39. Border Crossing #1- The El Salvadorian Adventure Part 2

Saturday 8/28- We were up at about 4:45 to be in our taxi and on our way back to the airport at 5:30. Since we didn’t come with much (one backpack) we didn’t have much to pack and breakfast at the hotel didn’t start that early, so we really just had to drink the hotel room coffee, get dressed, and head downstairs. Our driver was there waiting for us, so we checked out and were on our way back the way we came just over 12 hours earlier. It was very foggy this morning, but that didn’t slow down the drive as much as it could have. There wasn’t the rush hour traffic like we had been warned against either, but I am glad that we planned for it and didn’t experience it rather than the opposite. The morning views through the valleys where beautiful but again we didn't even think to take pictures.  I don't know where our minds were, if we were just taking in the whole country and comparing the differences between El Salvador and Costa Rica, if it was to early in the morning to think, or if we just had a brain fart.

We made it to the airport quite a bit earlier than we would have needed to, but again, we’d rather be early than late! Once again we saw all kinds of people hanging out in the same airport paid parking lot. There was a little less tailgating this early in the morning but something was much much different. There were lines of people outside everywhere. Ramie actually mentioned taking a picture at this point because no one would believe us, but we both felt awkward so we didn't. There were literally hundreds of people waiting in lines in the parking lot. Towards the front door of the airport there was a small pop up tent with people in official looking airport wear so we just headed towards the tent. We were really unsure what we should do and if we should try to find the back of the line or just go in. We aren’t sure what they were waiting in line for, but there were some airline staff (a different airline than we were flying) that were kind of directing them and herding them together. Since we didn't see anyone wearing shirts for our airline we figured that was not for us. Once we got to the pop up tent the person standing there asked us something in Spanish, neither of us had a clue so we said we were sorry and we spoke very little Spanish. The guy looked annoyed and just waved us along and we proceeded into the airport. Inside was just as chaotic! (You've have never seen anything like this in the US we guarantee it! If we decide to do another El Salvador border run we will be sure to take some photos for evidence.) Since we did our online check in again, we figured we didn’t have to stop at any of these lines or at the ticket counter and we headed straight to security, which appeared to be up the only escalator in the center of the building. No one questioned us or told us that we had to wait so we figured we were good to go. 

We got to the top of the escalator and had no idea where were should go.  There stanchions set up with a person directing people to desks. There was a sign for bathrooms and a sign for a cafeteria (up another set of stairs). This doesn't look right at all!  The area was quite small and no way would all those people outside come through here! Finally we had a chance to ask the person directing people where we should go and he just pointed to a desk. Come to find out this is where they check our passports. However once that was done now what do we do? They didn't tell us where to go, but we noticed some frosted glass panels with an opening just big enough to walk through.  I guess we should look over there? We had to walk back the same way we came which is confusing and I'm not sure how they keep track of who actually went to a desk or not. Once we got to the glass (not sure if we should or not), Ramie peaked around the corner and motioned for me to follow. Ahhhh this FINALLY looks like something we've seen before!  Cattle corals and metal detectors. 

After we made it through security we knew we had a lot of time so we took our time looking through the overpriced duty-free shops in the airport. There was really nothing we were planning to buy, but El Salvador uses the US dollar and it was interesting to compare prices of things that we knew what they cost in the US, the prices that we are now used to paying in CR, and the prices they were charging here. Everything was still highly overpriced since it was in the airport. We got a cup of coffee and then eventually headed toward our gate. It was still very early, but we could go hang out at the gate and play on our phones (and play Animal Crossing… yes, I brought the game with us!)

Well, we went toward gate 5 and discovered that you couldn’t get to the seating area of the gates without going through ANOTHER set of security, but only for the 2 gates at this end. I guess in El Salvador they suspect that you may have smuggled something in through the first security, or bought something in the “inside” area that isn’t allowed on the airplane? I’m not sure why the reasoning for the 2nd set of security, but I sure am glad we didn’t buy a $50 bottle of liquor to bring back on the plane! 

On the way to the gate we found it very interesting the amount of elderly that were flying. They all had a place to sit (in their wheel chairs), but they had them lined up and parked in any nook or cranny they had space for. The halls of the airport were literally lined with elderly people in wheel chairs and it kind of felt like a nursing home getting ready for lunch time. They all seemed content but it just took us by surprise. Its hard to see here as I didn't want to be rude taking a picture but these lines of chairs go on for pretty much the whole length of the airport terminals!

