In the past Nicaragua has swayed violently from right to left, but the momentum has long settled and left the country clear to be seen for its dramatic scenery. And yet, although the violence ended two decades ago, the country has yet to re-brand itself from the stigma of the past into the major tourist destination it might be in the future. It is only a matter of time before more tourists catch wind of what the lucky few visitors already have found; Nicaragua has an entire geographical world within its borders. The country is positioned between Costa Rica, to the south, and Honduras to the north. It is flanked by oceans on two sides; the Atlantic Caribbean stretches along its eastern shores and the Pacific to the west. Lago de Nicaragua, a 92-mile (148km) long freshwater and shark inhabited lake, dominates the terrain of the southwest. Networks of interlacing rivers connect it all. As though the land felt threatened by so much water, active volcanoes smoulder and ooze lava fields. Rainforest blankets much of the lowlands. The highlands shoot up mountain peaks and are the origin of high-quality coffee beans. Incredible animals make their home in these environments. Millions of sea turtles are born in the sandy western beaches. Jaguars and three-toed sloths roam jungle canopies. People of widely different languages and cultures inhabit the less populated Caribbean coast. These reggae cultures, more in tune with Caribbean lifestyle, are an ideal place to relax. The less placid Pacific coastline produces great waves for surfing vacations. The capital city, Managua, isn't a picturesque city but is used by travellers for its modern facilities like airport and hospitals. Other cities and towns are adorned with colonial style architecture. These make romantic destinations more akin to their days of Spanish colonisation than to the modern world. However tourist infrastructure is not yet well developed. For some this can mean unwanted difficulties, for others, a boon to the traveller who enjoys unique experiences and undigested attractions.
The currency is named the CÃ³rdoba but commonly referred to as
the peso. American dollars can also be used for common
transactions. Bills must be in good shape to be accepted and
damaged bills can be exchanged at banks. Only some banks will
exchange travellers cheques. All major cities have ATMs and most
hotels and restaurants accept credit card payments.
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.
Medical facilities in Nicaragua are only found in major towns, the best of which are in Managua. Rural communities lack modern hospitals and equipment. If a hospital is needed, travellers should indicate they desire a private hospital. Insect repellent should be used to avoid malaria and dengue fever, both of which are carried by mosquitoes. They should take choloroquine, for two weeks before travel through four weeks after, to prevent malaria. Hepatitis A and B, and Typhoid vaccines are recommended for travellers and rabies vaccinations for travellers in contact with animals. The most common affliction is traveller's diarrhoea which is preventable by safe water and food consumption. Travellers should not drink tap water and use common sense when addressing uncooked foods. Visitors from a yellow fever infected area in the Americas or Africa are required to prove they have had vaccination before entry.
Travellers entering Nicaragua must have at least six months' validity remaining on their passport. Travellers from most western countries do not need to arrange a visa prior to entry. Tourist cards are granted on arrival for USD 10 and are good for stays up to 90 days for travel among any of the C-4 countries (Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala). Extensions are possible for a fee of USD 2 per day. All visitors must be in possession of onward or return tickets, documents for their destination outside of Nicaragua and at least USD 200.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism, Managua, Nicaragua: +505 222-3333 or www.visitanicaragua.com/ingles
Foreign Embassies in Nicaragua
Nicaragua's capital, Managua, is the perfect introduction to this Central American country and an ideal starting point for destinations across the country as it is situated on the banks of Lake Managua and midway between Leon and Granada. The city's name is derived from the indigenous Nahuatl language and means 'town surrounded by water'. In recent times Managua has been dubbed 'the Venice of Central America' because of all the makeshift canals used throughout the city.
Managua is divided into what can be termed pre- and post-earthquake areas. Two relatively recent and major earthquakes devastated the town in 1931 and 1972. These earthquakes forced residents to build businesses and residential areas outside of Managua rather than in the centre of town, which still contains older buildings that were not structurally designed to withstand the earthquakes. The rebuilt Managua does not seem to follow a particular system and shopping malls, residential areas and parks are scattered throughout the city. Zona Rosa and Metrocentro are the main tourist areas
Managua is the cultural and political centre of Nicaragua. It is also central to trade and industry, which is evident in the seemingly frenetic activity and constant buzz that the city exudes. Visitors to Managua will be charmed as it is a meeting point between old and new. It is also a remarkable beautiful city surrounded by volcanoes, lakes, mountains and lagoons.
Directions and getting around in Managua are slightly tricky because of extensive earthquake damage. Years of major earthquakes and earth tremors have left many parts of the central Managua without proper addresses or street names. Using the lake as a point of reference is particularly useful whether you're using a hired car, taxis or public buses.
Managua boasts a number of tourist attractions including the National Museum, National Palace and the old and damaged Managua Cathedral. The town has a selection of quaint markets where tourists can buy everything from ethnic mementos and souvenirs to colourful hammocks and paintings. Visitors to Nicaragua will be charmed by its capital city and enthralled by the country's natural beauty and extensive scenic surroundings.
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