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Revision as of 22:55, 30 April 2006

Flag
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Quick Facts
CapitalManagua
Governmentrepublic
Currencygold cordoba (NIO)
Areatotal: 129,494 sq km
water: 9,240 sq km
land: 120,254 sq km
Population5,023,818 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageSpanish (official)
note: English and indigenous languages on Atlantic coast
ReligionRoman Catholic 85%, Protestant

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.

Contents

Regions

Map of Nicaragua

There are 15 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento):

And 2 autonomous regions (regiones autonomistas, singular - region autonomista):

Cities

Ports and harbors

Other destinations

Understand

Climate

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.

Terrain

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.


Natural hazards : destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides.

Highest point 
Mogoton 2,438 m

History

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 
15 September 1821 (from Spain)
National holiday 
Independence Day, 15 September (1821)

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.

Constitution 
9 January 1987, with reforms in 1995 and 2000

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.

Get in

By plane

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.

You can also fly into the tiny Granada airstrip from San Jose (Costa Rica).

By train

There are no passenger rail lines between Nicaragua and its neighbors.

By car

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.

By bus

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.

By boat

Get around

Distances

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MANAGUA 0 383 88 132 148 45 162 46 139 93 29 130 226 557 111 300 216
BLUEFIELDS 383 0 322 510 462 402 476 422 243 476 386 444 540 842 461 351 530
BOACA 88 322 0 220 157 107 181 127 79 181 91 149 425 517 166 240 235
CHINANDEGA 132 510 220 0 161 177 194 177 271 37 161 181 238 591 243 43 229
ESTELÍ 148 462 157 161 0 166 103 185 219 141 151 71 78 498 226 383 68
GRANADA 45 402 107 177 166 0 180 41 184 138 16 148 244 576 68 318 234
JINOTEGA 162 476 181 194 103 180 0 202 232 175 165 32 181 459 240 377 171
JINOTEPE 46 422 127 177 185 41 202 0 171 122 37 170 266 603 65 346 256
JUIGALPA 139 243 79 271 219 184 232 202 0 229 141 198 296 599 208 160 297
LEÓN 90 476 181 37 141 138 175 122 229 0 122 143 219 650 187 394 209
MASAYA 29 386 91 161 151 16 165 37 141 122 0 130 229 558 73 301 219
MATAGALPA 130 444 149 181 71 148 32 170 198 130 130 0 428 297 297 343 139
OCOTAL 226 540 425 238 78 244 181 266 296 229 229 149 0 576 304 455 29
PT. CABEZAS 557 842 517 591 498 576 459 603 599 558 558 428 576 0 625 760 566
RIVAS 111 461 166 243 226 68 240 65 208 73 73 297 304 625 0 318 244
SAN CARLOS 300 351 240 43 383 318 377 346 160 301 301 343 455 760 318 0 447
SOMOTO 216 530 235 229 68 234 171 256 297 219 219 139 29 566 447 447 0

By bus

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.

By Plane

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.

By boat

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.


Boat is also a cool way to get to the corn islands. Take a bus to Rama at the end of the road. This used to be rough and hard, but the road has been newly paved and it is an easy trip now (2006). Then ask around and see if you can get onto the weekly ship to the corn islands, there are bunk beds on the ship. Or you can get on a speedboat to bluefield or El Bluff and catch the boat from there, or take a flight out of Bluefields. They are mush faster and more expensive, the large cargop boat takes two days from the islands to rama with an overnight in El Bluff to take on cargo.

By taxi

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.

Hitchhiking

Easy and Comfortable. Finding a bus to the right suburb in managua is tricky.

Talk

Languages 
Spanish (official)
note:

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.

Buy

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

Eat

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.

Drink

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.

Sleep

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.

  • Real InterContinental Metrocentro Nicaragua, [1]. 157 elegant guest rooms and suites.
  • Mansion Teodolinda, [2]. Smaller than the Inter, close to Plaza Inter. Address: De INTURISMO, 1 cuadra al sur y 1 cuadra abajo
  • Hotel Estrella,[3]Private bathroom, Hot water, Air conditioning, Telephone, TV.

Location: Esso Rubenia 2 cuadras al norte. City: Managua Phone: (505) 289-7010 Fax: (505) 289-7104 E-mail: estrella@ibw.com.ni

Learn

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.

Work

Stay safe

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.

Stay healthy

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).

Respect

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.

Contact

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