We got to the security check point and people waiting in line were holding cups of coffee and bottles of other beverages, no one seemed worried that they couldn’t bring liquids through this line, and honestly, why would they be selling the stuff in the “in between” security area if you couldn’t bring it through. So, instead of chugging or throwing away our coffee, we just watched what everyone else was doing. Other people were putting their bags through the machine and just walking through the human machine with their cup of coffee in hand. No problem! Ok, then I guess that’s what we would do too. We did it and had no problem. So, now we go sit at our gate for the next few hours. We also realized that these 2 gates are not accessible to the rest of the airport. The only way to get to them is through the security check point and once inside the gate you cant leave to go get something to eat. They did have a bathroom and drinking fountain inside this gate area, so that was good!

We waited, and waited, and waited some more. We watched all the people at the other gate board their plane and leave. At some point we realized that no one else was sitting in our gate area and thought that was really strange since our flight should be boarding about now.

We thought that there was probably a delay, and I asked Ramie if he had received an email from the airline (since he’s the one that booked the flights and all of his contact information was associated with the flight) and he had, but it was all in Spanish so he ignored it. At this point we pulled out my phone to translate the email on his phone, and sure enough it was an email saying our flight was delayed. There were no monitors showing the delays/gate information near where we were sitting so we went to head back out toward the shops through that 2nd set of security we had to go through. It was closed and locked, no one else was coming through here. WHAT?! How could we possibly be locked IN this gate area?!

Fortunately there was someone inside here cleaning, so he was able to let us out, we walked past the security guard area, and then back out into where the shops and flight displays were. Our flight still showed “on time” and scheduled to take off, ohh, about 10 minutes ago from the same gate that we had been sitting at. Well, we know THAT is not right! At that point we headed toward the first set of security that we came through so we could try to get back to the ticketing/check in counter to find out what was going on. By the time we made it to security, the display had now updated to show our flight had been delayed to 6pm. What?! 6pm?! It’s only about 10am right now. We spoke to the security guard and he told us to call the phone number for the airline and find out what was going on. So, we walked back inside and found a place to sit and make the call. The people at the airline didn’t know anything about this, and assured us that we should go talk to an airline representative at the airport. Ok, no problem.

We went back to security and spoke to the same security guard, his English wasn’t very good, so he went and got a different guard that could communicate with us a little bit better. This guard told us that we should go to the new gate number and check if there was an airline representative there and talk to them. (I didn’t figure this would go well since there was 8 hours before our flight was scheduled to leave from that gate, but maybe we’d get lucky enough that a different flight would be taking off and there would be a rep there). We made it to the gate and no such luck. There was no one (passengers or airline employees) at this gate either. Where the heck are all of the passengers that are supposed to be on our flight? This is just so weird!!! We went back to the security checkpoint and talked to the guards there for the 3rd time. This time, the one that spoke better English called to the ticket counter and spoke to them for quite a while. He came back and told us that our flight had been canceled because the plane we were supposed to be on was stuck somewhere else due to bad weather. We would be put on the 6pm flight and we would just have to wait until then. He was very adamant that he could NOT let us backward through security and back out into the unsecure area. (This REALLY doesn’t make sense to me! Getting out of security is the easy part, getting IN to security is where they are supposed to stop you!!) So, we walked back through the airport again hoping to find a non-security airline employee to help us figure out what to do and what is going on. We found a woman who was wearing airline uniform (not our airline, but at this point it didn't matter, we just needed to ask someone!) and stopped to ask her. Of course, she didn’t speak any English. Fortunately for us a very kind passer-by spoke Spanish and English and offered to translate for us. We told her that our flight was canceled and we needed to get back out to ticketing, security would not let us out, (and I know from my traveling experience that my boarding pass for our 9:30 flight would NOT work to get us on to the 6pm flight). How can we get back out to ticketing???

She told us the best way would probably to leave through baggage claim and back out through immigration and customs like we had yesterday. Since we had received our passport stamp yesterday there should be no problem, and if anyone questioned us we should just tell them what we had just told her. Ok, this could work!!

