From the airport to Granada or elsewhere in Nicaragua, anytime of the day or night, Paxeos is a good safe option. We paid $50- for the private 45 minute shuttle, which certainly is not cheap. But, our flight arrived at 10pm on X-mas eve, and we wanted an immediate safe and guaranteed way to get our baggage to our hotel on the first night of entry to the country. Paxeos also has shared vans for cheaper prices for more regular flight times. See website for more information. Although you provide credit card information to establish the reservation, the driver collects cash for payment.
La Costena operates several 12 seater twin prop airplanes that fly from Managua to numerous places otherwise difficult to reach. A one hour flight to San Carlos was less than $100-, so I figured this would provide a great way to get an overview of the lake before we explored in the southern region. Service was good; unfortunately, cloudy skies spoiled much of the flight time sightseeing. The Managua airport is right next to the International airport, so it's possible, though not necessarily recommended, to get off the international flight and step aboard a La Costena plane. La Costena is difficult to reach by telephone. Book early and hope scheduling holds as planned. If it doesn't, the Best Western just across the street is an very easy place to book without reservation. Luggage limits are slightly less than the international flight. See my San Carlos pages for more details about La Costena service.
There is ferry service between Granada and San Carlos twice weekly, with a stop at Ometepe Island, This is convenient for those with plenty of time as while the ferry is modern and safe, it's still quite slow relative to the bus or airplane services available. Make sure to get tickets in advance. Travel from San Carlos to El Castillo and other places along the San Juan River is normally done by fast passenger boats. During the rainy season, be prepared to get a little wet, although there are clear tarps which are lowered in bad weather. Be sure to purchase your ticket as soon as you get to town, but if sold out, be patient and hope for enough passengers to congregate to create another boat load. The 4 hour San Carlos to El Castillo trip costs $C150, or about $6-, or a little more if you get on one of these "created" boats. There's always a way to get down river from San Carlos, but be patient while at the waterfront, rather than pay big bucks out of desperation. In contrast, travel from San Carlos to Solentiname Islands can be expensive. There is municipal service, but it may not fit your schedule. We paid $200- for a package deal that included travel to and from the islands from San Carlos, as well as an excursion around the islands. At El Castillo, excursion boats are commonly hired to go into the Biosphere Ecological Park, so these may come with a wildlife guide as well as boatman, and will cost $60 to $100-. Similar kind of deal is also available from Granada to the local islands. You can bargain at the waterfront inside the recreational park, or strike a deal with a vendor of these excursions along the Calle de Calzado. Just because the boat has a dozen seats doesn't mean you can't strike a deal for a couple to have their own boat. In fact, our private boat from Granada around the local islands was the same price as a highly advertised tour package sold in town. Sometime the motor boat is a noisy nuisance when viewing wildlife. So, we also recommend hiring a boatman with his canoe. From El Castillo, there are young men who will charge a very reasonable price for the peace and solitude of a canoe ride that lasts at least two hours. Ours actually preferred that I didn't paddle, although I've got plenty of experience. He was very strong and managed the boat well through strong currents. Although dug out canoes are still common here, the typical tourist canoe will be fiberglass. During this trip, our paddler/wildlife guide took us up a quiet tree shrouded tributary of the San Juan River.
Nicaraguan bus service comes in basically three varieties. At the local level, the old fashioned school bus, or "chicken bus", dominates, and provides very cheap and relatively safe way to get around. These may take awhile to get filled up before departing, but be patient. People watching at the grimy bus station is part of the fun. Fares are so low that I don't even recall them. Next level up are the excursionary vans. These are best for transport between major cities. From Granada, take the bus to Managua, then catch a bus onward to Leon, for example. You can bring your backpacks onboard if you want to save a little money, but again the prices are equal to about $1 per hour of travel--a real bargain. We use durable luggage with wheels, so we don't hesitate to allow our bags to be tossed on the rooftop if necessary. The conductors are good at watching the bag, but it is wise to observe enough to make sure your bag isn't left behind. There is also a long distance bus between San Carlos and Managua that takes around 6 hours. This bus uses the newly paved highway on the east side of the lake. These are aging but still comfortable buses, but unfortunately what could be a four hour trip is delayed by a multiple of impromptu stops along the way. Store your luggage for free below in the cargo hold and relax. Headrests on the Managua bound bus were clean linen and seats were not dirty. The scenery is very pleasant along this route. For all these buses, the best plan is to scout out the station the day before your trip to make certain which bus to take. We never found any difficulty catching a bus at the last minute though. If a bus goes by carrying the name of the place want to go, flag it down and get on. Pay the conductor for the ticket.
After flying from Los Angeles, California in the US to San Jose, Costa Rica on America West Airlines you can purchase a ticket from Tica Bus. Tica Bus runs all throughout Central America, from capital to capital & large cities in between.
We traveled from San Jose to Granada,Nicaragua (you can take the bus that heads to Managua if you'd like to get off at Granada).
