Difference between revisions of "Nicaragua"
Revision as of 22:55, 30 April 2006
Nicaragua is a country in Central America. It has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea, in the east, and the North Pacific Ocean, in the west, and has Costa Rica to the southeast and Honduras to the northwest.
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua.
There are 15 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento):
And 2 autonomous regions (regiones autonomistas, singular - region autonomista):
Ports and harbors
Tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands. The weather during the dry months can be very hot in the Pacific lowlands. The Atlantic coast sees an occasional hurricane each season. In the past, these hurricanes have inflicted a lot of damage.
Extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to central interior mountains; narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes making for some majestic landscapes. Nicaragua is dotted by several lakes of volcanic origin. The largest, Lago Nicaragua, is home to the only fresh water sharks in the world. Managua, the capital, sits on the shores of the polluted Lago Managua.
The Pacific Coast of Nicaragua was settled as a Spanish colony in the early 16th century. The oldest city, Granada, is one of the oldest cities in the American continent. During the colonial period, Nicaragua was part of the Capitania General based in Guatemala.
Independence from Spain was declared in 1821 and the country became an independent republic in 1838. Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades.
One of the most colorful personalities of Nicaraguan history is William Walker. Walker, a US southerner, came to Nicaragua as an opportunist. Nicaragua was on the verge of a civil war; Walker sided with one of the factions and was able to gain control of the country, hoping that the US would annex Nicaragua as a southern slave state. With designs on conquering the rest of Central America, Walker and his filibustero army marched on Costa Rica before he was turned back at the battle of Santa Rosa. Eventually Walker left Nicaragua and was executed when he landed in Honduras at a later date.
The twentieth century was characterized by the rise and fall of the Somoza dynasty. Anastacio Somoza Garcia came to power as the head of the National Guard. Educated in the US and trained by the US Army, he was adept managing his relations with the United States. After being assasinated, he was succeeded by his sons, Luis and Anastacio Jr ("Tachito"). By 1978, opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption spread to all classes and resulted in a short-lived civil war that led to the fall of Somoza in July, 1979. The armed part of the insurgence was named the Sandinistas; though not evident at the time, the leadership of the Sandinistas had close ties to Fidel Castro in Cuba. Nicaraguan aid to leftist rebels in El Salvador caused the US to sponsor anti-Sandinista contra guerrillas through much of the 1980s. Peace was brokered in 1987 by Oscar Arias, which led to elections in 1990. In a stunning development, Violeta Chammoro of the UNO coalition surprisingly beat out the incumbent leader Daniel Ortega.
Elections in 1996, and again in 2001 saw the Sandinistas defeated by the Liberal party. The country has slowly rebuilt its economy during the 1990s, but was hard hit by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
You will fly into the international airport in Managua, most likely from Houston, Miami or Atlanta, if you come from the US. It costs 7 dollars to enter the country (prices change so make sure you have twenty dollars cash on hand). Tourist visas are three months for US citizens as well as for people from the EU. There will be taxis right outside, these are abnormally expensive, walk out to the road and try to flag down a regular cab. All the hostels are located in the Barrio Marta quezada. The taxi drivers try to rip you off, usually they start with 10 US dollars, but a price around 5 to 6 US/90 to 100 Cordobas is appropriate.
There are no passenger rail lines between Nicaragua and its neighbors.
There are two border crossings to Costa Rica, Pena Blanca west of Lago Nicaragua and Los Chiles east of it.
There are three major border crossings to Honduras. Las Manos is on the shortest route to Tegucigalpa, the others ones are on the Panamericana Highway and on north of Leon.
International buses are available to/from Managua to San Jose, Costa Rica and San Salvador, El Salvador. Some buses will continue to Panama City or Guatamala City. The buses are relatively modern with air conditioning, and make stops for fuel and food along the way. However, if you plan on taking this form of transportation, you should plan ahead. Buses between the major cities can fill up days ahead of departure dates. Another option is to be picked up in the smaller cities along the route, ask for the local ticket office.
An alternative way to travel across the border is take a bus to/from a major city that drops you off at the border. You can then cross the border and board another bus. This is a common strategy for travelers, especially on the Costa Rican/Nicaraguan border. This method takes longer, but is much cheaper and can be done on a moment's notice.
Bus is definitely the main mode of travel in Nicaragua. If you're a younger American, Nicaragua may give you flashbacks to your elementary school days. Most of the buses are old decomissioned yellow US school buses. Expect these buses to be packed full. You'd better be quick or you may be standing most of the trip.
Another method of traveling cross country are minibuses, though these are not always available. These are essentially old (1980s-90s) minivans that can carry several people. Minibuses have regular routes between Managua and Granada, Leon and Masaya. These cost a little more than the school buses, but are much faster, making fewer stops. As with the school buses, expect these to be packed, arguably with even less space as drivers pack up to ten or twelve people in a vehicle designed to handle much fewer. On the other hand, most drivers are friendly and helpful, and will help you store your baggage.
At the international airport there are two offices right to the right of the main terminal, these offices house the domestic airlines. These are great if you want to get to the atlantic coast. I will not give prices as they change but it take 1.5 hours to get to the corn islands as opposed to 2 days by overland route. If you are trying to save time than this is the best way to get to the corn islands or anywhere on the atlantic coast.
