So you’ve booked plane tickets for Nicaragua, now what? Well we have recently returned from an amazing trip to Granada, Ometepe and Leon and we have some Nicaragua travel advice for you! Hopefully you’ve already checked out our previous blog posts: Nicaragua Lodging Advice – How to Plan Your Stay, Granada Travel, Ometepe travel, and Leon travel. Make sure to let us know if it helped you book where you’ll be staying. While in Nicaragua, we discovered some general useful information that you’ll find helpful to prepare for international travel. It’s definitely stuff I wish I knew and it will take some stress off the planning process.
Here are some things we read about in our research before we traveled and other things we learned along the way. Most importantly, just remember this is not the US or Europe. This is Central America and things just run differently. So in general when traveling internationally, it’s a good idea to keep your wits about you and be aware of your surroundings. Being prepared can allow you to just enjoy yourself so you have a better idea of what to expect.
Nicaragua Travel Advice || Prepare for International Travel
- Make sure your passport has at least six months before expiring
- Have US$10 per person to pay when you reach the immigration officer. This is for your tourist visa.
- Take the time to at least learn some basic Spanish. And being polite and patience goes a long way. While we knew some Spanish words such common phrases, nouns and verbs we weren’t good at putting them all together. Also make sure to download Google translate on your phone. This will help you when trying to communicate. You can even hover over text and read the translation in English. Very few people speak English there. Often times, you could find at least one person working at the restaurant who may know English a little better and loves to practice their English with you.
- You’re not in Kansas anymore… things just aren’t like you might think. Even with all the above we found people just saying Si ‘(Yes) even when yes shouldn’t be the answer. For example, I may say “no come carne” when ordering chips and cheese and just stopped being surprised when still came with meat which I don’t eat. It seems like trying to get anything different than what they have listed just doesn’t translate. Remember this is a Spanish-speaking country!! So some things just won’t translate to be exactly what you mean.
- The food portions are huge! I mean really big no matter where we ate. We always had leftovers that I would taken with us and give them to all the homeless dogs. And there are a lot of them. As an animal lover I had a really hard time with this. They’re so skinny and sad and lacking love. And you never know what diseases they have so petting them just isn’t an option. At one of the restaurants we ate at in Meridia there was a sign that said 6% of the local dogs have giardia.
- The water was fine to drink. However we never drink it straight out of the tap (but then again we don’t at home either). But at the hotels and restaurants it was fine to drink.
- While we did find some awesome meals, Nicaragua is not known for its culinary delights. Things are pretty basic and just not that fancy. We found several very cute and quaint restaurants and everywhere we went we were served plenty of food.
- Work out transportation with your hotels ahead of time and also compare prices. If you’re taking a taxi, know what it will cost ahead of time. Ask the pricing information from your leaving destination and your arriving destination. For example, a taxi from Granada to San Jorge cost more from our hotel in Granada than when we asked our Ometepe hotel the same information. This also was true going from San Jorge to Leon (by a difference of $60). And always double check and ask that your transportation is indeed confirmed. If you’re going to be taking a taxi from the street make sure to negotiate the price before getting in. Also we always had to pay for our transport in US dollars.
- If traveling on the local bus, buy an extra seat so you can keep your bags with you otherwise they will be strapped to the top of the bus.
- Things just take longer so make sure to leave extra time if you need to be somewhere at a specific time like getting to the airport. Traffic getting into Managua can be very hectic and you certainly don’t want to risk missing your flight. Just leave extra early especially if you are taking a transport that has other people on it as well.
Things to Do
- Know the activities you want to do. You can make arrangements yourself or at the hotel/hostel you stay in. For tours, once again we needed US cash. And you really can pay in US cash at most restaurants but you aren’t getting the best exchange rate. We had a $30-$31 Exchange rate when we were just there.
- We spread our activities out and knew what times of day it was best to do what. It really sucks to find out you can’t do something because you didn’t know what time it was closing.
- We found it safe to walk around, though always be careful. But we are also careful at home in Philadelphia so that’s not a big change. Once it got darker out, we made sure to take our filming equipment back to the hotel so we weren’t walking around with expensive gear. At our hotel in Granada, four lovely Belgian women we met who were traveling together said they did have a hard time with all the catcalls and harassment. They chose to just go back to the hotel and drink a bottle wine at the pool area. Really who can blame them because it was so awesome at Tribal Hotel. So if traveling alone or with a group of just women, this is something you may want to keep in mind. But certainly don’t let it ruin a good time because others we asked about did not have the same experiences.
General Must Knows
- Make sure you bring your medicines. Also pack extra things like sunscreen, Imodium, anti-diarrhea medicine, Tylenol or pain relief, and Dramamine if you’re going to take the ferry as it could be very rough which is surprising for being on the lake.
- Bring good walking shoes as well as a hat.
- Bring a small flashlight. Some areas are known to have power outages. One day at La Omaja our power went out a couple times but just for a few minutes each time. But we sure were glad to have the flashlight. Make sure to take it out of your suitcase so it is handy if and when you need it!
- Don’t even think about bringing a drone. They searched our stuff thoroughly at the airport and even asked us out right if we had one. To us it just isn’t worth the risk!
- Same thing with a rental car. Don’t try to bring one across the border. We met folks who had been in Costa Rica prior to arriving in Nicaragua and they had to leave the rental car (and their drone) at the border and take a public transport bus.
- When it comes to tipping, sometimes there’s already 10% added in. Being from the US we come from a culture of tipping. And when you see people live on so much less what is a couple extra dollars. We tipped extra at meals, all our guides and drivers. Let’s face it 100 Cordobas is like US$3. Unless you’re backpacking untill you run out of money (which is also a place of privilege to be able to do) what’s an extra dollar or two.
- Stay clean. It’s a proud culture in Nicaragua. Even those who have very little take great pride in their homes and their appearance. The least you can do is rinse off! Everyone’s noses thank you.
- In Leon don’t be alarmed by the 6am church bells going off. And then at seven there’s a siren that goes off letting everybody know it is time to go to work. It can be quite jarring if nobody warned you in advance LOL!!
- Traveling in November and April are the best here. It is less hot, not as crowded and November is the end of the rainy season. We had just a couple of rain showers mostly overnight. And it’s hot no matter what so every degree of relief of the heat is so appreciated!
We hope you enjoyed reading our blog posts on tips for traveling in Nicaragua. And hope you find it useful. And if you did not already seen posts on our time in Granada, Ometepe and Leon, they are definitely worth checking out. with a lot more details of what activities we did and where we ate. So stay tuned! And you can always follow us on Instagram for our latest travel photos.