nicaragua cheat sheet

Want to know some of the basics before you travel in Nicaragua? We've got you covered!


6.08 million

main cities

Managua (capital), Matagalpa, Chinandega - note than none of these cities are popular amongst travellers. 

bordering countries

Honduras, Costa Rica.

top tourist destinations

San Juan del Sur, Ometepe, Granada, Leon.


languages spoken

Spanish is the official language. In the eastern part of the country, Garifuna and English are also found whilst there are also some indigenous languages still spoken in pockets. 


currency and 2015 exchange rates

The Córdoba (NIO). US Dollars were accepted in some part of the country, so bring a stash with you for emergencies.

$1 USD = 25C |  £1 = 42C |  €1 = 30C


our route

We spent around three months in Nicaragua. The established backpacker route is concentrated along the west coast of the country, encompassing cities like Leon and Granada , Omotepe Island and the sumptuous coast line.

This means that a lot of the country gets missed out by almost all travellers, meaning there are still plenty areas ripe for adventure and discovery. 

We made an epic journey across the country to Bluefields and the Corn Islands, using buses, a cargo boat and a few speed-boats. If you have the time and inclination, it was one hell of an adventure and you'll be rewarded with paradis. If you want to make it to the Corn Islands but are short on time, you should just spend more and fly there.

must-try food and drink

We fell for the traditional breakfast of fried eggs, gallo pinto (rice with beans), sweet fried plantains, fresh cheese and a pot of coffee - filling, cheap and delicious!

Other than that and some excellent fresh seafood, the rest of the fare in Nicaragua was pretty unremarkable. 

However, when it comes to drinking, you definitely need to make the most of the excellent Flor de Caña rum. Its recognised as one of the best rums globally and costs about 5x the price in neighbouring Costa Rica - here in Nicaragua, you can enjoy a litre bottle of the good stuff for as little as $4 USD. Be sure to stock up before you leave!


good for vegetarians

In short, not terribly. Of course, you can get by eating gallo pinto, the odd portion of veggies and plenty of eggs but on the whole Nicaraguans don't really do 'vegetarian'. In the gringo-centric places you will usually find pizza and pasta dishes but they're rarely of great quality.

Our recommendation? Head to one of the many markets and stock up on fresh fruit and veggies. You'll save a fortune and be able to cook some great meals in your hostel kitchen.


transport options

If travelling along the western route, converted American school buses and/or rusty old normal buses are pretty much the only option. Travel between the big cities is possible on newer, faster mini-vans too whilst long-distance cross-country travel is done by more modern buses, although they're still dated and not the most comfortable. 

The bus network is quick, frequent and pretty reliable, although try to be roughly aware of the route you're travelling as it's not unusual for people to try to get you on their bus even though another one leaves earlier or is better suited to reach your destination. In terms of tickets, you just turn up at the bus station, jump on the next bus and pay on board.


can i see it in a month?

Yes. If you're sticking just to the western side of the country, then you could see and do everything you'd like in four weeks. If you want to include the eastern side, in particular the Corn Islands, then you should spend at least a week over there. 


can I drink the tap water? 

No, bottled water is advisable for drinking.


is malaria present?

Yes, in a number of popular backpacker locations. See your local travel clinic for further advice on which anti-malarial is best for you.


vaccinations needed? 

In addition to the routine immunisations you would have been given as a child, Typhoid and Hepatitis A are also recommended. Depending on how long you plan on being in the country and which activities you wish to undertake, it may be worth considering a rabies vaccine the disease is present in Nicaragua - discuss this further with your local travel clinic.

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