Navigating Nicaragua

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Navigating Nicaragua

Continuing in the how to navigate Central America series, today we look at navigating Nicaragua.

In this instalment we impart wisdom on how to navigate around Nicaragua. This guide includes transport options and costs associated with the journeys.

First time reading our Navigating Central America series? You might also find our Central America Itinerary, Navigating Guatemala and Navigating Belize posts useful.

Navigating Nicaragua

Nicaragua is such a beautiful country, a country that we wished we had much more time to explore.  Unfortunately, our time in this gorgeous country was a little rushed due to our time constraint.

Navigating Nicaragua was easy enough using public transport. As in a lot of places in Central America you will be advised to catch shuttles, often taxi drivers will try and trick you and tell you this is the only way to complete the journey or that your bus has left already. To avoid falling for this scam be informed of how to complete your journey and the timings.

The local transport is a collection of colectivos, mini-buses, local buses, ferries and taxis.

Leon to Granada

The total travel time for this journey was around 2-3 hours. Our hostel was a couple kilometres from the bus station so we opted to walk there. The walk was a hot one, but relatively straightforward and the locals were super friendly and helpful when we were asking for directions.

The Terminal de bus is located in the middle of a bustling market place which is also relatively busy with local buses, minibuses and taxis.  All of the buses have their destinations displayed at the front making it easy to locate your bus.

We quickly located the bus to Managua, paid our fare and were on our way (generally the minibuses will depart once full).

It took us around 1 ½ hours to get to the UCA terminal in Managua (make sure you are going to this terminal to get an onwards bus to Granada). Once we arrived we tried to locate the minibus we were looking for. Numerous minibuses told us that we were at the wrong station and they were trying to convince us to get a taxi.

Thankfully we weren’t gullible enough to fall for their tricks and we boarded our busy bus to Granada a few minutes later. This is a local bus and it makes plenty of stops along the way with a couple of different stops to disembark in Granada, we chose to exit the bus at Pargque Central. This is a central stop close to all the hotels, hostels and restaurants.

Travel time:

  • Minibus: Leon – Mangua – 90 minutes
  • Minibus: Mangua – Granada – 55 minutes

Cost:

  • Minibus: Leon – Mangua – 55 Cordoba ($1.75USD)
  • Minibus: Mangua – Granada – 25 Cordoba ($1USD)

Granada to Ometepe

We found this journey very manageable and easy to complete without booking shuttles. The shuttle services offered from Granada to the port will cost you around ten times the price of catching local transport.

The bus we caught to Rivas was very busy, it almost looked like a Gringo bus with all the tourists packed on (Rivas is the main hub to get onwards travel around Nicaragua).

To catch the bus to Rivas the bus departs from the Granada Market Station (this is a different station to where you arrived from Leon).  The buses are frequent and generally they don’t depart on time, rather they will depart once the bus is full.

The schedule for buses departing to Rivas Monday – Sunday is 6.30, 8.05, 9.30, 11.30, 12.30, 1.30 and 3.10.

San Jorge Port is only a 10-minute ride from Rivas bus station and is actually accessible via another local bus, however we were tricked by the taxi drivers at the station into thinking this bus had already departed. So, we opted to taxi to the port, where again we were ripped off we paid around double price (which is still cheap in the grand scheme of things).

The boats to Ometepe operate on a varied schedule provided by variety of ferries and lancha boats that are all owned by different enterprises.  We managed to get tickets to a ferry and we suggest boarding early to get a seat inside the cabin.

Travel time:

  • Local Bus: Granada – Rivas – 60-75 minutes
  • Taxi: Rivas – San Jorge Port – 10 minutes
  • Ferry: San Jorge Port – Moyogalpa – 1-1½ hours

Cost:

  • Local Bus: Granada – Rivas – 45 Cordoba (which included a small fee for our backpacks)
  • Taxi: Rivas – San Jorge Port – 70 Cordoba ($2.20USD)
  • Ferry: San Jorge Port – Moyogalpa – 45 Cordoba ($1.50USD)

Ometepe to San Jose (Costa Rica)

Surprisingly this journey was comfortable and pretty hassle free. We got one of the earlier ferries back to mainland Nicaragua to ensure we could get a direct bus to San Jose, Costa Rica.

From the San Jorge port we had two options to get Penas Blancas border. The first option was to catch a taxi back to Rivas bus station and to pick up a local bus to the the border. This would have been the cheapest option and would have probably taken an hour or two.

The second option and the option we chose was to catch a taxi direct to the border. The taxi ride was around 20 minutes and the driver dropped us a short walk from the border. This short walk was full of touts trying to sell us departure cards but don’t believe their lies, these are available at immigration free of charge.

To exit Nicaragua took about 5 minutes and cost $3USD. Once we exited Nicaragua we were in no-mans land.  A small area full of buses, touts and even shopping stalls. It was here in no-mans land that we purchased our bus tickets and our luck would have it the bus was departing in an hour.

We bordered the bus and drove for the whole of 30 seconds before arriving at the Costa Rican border. We unloaded and proceeded through customs where they checked our documents.

Nervously we lined up at immigration, we had heard that Costa Rican border officials were fairly strict about presenting an exit ticket. Thankfully we weren’t asked to present this information as we didn’t really want to hand over our fake tickets to enter the country.

The rest of the journey was pretty comfortable. The coach seats were comfy and the only discomfort were the weird movies.

Travel time:

  • Ferry: Moyogalpa – San Jorge Port – 1-1½ hours
  • Taxi: San Jorge Port – Penas Blancas Border – 20ish minutes
  • Bus: Penas Blancas Border – San Jose – 6-8 hours

Cost:

  • Ferry: Moyogalpa – San Jorge Port – 45 Cordoba (which included a small fee for our backpacks)
  • Taxi: San Jorge Port -Penas Blancas Border – between $20-$30USD
  • Bus: Penas Blancas Border – San Jose – $20USD

Immigration fees:

  • Exit Nicaragua- $1USD- Exit Municipality Tax and $2USD exit fee
  • Entry fee Costa Rica – No entry fee

Public transport in Nicaragua was really reliable, cost effective and it was an efficient way to navigate the country. Stay tuned for the next instalment in the Navigating Central America series.


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