Boat is the only way to get to the island of Isla Ometepe or to the Solentinames. Be aware that high winds or other bad weather can cancel ferry trips leaving you stranded. That might not be such a bad thing, though. Note that windy/bad weather can made the Ferry trip unpleasant for those prone to seasickness or other problems with the sea, and the boats used to access Ometepe are old and mostly open to the water.
The taxi drivers in Managua are agrresive and there are loads so it is easy to find a fare that suits you. You can also split the cost of taxi to get to destinations that are close to Managua by like Masaya, if you should prefer to travel with modicum of comfort. Taxi's in all the cities are generally fair and well mannered and a nice way to see local scenery. Take care in bargaining, the general fare is per person, not per taxi.
Easy and Comfortable. Finding a bus to the right suburb in managua is tricky.
Nicaraguans tend to leave out the s at the end of words. "Vos" is often used instead of "tu", something which is common throughout Central America. However, "tu" is used occassionally and will always be understood by Nicas.
English, Spanish, creole and indigenous languages are spoken on the Atlantic coast.
Nicaragua is not famous for its handicrafts like Guatemala. But, if you are going to take one thing home it should be a hammock. Nicaraguan hammocks are among the best made and most comfortable ever. The really good ones are made in Masaya, ask a taxi to take you to the fabrica de hammacas. These are family run and operated stores and have become comercialized, so hammocks can be quite expensive. I do not know what the prices are right now but it should be under 15 for a simple one person hammock. Hammocks are also sold in the Huembres market by the bus terminal in Managua NIcaragua can also produce some really good and cheap rum. Those aged more than 20 years are a great buy for the money
Food is very cheap, though a lot of the food is fried in oil (vegetable or lard). Very easy to be vegetarian as the most common dish is gallo pinto, which is red beans and rice. If you like meat try the nacatamales, a tamal made with pork. The typical dish will consist of a meat, rice, beans, salada and some fried plantain, costing under 3 dollars US.
Plantains are a big part of the Nicaraguan diet. You will find it prepared in a variety of forms: fried, baked, boiled, with cream or cheese, as chips for a dip, smushed into a "patacon".
Nicaraguan tortillas are made from corn flour and are thick, almost resembling a pita. One common dish is quesillo: a string of mozzarella-type cheese with pickled onion, a watery sour cream, and a little salt all wrapped in a thick tortilla. You will also find the tortillas are used to make shredded beef tacos.
One alternative to the fried offering in the typical menu is baho. This is a combination of beef, yucca, sweet potato, potato and other ingredients steamed in plantain leaves for several hours.
One typical dessert is Tres Leches which is a soft spongy cake that combines three varieties of milk (condensed, evaporated and fresh) for a sweet conoction.
Nagarote, a town on the way to Leon from Managua, is famous for the quesillos (sort of a cheese/onion soft taco???) and tiste drink they sell there.
Rum is the liquor of choice, though you will find some whiskey and vodka as well. The local brand of Rum is Flor de Caña and is available in several varieties: Light, Extra Dry, Black Label (aged 7 years), Centenario (aged 12 years) and a new top-of-the line 18 year old aged rum. There is also a cheaper rum called Ron Plata.
One local beer is Victoria, another one "Toña". It's pretty cheap to drink in Nicaragua.
In the non-alcoholic arena you will find the usual soft drinks (Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola). Some local drinks include pinolillo, a thick cacao based drink.
Look for pensiones or huespedes or hospedajes as these are the cheapest sleeps costing under 5 dollars US. They are usually family owned and youll be hanging out with mostly locals. Make sure you know when they lock their doors if you are going to party. Hotels have more amenities but are more expensive. There are some backpacker hostels in Granada, San Jaun del Sur, Isla Ometepe, Masaya, Managua, and in Leon otherwise it's pensiones all the way.
Location: Esso Rubenia 2 cuadras al norte. City: Managua Phone: (505) 289-7010 Fax: (505) 289-7104 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicaragua doesn't have as many language schools as can be found in Guatemala or Costa Rica, but a few have sprouted up in the last few years, particularly in colonial Granada and Esteli in the north.
Homosexuality is illegal and is punished by up to three years in jail.
It is recommended to take care if walking at night in Nicaraguan cities, especially in Managua, it is better to stay in groups or take taxis from one destination to another. There is an increasing amount of gang violence filtering into Nicaragua from Honduras. It is dangerous in Granada by the water front at night so be careful at the bars. Managua always has an element of danger so be really careful walking around.
Avoid drinking tap water.
Given its tropical latitude, there are plenty of bugs flying about. Be sure to wear bug repellent, particularly if you head to more remote areas (Isla Ometepe, San Juan river region).
Nicaraguans are among the nicest people on earth. They are quick to give advice and help the needy traveller. They are unfortunately overwhelmingly macho and if you are a woman than you will hear constant catcalls, the best policy is to ignore them.
In many cities in Nicaragua you will find large groups of street kids. There is a huge problem with glue sniffing with these kids. Please do not give them money, candy or other gifts as they will exchange these for glue. There are many great organizations operating in these areas. If you are interested in helping ask you hostel or hotel about donating or volunteering with a local organization.