We went back through the airport and came out to immigration where we were yesterday. We went to the counter, and the same guy we had spoke to yesterday was there again. The guy who joked with us that we should spend some more time in his country next time. And guess what, he REMEMBERED US!!! We told him what was going on, and he assured us that he could help us out. He went and talked to his supervisor, and when he came back he told us no problem, just go out these doors, walk all the way around to the front of the airport, and we’ll find the front doors back into ticketing. Then we can talk to the people who can straighten this out for us.


So, by now it was probably close to 10:45 or later, an hour after our plane was supposed to take off (and very close to the time we should have been landing back in Costa Rica) and we got to the ticket agent. She told us that they had been looking everywhere for us (obviously they weren’t looking THAT hard, we were at our assigned gate up until about the time our plane was supposed to take off and we talked to security 3 times!!!) Well anyway, the agent told us that for the people who were on this delayed flight, they are sending them to the hotel that is nearby, we could go there and get free lunch, and then be back to the airport at 4 for our flight at 6:45, we would then land in Costa Rica around 7:45. We asked her at that point if they would also be paying for a hotel for us in San Jose. Since we wouldn’t be landing until nearly 8 and we had a 4 hour drive home AND driving restrictions say you cannot drive after 10pm, we wouldn’t be able to get home. She did a little bit more checking, and she said that instead of going on the flight this evening, they could put us on a flight tomorrow morning at the same time our flight was supposed to be this morning. We would get lunch, dinner, and breakfast at the hotel, and a room for the night, plus transportation both ways. Ok, I guess that is our best option. We will now get to spend another night in El Salvador, but once again- only get to see the hotel.

We got to the hotel which was only about a 5 minute drive from the airport (if we had known this one existed when we booked our hotel, we probably would have stayed at this one last night as well), we got set up with a room (not as nice as the one we were in the prior night, but still very comfortable) and then headed out to the pool area and to find this lunch they had told us about. They had a big buffet style lunch with a grill where they made your chicken, pork chop or steak to order, side dishes, salad and dessert. We got to eat our fill of whatever we wanted here. Then, we had some time to kill, so we went and sat by the pool. 

Since we had packed so light we didn’t bring swimming suits or anything like that (originally I wanted to, but someone told me we didn’t need to pack all of this “extra stuff”). We just hung out at a table and watched all of the other people who were also stuck in the same delayed flight as we were. As it got closer to 4:00 many of the people had disappeared, which was probably because they were on the flight back to Costa Rica. Also, around the same time, a bunch of American flight crew started showing up. A couple of flight attendants struck up a conversation with us so we chatted with them for a little while and had a couple of drinks. Before long it was time to go check out dinner. We weren’t real hungry, so we went to the pool bar area and ordered some nachos to share. The waiter had asked if we wanted to order (and pay for) these or if we just wanted to go eat the free buffet dinner. Well—I guess we might as well go with free!! So- back to the same place we had lunch. They had the buffet dinner, very similar to the buffet lunch where they grilled up your meat to order and had all of the sides and fixings. Then, once again, we didn’t really have a whole lot else to do. We ended up going back up to our room to play some Animal Crossing and then going to bed early (we were really tired from being up at at 4:30 this morning).

Sunday 8/29- We didn’t have to wake up and leave for the airport so early this morning since we were only a few minutes away instead of an hour. So, this morning we got to sleep a little later, get up and have a leisurely breakfast (buffet style once again, this time eggs to order on the grill… if we would have been staying at this hotel much longer, I think we could have started gaining weight, it reminded me of food on a cruise ship!) At about 7:20 we caught our shuttle back to the airport (as opposed to 5:30 yesterday) and got there in no-time. We had to go to the check-in counter this morning since we couldn’t do an online check in/boarding pass and had no problems there. We knew exactly how the airport worked now with their weird security, and made it through all of these lines, and ended up sitting in the same gate for a couple of hours again today. At least today there were other people sitting at the gate with us!! Before long we could tell that we weren’t the only ones here for this flight to Costa Rica and if there were any delays or issues, they would very likely send someone up to talk to us and let us know what was going on. Fortunately, there were no issues!! Well, kind of. The flight coming in was delayed about a half hour, so we took off about a half hour later than planned. 

This is the San Salvador Volcano in the background

When we were taking off, the pilot announced that he would do everything he could to make up that lost time and get us to San Jose as close to our originally planned time as he could. Well, since this is such a short flight anyway, I’m not sure how much time he could make up!! On we went. He was able to make up a little bit of time, but of course not a full half hour on a flight that was only scheduled to be an hour.

