NICARAGUA - Tips and Reviews - UPDATED November 2012

Entry and Exit
Penas Blancas (land border crossing between CR and Nicaragua on the Pan American Highway)
Entry – I entered Nicaragua via bus from Costa Rica and can only explain the process I experienced. Traveling through in a small group or by private auto may be different.  The bus initially stopped at the CR immigrations where my passport was stamped for your departure.  We were greeted on the bus by a Nicaraguan who took our passports and $13 USD to get our inbound visa for Nicaragua.  We then rode the bus for a few hundred meters to the Customs inspection of our bags which took about 30 minutes.

Departure – As with the entry, I’ll only explain the process I experienced.  About 15 minutes from the border crossing we picked up a Nicaraguan and gave him our passports, but this time we only gave him $3 USD (he stayed on the bus with us to the crossing).  As we entered the Nicaraguan side the guy with our passports got off and we proceeded to a parking area to wait.  At this point, if you’re a tourist you’ll need to show proof that you will be departing Costa Rica (can be an airline itinerary or bus ticket).  Within about 30 minutes he returned with our passports stamped for departure and we rode a few hundred meters to the entry point of Costa Rica.  We again got off the bus and entered CR immigrations where they checked for our proof of departure and stamped our passports for entry.  Our bags were supposed to be inspected at this stop, but the bus driver did his “driver magic” and when we got back to the bus our bags had already been “checked”.  I know it was magic because my bag was locked and I knew they didn’t look inside (but I didn’t have anything to hide).

My first challenge was a mistake I had experienced in another country by not riding in an “official” taxi; I stopped a local taxi with no affiliation with a taxi company.  In many Latin American countries if you have transportation you can call it a taxi with all the markings, but you no company affiliation.  As a tourist you usually don’t notice the difference, which include specific license plates, governmental assigned numbers and a company named painted on the taxi, and fare meters.  The unofficial taxis charge more and I paid an additional $5 for that mistake.
This was not really a challenge but if you’re taking a tour, make sure you use an official tourism agency.  Tourist agencies are responsible for making all arrangements with the attraction to include knowing the business hours.  By taking a taxi to an attraction, only to find out it’s closed, you are responsible for the fare charged.
New stuff
Since this is my first trip to Nicaragua, everything was new so for now, I’ll leave this section blank.
Good stuff

As with all your travels, go with a positive attitude.  We’ve heard a lot of clichés but one that I think fits here is “if life gives you lemons, make lemon aide”.  Damn man, I’ve seen too many people piss and moan about the weather, where they are, who they’re with, excreta, but they DO NOT make any attempt to change anything and move on.  If you take a positive attitude where ever you go, the people you talk too, places you see, and most everything else will be good.  With one major exception, we can’t change the weather so suck it up, be prepared to change your plans to inside activities or plan on being hot, cold, or wet.  It’s life, live it.

In Granada, internet service is available in most hotels and there are various internet cafes and other locations that offer Wi-Fi service.

The roads are generally pretty good but there are still sections of the roadways that have some issues with pot holes.

Places to see (these are things I did or talked to other tourists that recommended them)

Lake Nicaragua and the small islands in the Granada area; there are hundreds of these islands, some privately owned with others owned by locals.  Many of the islanders don’t go to the mainland very often as there are islands used for schools, cemeteries, shopping, and living.

Choco Museo; this is a museum that offers a tour of a cacao (chocolate) tree farm and a tour on the Nicaraguan history of chocolate, culminating with you making your own chocolate bar.

Volcano Masaya; I did not go here because it was closed, but according to other tourists this is a must see place.  You can visit during the day or evening and in addition to the normal volcano sightseeing, this volcano has an active lava flow you can see (I tried to go in the evening to see the glow of flowing lava).

Places to stay (these are the places I’ve stayed and recommend)


Hotel Spa Granada; this hotel has a great staff, location, and atmosphere.  The hotel has a spa, pool, courtyard, a bar by the pool, and a limited service restaurant.  I stayed here and strongly recommend it

Hotel Granada Nicaragua; I also stayed at this hotel and it too has a great staff and atmosphere.  Due to the use of dark floor tiles and stone walls the interior is darker than I like, but it too is worth staying at.  This hotel also has a full service restaurant and bar.

Places to eat or have a drink (these are places I ate and recommend)


Comidas Tipicas y MasBar/Restaurant; specializing in local foods; inside and outside seating

KedeKe Restaurant/Café; mainly local food

El Corral Bar/Restaurant; variety of food, nice atmosphere which has a more romantic appeal at night

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