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If you have any plans to visit the rainforest or any other tropical region of Central / South America, I highly recommend getting your Yellow Fever Vaccine (YFV). The vaccine is good for your health and you can avoid the uncomfortable situation I recently had where I had to sleep in the Managua, Nicaragua (MGA) airport because I did not have a Yellow Fever Vaccine.
Let me back up a little bit…
2 weeks ago, Jim and I flew from San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL) to Managua, Nicaragua (MGA). When we got off the plane, there were 3 doctors who were meeting with passengers and reviewing their passport and custom form. The line was moving pretty quickly until I handed over my passport and custom form to one of the doctors. She flipped through my passport a few times, carefully looking at passport stamps, then back to my custom form, and then back to my passport. I had no idea what she was looking for, I assumed she was looking for my El Salvador exit stamp, but that was not the case.
After she handed my passport and custom form to the doctor in charge, they asked me which countries I had visited in the last 10 days. I rattled off Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. They then asked me if I had a Yellow Fever Vaccine and I said no. Hmm, she told me to follow her and we went down to customs. She told me to wait here and then she took my passport to a back office. After a few minutes, she came back and told me that since I had visited Bolivia in the last 10 days and did not have a Yellow Fever Vaccine, I was not allowed to enter Nicaragua. Uh oh, that was not good. She told me that I would have to stay at the airport tonight and take the first flight out in the morning back to San Salvador. Uh oh again. She then took my passport and told me to follow an airport employee (let’s call him my babysitter) upstairs to my departure gate.
While at the gate, I did a quick search on the Travel.State.Gov website for Nicaragua and it said the Yellow Fever Vaccine may be required for entry.
I scrolled down to the Entry, Exit and Visa Requirement section and it (again) said that the Yellow Fever Vaccine may be required, depending on which countries I visited. You can do more research on the CDC website, but long story short, I spent the night at the Managua, Nicaragua (MGA) airport.
At this point, I had to start planning my
great escape morning flight from San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL) to Liberia, Costa Rica (LIR) since I had a 2 night stay at the beautiful Andaz Papagayo Resort the next day (I have a few blog posts in the works regarding the resort). I did some research on Google Flights and found a flight from San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL) to San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) and then onto Liberia, Costa Rica (LIR). The last minute flight was $436. Ouch! I then searched for an award ticket, but I could only find award space on the SAL-SJO flight, not on the SJO-LIR flight. The cost of the SAL-SJO flight was $341, but the award ticket cost 8,000 United Airlines miles + $128.61 in taxes and fees ($75 of that was the close-in booking fee). Sold!
Since I couldn’t find an award ticket for the $96 SJO-LIR flight, I booked the flight using 6,400 Chase Ultimate Reward Points (getting 1.5 cents per point with my Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card). So now that my morning flights were booked, I was able to “sleep” a little bit “better”. I was still stuck at the airport, remember?
After turning off my laptop, it was time for “bed”. I went over to my babysitter and motioned that I wanted to use the restroom (baño, por favor) so I could get ready for bed and brush my teeth. He pointed across the hall to the restroom. I went inside, got ready for bed and came out. My next goal was to find a “nice” place to “sleep” in the airport. Unfortunately, the airport floor was very hard and cold, the lights were very bright, and the announcements were very loud. These are not the ideal conditions for a great night sleep. I was also paranoid that I was going to fall asleep and then someone (maybe the babysitter?) was going to take my backpack and suitcase. Therefore, I wrapped my backpack around the bench pole, pulled all the zippers close to the bottom, placed my backpack by my head and then had my legs “resting” on my suitcase. I was comfortable for about 10 minutes, then I would have to find a new position. That cycle lasted for the next several hours. To say I had a bad night sleep would be a major understatement.
Morning finally rolled around and my babysitter was still on his phone (like all babysitters, I presume). I went over and asked to go to the restroom again. He pointed to the restroom and I walked over. I brushed my teeth and put my contacts back in. When I looked in the mirror, I looked like a wreck. I then went back to my “airport bedroom”. A few minutes later, another airline employee came by with my passport and boarding pass. He told me to get on this flight back to San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL) and that boarding would begin soon. I boarded the flight and was glad to finally take off from Managua, Nicaragua (MGA). After a short flight back to San Salvador (SAL), I made a beeline to the airline lounge at SAL (thank you Priority Pass!) and took a much needed shower. I then headed to my gate and enjoyed the short flight to San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO). That was the end of my epic adventure in Managua. I am happy to share that I had a much better time in Costa Rica.
If you have any questions about being stranded in an airport because you do not have a Yellow Fever Vaccine, please leave a comment below. Have a great day everyone!
P.S. My next post will be about my awesome flight from San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) to Liberia, Costa Rica (LIR) on a 14 seater Cessna plane. Stay tuned!
Here are all parts of my Central / South America trip:
- Adios Amigos! I’m Traveling Around Central / South America (LPB, UYU, GUA, SAL, MGA & LIR)
- PSA / Tip: Always Bring a Pen When You Travel
- Riding the Cable Cars (Mi Teleférico) Around La Paz, Bolivia for Under $3
- Salar de Uyuni: Bolivia’s Magical, Mirror-like Salt Flat Oasis (2018 Dakar Rally & Crazy Photos)
- PSA: Check Existing Airline Confirmations for Cancelled Flights a Few Days Before Travel
- Hotel Review: Courtyard Marriott Guatemala City & Amazing Guatemalan Restaurant Nearby (Casa Chapina)
- Visit the Amazing (93 Years Young) Guatemala City Zoo for $5
- Hotel Review: Sheraton Presidente San Salvador Hotel (Great Location, Lounge & Breakfast)
- Day Trip: San Salvador Volcano & Restaurant La Pupusa Loka
- PSA: Get Yellow Fever Vaccine Before Visiting Nicaragua (& Some Other Central / South American Countries)
- My Incredible 14 Seat Cessna Flight from San Jose (SJO) to Liberia, Costa Rica (LIR)
- Andaz Papagayo Resort Part 1: The Resort is Beautiful
- Andaz Papagayo Resort Part 2: The Room was Great
- Andaz Papagayo Resort Part 3: The Food is Expensive, but Delicious