The capital of Nicaragua, the country of volcanoes and lakes, is often avoided by expats and tourists. It is said to be chaotic, dangerous and dirty – but despite all this, the city has its charm.
And don’t believe everything you hear about crime in Nicaragua — it’s actually among the safest of all Central American countries.
Locals are welcoming and will appreciate your effort to speak Spanish – no matter your level of success.
People in Managua are in general helpful and when you approach them with respect and you won’t have trouble adapting to the local life and make friends.
Renting in Managua
Rent in Managua is inexpensive, compared to European or North American standards.
If you rent a single room in a family house or a shared apartment, you will probably find something between $150 and $250 US per month. This usually includes a shared kitchen and private or shared bathroom.
If you decide to rent an apartment by yourself, you should be able to find a one-bedroom apartment in the city center for about $300; three bedrooms will cost up to $600.
Outside the city center, subtract at least $100.
Food in Managua
Food in Nicaragua seems boring and uncreative at first glance, but there are more options than the traditional staple food ‘gallopinto,’ otherwise known as rice and red beans.
A typical meal at a ‘comedo’ – a small restaurant – will consist of rice and beans, some meat (usually chicken or beef), avocado, fried or baked plantains and some salad. Fried cheese and sauces are also available. Such a meal will cost between 100 and 200 cordobas.
A note here about money: The cordoba is the currency of Nicaragua. One cordoba is worth approximately 4 cents US.
Other typical Nicaraguan dishes are Quesadilla or Quesillo (tortillas with cheese); Gallopinto mixed with eggs; Burritos; Tostones (fried plantain with cheese); Nacatamal (pork and corn); Vigoron (fried pork skin with Yuca and more.
To save, especially on fruits and vegetables, buy food at a local market. For a big pineapple you can expect to pay 20 to 30 cordobas ($1.20), for a banana 1 cordoba (less than a nickel) and for a bag of 6 tomatoes, approximately 10 cordobas (40 cents).
Supermarkets are more expensive, especially La Colonia and La Union, which also have imported products. The cheapest and most popular supermarket in Nicaragua is Palí, which is usually located in the suburbs.
Transportation in Managua
Public transportation in Managua is, in a word, chaotic. To travel buy bus, you need a chip card, which is only available in some shopping malls.
There are various bus routes and each route has a different number, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the bus driver sticks to it.
With a chip card, you check on and off the bus directly, and you will be charged approximately 2.5 cordobas per kilometer. There is no option to buy a ticket on the bus and you can only get the chip card when you can prove that you live in Nicaragua.
Taxis are the most common transportation used in the city.
Officially, there is a distinction between individual and collective taxis, but in general, every taxi is ‘colectivo,’ which means that the driver picks up more passengers along the way, if they want to go in the same direction as the first person who got in.
Taxi fares in Managua vary between 30 and 80 cordobas per person. From the airport into the city, you can expect to pay up to $10 US.
The main bus stations to go to other cities are the bus station in front of the university (‘UCA’), Mercado Huembes and Mercado Mayoreo. For a one-hour ride you will pay around 30 cordobas. Express buses, which don’t stop along the way, are slightly more expensive but recommended.
In general, taxi drivers have a great knowledge of which bus station to go to and some can even help you with the departure times of the buses.
When you decide to drive yourself, you need to be very careful. The traffic is as chaotic as the whole public transportation system and at rush hours there is always a huge traffic jam.
The street leading from Managua to Granada is the busiest in the country.
People do stick to certain rules such as traffic lights, but other than that, drivers usually won’t stop or slow down and it can be difficult to cross the road when walking. A word of advice: make use of the pedestrian bridges at some big crossings if available.
It is normal to use car horns as a warning while driving to tell others that you are about to overtake them.
Neighborhoods in Managua
The city of Managua is divided into several ‘barrios’ and ‘repartos.’
The safest, and most expensive, neighborhoods are Los Robles and Reparto San Juan, whereas districts nearer the lake are said to be more dangerous.
In general, it is advised to take a taxi after sunset, no matter where you live.
Giving directions and finding addresses in Managua can be a difficult process. Most of the streets in the city don’t have names, due to the earthquake in the 1970s that destroyed big parts of the city.
If people describe an address, they use a landmark, such as a school, hotel or restaurant. They use blocks to indicate when to turn and instead of east and west, the words ‘arriba’ (up) and ‘abajo’ (down), referring to the direction where the sun rises and sets.
Entertainment in Managua
Managua has quite a few shopping malls, which are visited not only to go shopping, but also to relax, go to the cinema, have a drink or enjoy air-conditioning on a hot day.
Metrocentro and Galerias Santo Domingo are probably the most popular.
The newly built entertainment area at the lake shore, ‘Puerto Salvador Allende’ is home to many restaurants, bars and cafes and a great option to spend an evening out.
The busiest days are from Wednesday to Saturday.
Managua also has some nightlife opportunities.
The shopping mall Galerias Santo Domingo has a club that is mainly visited by wealthier Nicaraguans and quite expensive.
Another very popular club is Karamanched, which is visited by all different groups and locals as well as tourists.
There is also a club near the Tiscapa crate lake. The street behind the Hilton hotel at the Carreterra Masaya is an option when looking for sport bars or pubs.
Things to do on a day out could be a visit to nearby cities such as Granada or Masaya, a visit to the zoo, zip-lining over the crater lake Tiscapa or a visit or hike to one of Nicaragua’s many active or dormant volcanoes.
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