Sadly, since writing the post tourism has suffered in Nicaragua due to civil unrest. So, unfortunately many places mentioned in this post may not exist anymore. The New Zealand government currently has a warning asking travelers to avoid any unnecessary travel to the region. These warnings can also void travel insurance so it is best to check your governments travel advice for this region before booking a trip.
Nicaragua in a nutshell
We spent 17 days and NZD$1,863 in Nicaragua which was a little over budget but we had a really great time here. Despite being so geographically close to Costa Rica, Nicaragua felt like a completely different place. Visually, there were more volcanoes but the land was not as lush as Costa Rica.
Generally we found Nicaragua much less touristy and cheaper, there were a few cases of getting ripped off which was too be expected but overall we would recommend a visit to this great country.
We followed the well established ‘gringo trail’ up the Pacific side of the country. We decided to skip the Corn Islands to save money and time and decided we would get our Caribbean Island fix in Cuba. We found this to be a good decision as we had heard it can take up to 2 days just to get there!
- El Hoyo volcano hike – A beautiful overnight hike where we spent the night on a volcano looking at other volcanoes!
- Partying in San Juan del Sur – Join in on the pub-crawls or make your own
- Quad biking on Isla Ometepe – Pricy but the best way to get around
- Lago de Apoyo – An easy worth while day trip from Granada
- Buying all the snacks under the sun from the comfort of your chicken bus
- Spending time with new friends
- Ali’s wallet disappearing into the streets of Leon
- The first hour of El Hoyo… man that sucked, it was so steep and hot
- The very wet and rough boat ride to Ometepe…. although in hindsight it was pretty fun
- The battle with the wind on Cerro Negro, although this made us want to get the hell of the volcano so perhaps this made us better at volcano boarding...
- Hungry animals – they are sadly everywhere
- Poverty – Compared to Costa Rica and Panama, Nicaraguans seem much poorer than their neighbours. There were many occasions where people begged for the food from our plate. If you do have left overs you don’t want, get them put in a plastic bag so you can give it to someone in need.
How to save money
- Eat at the many ‘chicken ladies’, they offer grilled chicken (sometime beef and pork), rice and beans, plantain chips (so good!!) and salad. Prices range between C60-C130 which is a bargain!
- Take the chicken buses, they are everywhere and well signed. It was easy to complete the whole ‘gringo trail’ using the various buses. Most of the buses have the price labeled on the inside but generally expect to pay between C10 and C50 per ride depending on where you go. Longer rides and shuttle are more expensive.
- Haggle the taxi drivers, often they will try and rip you off. When in doubt inquire with a local or your hostel to get an estimated price.
- Drink local beer, it is much cheaper than imported beer and it is pretty good. A bottle of beer was between C20-C30 ($1 – $1.50 NZD) or to be extra efficient pay C60 for the 1 litres.
- Pay in local currency, we found that when we opted to pay in local currency over US dollars we got a better rate.
We really loved our time in Nicaragua and would encourage you to go. There were lots of opportunities for hiking, the beautiful colonial towns, great beaches and most importantly the cheap beer!
For more travel advice from central america check out;
- Overview: Costa Rica
- North of the Panama Canal
- How to get to Montezuma, Costa Rica
- 3 nights in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
- Tikal – Guatemala’s Mayan City