Essentials A-Z

Electricity

110 volts AC, 60 cycles, US-style plugs.

Internet

Widely available in main cities and in some smaller towns.

Language

A basic knowledge of Spanish is essential for independent travel in Nicaragua. On the Caribbean coast English is widely spoken, but in the rest of the country it's Spanish only. Nicaraguan Spanish is quite distinctive and initially tricky to grasp. Drop your 's's, roll your 'r's and turn your 't's to 'd's.

Media

All newspapers are published in Managua, but many are available throughout the country:
Dailies
:
La Prensa
, centre, the country's best, especially for coverage of events outside Managua;
El Nuevo Diario
, centre-left and sensationalist;
La Noticia
, right, government paper.
Weeklies
:
El Seminario
, left-leaning, well-written with in-depth analysis;
7 Días
, pro-Government;
Tiempo del Mundo
, owned by Rev Moon, good coverage of South America, not much on Nicaragua.
Monthlies
:
El País
, pro-government, good features.
Between the Waves
, tourist magazine in English.

Money

The unit of currency is the
córdoba
(
C
), divided into 100 centavos. Any bank in Nicaragua will change US dollars to córdobas and vice-versa. US dollars are accepted as payment almost everywhere but change is given in córdobas. It is best to carry US$ notes and sufficient local currency away from the bigger towns. Take all the cash you need when visiting the Caribbean coast or Río San Juan. Carry small bills when travelling outside cities or using public buses.


Bank queues can be very long so allow plenty of time, especially on Mon mornings and the 15th and 31st of every month. When changing money take some ID or a copy. You cannot
change currencies other than US dollars andeuro (
BanCentro
only). Money changers on
the street (
coyotes
) during business hours are
legitimate and their rates differ little from banks.

Visa and MasterCard are accepted in many restaurants, shops and hotels in Managua, Granada and León. This applies to a lesser extent to Amex, Credomatic and Diners Club. But don't rely exclusively on credit cards. For cash advances the most useful bank is

In Managua, ATM machines in the airport, at the Metrocentro and Plaza Inter shopping malls and in many gas station convenience stores. Outside the capital ATMs are hard to find, but becoming increasingly common in the main towns and at 24-hr gas stations.

Safety

Visitors must carry their passports with them at all times. A photocopy is acceptable, but make sure you also have a copy of your visa or entrance stamp. Pickpocketing and bag slashing occur in Managua, and on buses throughout the country. Apart from Managua
at night, most places are generally safe. Reports
of robberies and assaults in northern Nicaragua indicate that care should be taken in this area; ask about conditions before going, especially if proposing to leave the beaten track.

Telephone

Phone lines are owned by the
Enitel
. As of May 2009, Nicaraguan telephone numbers changed from 7 to 8 digits. Users will need to add '2' before dialling a land line, or '8' before
dialling a mobile phone line. If you are phoning from inside the prefix zone you need to dial the 8 digits, but if you are dialling a different zone you put '0' in front. For example, to call Managua from Masaya it would be T02266-8689. Phone cards are available from gas stations, supermarkets and shops.

Time

- 6 hrs GMT.

Tipping

US$0.50 per bag for porters; no tip for taxi drivers. Restaurant bills include a 15% tax and 10% service is added or expected as a tip.

Tourist information

Tourist offices in Nicaragua are more concerned with internal development than public service. Tour operators and foreign-owned hotels are often better sources of information. However, the
Institute of Tourism
in Managua has a range of general brochures and information packs, www.visitanicaragua.com.

Visas and immigration

Visa rules change frequently, so check before you travel, www.cancilleria.gob.ni. Visitors need a passport with a minimum validity of 6 months and may have to show an onward ticket and proof of funds in cash or cheques for a stay of more than a week. No visa is required by nationals of EU countries, the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand.

Weights and measures

The metric system is official, but in practice a mixture is used of metric, imperial and old Spanish measurements, including the
vara
(about 1 m) and the
manzana
(0.7 ha). Petrol is measured in US gallons, liquids in quarts and pints, speed in kph, fabric in yards, with centimetres and metres for height,
pounds for weight and Celsius for
temperature.

Working and volunteering

Volunteer work in Nicaragua is not as common
as it was during the Sandinista years. Foreigners
now work in environmental brigades supporting the
FSLN
, construction projects, agricultural cooperatives and environmental organizations. Certain skills are in demand, as elsewhere in the developing world.

To find out about the current situation, try contacting non-governmental organizations in your home country, such as the Nicaraguan Network, www.nicanet.org; NSC/ENN Brigades, www.nicaraguasc.org.uk. An excellent short-term non-profit volunteer experience can be had with El Porvenir, www.elporvenir.org, an outgrowth of Habitats for Humanity. Work on drinking water, latrine and re-forestation projects.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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