The Tica bus agent in Granada is:
Contact: Isora Blandón
Address: Next to San Juan de Dios hospital ½ block south.
The Tica bus agent in Rivas is:
Contact: Norma Avilés
Address: Next to Texaco gas station, Panamerican supermarket.
The Tica bus terminal in San Jose, Costa Rica is at:
San José. Costa Rica. North corner of La Soledad church Street 9 y 11, Ave.4
San Jose, Costa Rica
Telephone: (506) 22-8954
Telephone: (506) 255-4771
MANAGUA NICARAGUA (express from San José) - DEP. daily from terminal Tica Bus at 6:00, 7:30; RET. 6:00, 7:00; 450 km; 11 hrs Tica Bus CoTel. 221-8954
Two San José-based bus companies, Tico Bus and Transnica, offer daily, direct routes to Granada from San Jose. The trip costs about 3,000 colons about $8. It’s a long bus-ride, some eight to 10 hours.
The cost to enter Nicaragua is $11, and the return into Costa Rica is $4 for U.S. citizens.
There are two airlines flying from Managua to Big Corn Island and they are La Costeña and Atlantic Airlines. If you arrive with an international flight and are continuing to Corn Island it is not far to walk to the domestic departur/arrival hall. It’s in the end of the same building you arrive to.
I bought the ticket for the flight from a travel agent in Granada about 10 days ahead of the journey. A return ticket with La Costeña was 177 US dollars (July 2009).
4.30 in the morning I took a shuttle from the hostel in Managua to the airport. It took half an hour to the airport and as I shared it with someone else it was 10 dollars, otherwise it would have been 15 dollars. Arriving at the airport I paid a tax of 40 cordobas (2 dollars) before checking in. When checking in my big backpack they did not only weigh it, but also my hand luggage and me. The domestic hall at the airport is not very big but there are two news stands/cafeterias. I bought a newspaper (7 cordobas) and toast and coffee for breakfast (44 cordobas).
The plane was supposed to leave at 6.30 but was a little bit delayed. On the way to Corn Island we went down in Bluefields. To Big Corn Island we arrived at 8.30. From the airport I shared a taxi to the Municipal Wharf and we paid 20 cordobas each (August 2009). Also when I went the opposite way a few days later I paid 20 cordobas, even if I was alone in the taxi.
Also flying from the airport on Big Corn Island you pay an airport tax of 2 dollars (41 cordobas). Going back to Managua I took the afternoon plane. Both La Costeña and Atlantic Airways have a morning flight and an afternoon flight. The plane left at 15.55, 15 minutes after schedule, and made a short stop in Bluefields before continuing to Managua. Back in Managua I took a taxi to the hostel and paid 15 dollars.
They are absolutely safe. Take from Managua UCA a minibus to Granada, it will safe you some time and is only 20 cordobas, that is 1 $. From Rivas to San Juan del Sur the colectivo taxi is 35 cordobas p.p. it runs from the bus station and if you dont want to wait until the bus leaves a good solution. From Managua UCA there are also minibuses to Leon (40 cordobas) and other places, so you dont have to change bus stations.
Oh, the phenomenon called taxi is... something special in Nicaragua.
In Managua they are a necessity, but more on that on the Managua pages...
Apart from their use within an urbanized area, it is possible to go by taxi from one town to another, if they are not too far.
Examples... In an attempt to get as fast as possible to Somoto, there was an expreso bus leaving from Managua to Ocotal. Now... since the road passes close to Somoto, at the point where the roads divide, there are always taxis waiting. And the taxi took us two and one more passenger to Somoto for... 20 cordobas.
Another example... taxi from San Juan del Sur to ANY of the nearby beaches (popular surfers' destinations)...
Or, from San Jorge to Rivas...
The prices always vary... It is cheaper in the northern region, since there are much more tourists in San Juan del Sur.
Also... the taxis in Managua always charge much more... And if they see an obvious "extranjero" face, they'll add 10, 20 cordobas more.
The little town of San Jorge is the main departure point of the ferries and the boats that take you from the mainland to Ometepe island, arriving at Moyogalpa. There is also an option to take a boat from Granada to Altagracia, but it takes much more time and it is not a frequently used option.
the time-table I have (from summer 2007) for the boats doing the route: San Jorge - Moyogalpa is:
S. Jorge - Moyogalpa
10:30 am (ferry)
2:30 pm (ferry)
Moyogalpa - S. Jorge
6:00 am (ferry)
9:00 am (ferry)
4:30 pm (ferry)
Not sure how precise this info is... but at least it gives you an idea...
Between Managua and some major destinations, like Leon, there are so called micro-buses. Or “intermortales”, supposedly because of the suicidal behaviour of their drivers. Can’t say that they are that extreme, but that little thing (twelve passengers only) GOES FAST. We got in 75 minutes from Leon to Managua. These microbuses leave as soon as they get full. Which happens in ... maybe ten, fifteen minutes. If I remember correctly there are micro-buses covering routes such as: Managua-Leon, Managua-Masaya, Managua-Granada.
