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Nicaragua

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Visa regulations
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'''Nicaragua aka PAVLO IS GAY''' [http://www.intur.gob.ni/] is a country in [[Central America|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]] with an area of 130,373&nbsp;km<sup>2</sup> and contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua (Lake Nicaragua) or ''Cocibolca''. The capital city of Nicaragua is [[Managua]]. Roughly one quarter of the nation's population lives in the Nicaraguan capital, making it the second largest city and metropolitan area in [[Central America]].
===Climate===
Hot in the lowlands, cooler in highlands, with occassional rainbow features. The weather during the dry months (November-April) can be very hot in the Pacific lowlands. Torrential downpours in the rainy season (May-October) can leave you soaked and chilly, even in the Pacific lowlands when it's cloudy, so be prepared if you're traveling during those months. Also be prepared for cooler, cloudier weather in mountainous regions. The Atlantic coast sees an occasional hurricane each season. In the past, these hurricanes have inflicted a lot of damage.
===Terrain===
===History===
Nicaragua was entered by Spanish conquistadors in the early 16th century. The pre-Colombian Indian civilization was almost completely destroyed by population losses due to infectious diseases, enslavement and deportation. Spain made Nicaragua a colony; Granada was founded as one of the oldest colonial cities in the American continent. During the colonial period, Nicaragua was part of the Capitania General based in Guatemala.
KETAN IS GAY Nicaragua was entered by Spanish conquistadors in the early 16th century. The pre-Colombian Indian civilization was almost completely destroyed by population losses due to infectious diseases, enslavement and deportation. Spain made Nicaragua a colony; Granada was founded as one of the oldest colonial cities in the American continent. During the colonial period, Nicaragua was part of the Capitania General based in Guatemala. Nicaragua declared independence from Spain in 1821; by 1838, the country became an independent republic. Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades. Thus, many locals speak English.
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; he was executed after arriving in Honduras at a later date.
===Tourism===
Tourism in [[Nicaragua]] is growing at 15% to 20% annually. Tourists are coming for the beauty and richness this country has to offer. From eco-tourism, adventure, beach, colonial cities, nightlife, and a low cost of living, and an ever increasing strong-hold in the international coffee bean trade, [[Nicaragua]] has experienced a booming number of tourists from around the world. The places where tourists are hanging out and having a good time are in the colonial cities of [[Granada (Nicaragua)|Granada]] and [[León (Nicaragua)| Leon]], in the mountainous coffee farm region of [[Matagalpa|Matagalpa]], the Pacific Coast, hiking on the volcanoes, and in the Caribbean coast in the Corn Islands ([[Big Corn Island]] and [[Little Corn Island]]).
There is much to see and do in Nicaragua, and it is a budget paradise due to the fact that everything in Nicaragua is cheap. Tourism has grown over 300% in seven years, with tourists arriving from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. Bars, discotheques, restaurants, and hotels are opening at a rapid rate in the cities of [[Granada (Nicaragua)|Granada]], [[Matagalpa|Matagalpa]], and [[Leon (Nicaragua)|Leon]]. [[San Juan Del del Sur]] is experiencing a rise in surfing tourism with surfers from around the world coming to catch some of the greatest waves ranked as one of the 5 best in the world. [[San Juan del Sur]] has also experienced a huge increase in service tourism. [[Matagalpa|Matagalpa]] is experiencing its own surge of tourism due to its booming shade grown and organic/Eco-friendly coffee bean production. In the mountains surrounding the city of [[Matagalpa|Matagalpa]] are an abundance of protected nature reserves, cloud forests and local lush estuaries where bird, monkey and other exotic natural wildlife can be seen. With a land filled with festivals, poets, singers, and beauty, there is absolutely no reason why anyone should not dream of visiting this beautiful country.
