With all the beauty and wonder of Costa Rica, why travel the 8 to 10 hours to Nicaragua? Whether you need to renew your visa, fill up your passport, or just want to experience something different, Nicaragua is an excellent destination. With multiple bus lines in San José offering trips to Nicaragua, I chose TicaBus, and for about $55, rode to Granada. Just make sure to bring your passport when buying the bus tickets. Nicaragua has a lot to offer, but I opted for a low key weekend in the city just exploring and not planning too much. It was amazing for a number of reasons, but here are my top reasons.
1. The Culture! The first thing that shocked me in Nicaragua was the liveliness of the streets and the people. San José and most of Costa Rica is so calm, but not Nicaragua. There is so much life, color, and noise in the streets of Granada. It can be overwhelming if you’re not prepared for it. Many stores were blasting all types of music. In one of the parks I watched a display of traditional dance followed immediately by a breakdancing performance.
2. The People! If you are a Spanish major, go to Nicaragua right now. It’s no secret that Ticos are shy, and it was no secret that Nicaraguans are extremely outgoing. Everywhere I went people wanted to chat but very few spoke or understood English. It was a great opportunity to practice Spanish. Most people were very nice and warned me about bad areas, gave me safety tips, and shared some of the best spots in town. Of course you should still be safe and smart when talking to strangers and not trust people you just met too much.
3. The Prices! Wow! The food, the drinks, the clothes, the souvenirs, everything was very very inexpensive. The exchange rate is about 26 córdobas to 1 dollar, but most places take dollars and you can get either from the ATM. Either take dollars or change your colones at the border, because it was hard to find a place in Granada to do it and they were not accepted anywhere. Credit and debit cards were not accepted in the majority of places I went, or carried an additional service charge, so make sure to bring cash or use the ATMs.
So if you’re thinking of taking a weekend trip out of Costa Rica, I would definitely recommend spending a few days in Nicaragua and taking in the culture, getting to know the people, all on the cheap.
Cailin Hodgins Guentz is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in San José, Costa Rica. She is currently a senior at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.