This page is my overview of backpacking Nicaragua, covering the country, some tips, general things to know, transport and accommodation options, general costs and my experience of the country.
Volcano boarding and parties…Nicaragua is your central American mix of adventure and pub crawls!
Like with all Central American Countries, it’s the landscape and terrain will jump out at you. This hotbed of active volcanoes and jungles sandwiched between the Caribbean and pacific seas will blow you away and just makes this country amazing to backpack through.
Backpacking Nicaragua is a strange mix of being as relaxed as you can possibly get, having your adrenaline jacked up to the max with some crazy parties thrown in there for good measure. You may have heard of the ‘Sunday funday’ pub crawl, or a backpacker talking about volcano boarding or even people taking in old Spanish colonial architecture. Well Nicaragua is the country where all this happens. Oh, and it’s also the cheapest Central American country.
A few tips:
- Volcano boarding is a must do, one of the best things I’ve ever done.
- You will find better options for accommodation while walking around rather than the internet.
- It’s good to know some basic Spanish as locals don’t speak much English.
- When in Granada if you love pancakes and waffles you must try out Kathy’s waffle house.
- Nicaraguans love to party as much as backpackers – Leon is a great night out.
- Be prepared for the heat – It get unbearably hot, there were days I couldn’t leave my hostel it was that hot.
- Bigfoot hostel in Leon is the most popular and biggest party hostel.
- Beers are cheap but spirits are expensive.
- When in San Juan del Sur check out the other close by beaches.
Some things to be wary of:
- Over zealous tour touts will try and sell the world to you but really it’s just an overpriced tour. Remember if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.
- Although Nicaraguans are friendly when partying in Leon on a Friday or Saturday night be mindful of pick-pocketers.
- When in Managua don’t get into taxi’s from the side of the street, get your accommodation to order one for you.
- You can pay in US dollars in some restaurants and hostels but they will give you change in Nicaraguan Corboda and not at the correct exchange rate. To avoid the hassle even if they insist on US dollars just pay in Nicaraguan Corboda.
- Be sure to check your accommodation out before paying for it.
Basic things to know:
Official Language: Spanish
Is English Spoken: Not a lot
Currency: Nicaraguan Corboda
Backpacking Nicaragua is: Cheap
To check live rates at XE.co
Things to know when budgeting for Nicaragua:
Nicaragua is the cheapest central American country, however that sometimes can become a problem. How? Because when things are cheaper you start to relax with your budget and before you know it you’ve far more than what you thought. I know because this happened to me while traveling Nicaragua.
unlike in most countries Transport and accommodation will not be the main source of expenditure, moving from place to place is quite cheap especially if you use chicken buses or shuttles. And away from the bigger party hostels like Bigfoot in Leon accommodation is the cheapest in Central America.
Eating in western restaurants will be more expensive, local cafes, street vendors or cooking yourself will be the cheapest options. Also drinking beers and not spirits will keep your budget in check. (yeah I know easier said than done)
Most of your expenditure will go on tours and activities, many tour operators will try and up sell you, adding different activities on, trying to charge you more than they should. You should always shop around, don’t accept the first price they offer be confident to haggle prices down. Let them know another operator has offered you a lower price, and watch them drive their own price down. However remember not to be rude when haggling it’s a game, if you’re rude then they will be rude back and you wont get anywhere.
You might have noticed I haven’t gone into specific pricing, as prices always change and information becomes irrelevant. However if you are looking to compare live prices here is a couple of good sites for live comparisons to help you: numbeo and expatisan.
There is a welcome relief when traveling around Nicaragua – Nothing is that far apart so you don’t have to put up with long horrible bus journeys. Well that’s if you’re not planning on arriving and leaving by land. There is also a good choice of cheap options available when wanting to move from A to B.
Chicken Buses – Old American School buses converted into local public buses. (Don’t be surprised to see livestock on these)
Collectivos – Mini-vans that wait until the are filled up and run certain routes.
Moto taxi (Tuk-Tuks) – run locally in some towns and cities.
Private bus – Transnica and Ticabus
Private mini-van shuttles – Safe and comfortable if not full.
Popular tour Companies:
Lots of local tour companies to chose from too.
Like with all Central American Countries there are plenty of accommodation options. Although there are plenty of hostels available Nicaragua has a lot of cheaper options that are not advertised online.
- Hostels – A wide range of options to choose from.
- Guesthouses or hospedajes – smaller than hostels run by families.
- Budget hotels – Great to have some privacy and some much needed air-con.
- Air BnB – Available in Guatemala.
- Couchsurfing – Stay with locals.
- Camping – There are safe spots dotted around Nicaragua to camp.
My overview of backpacking Nicaragua:
After the adventure of climbing and boarding down the side of a volcano, my trip through Nicaragua was slow paced and relaxed with a few drunken nights. Unfortunately I didn’t get to experience the north, which just means I need to go back.
I would love to return to Nicaragua again and experience the Caribbean side of the country.
Some of my highlights:
Climbing an active volcano.
Boarding down the side of a volcano.
Partying in Leon.
Drinking with locals.
Haggling at markets in Spanish.
Relaxing in Granada.
Pancakes and coffee at Kathy’s waffle house in Granada.
Some of my dislikes:
Not being able to discover the north.
Some hostels mattresses I had to sleep on.
Overzealous touts trying to sell overpriced tours to me.
My route backpacking Nicaragua
This was the route I took across Nicaragua, starting in Chinandega and ending in Granada.