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Travel Info


Quick Facts
CapitalManagua
Governmentrepublic
Currencygold cordoba (NIO)
Areatotal: 129,494 sq km
water: 9,240 sq km
land: 120,254 sq km
Population5,023,818 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageSpanish (official)
note: English and indigenous languages on Atlantic coast
ReligionRoman Catholic 85%, Protestant

Nicaragua is a country in Central America. It has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea, in the east, and the North Pacific Ocean, in the west, and has Costa Rica to the southeast and Honduras to the northwest.

Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua.

Regions

There are 15 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento):

  • Boaco
  • Carazo
  • Chinandega
  • Chontales
  • Esteli
  • Granada
  • Jinotega
  • Managua
  • Masaya
  • Managua - Capital
  • Le�n
  • Granada
  • Esteli
  • Managua, most likely from Houston or Miami, if you come from the US. It costs 7 dollars to enter the country (prices change so make sure you have twenty dollars cash on hand). Tourist visas are three months for US citizens as well as for people from the EU. There will be taxis right outside, these are abnormally expensive, walk out to the road and try to flag down a regular cab. All the hostels are located in the Barrio Marta quezada. The taxi drivers try to rip you off, usually they start with 10 US dollars, but a price around 5 to 6 US/90 to 100 Cordobas is appropriate.

    You can also fly into the tiny Granada airstrip from San Jose (Costa Rica).

    By train

    By car

    There are two border crossings to Costa Rica, Pena Blanca west of Lago Nicaragua and Los Chiles east of it.

    There are three major border crossings to Honduras. Las Manos is on the shortest route to Tegucigalpa, the others ones are on the Panamericana Highway and on north of Leon.

    By bus

    By boat

    Get around

    Distances


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    MANAGUA 03838813214845162461399329130226557111300216
    BLUEFIELDS 3830322510462402476422243476386444540842461351530
    BOACA 8832202201571071811277918191149425517166240235
    CHINANDEGA 13251022001611771941772713716118123859124343229
    ESTEL� 1484621571610166103185219141151717849822638368
    GRANADA 454021071771660180411841381614824457668318234
    JINOTEGA 162476181194103180020223217516532181459240377171
    JINOTEPE 464221271771854120201711223717026660365346256
    JUIGALPA 139243792712191842322020229141198296599208160297
    LE�N 90476181371411381751222290122143219650187394209
    MASAYA 29386911611511616537141122013022955873301219
    MATAGALPA 13044414918171148321701981301300428297297343139
    OCOTAL 22654042523878244181266296229229149057630445529
    PT. CABEZAS 5578425175914985764596035995585584285760625760566
    RIVAS 111461166243226682406520873732973046250318244
    SAN CARLOS 300351240433833183773461603013013434557603180447
    SOMOTO 21653023522968234171256297219219139295664474470

    By bus

    Bus is definitely the main mode of travel in Nicaragua. If you're a younger American, Nicaragua may give you flashbacks to your elementary school days. Most of the buses are old decomissioned yellow US school buses. Expect these buses to be packed full. You'd better be quick or you may be standing most of the trip.

    By Plane

    At the international airport there are two offices right to the right of the main terminal, these offices house the domestic airlines. These are great if you want to get to the atlantic coast. I will not give prices as they change but it take 1.5 hours to get to the corn islands as opposed to 2 days by overland route. If you are trying to save time than this is the best way to get to the corn islands or anywhere on the atlantic coast.

    By boat

    Boat is the only way to get to the island of Ometepe or to the Solentinames. Be aware that high winds or other bad weather can cancel ferry trips leaving you stranded. That might not be such a bad thing, though.


    Boat is also a cool way to get to the corn islands. Take a bus to Rama at the end of the road, be aware that this trip can be very rough and long. Then ask around and see if you can get onto the weekly ship to the corn islands, there are bunk beds on the ship. Or you can get on a speedboat to bluefield or El Bluff and catch the boat from there, or take a flight out of Bluefields. They are mush faster and more expensive, the large cargop boat takes two days from the islands to rama with an overnight in El Bluff to take on cargo.


    By taxi

    The taxi drivers in Managua are agrresive and there are loads so it is easy to find a fare that suits you. You can also split the cost of taxi to get to destinations that are close to Managua by like Masaya, if you should prefer to travel with modicum of comfort. Taxi's in all the cities are generally fair and well mannered and a nice way to see local scenery. Take care in bargaining, the general fare is per person, not per taxi.

    Hitchhiking

    Easy and Comfortable. Finding a bus to the right suburb in managua is tricky.

    Talk

    Languages 
    Spanish (official)
    note:

    Nicaraguans tend to leave out the s at the end of words. "Vos" is used rather than the more formal "usted".

    English and indigenous languages on Atlantic coast

    Buy

    Nicaragua is not famous for its handicrafts like Guatemala. But, if you are going to take one thing home it should be a hammock. Nicaraguan hammocks are among the best made and most comfortable ever. The really good ones are made in Masaya, ask a taxi to take you to the fabrica de hammacas. These are family run and operated stores and have become comercialized, so hammocks can be quite expensive. I do not know what the prices are right now but it should be under 15 for a simple one person hammock. Hammocks are also sold in the Huembres market by the bus terminal in Managua NIcaragua can also produce some really good and cheap rum. Those aged more than 20 years are a great buy for the money

    Eat

    Food is very cheap, though a lot of the food is fried in oil (vegetable or lard). Very easy to be vegetarian as the most common dish is gallo pinto, which is red beans and rice. If you like meat try the Naca Tamale which is a pork tamale. The typical dish will consist of a meat, rice, beans, salada and some fried plantain, costing under 3 dollars US.

    Plantains are a big part of the Nicaraguan diet. You will find it prepared in a variety of forms: fried, baked, boiled, with cream or cheese, as chips for a dip, smushed into a "patacon".

    Nicaraguan tortillas are made from corn flour and are thick, almost resembling a pita. One common dish is quesillo: a string of mozzarella-type cheese with pickled onion, a watery sour cream, and a little salt all wrapped in a thick tortilla. You will also find the tortillas are used to make shredded beef tacos.

    One alternative to the fried offering in the typical menu is baho. This is a combination of beef, yucca, sweet potato, potato and other ingredients steamed in plantain leaves for several hours.

    One typical dessert is Tres Leches which is a soft spongy cake that combines three varieties of milk (condensed, evaporated and fresh) for a sweet conoction.

    Drink

    Rum is the liquor of choice, though you will find some whiskey and vodka as well. The local brand of Rum is Flor de Ca�a and is available in several varieties: Light, Extra Dry, Black Label (aged 7 years), Centenario (aged 12 years) and a new top-of-the line 18 year old aged rum. There is also a cheaper rum called Ron Plata.

    One local beer is Victoria, another one "To�a". It's pretty cheap to drink in Nicaragua.

    In the non-alcoholic arena you will find the usual soft drinks (Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola). Some local drinks include pinolillo, a thick cacao based drink.

    Sleep

    Look for pensiones or huespedes or hospedajes as these are the cheapest sleeps costing under 5 dollars US. They are usually family owned and youll be hanging out with mostly locals. Make sure you know when they lock their doors if you are going to party. Hotels have more amenities but are more expensive. There are some backpacker hostels in Granada, San Jaun del Sur, Ometepe, Masaya, Managua, and in Leon otherwise it's pensiones all the way.