There are several methods of transportation available, the most common being urban and interurban buses, taxis, motor taxis and caponeras (specially equipped bicycles with extra space for passengers). Many expats choose not to buy a car but make use of the public transport or hire a driver if needed.
Bicycles, motorcycles and scooters are also very popular as an alternative option.
The buses in the Managua terminals are large, yellow former school buses. In many cities, roofed pickup trucks called rutas are another alternative public transportation option. City buses in Managua are for the most part clean and modern.
Within the capital city, Managua, the urban bus network is quite extensive. The buses can be recognized by a number (this number is often painted on the bus itself too), which indicates the route the bus will take. In other cities, buses also use tags to state their destinations. Bus stops have information boards telling you which number you can get and where it goes.
If for some reason you can’t find the information you need, locals and bus drivers are normally happy to help you.
Nicaragua became the second country in Latin America to implement electronic-only payment on public buses. You will need a special prepaid digital bus card called a TUC on almost all city buses, with cash payments not accepted. To find out more about TUC cards, visit MPESO.
Expreso and ruteado services
The expreso service is, as you may have guessed, the express service, which normally only stop at larger stations or some recognised points on the road.
Ruteado buses stop at every single corner where a potential passenger can be found. This may take some time, but is possibly a better option when you’re new in town to make sure you can actually get off where you want.
Bus terminals are actually part of the markets, so tend to be a bit chaotic and overwhelming. Keep your valuables closely guarded.
International bus routes
Travel between major cities from Nicaragua to other parts of Central America can be arranged on one of several tourist buses such as TransNica, Tica Bus, Nica Expreso and NicaBus. All services are very comfortable and provide A/C, reclining seats, TV, sometimes movies and restrooms.
Almost all taxis in Nicaragua are members of colectivos (taxi associations), which stop and pick up other clients en route to their destination.
Managua taxis are unmetered and notorious for ripping off tourists. Taxis at major border crossings may overcharge as well, given the chance. Most other city taxis have set, in-town fares, usually around US$0.50 to US$0.70, rising slightly at night. It’s worth asking a local how much a fare should cost before getting into the cab.
Hiring taxis between cities is a comfortable and reasonable option for mid-range travelers with prices of around US$10 for every 20km. There are fewer taxis in the smaller towns compensated for by tuk-tuks (motorized three wheelers) and triciclos (bicycle rickshaws). They’re very cheap, only costing US$1-2 per person to go anywhere in town.
Travel by air
Managua International Airport is Nicaragua’s main airport, with the country’s other airports mainly being strips of dirt outside of town (or in Siuna and Waspám, right in the middle of town). Even more entertaining is the airport in San Juan de Nicaragua. Located across the bay in Greytown, it is one of the few airports in the Americas where you need to take a boat to get on your flight.
The only domestic carrier is La Costeña, which offers regular services to Bluefields, the Corn Islands, Las Minas, San Carlos, San Juan de Nicaragua (Greytown), Bilwi and Waspám.
Most domestic flights will be on tiny single-propeller planes, where weight is important and bags may get purposefully left behind, so keep all necessities in your carry-on luggage.
For air travel there is an exit fee of US$35, which is normally simply added to your ticket price. An exit form is also necessary, usually available at the airport.
When travelling through borders there is a US$2 departure tax and a US$10 entrance visa.