In this post of ‘Best practices for safe travel in Nicaragua’, you will learn and benefit from our’s and other ex-pat’s first hand experiences. For more information on safety in Nicaragua, view this blog post.
TAXI’S: Almost everyone that visits Nicaragua is going to need to take a taxi. This is probably the only time you will ever have someone try to ‘hustle’ you here in Nicaragua. It is key to find out what fair market price is for a taxi ride. Next, you need to negotiate price per person before you or your luggage enters the taxi. This is standard practice in Nicaragua. It is normal not to tip a taxi driver, however special situations may warrant this. If the taxi has to make several un-predicted stops requested by you, for example.
Leon: Taxi fare will run you 20 Cordobas (less than one dollar) within the city proper.
Managua: Taxi fare will run you 80 Cordobas (Except directly from the Airport. Walk out to the Pan/Am Highway to negotiate with a city cab. Airport has a special taxi fleet that charges a $20 flat rate.) to most places in the city. You may have to flag down several taxi’s, as most taxi drivers will automatically want $20 from you, so you will have to negotiate.
Also, make sure the taxi is clearly marked as a taxi.
When we first came to Nicaragua, we tried to always get an older gentleman as a driver, because they were less likely to overcharge.
Microbuses: Keep you pack in your lap, or by your feet. If the driver insists on putting it in the rear of the vehicle, sit in the rear of the microbus and keep an eye on it. I have never had to haggle with a microbus driver. We love the microbus! For more information on the microbus, or how to get to Leon from Managua, read this article.
Local Bus or ‘Chicken Bus’: These are what has made Nicaragua so accessible at an affordable rate. My wife and 1.5 year old son traveled virtually the entire country by one of these to get a feel for Nicaraguans’ and their country. It was a highly rewarding experience and safe. If at all possible, never leave you pack out of your site. These buses can be so overcrowded that there are people standing in the isle’s, and if your pack is across the isle, you may lose sight of it. Put it in the rack directly above your head, or in front of you in your field of vision, or in your lap. Don’t let them put it on top of the bus either; there surely will be several stop along the way, and people going on top of the bus to lower supplies to the exiting passengers. This is an easy chance for someone to lose their pack.
Walking: In general, it is very safe to walk around Leon during the day. It is common for Nicaraguan men to express their admiration for persons of the opposite sex in the form of ‘catcalls’. It can be quite annoying, but most people just ignore it, or laugh at it. When my wife walks with me around town, this does not occur. At night, especially when traveling by yourself, it is a good practice to take a taxi. Here are some extra tips that may seem like common sense, but are still necessary.
- Make electronic copies of your passport, and email them to your emergency contacts, and yourself. If you lose your passport, at least you can go to one of the many internet cafe’s, and print one out. Another reason to get travel insurance is that some insurance companies will reimburse you for a passport, and some electronics if lost.
- Always carry your purse/knapsack across your body, so someone can’t snatch it off your shoulder as they ride by.
- Don’t walk around town with your nose in your guide book or map. Figure out where you are going before you leave, so that way you look like you are supposed to be there. If you look confused or disorientated, this will open you up. Always walk confidently.
- After using an ATM, put all of your money away before walking away from it. It is also recommended to use a money belt worn under your clothes. Also, don’t keep all of your credit cards in one place. Hide one, along with some cash, in case you lose your wallet. PS-Hip belts are cool here.
- If you go swimming on the beach, don’t bring anything with you. Your two dollar sandals and ten dollar towel will walk away. Leave them behind. Absolutely DO NOT bring a camera or phone, unless they are salt water resistant, and you are bringing them with you in the water.
- Do not leave your personal belongings (purse, backpack) on the back of a chair. Keep them in your lap, or wrapped around your leg.
- Do not fall asleep on public buses.
- Basically, use big city rules, and pay attention to your surroundings.
- If you know you are going to be in a market or at a festival, put your wallet in your front pocket. This is prime time for pick pockets of all nationalities.
- Backpacks are much more practical than rolling or carry luggage. If at all possible, avoid these and opt for the backpack. Always bring half of what you think you will need as well.