==Regions==
| region3color=#e0ae68
| region3items=
| region3description=Visit cigar factories and in Esteli or see how coffee is grown in the shade forests surrounding [[Matagalpa|Matagalpa]], in a region filled with remnants of the revolution.
| region4name=[[Northern Pacific Coast (Nicaragua)|Northern Pacific Coast]]
===Visa regulations===
Citizens of the following countries/territories can enter Nicaragua '''without''' a visa: [[Andorra]], [[Anguilla]], [[Antigua and Barbuda]], [[Australia]], [[Austria]], [[Bahamas]], [[Bahrain]], [[Barbados]], [[Belgium]], [[Belize]], [[Brazil]], [[Brunei]], [[Bulgaria]], [[Canada]], [[Chile]],[[Costa Rica]], [[Croatia]], [[Cyprus]], [[Denmark]], [[Estonia]], [[Falkland Islands]], [[Finland]], [[France]], [[Germany]], [[Gibraltar]], [[Greece]], [[Holy See]], [[Hong Kong]], [[Hungary]], [[Iceland]], [[Ireland]], [[Israel]], [[Italy]], [[Japan]], [[Kuwait]], [[Latvia]], [[Lithuania]], [[Liechtenstein]], [[Luxembourg]], [[Macao]], [[Macedonia]], [[Madagascar]], [[Malaysia]], [[Malta]], [[Marshall Islands]], [[Mexico]], [[Monaco]], [[Netherlands]], [[New Zealand]], [[Norway]], [[Paraguay]], [[Panama]], [[Poland]], [[Portugal]],[[Romania]], [[Qatar]], [[Saint Kitts and Nevis]], [[St. Lucia]], [[Saint Vincent and the Grenadines]], [[San Marino]], [[Singapore]], [[Slovakia]], [[Solomon Islands]], [[South Africa]], [[South Korea]], [[Spain]], [[St. Helena]], [[Swaziland]], [[Sweden]], [[Slovenia]], [[Switzerland]], [[Taiwan]], [[Turkey]], [[Trinidad and Tobago]], [[Tuvalu]], [[United Kingdom]], [[United States]], [[Vanuatu]], the [[Vatican City]] (Holy See) and [[Venezuela]].
Other tourists can obtain a ''Tourist Card'' for US$10 valid for 1 month to 3 months (depending on citizenship - Canada and USA are allowed 90 days) upon arrival, provided with a valid passport with at least six months to run. There is also a US$32 departure tax which is included in airfares with major airlines (American, Continental, COPA and TACA definitely). The tourist card is valid in the other CA-4 countries, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, although it sometimes requires a discussion with immigration officials that this accord is in effect, since they are quite compelled to sell more tourist cards.
In July 2010, Nicaragua changed its fee to enter the country from US$5 to US$10. Try to have exact change.
Tourist visas are not issued, instead tourist cards or are provided and are valid for three months for US citizens as well as for people from the EU and Canada. There will be taxis right outside, these are relatively expensive (US$15 for the 20 Km trip to Managua centre) , or you can walk out to the road and try to flag down a regular cab. Some taxi drivers may try to overcharge, particularly seeing a foreign face, and may start with US$10, but a price around US$3-6 or 60-100 Cordobas is appropriate from the airport. You can also arrange a shuttle pickup to take you to nearby cities like Granada, a popular option for tourists who do not want to spend a night in Managua. It is recommended to have your hotel or language school arrange a shuttle when possible. There are also private services such as Paxeos.
You can also fly into the tiny [[Granada (Nicaragua)|Granada]] airstrip from [[San Jose (Costa Rica)|San Jose]].
==Get around==
Methods for travel in Nicaragua are extremely diverse, as are the costs. There are several international passenger airlines that service Managua, the Capital City of Nicaragua. From there it is not uncommon that your journey in and around the local landscapes, waterways and open seas might include multiple styles of transport, depending on the individual points of travel and distance between. These might include:
*Commuter Airline (local island hoppers - 12 & 24 seaters)
*Ferry (river & ocean)
*High-speed Water Taxi
*Luxury-liner Tour Bus
*Express Bus (city to city national carrier)
*Chicken Bus (retro-fitted school bus designed to haul people and cargo)
*Microbus (15 passenger touring van)
*Shuttle Bus (neighborhood service)
*Rentals (car, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, even horseback)
*Taxi
*Mehindra (diesel powered 3-wheel taxi)
*3-wheel Bicycle Taxi
*And everyone's favorite ~ Horse & Buggy
 
Regardless of which exciting form of travel you choose, and clearly there are many, you can relax in knowing that your 'in-country' travel expenses will most likely find themselves at or near the bottom of your vacation budget.