There is a difference between “expreso” and “ruteado” buses. And yes, in deed, there is a difference. The expreso buses normally stop only at larger stations, or some “points on the road” that are known to people, and thus many people get on or off there. Unlike the “ruteado” bus that stops at EVERY SINGLE corner where a potential passenger can be found. I have been only on one ruteado, on the WORST road: San Isidro – Leon, and even though I made it fun, I wouldn’t like to repeat those three hours. What I’m saying is... stick to expreso buses.
On the photos... you can see me in the Ruteado bus from San Isidro to Leon. Ok, some extra info that maybe you can find useful. We took an expreso bus from Somoto to Managua. HOWEVER, we asked the driver to leave us in San Isidro, so that we can take a bus from there to Leon. Now... the bus left us on the road, some 4-5 kilometers from San Isidro, or past San Isidro, at a point where the road separates and to the west it leads to Leon. One of the photos is actually taken at that "crossroad" while we were waiting for the bus to Leon. That one was in a particularly bad shape, though we made it... The other buses we took on our trip far better than that one. In any case you have to settle for a... relatively dirty buses.
The so-called bus terminals are actually part of Markets. So they tend to be big, loud, dirty, chaotic and very fun to watch, unless you feel completely lost. I'd say these are the only places where I have kept a close eye on... my belongings and everything. On the other hand, great food can be found close to the buses, since, like I said, the terminals are part of markets and... you don't have to travel hungry. :-)
In Managua there are several bus terminals (stations) depending on the direction of the bus route. If it goes to Somoto, or to the north, they you need to go to Mayoreo. Huembes, on the other hand, is the station where buses heading south leave. For places like Rivas, for example.
The picture accompanying this tip is taken at HUEMBES, in Managua. Oh my... the craziest place I have seen in Nicaragua. In case you are wondering, the woman is carrying a basket full of coco sweets.
Moving around Nicaragua? Well, I'd say BUSES. Period. Ok, maybe renting a car, if you have the money. The rental itself is not that expensive, but then there is the issue of insurance. So, when the time came to decided, car was out of the question. Though, I have to say, would be a very comfortable and practical solution.
Anyways, I can say a thing or two about the buses.
Before going to Nicaragua, I did some research here on Virtual Tourist (of course) and I ran into the suggestion of checking out ViaNica’s website. While that website is not bad, I have to say one thing: don’t take it literally. The schedules of the buses, in particular.
See, when you come from a Balkan country, like I do, you learn not to confide too much in schedules, “horarios”, working hours, etc. I’m not saying this as a negative thing, not at all. On the contrary, one learns to be more flexible, and also, more efficient at finding solutions to unexpected situations. So anyways, ViaNica’s website says something like... from 4 am to 7 pm, every 20 minutes, it doesn’t mean that between those hours there are buses literally every 20 minutes.
Don’t despair however, because buses are VERY frequent. DO have in mind that as soon as the sun sets... all activities stop. Bus rides included. So... if you see a schedule saying that at 7 pm there is a bus... Well, NO, MOST probably there is none.
From Europe there are two possible ways:
1. Through the US, or more precisely Miami. An option I personally tried EVERYTHING to avoid since I really hated the idea of wasting precious time and money with visa issues (there is no such thing as transfer for the US authorities. It is transit so one has to have a transit visa, even though we are talking about connecting flights), and especially with US Migration officers. I mean, I really am so incredibly sick and tired of their paranoia.
2. Flying through San Jose, Costa Rica. This is an option with TACA Airlines. Not bad at all, got to admit. We got to San Jose, just did the check-in for the last flight San Jose – Managua, which is really short, barely an hour and chilled at the nice little airport they have there. I didn’t even pass through passport control since we were only doing a transfer.
There is always the option of the now-quite-known TICA bus that actually travels through Central America.
I've been there 8 times since 1999, and I've found that it's extremely helpful to have a driver who knows the ropes. Every trip
from Managua to the Pacific in the last two years, we've been stopped by police asking for a variety of documents and small bribes. Last month I met a driver who is great. He lives 5 minutes from the airport in Managua and knows how to find out the inside information about arrivals, departures, luggage location, etc. You can call him or email him to arrange for a pickup, and he'll know if your flight is delayed, so you don't have to panic. He drives a lot for the surf tours down in San Juan del Sur, and he knows his way around the country, especially from Managua to the Pacific coast. Owns a trusty old Land Cruiser and a couple of cabs. I even made him a little web page to help him a bit. http://www.nicaland.com/managuataxi
Granada Isletas, Granada, n/a, Nicaragua
Good for: Couples
Esquina de los Bancos 1C al Este, Leon, 00000, Nicaragua
Good for: Business
It felt like staying at Home in Nicaragua. The rooms are nice, very comfortable beds, a great...more
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