Nicaragua Travel Tips
Even though Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, years of political and civil unrest coupled with hugely destructive earthquakes have meant that it is one of the least visited countries in the region. However, after years of slumber, this country is now the “it” spot to visit. Every traveler you meet always asks “are you going to Nicaragua?” and expats are moving in and buying up property. This is a beautiful, wonderful country and it’s better to get there now before prices skyrocket!
Typical Costs in Nicaragua
- Accommodation: Hostels typically average around $25 USD per night for a double room with private bathroom. Dorm rooms average around $8-12. The most popular kind of lodgings in Nicaragua are “hospedajes” – small family run hotels costing from $10 to $15 per night. Hammocks can also be rented in many places for $5 per night.
- Food: By eating from street stalls, it’s possible to eat for less than $2 USD per meal. The food from the vendors is quite cheap. Most sit down restaurant are between between $3 USD and $5 USD per dish. For western food, expect to pay more.
- Transportation: Staying within the city, buses are efficient and extremely inexpensive at just $.20 USD – but beware, they are fiercely crowded and pickpocketing is rife. Taxis usually cost around $1-1.25 USD per person for a short trip.
- Activities: Generally, activities are quite cheap in Nicaragua. Most day trips and activities cost between $10-30.
Money Saving Tips for Nicaragua
- Bring empties – When buying beer in Nicaragua always try to bring your empty bottles back to the store as there is a strict recycling initiative here. Without empties you can expect to pay double for a crate of beer.
- Haggle - Don’t be embarrassed to haggle when buying things in the markets.
- Eat at the fritanga – These buffet style restaurants offer amazing value for your money. A typical meal will include rice, meat, cheese and cabbage salad. An entire table of food can cost just $5!
Top Things to See and Do in Nicaragua
- Explore Managua – Managua is the capital and home to many beautiful buildings and museums. The recently renovated Plaza de la Republica is home to the Palacio Nacional, which is still a government building but also houses an art gallery and museum. Next to the Palacio is the Catedral Viejo, a dilapidated ruin of a once wonderful cathedral destroyed in the earthquake.
- Go fishing – Both the Atlantic and the Pacific border the shores of Nicaragua and fishing here is pretty popular. Off the coast you’ll find a myriad of fish – some up to about 200 lbs. There are also chartered trips around the volcanic islands within the Lago.
- Admire the Architecture in Granada – Granada has some of the best architecture in Nicaragua and due to the recent investment in tourism, it has become very popular among travelers. Take in the magnificent buildings in the Plaza de Independencia or head to the Reserva Nacional Volcán Mombacho and hike the slopes towards the volcano’s crater. The view over Masaya, Granada, and the Lago de Micaragua is amazing.
- Visit Bewitched Villages – A trip to the Pueblos Brujos is usually incorporated with a trip to Masaya. Diriomo and Diria are two villages with a strong tradition in black magic, which is still practiced there today. It’s a strange experience with tarot card reading, fortune telling, and supernatural medicine being created in the streets.
- Masaya markets 0 The main attractions in the city of Masaya are two craft markets, the Mercado Municipal and the Mercado de Artesanias. Every Thursday night at the Mercado de Artesanias is the “Night of Revelry” featuring folkloric dancing, local food and music.
- Relax in San Juan del Sur – A hit with surfers and backpackers, San Juan del Sur is the most popular beach town in Nicaragua. The beach itself is in a great setting and enclosed by prehistoric volcanic hills. It’s the biggest backpacker spot in the country and you’ll find a lot of cheap bars and hostels here.
- Learn to surf – Nicaragua may not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think of surfing, but it’s a huge pasttime here due to the year round waves and warm water. There are plenty of surf schools that offer tuition and equipment hire around the towns of Rivas and San Juan del Sur. Expect to pay around $9 USD per day for board rental and $25 per hour for lessons.
- Visit Ometepe Island - This extraordinary island is located on the Lago de Nicaragua and is formed by two joined volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas. Hiking the volcanoes, kayaking and cycling are the main activities here. It’s beautiful; the locals are friendly and the food and accommodation are cheap, so it’s a great place to unwind for a few days.
- Get Your History Fix in León – This city was Nicaragua’s capital until 1857. to this day remains the country’s “intellectual” capital and it is home to the National University. Remnants of the political war between the Somozas and Sandinistas can be seen in the graffiti and murals around the city. It’s also worth checking out the Ruben Dario museum and the León Viejo ruins.
- Hike in Bosawas Biosphere Reserve - This area in the northern part of the country is a UNESCO-recognized bisosphere reserve. The land is inhabited by hundreds of species of plants and animals (including monkeys and jaguars). A lot of this rain forest is unexplored, and there are plenty of tough spots along some of the trails, so it may be best to arrange a guided tour. It can also get quite wet, so dress appropriately.
- Go Volcano-Boarding - What’s sand-boarding next to volcano-boarding? Cerro Negro, a young and active volcano, offers tourists a chance to board down its gravely slopes through an organized tour. You will have to hike up to the top, which takes around an hour, so be prepared for a climb and to get dirty!
- Kayak around Las Isletas - Las Isletas is a chain of small islands on a lake near Granada. Kayaking tours give travelers a chance to experience some nature in a calm and relaxing setting. A two-hour trip costs $35 USD.
- Attend the San Sebastian Festival - Every year near the end of January, people in Diriamba have a huge celebration in honour of San Sebastian, the city’s patron saint. Festivities officially run the 17th to the 27th, and include colorful parades, a huge feast, and plenty of traditional music.
- Hang out at Lake Apoyo - Lake Apoyo is a 48-square km lake that actually lies on the Apoyo volcano crater. It’s a beautiful setting with very clear water for swimming. Consider renting a kayak, or going on a hike. This is a nice place for a relaxing getaway for a couple of days.
- Escape to the Corn Islands - On the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, the Corn Islands are a gorgeous place for a vacation retreat. Most people come here to snorkel, scuba dive, to fish, and to relax. Small boats will take you between the different islands.