===Distances===
===By bus===
Bus is definitely the main mode of travel in Nicaragua, and a great way to get to know the country's geography, people and even some culture (music, snack food, dress, manners). Most of the buses are old decommissioned yellow US school buses (though often fantastically repainted and redecorated). Expect Commonly referred to as a "Chicken Bus," expect these buses to be packed full, and your luggage (if large) may be stored at the back or on the top of the bus (along with bicycles and other large items). You'd better be quick or you may be standing most of the trip or sitting on a bag of beans. Some have not replaced the original seats meant to carry 7 year olds, so you may have sore knees by the end of the trip. People often sell snacks and drinks on the buses (or through the windows) before they depart or at quick stops. Yet for all their cargo and/or sardine-packed features, most chicken buses surprisingly offer three ceiling-mounted flat screen monitors, which feature current cinematic feature films to help pass the time. A typical fare on theses busses may vary between US$1 or less for short (~30min) trips to US$3-4 for longer trips. Most cities in Nicaragua have one main bus terminal for long distance buses. Managua has numerous terminals, each serving a different region of the country depending upon its geographic placement in Managua. Mercado Israel Levites, in the western part of the city, serves cities on the Pacific Coast to the north, e.g. Leon, Chinandega and all points in between. Mercado Mayoreo on the eastern side of the city serves points east and north, like Matagalpa and Rama. Mercado Huembes in the southern part of Managua serves points south, like Rivas/San Jorge and Peñas Blancas.
Express Bus service is offered between all of the larger cities, which usually accounts for longer trips, some lasting three or more hours. Acquiring a seat on an express bus requires a reservation and an assigned seat. If you're lucky, you can scramble to get a last seat just minutes before departure. It's strongly recommended, however, that you reserve and purchase your ticket at least 24 hours in advance. That's a good thing, however, as this means no more elbowing for a seat. This also means NO overcrowding. And riding express means fewer, if any, stops en route to your final destination. These busses also offer tinted windows with curtains, air conditioning, reclining high-back seats, and cinematic movies displayed on ceiling-mounted video monitors. A typical fare for express service is around US$6. Another method of traveling cross country are minibuses ("microbuses" as they are called). These are essentially vans, holding up to 15 people (some may be larger, shuttle sized). Minibuses have regular routes between Managua and frequently travel to relatively nearby cities like Granada, Leon, Masaya, Jinotepe and Chinandega. Most of these leave from and return to the small roadside microbus terminal accross the street from the Universidad Centoamericana (and thus the buses and terminal are known as "los microbuses de la UCA"). Microbuses run all day into the late afternoon/early evening depending on destination, with shorter hours on Sunday, and a definite rush hour during the week as they service nearby cities from which many people commute to Managua. The microbuses cost a little more than the school busesand less than Express Service, but like Express they are faster, making fewer stops. As with the school buses, expect these to be packed, arguably with even less space as drivers often pack more people than the vehicle was designed to handle. They are privately owned and therefore overcrowding means greater profits. On the other hand, because they are privately owned transports, most drivers (and driver's helpers) are friendly and helpful, and will help you store stow and secure your baggageluggage. Microbuses cost a bit more than regular buses. They run to the main bus terminals in Matagalpa, Leon and Chinandega, to the Parque Central and Mercado de Artesanias (and then leave from another park a couple blocks from there) in Masaya, and to/from a park 1 block from the Parque Central in Granada. There is more limited microbus service to other cities out of their respective bus terminals in Managua. Most cities in Nicaragua have one main bus terminal for long distance buses. Managua has numerous terminals, each serving a different region of the country depending upon its geographic placement in Managua. Mercado Israel Levites, in the western part of the city, serves cities on the Pacific Coast to the north, e.g. Leon, Chinandega and all points in between. Mercado Mayoreo on the eastern side of the city serves points east and north, like Matagalpa and Rama. Mercado Huembes in the southern part of Managua serves points south, like Rivas/San Jorge and Peñas Blancas.
