In this guide we try to provide some information which we consider relevant to your preparation before and during your visit to Nicaragua, either traveling with Matagalpa Tours or on your own.
Police station and emergency number: 118
(You can call to 911 as well)
US embassy in Managua: Km 4 1/2 Carretera Sur.
Tel: 2268-0123, Fax: 22669943
Visas and Passports:
No visa is required to enter Nicaragua as a European or North American citizen, but a passport valid for at least 6 months is required. When you enter Nicaragua a US$ 10 dollar tourism tax will be charged, also we recommend that you bring copies of your passport along.
Nicaragua time is GMT -6 hours. There is no daylight savings time.
Money and banking:
Nicaragua has its own currency, the Cordoba. It has 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 bills and 10, 5, 1, 0.50, 0.25, 0.10, and 0.05 coins. The US dollar is widely accepted.
Often prices are based on dollars but quoted in Cordobas. If you pay in dollars (use small bills US$20), you will receive your change in Cordobas. For May 2015, the currency rate is US$1 – C$27. Travelers' checks are difficult to exchange. Only some banks accept them, and we recommend bringing them for emergencies only.
Credit cards are accepted in many stores, hotels, and restaurants through-out the country, but not in little towns or off-road destinations. You can get cash from the ATMs located in banks and gas stations with debit cards and credit cards. The ATMs at the BAC bank (Red Total) are most likely to accept European and North American debit cards and can be found at most locations during your visit. There
are no ATMs in the little towns and communities.
Spanish is spoken in the western and central part of the country. English is often spoken by hotel personnel in tourist areas. Some locals speak English because they have lived in the United States . In the Caribbean areas different languages are spoken like Creole and Miskito. Many of them also speak English. In the northern parts of the department of Jinotega and RACN/RAAN in the BOSAWAS reserve the Mayagna etnical group speak their own language, also called Mayagna.
Nicaragua has a tropical climate. Like other Central American countries, there are two seasons: the dry season (December-April) and the rainy season (May- November). In central and northern Nicaragua the weather is cooler than the rest of the country. It is often hot in the southern and Pacific parts of the country, so bring comfortable light cotton clothes. Temperatures vary between 22-35°C.
Water quality is adequate for drinking in most urban areas, but we recommend bottled water. Tap water may cause traveler’s diarrhea and tastes of chlorine. In order not to discard a lot of plastic bottles and protect the environment we recommend buying a large bottle of purified water and refill than to buy a new one.
As an sustainable action in Matagalpa Tours you can refill your bottles with filtered water. On our multidau trips we carry filtered water on the vehicles to refill your bottle. Purified water is forsale at supermarkets, local stores (pulperías) or gas stations. During our tours in the communities, filtered water is used to make juices and prepare the food.
There are many traditional Nicaraguan dishes. Each region produces various foods, drinks and sweets, according to geographical and cultural customs. Most are based on rice and beans, such as the famous Gallo Pinto (fried rice and beans, eaten for breakfast or dinner). Please be careful where you buy food. We recommend not buying food on the streets; the popular fritangas are not very healthy places to eat. International cuisine is available at many restaurants.
Transportation and Roads:
During this trip we will use a medium size bus with air conditioning. Smoking is prohibited on the buses. The road in northern rural areas are rough. Nicaragua counts on highways in perfect condition, such as “La Panamericana” and other main highways of the country, however, on the roads to the communities and the rural zones it's rare to find paved highways, in general they are non paved,
and due to the rain, they are in bad condition. Don't be surprised at some abrupt vehicle movements, they form part of the adventure of the trip.
Though Nicaragua has a bad reputation from its turbulent past, it is known to be Central America`s safest country. Petty crime occurs regularly, but if taking normal precautions it will be rare that something happens. Please use safety boxes if they are available in hotel rooms or at the reception desk. We recommend using a special money belt to carry personal belongings like passports and money. During the stops on the road, belongings can be left on the bus when the bus driver is present. Beware You are always responsible for your own belongings and valuables!!!
- Matagalpa Tours considers of principal importance safety of their customers. We employ drivers with extensive experience in the art of driving and constantly we train our drivers in education issues, respect for traffic signals, speed limits and management of adverse situations.
- Our guides like our drivers are trained in first aid issues, management and contingency plan and to respond in case of emergencies.
- As a company we ensure that our team of guides and drivers have extensive knowledge of the country, as well as alternate routes, police and medical centers across the country and from our offices you will have staff available at any time to make your trip as pleasant or to resolve any situation that for reasons beyond our control arise.
- We also have a casualty insurance that covers all medical expenses that could result of accidents, but most of all, we work with a trained and responsible staff who try their best to ensure your safety and to avoid any kind of drawbacks.
What to bring:
Besides personal items, we especially recommend bringing the following list, we add also a list of non essential things and what people from other experienced groups recommended not to bring down:
- Alarm clock – small and with a light is preferred
- All the regular hygiene items - Hygiene Kit (Soap, Shampoo, Conditioner, toothbrush, Toothpaste, Deodorant)
- For females: feminine hygiene products
- A pair of hiking footwear
- A hat or sun cap
- Bathing suit
- Camera and charger
- Comfortable day footwear – sandals, flip-flops, sneakers, etc.
- Flashlight and spare batteries
- Jacket (fleece) or sweatshirt
- Liter-size bottle to refill for drinking water
- Light clothes, long sleeve t-shirts and a pair of pants – it can occasionally be brisk in the highlands, especially during the rainy season
- Mosquito repellent - Insect repellent with DEET (OFF is locally available)
- Rain gear-jacket - lightweight raincoat or poncho
- Rain cover for backpack
- Rubber sandals for bathing
- Shorts-sleeved tshirts
- Small earplugs – can come in handy if you are a light sleeper as the cock crows as early as 3am
- Sun block - Sunscreen – with a minimum of SPF +15
- Towel - bathing towel
Recommended by other travelers:
- It is easier to travel with a backpack than with a hard shell suitcases.
- A daypack – lightweight and comfortable; this is suggested for carrying around items you will need throughout the day
- Money belt – flesh tone and big enough to hold cash, credit cards, and your passport
- Pictures of your city and family to share with the locals
- For being a tropical country the weather is hot most of the year, therefore we recommend to bring comfortable and cool, especially in the pacific of the country. In winter the weather is more fresh in the northern, and rain are more frequent, tennis or sneakers are recommended especially if you like to go on hiking
- Electricity in Nicaragua is 120 Volt and 60 Hertz. This is the same as in the US, but it means that tourists from Europe and other countries cannot use their electrical equipment unless suitable for this voltage.
- Over all, do not come overloaded. If you have less you have more for yourself to enjoy.
What is non-essential? (optional)
- Pocket Spanish Dictionary (optional)
- Water purification tablets (optional - can be handy if you will stay off the beaten track for a longer period)
- Basic first aid and medicine kit (with pain killer, Band-aids, disinfectant, tweezers, Elastic bandages, Medical tape, ace bandage, Gauze pads, etc.)
- Anti-diarrheal – such as Imodium and Pepto-Bismol for diarrhea
- Antihistamines – such as Benedryl for some allergic reactions
- Painkillers – such as Ibuprofen for mild aches and pains
- Re hydration salts – to cope with the dehydrating effects of diarrhea and sickness
- Sunglasses – as Nicaragua is closer to the equator than many people are used to, the sun can be pretty intense
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Enjoy your trip