We landed in San Jose just a little bit behind our scheduled arrival time, but still early in the day. We made it through customs and immigration, got our 90 day stamp (which was the whole reason for doing this trip in the first place) and made it back out to our front-row parked car in no time. It took us a little bit to figure out how to pay to get our car OUT of the parking lot, but that wasn’t too big of a deal, and we were soon on our way back to Uvita. We made our way out of San Jose and back through those 3 toll booths. Navigating through this area seems to be getting easier and less stressful!! And finally to the coastal highway, 2 lanes, slow going, and hopefully you don’t get behind a slow truck or stuck at a car accident!

We had previously talked about and decided that we wanted to stop at a couple of stores on our way back down South. There was a furniture store that always had a lot of patio furniture outside and we were more curious than anything just to see what they have and what their prices were like. This store is about ½ way on our drive back, so about 2 hours from Uvita. A little bit farther than we would want to drive to just go check it out on a whim. We stopped in to check it out, and after spending about 5 minutes looking around we realized that the things that we liked were grossly overpriced compared to what we had seen for sale in other places, and the rest of it was not our style at all. Now I’m really glad we stopped now instead of driving out here on a whim!! It would have been a waste of a half day!

Also fairly nearby is a grocery store that many people on our Facebook groups recommend for American style groceries. I wanted to stop there just to check it out and see if I could find a few things that I haven’t seen elsewhere and to see what their prices are on the American style items. Ramie and I walked all of the aisles looking at all the things (and Ramie really hates grocery shopping, so I was pleased that he didn’t complain) and found that their prices were very high here too. I kind of expected it, but was still a little bit disappointed. There wasn’t a whole lot that stuck out as a MUST HAVE, but I did find parchment paper, which I have had no luck finding so far, and bought a roll of that. That was it!! Again, glad we made this part of another trip, otherwise it would have been a waste of time!

Then, on to the rest of the 2 hour drive back to Uvita and to pick up our doggy!

I don’t know what time it was by the time we got to Loren and Nancy’s, but Breeze was soo excited to see us! She acted as though we were gone for a month instead of just being gone for 2 days. After she got her initial craziness calmed down, we sat inside with Loren and Nancy for a little while and told them all about our adventures of the last 2 days. Ramie had texted Loren when we found out we were going to be delayed a day, but didn’t really get into the details at that point. They then told us about how Breeze handled the last few days. Loren had been so excited to take Breeze during our trip because he used to have Labs and he knew how friendly they are, but unfortunately Breeze completely disappointed him by not really wanting to have anything to do with him. How sad!! He would try to pet her or call her over and she just completely ignored him. She was friendly with Nancy, though, so we have no idea what her deal is with Loren. Nancy said she spent most of her time looking out the front window at the driveway where she last saw us leave from, interspersed with chasing the geckos. They told us that she was good and didn’t cause any problems, but I don’t know if they would tell us if she really was bad. We joked about/mentioned about a future trip to the US when we would pack up our belongings to send down to CR and being gone for 2-3 weeks. Loren was excited about trying again, but I think it shocked Nancy how long we were planning to be gone. I do think that she ended up with all of the extra work with Breeze, so I don’t really blame her. Once we get closer to the day when we are going home we’ll figure out if we need to find a new dog sitter.

After chatting for a little while, we headed back home. Both Breeze and us humans were very glad to be home after our trip!

At least with this first one we learned our lesson: Even though you think it’s best to pack light, don’t pack TOO light--- just in case (and an extra pair of underwear doesn’t take up much room)!!


  1. A whole lot of stuff going on! I don't think I would have the patience for all of that and a war would be in the offing with Edie. The more you do this the better off you will be when traveling around South America if that is what you would like to be. Perhaps next time you must update your passports another country could be picked out to visit, of course you would have to find a country not currently at way with another country. Nope, this would definitely not be for the two babies like us. Off to bed now, I have enjoyed your writing, keep it up.

    1. I must say, our levels of patience have gone WAY up compared to what they were before! If you had thrown this at me a year ago, I would have reacted very differently. It's fun to get different stamps in our passports, but for the time being, we will likely just look for the least expensive options and roll with the punches. (Our trip to the US in Nov counted as visa renewal #2, so now we won't have to do one again until about the end on Feb. No plans for where yet).


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