===By plane===
===By taxi===
The taxi drivers in Managua can be aggressive and there are loads so it is easy to find a fare that suits you. Taxis will take multiple fares if they are heading roughly in the same direction. Taxi drivers in all the cities are generally fair and well mannered and a nice way to see local scenery. For fares within smaller cities there is a set fare per person, so no negotiating is needed. In Managua the fare should be negotiated before getting into the taxi, and will increase depending on the number of passengers (in your party, not already in the taxi or getting in later) time of day (night is significantly more expensive) and location (going to or from a nice part of Managua may cost you a little more due to lowered bargaining power). The cheapest fare for one passenger is C$20 30 (20092013), but the same route if you are a party of two may be C$3045. A trip all the way across Managua during the day should not be more than about C$50-60 90 to C$100, if not coming from or going to the airport. In contrast, taxi fares in other Nicaraguan cities range from C$10 in [[Matagalpa|Matagalpa]], possibly the best taxi bargain around, to C$15 in Esteli, and C$20 in Granada. Tipping is not expected (though always welcomed).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.
There have been increasing incidents of taxi crime in Managua. The most typical scenario is that an additional passenger(s) enters the cab just a short distance from your pickup, they and the taxi driver take you in circles around town, take everything on you, and leave you in a random location typically far from where you were going. Check that the taxi has the license number painted on the side, that the taxi sign is on the roof, the light is on inside the taxi, and that the taxi operator license is clearly visible in the front seat. You may want to make a scene of having a friend seeing you off and writing down the license number. Care should be taken especially at night, when it may be best to have your hotel arrange a taxi.
If entering the country from either Honduras or Costa Rica by land, get rid of those currencies as they are hard to exchange away from the border.
The national currency is called the Cordoba. As of July 2012March 2013, there are 2324.5 3 Cordobas to one US Dollar. The government deflates the currency about 5% every year to be competitive with the dollar. Most places accept dollars but you will often get change in Cordobas and businesses will give you a lower exchange rate. Make sure you have some Cordobas handy when using collective buses, taxis, or other small purchases. Nearly all banks exchange Dollars to Cordobas but lines are often long, and you may have to use your credit card to get money rather than your bank card. Make sure you bring your passport when exchanging money. All ATMs give Cordobas and some can dispense dollars too. Make sure that the ATM you're using is part of the networks listed on the back of your bank card. Though you may be able to find some ATMs that work on the Mastercard/Cirrus system, most will use only the Visa/Plus system.
If you need cordobas when the banks are closed or you can't use your ATM, street licensed money changers or cambistas can be found. Always count your money, though mistakes are rare if you use members of the cambista cooperative. The rate of exchange can be better or worse than at the bank. However, it is rare during normal hours (M-F 9-5 and Saturday to Noon) to get a worse rate than the banks, though near the markets you might do as bad. (Latest example January 2010 - Bank pays 21.90 per US$1, cambistas offer C$22.10) In Managua, money changers can be found near Pizza Valentis in Los Robles, beside the Dominos Pizza near the BAC Building, and in the Artesania area of Mercado Huembes among other places.
Nicaragua also produces excellent, highly awarded rum called Flor de Caña. This is the most common liquor drunk in Nicaragua. Those aged 4 (go for Extra Light over Extra Dry or Etiqueta Negra) and particularly 7 years (Gran Reserva) are a great buy for the money - about US$4-6/bottle. Buy in the local stores as the prices at the duty-free airport shops are higher. Gran Reserva is the best value based on price and quality.
