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Travel Guide: Nicaragua Getting Around

12th Oct 2011 2:01am | By Editor

Brace yourself for a crazy ride in a camioneta.

Getting there

By air

Nicaragua's main international hub is Managua International Airport. It's pretty tiny but several of the major American airlines fly there, including Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Continental and Iberia. In some cases, it can be easier and cheaper to fly into the much busier Juan Santamaria Airport in San José, Costa Rica, and take a bus (about 5 hours) from there.

By sea

There are no official sea crossings into Nicaragua.

By car

If you're doing a road trip through Central America, use the Pan-American Highway, which runs from Mexico to Panama via Nicaragua. Crossing the borders can take a couple of hours. Speaking Spanish is essential to sort out the paperwork.

By bus

Quality buses with air conditioning link Nicaragua with Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The border crossing is open daily — you'll either have to walk across the border to a connecting bus, or hand your passport over to the driver if you don't need to change buses.

Getting around

Cracked pavements and crammed public transport are the norm, and getting around in the wet season can be difficult amidst washed-out roads and flooding.

Aircraft

Journeys across Nicaragua can be long and tiring by bus, so it’s worth paying for flights if you afford a little extra. La Costena fly from Managua to Bluefields for around US$50-$60.

Taxis

Good value in the cities, taxis can also be worth using for longer journeys, especially as drivers usually charge based on distance rather than the number of passengers.

Camionetas

Pick-up trucks packed with people, crates, animals and furniture, this is unofficial transport as cheap as it comes.

Chicken bus

You haven’t really travelled in Central America until you’ve survived a journey on a ‘chicken bus’. Buses are the main mode of transport and Honduras has a two-tier system. Chicken buses are the cheaper, second class option and they’re hot, slow, cramped and usually suspension-shy. The good news is the journeys are usually short and you’re plonked right in among the locals who travel with everything from giant sacks of potatoes to squawking chickens. It’s a great way to sample some on-the-ground local colour.

No trip is complete without regular stops to buy frescos (drinks) that often taste as strange as they look. Buses often have salsa music reverberating around the seats, and sometimes American R&B music too.