secondary inspection at a separate counter for anything deemed suspicious by the X-Ray. I had a 15 year old stereo receiver in my suitcase, so I was flagged. Long line of gringos and Nicas for secondary inspection, and they were retaining lots of stuff. I got to keep the old receiver, but they retained a small renewable energy monitor that I made the mistake of packing in the original box and not having a receipt for it. I was well within the $500 limit (as is indicated on the customs form as allowed duty-free), but without a receipt, I couldn't prove it, even if the thing was plastic and only 5 inches wide.

So, the next step is to go back to the airport and try to liberate it from customs at the airport. I prefer not to make a special trip for this, so I am planning to leave two hours early for the trip home, check in, and then go see if I can pay something to get it back. Has anyone had a recent experience with the time needed for this process at the airport?

This secondary inspection is new to me. Never had an issue before. I don't know if it was a temporary push for a limited time, or if this is the new normal, but everyone should have a receipt for anything new or valuable looking from now on I believe.

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Save $30 and waste your time. Then come here to bitch/moan.

/snark on the clueless

It's Definitely Changed

supposedly 28 days ago (today is Feb 19). I was at Peñas Blancas this morning, and engaged one of the customs guys in conversation about the changes.

He said it was an anti-drug thing, young PN officers, mainly women, they are devoting resources to it, thorough check, one smiling young lady even felt under the car a bit. It's slowing things down , but not that much. Customs guys haven't changed, and collecting a few bucks in duty adds to their work load.

Before this, the customs agent would take my cookies, glance over at my car, sign off on the customs declaration, and I'd run down the PN guy with the stamp "Jefe, Jefe !" He never came anywhere near my car.

Still only one stamp, but now in the possession of a pair of young women, who are taking their work a lot more seriously, at least for now.

I keep a new FSLN flag in the back (cargo area), hoping that buys me something. Cookies probably do more, although the entire border area is festooned with new posters of the Comandante and La Chamu. Probably doesn't hurt (the flag). Everyone is friendly with me, take the time to chat and answer questions even though they keep busy there. They keep moving stuff around, and trading off jobs, and that concrete plaza entrance north of the border is almost complete. That's really going to help when it starts raining again. There is a new $5 vehicle import tax, but I probably could have avoided paying, they don't check for it yet. It's a standalone caseta in with the seguros booths . . . kind of like the " $1 to Rivas " booth.

There is no longer a PN checkpoint just north of the border, maybe that's the resource they moved to the border . . . .

Key West......."Pay Up & Look Big"

Considering all that you have done and are doing, you are living large and cheap.

Just a big variable

I have entered Nicaragua many times over the past 15 years. Some by air, some from Costa Rica and some from Honduras. About the only way I can characterize this is inconsistent. The same can be said for shipping stuff into Nicaragua.

I have also been told of many ways to get around import issues. One that I have heard multiple times but never tried is that if you make a reservation at Las Mercedes they will show up in baggage claim and bypass the inspection.

Should you get caught there is a good chance you will have to go to the customs warehouse (a few blocks from the airport) to bail out your stuff.

Note that every time I have flown into Guatemala (three times, I think) I have never had them touch a bag. No X-ray, nothing. Same thing just happened to a friend who had three bags with a laptop, lots of electronics and tools.

moral: go to Guatemala

Learn to speak Mam Mayan. All is groovie around Lago Atitlan, with or without requisite e-gear.

airport fun and games

Getting ready to leave for the good old US of A airport on my first trip to Nicaragua... I mistakenly shoveled a very very nice swiss army knife into my backpack.. Got "caught" by nice airport man ..who removed it from my pack and who then smilingly shoveled it into his pocket, as I looked on...i think it made his day.. I had bought it from the TSA auction on ebay...

Love it - circular justice

If you're down & out in the States, and need a job, and have never gotten caught with pot in one of the illegal states, think 'POLICE': TSA, Homeland Security, prison guards, local cops - that's USA's growth industry. Unless you're a billionaire financier - but then why are you on NL? Lost?

Another option is to join the Army. You may have to wait til the change of administrations for action, but we'll soon start another war, justifiably, you'll see.

Steal What They Please . . .

Why not, it starts at the top and sets the tone for the country. Part of the adventure . . . CR is very different too.

There might be some new emphasis on customs inspections . . I bought some grow house fabric in Danlí and brought it back through Las Manos with more than the usual grief . . .

Everyone was really nice, but they have added a police inspection step going out and coming in. The customs inspector who looked in my car explained that even if he let it slide, the police would stop it.

The amounts were less than $500, and I had an invoice, but they didn't have anyone who could "evaluate" the value since we had arrived to the border late. We were under what I understand to be a $500 exemption, but I could be mistaken about this. Their solution: we spend the night there, and clear customs the following morning at 8AM -not what I had in mind, as there was no hotel. Going back to El Paraiso would have involved checking out of Nicaragua, back into Honduras, and then re-entering Nicaragua the next morning.

Since I had CR plates on this vehicle, we finally came up with a solution: The customs girl re-did the car permit and described me and my goods as "tranisto " to CR through Peñas Blancas, and gave me 30 days to get to Peñas Blancas. Since I was planning a trip to Omnetepe it was no big inconvenience. She stapled the receipt into my passport, made a hand written notation in the passport, and also added the stuff to my car permit (what they usually do anyway).

Migración re-upped me for another 90 days though, might have been the cookies. I got another re-up at El Espino about three weeks back. One of the ironies, I don't need the re-ups but seem to get them routinely.

No $500 exemption

There used to be such a thing but it was eliminated a couple of years ago. The (slightly convoluted) reason was that people were using it to import things they intended to sell.

Of course, with Tico plates, you are lucky they even let you into the country. :-)

If I understand correctly, you can still get a shipment from...

…family members, but buying on line no long has the exemption. I don't think the reason was that convoluted -- all you needed was someone with a cedula for that person's six months of exemption, so everyone with cousins and uncles and aunts in the family could play. Now you need family in the US to play.

Rebecca Brown

Point of arrival

That's the first place I went when I first arrived to Nicaragua! :p No line. They let me bring in two computers and a UPS on a tourist visa at the time, without speaking any Spanish. This was in January 2012.

I don't know if there's a magic formula, or spell, or what, but the SO truly believes in the power of the handlers standing around the baggage claim area. Hire one, and your bag supposedly will not be inspected. I have only tested this theory once, when bringing dental equipment (ironically, an X-ray machine) into the country. IDK if it was the $20 I gave the handler or the magazine that was already in the X-ray operator's hands, but my bags were not selected for further inspection. There was a short line of gringos waiting to be inspected.

I wonder if the length of the secondary inspection line is correlated with the presence of the supervisor...

Meanwhile back to the question...

JMac say it was "Secondary Inspection"

No it wasn't, it was Customer Service move to have all suspicious stuff taken out of that line and over to another area, while keeping the legal folk moving!!

Imagine being behind J Mac in the X Ray line when he explains his story and multiply that by 25 or so and everybody would miss their bus, right?

Imagine the language from the gringos about how dumb the procedure is if they did that?

The $500 applies to Nicaraguan Nationals who can bring in duty free merchandise or equipment other than your luggage amounting to five hundred dollars providing the merchandise does not constitute commercial quantities.

Passengers of foreign nationality have to pay taxes on those goods.

I guess I'll have to check it out!

It sounded to me like JMac was describing the standard inspection process (read: the guys at the table who rummage through your bags when you walk up) when the X-Ray guy/gal says you have suspicious luggage.