Nicaragua is located between the Caribbean sea and the Pacific ocean. It is the largest country is Central America, but it is also one of the cheapest, meaning that it is a popular hotspot for budget backpackers. Nicaragua has something for everyone; from dramatic landscapes lending to ‘off the beaten path’ adventures to idyllic white sandy beaches. Whether you want to hike on the Ometepe islands (home of the twin volcanoes, Concepción and Maderas), explore the Spanish colonial architecture in the city of Granada, surf the swells and party along the pacific coastline in San Juan del Sur, or dive around the idyllic Corn Islands, Nicaragua has it all.
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Climate in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is a beautiful country that can be enjoyed almost year-round. The country has two distinct seasons:
The rainy season: Officially begins at the end of May to November, but it is still possible to enjoy the country’s many beautiful attractions with minimal disruption.
The dry season: Lasts from mid November to the end of May. May is the hottest and driest month with plenty of sunshine across most of the country; with the exception of the Caribbean coastline which has tropical showers all year around.
There are 3 temperature zones in Nicaragua.
- Lowlands (Pacific & Atlantic coast): Temperatures vary between 22°C - 30° C (72° F - 86° F).
- Central part of the country: Temperatures are around 5°C (9° F) cooler.
- Mountainous regions of the north: Temperatures are around 10°C (18° F) cooler.
The best time to visit Nicaragua is from December to April but as this is peak season, keep in mind that prices will be inflated.
Currency in Nicaragua
Nicaragua has its own currency: the córdoba (C$), but the US dollar is also accepted here. Always use the currency being asked for: most of the tourist attractions are priced in USD but food is priced in córdoba. Currency conversion will often be inflated for tourists.
At the time of writing, the conversion rate from Euros and USD dollars to córdoba is as follows:
€1 = C$36
$1 = C$32
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Try and use as small a notes or coins where possible, especially with transport, often drivers will not have change.
While there are ATMs in all of the major cities and towns, this is not true for the smaller places that are off the beaten track. My advice is to always carry some cash and local currency on you. The four main banks are:
- Banco de America Central (BAC)
- Banco de Finanzas (BDF)
- Banco de la Producción (BANPRO)
- Banco de Credito Centroamericano (BANCENTRO)
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Always let you bank know beforehand where you are travelling to. This will prevent them from freezing your card.
Getting Around Nicaragua
The main mode of transport used by backpackers is public bus, however, keep in mind that Nicaragua's bus system is nowhere near as established as those in other Central and South American countries. They are old and uncomfortable with no air conditioning! Expect to pay around $1-2 (€0.86-1.72) per hour. Domestic and short distance buses (less than 3 hours) are easily recognisable: look out for colourful old American school buses, AKA ‘Chicken Buses’.
There is no need to pre-book your tickets, just turn up at the bus station and look for the sign on the bus. In some cases, there will not be a central bus station, especially in smaller towns; it is a case of standing on the side of the road and waiting for the bus! Ask your accommodation what the situation is for onward travel.
National and International Buses:
National and international Shuttles are also widely used in Nicaragua with links to most places. BigFoot is the most established and reliable company. They also have hostels and tours (e.g volcano boarding) in the major cities. Expect to pay a little more, but they are comfortable, security conscious and work to a reliable timetabling system with a 'door to door' service - AKA 'Tourist Buses'.
Travel Insurance for Nicaragua
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries and it is the only travel insurance we will ever use! It is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
WorldNomads.com is backed by a suite of strong and specialist travel insurers who provide you with great cover, 24 hour emergency assistance and the highest levels of support. The WorldNomads.com prices are some of the most competitive online and if you need to change plans, you can buy more cover or claim online while you are still away. You can even buy a World Nomads policy if you're already travelling. They also offer travel safety advice and tips online through the World Nomads Travel Safety Hub and WorldNomads.com members can learn the local lingo through a series of iPod & iPhone Language Guides and can stay in touch with family and friends with an online travel journal. You can find out more about why travel insurance is important for your trip. If you have any questions about your travel insurance or travel safety in general, please contact WorldNomads.com directly.
Medical Advice for Nicaragua
When you know where you want to go in Nicaragua, go to your doctor’s surgery and ask to see the nurse to discuss travel vaccinations. They will go through your travel plans and suggest the appropriate vaccinations. It is likely that you will need:
- Hepatitis A and B, tetanus
- Rabies, typhoid
- Yellow Fever - this is an absolute must. You may need to show your certification in some places.
- Malaria tablets (location dependent)
In the UK, some of the vaccinations will be free of charge through your doctor’s surgery, and some will cost. To keep the cost down, you can always visit a travel centre instead, where the injections are slightly cheaper. When thinking about vaccinations for your trip, the following website can be really helpful: Fit for Travel.
What to pack for Nicaragua
- Long sleeved tops and long comfortable walking trousers if you are hiking
- Dresses / shorts / light clothes for the beach
- Quick dry towel
- Waterproof clothing / rain poncho - I suggest both!
- Walking shoes / walking boots / trainers / sandals
- Bug spray and sunscreen
- Money belt
- Battery pack / electronics
- First aid kit (inclusive of Imodium and rehydration sachets)
- Life Straw. This is an amazing accessory to have when you are trekking and a cheap alternative to buying water along the way, it also saves on buying plastic bottles and for every purchase, a child in a developing country, receives clean drinking water for 1 school year!
- Packing cubes. Go for different colours to separate your clean and dirty clothes!
- Biodegradable soap - especially for hiking and washing in nature
- Travel Pillow
- Zip lock bags for traveling with left over food items / prevent liquid items from spilling
Safety Considerations for Nicaragua
As with all Central and South American countries, it is really important to remain alert and aware of your surroundings at all times:
- Always keep your valuables hidden or locked away.
- Don’t wander around with your expensive Iphone in hand
- Always keep your valuables in your small backpack and wear it on your front.
- Choose an ATM inside a bank rather than on a street. Put your cash in your money belt, under your top straight away. If you feel really nervous, ask someone to go with you.
- When travelling on buses, do not store your backpack overhead or in the back of the bus, keep it on you at all times. For extra security, put your passport, money and phone in a money belt around your waist, under your clothes.
- When travelling on buses, always padlock your big bag and put your rain/protective cover over it
- Do not walk around at night on your own, always take a taxi, even if it is a short distance.
- Always ask your hostel about the area and for safety advice.
- Keep your 2 bank cards separate so if anything does happen, you have another source of money.
- Always have at least one photocopy of your passport so if you lose it, you have a copy.
- Bring another form of identification with you (driver’s license), stored separately
- NEVER leave your drinks unattended.
- Get insurance before you travel! Even if you are only going on a short trip as you never know when you are going to need it. As a wise man once said, “if you can’t afford travel insurance, then you shouldn’t be travelling”. We recommend World Nomads.
Budget for Nicaragua
Nicaragua is considerably cheaper than other countries in Central and South America, but it depends on what you want to do and see. Food, transport and accommodation are inexpensive and very budget friendly. Backpackers could easily travel on $30 (€26) a day here but again, this is dependent on where you want to go, where you stay and what you want to do.
Don't forget to buy your Travel Insurance...