A trip to the artisinal towns of the "Pueblos Blancos" is the most rewarding way to shop for local arts and crafts. The best and easiest location for tourists to buy artisanal items is in the craft market in Masaya. (There is a similar market with the same products (from a lot of the same vendors) in Mercado Huembes in Managua with slightly higher lower prices than in the market in Masaya, but vendors and solicitors at Huembes tend to be pushier, especially if they see you`re a "gringo. ") Located just 10 minutes from Masaya, 30 minutes from Granada and 40 minutes from Managua, these towns are the arts and crafts center of Nicaragua. Catarina is home to dozens of nurseries with plants as diverse as this lush tropical country can produce, and also boasts a beautiful view over the Laguna de Apoyo (volcanic crater lake) where you can enjoy the view from numerous restaurants. San Juan del Oriente is the center of pottery production. You can find dozens of mom and pop studios and stores, meet the artisans and choose from a dazzling and creative array of vases, bowls and other ceramic items. Some of the best shops with more original designs are a few blocks into town off the main highway. Finally, Masatepe is known for its furniture--particularly wicker and wood, and with a special focus on rocking chairs, the favorite Nicaraguan chair. Although you might not be able take any rocking chairs or ferns home with you on the plane, it definitely worth "window" shopping in these picturesque towns. You can also find San Juan del Oriente pottery, Masatepe furniture and other arts and crafts in Masaya, Mercado Huembes in Managua, and in the streets of Granada, Leon and other places visited by tourists. Remember to [[haggle|bargain]]. Although you may be a tourist, you can still bargain.
Shopping to Western standards is found mainly in Managua in shopping centers, the largest and most modern being MetroCentro near the rotonda Ruben Dario. There are smaller and inferior malls at Plaza Inter and in Bello Horizonte at Plaza Las Americas. A new and large shopping center called Plaza Santo Domingo is located at Carretera Masaya at about Km. 6.
==Eat==
Food is very cheap. A plate of food from the street will cost 20-50 cordobas. A typical dinner will consist of meat, rice, beans, salad and some fried plantains, costing under US$3. Buffet-style restaurants/stalls called "fritanga" are very common, quality varies quite a bit. A lot of the food is fried in oil (vegetable or lard). It is possible to eat vegetarian: the most common dish is gallo pinto (beans and rice), and most places serve cheese (fried or fresh), fried plantains and cabbage salad. There are a 'few' vegetable dishes such as guiso de papas, pipián o ayote-- a buttery creamy stewp stew of potato, zucchini or squash; guacamole nica made with hard-boiled eggs, breaded pipian (zucchini), and various fried fritters of potatoes, cheese and other vegetables. If you like meat, grilled chicken and beef is delicious, the beef is usually good quality but often cooked tough; also try the nacatamales, a traditional Sunday food, that is essentially a large tamal made with pork or chicken and other seasonings (~15 cordobas). Indio Viejo is a corn meal (masa) based dished made with either shredded chicken or beef and flavored with mint. The typical condiment is "chilero" a cured onion and chile mixture of varying spiciness depending on the cook. Nicaraguan food is not known for being spicy, though either chilero or hot sauce is almost always available.
Nicaraguan typical diet includes rice, small red beans, and either fish or meat. Nicaraguans pride themselves for their famous gallo pinto that is a well-balanced mix of rice and beans and is usually served during breakfast.
==Sleep==
Accommodations can generally be had quite cheaply throughout Nicaragua. Options range from simple hammocks ($2-$3), to dorm rooms in hostels ($5-9), to private double-bed ("matrimonial") rooms ($10-35, depending on presence of TV, A/C, and private bathroom). You will find more expensive hotel accommodations in some cities , as wellas more intimate and exclusive B&B's where advance screening/reservation, payment and/or deposit may be required.
While Barrio Martha Quezada has typically been a budget destination for visitors to Managua due to its many inexpensive hotel options, it has become increasingly dangerous, especially for tourists, with robberies occurring in broad daylight. Unless you need to be in this area to catch an early morning bus from a nearby terminal, it is advisable to avoid Martha Quezada, particularly since it is far from what is termed the "new" center of Managua. The area near the Tica Bus station has a reputation for being dangerous as well, and tourists may be well advised to take a cab directly to and from the station, even if the walk is short. Backpackers Inn near MetroCentro (5min by taxi from the UCA microbuses), Hotel San Luis in Colonia Centroamerica (5 min by taxi from Mercado Huembes bus terminal) are good budget options in safe neighborhoods, as are numerous hotels of various prices in neighborhoods around the new center near Metrocentro and Caraterra Masaya (i.e. Altamira, Los Robles, Reparto San Juan).
