- Where to Go
- The Best of Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Best Surfing
- Hiking Nicaragua’s Ring of Fire
- Nicaraguan Arts & Crafts
- Nicaragua’s Great Green North
- Sportfishing in Nicaragua
- Down the Río San Juan
- Nicaragua’s Celebrations & Fiestas
- Volunteering in Nicaragua
- Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua
- Managua’s Revolutionary Driving Tour
Nicaragua intercity bus system is made up primarily of retired American yellow school buses, each one lovingly customized with stickers and plastic streamers. Modern, air conditioned coaches are increasingly joining the line-up for popular express routes. Bus coverage is excellent though the ride is bumpy and often slow.
Each major population center has one or two bus hubs, with regular and express service to nearby cities and to Managua, plus rural routes to the surrounding communities. If you’ve got the time in your travels, riding the Nicaraguan bus network will provide endless memories and probably make you a couple of friends, as there’s little else to do on the ride but chat.
Local buses are called ordinarios or ruteados and they stop for anyone standing by the roadside and flapping their hand. Expresos are more expensive and make fewer stops; they are also often better quality vehicles as well, and are well worth the extra 25 percent you will pay for a ticket. In addition, expresos usually work on a reserved/numbered seat basis. Before you settle into town it’s worth spending a couple more minutes at the bus station to make your ownward reservations, if possible.
To points west and south from Managua, there is an especially large number of express microbuses (minivans or interlocales) that leave every 20 minutes—or whenever they fill up.
On the ruteados, you’ll board the bus, find a seat, and then wait for the ayudante (driver’s helper) to come around and collect your pasaje (fare). Ask a fellow traveler how much the ride should cost just to be sure, though our experience is that the ayudantes are typically honest. The ayudante will write the amount owed to you on your ticket if he doesn’t have exact change, returning later in the trip to pay you.
Most buses have overhead racks inside where you can stow your bags. Less desirable, but common, is for the ayudante to insist you put your backpack on the roof or in some cargo space in the back of the bus. It is safer to keep your stuff on your lap or at least within sight, if possible, but we’ve never had a problem stowing bags out of sight.
We strongly advise against using the Managua bus system unless you are with a Nicaraguan; the routes are long and confusing and the money you save—a couple of dollars, usually—is not worth the dramatically increased risk of robbery. Even Nicaraguans lose their belongings at knifepoint on these crowded, dilapidated buses. In other Nicaraguan cities urbanos are usually much safer and have shorter routes.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition