Taxi Cab Tips for Nicaragua
Taxis Service in Nicaragua
When traveling on a budget, it is important to make every dollar count. I briefly mentioned taxi service in another post, but felt that it warranted its own. Most people, locals and travelers alike, use some sort of public transportation on a regular basis in Nicaragua. It is an inexpensive and reliable way of getting around. As in most cities, the cabs here drive as erratically as anywhere else. The following are four tips for using taxi’s in Nicaragua.
1) Airport taxis have a contract with the airport and will charge you significantly more. I was staying with a family in Managua at the beginning of my trip. The ten minute ride costs C$60, but for a gringo C$120-C$150 is common. The airport taxis will charge about $12 dollars. Do yourself a favor and walk to the road and flag you own cab.
2) Taxi service in Nicaragua is shared. Your driver will always try to pick-up other fares, this is normal. You can ask for “express” service though they will charge a little extra.
3) Use taxis with red and white plates ONLY. These cabs are properly licensed and authorized by the local municipality.
4) Settle the fare with the taxi driver before you get in and don’t pay them until you get to your destination.
The following is a personal experience that occurred in Managua, in a cab with “red and white” plates during one of my first trips to Nicaragua.
First of all, I mentioned that you should not pay the cab until you reach your destination, I broke my own rule. The taxi driver made a quick phone call and pulled over about halfway through the fare. I thought he was stopping for another fare. Instead, he said he needed to change money into dollars. I sat in the backseat as the driver counted out Cordobas to exchange. He asked me for the fare because he was a little short for $20 bill. I reluctantly paid him. He exchanged his money and we were on our way.
A few minutes later, the cab slowed for an upcoming red light. As a motorcycle with two adults and two young children, none of whom were wearing helmets, tried to pass between lanes to cut to the front of the line. The driver cut his wheel sharply to cut-off the cycle. A loud argument ensued. The driver removed his seat belt. I was prepared for a fight. A second motorcycle appeared after crossing from the side, that is when I envisioned the situation escalating. The light turned green and both motorcycles accelerated through the intersection. The first one losing control and nearly biting pavement with his whole family. We were all lucky.
It wasn’t until after I reached my destination that I realized how differently my experience could have turned out. These are two situations could have turned out badly. These are tactics that taxi drivers use to rob their fares. I was lucky. I didn’t have any baggage because is was returning a rental car and had left them at home. You should be leery of cab drivers talking on the phone, it is illegal to drive and talk on the phone. This is a way to alert a partner that he has fare that may be worth robbing. The second is another way to create a diversion that may also lead to robbery.
Just like any form of public transportation, travelers should be aware of what is happening around them. All over the world, buses, taxis, subways, trains, and the corresponding stations are cesspools for petty theft. Share any tips you found helpful while traveling.
Viva León, Jodido!