Look for pensiones or huespedes or hospedajes as these are the cheapest sleeps costing under US$5. They are usually family owned and you'll be hanging out with mostly locals. Make sure you know when they lock their doors if you are going out at night. Hotels have more amenities but are more expensive. There are some backpacker hostels in Granada, San Juan del Sur, [[Isla Ometepe]], Masaya, Managua, and Leon; otherwise, it's pensiones all the way.
*<sleep name="Surf Ranch Resort" alt="Surf Ranch Resort" address="San Juan Del Sur" directions="San Juan Del Sur" phone="(505) 8816-8748" url="http://www.surfranchnicaragua.com" checkin="2pm" checkout="10am" price="$35" lat="" long="">The Surf Ranch Resort is located in San Juan Del Sur. As little as $35 a night for 2, in a condo room. The resort features a pool, swim up bar, restaurant, billiards, volleyball court, tower drop to airbag, trampoline, rock climbing wall, the largest skate park in Nicaragua, along with condos and villas. Free shuttles to and from town and the beaches.</sleep>
 
*<sleep name="The Naked Gringo B&B Hotel" alt="Matagalpa, Nicaragua" address="One block East of el Parque Darìo" directions="" phone="505-2772-6840" url="" checkin="Flex" checkout="Flex" price="$25 & $35" lat="" long="">This modern and comfortable B&B offers two guest suite alternatives, either of which will heartily satisfy even the most seasoned traveler. The standard 'Silver-Star' suite ($25 plus $10 for each additional guest) and the grand 'Gold-Star' suite ($35 plus $15 for each additional guest). The Gold suite offers three double beds and one single bed. It has its own private bathroom and balcony, and accommodates as many as seven adults comfortably. The Silver suite offers one double bed and one single bed. It also has its own private bathroom, and a balcony adjacent the kitchen, and accommodates three. Both suites enjoy all-new luxury mattresses, linens and pillows, and both suites offer 99 channel cable TV with high-speed WiFi Internet. A hardy and delicious breakfast is included. Perform a web search for additional information and photo images unavailable here. </sleep>
==Learn==
Do not travel alone at night. Pay for a taxi to avoid being assaulted in dimly-lit areas. Tourists are advised to remain alert at all times in Managua. Although gang activity is not a major problem in Managua nor Nicaragua, caution should be exercised. Tourists are advised to travel in groups or with someone trusted who understands Spanish. There are local organizations that offer translator or guide services. One of them is Viva Spanish School Managua.
It is also advised that tourists refrain from using foreign currency in local transactions. It is best to have the local currency instead of having to convert with individuals on streets or non-tourist areas. Banks in Nicaragua require identification for any currency conversion transactions. Use ATM machines ATMs that dispense the local currency. When using ATM machinesATMs, follow precautions and be aware of your surroundings.
Buses can be extremely crowded and tight in terms of space. An overhead rack tends to be provided for the storage of bags and other items, but tourists are recommended to keep their bags at hand, in their sight, at all times and maybe to put a lock on your bag.
Although extensive demining operations have been conducted to clear rural areas of northern Nicaragua of landmines left from the civil war in the 1980s, visitors venturing off the main roads in these areas are cautioned that there is still a the possibility of encountering landmines.
You will need a little bit of money to go over international borders. Nicaragua charges a border toll of US $10 to $13 (depending on the "administrative tax"). This is on top of a CA-4 visa that's good for crossing the borders between Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Under the treaty establishing that visa, the border guards are not supposed to check people with such a visa, but they do so anyhow and charge tolls, which they claim are border crossing visa fees. They also charge an exit tax to leave the country, though the amount is probably not $42 as in airport departures.
==Stay healthy==
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