Nicaragua: Under-the-Radar Travel Tips
Navigating new countries can be tricky. My focus is on Nicaragua. I have tried to avoid the obvious travel tips and alerts. If you are planning your first trip, I hope these travel tips help.
*Tourist visas at Managua’s Augusto C. Sandino International Airport require a ten dollar entry fee. You will pay it at customs.
*The porters are very vigilant about checking your baggage claim tickets. Make sure not to misplace them.
*Exchanging currency on the street is legit, make sure use authorized “coyotes”. They can often be found near banks and parks. I have found that they offer similar rates as many banks without the long wait. Also, many stores exchange money.
*Ask for some small bills, many street vendors and shop owners will give you a hard time about accepting a C$500 note (about $16)
*Keep in mind that US dollars are accepted throughout the country, if you’re in a jam. I don’t like paying with dollars because the individual owners set their own rate.
*Taxi service in Nicaragua is shared. Don’t be surprised if the driver stops to pick-up other fares. If you would like a private taxi, as for an “express” fare.
*Use taxis with red and white plates ONLY, they are authorized and properly licensed.
Learn Some Spanish (Okay, this is obvious)
*Familiarize yourself with some common words and phrases. In the bigger cities many Nicaraguans speak at least some English, and they will be more apt to use it if you first try some Spanish.
*There are very few street signs and/or addresses to help you. When asking for directions, people will use landmarks to guide you, “At the roundabout, take the third exit. Then follow that to the Cathedral. The restaurant is two blocks north and 10 meters west.”
***Tip of the day: Many public parks in Nicaragua offer free wi-fi. If you see a public square or park loaded with Nicas, there is good chance that they are there for the free internet service.
*Mosquitos can be horrible in many parts of Nicaragua. Make sure to travel with repellant. Biting insects are not limited to mosquitos, I got attacked by a biting ants while walking across a field.
*Public transportation is reliable, cheap, and relatively punctual. Be careful of pick pockets when standing on a crowded chicken bus, (I feel that everyone should ride one at least once).
*The Interlocals microbuses offer city-to-city nonstop service to anywhere in the country. My last fare was 54 Cordobas (about $1.75) from Managua to León. They are comfortable, fast, and most have A/C.
Water and Electricity
*Don’t expect hot water, except in some hotels.
*Utilities are government owned. They go off regularly. Many homeowners and businesses have their own water reserve tanks, a few have electrical generators. These rations usually last for a few hours. It is just something that you’ll learn to accept.
*The temperature varies significantly between north and south and between the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Much of the country get to about 90F or 100F regularly. In the North, temperatures drop in the evening and over night, sometimes into the 60s, depending on altitude.
*The wet season, referred to as Winter, runs from May to October. Rains can come often and be torrential. It is a good idea to carry foul weather gear for you AND your pack.
Bonus: León Sirens
*So what is with those blaring sirens at 7:00 and 12:00? Don’t worry they aren’t warning you of a natural disaster. The first siren means it is time to start working, the second reminds you to go to lunch.
This is a short list of what I hope will help you in Nicaragua. Be aware. Be smart. Be careful. But don’t be paranoid, Nicaraguans are very welcoming and helpful folks. Enjoy your stay.
If are planning your first trip to Nicaragua, I hope these tips benefit. Been there? Have I have omitted anything you encountered?
Viva León, Jodido!