5 Things I Don’t Miss About Nicaragua

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Nicaragua. it’s very much a forgotten about Central American country, nestled cosily between it’s famous neighbour, Costa Rica, and the equally awesome Guatemala. It’s a country of lush rainforest,  Lake Nicaragua is so big it seems like the sea, and has an island with not one but 2 Volcanoes. It’s Caribbean Island of Little Corn is a true Island paradise, even if getting there was pretty epic, and the cities of Leon and Granada are very diverse but both fantastic places to visit. I would love to revisit Nicaragua, but there are most definitely a few things I don’t miss.

Food

 While the food wasn’t bad, and I did get to enjoy some delicious fresh seafood, and ‘comida tipico’ gallo pinto (rice and beans) served with a never ending supply of tortillas is the bread and potato of Nicaragua. It was fine, but the blandness and repetitiveness made me splurge on western food every now and then. I would find myself craving cheese as all I could find were processed cheese slices imported from the USA, or local cheese that was ridiculously salty to preserve it. I longed for a crusty bread roll instead of a soft substance less white dough, and as for chocolate. Well, lets suffice to say that when I spotted an extremely rare 100g bar of Cadburys in a supermarket in Leon I shoved it into my basket without looking at the extortionate price, and thoroughly enjoyed it after so long without.

Catcalls

Congratulations guys, you’ve noticed that I’m a white female. and just because I’m a white female walking down the street, is it ok for you to yell ‘Bonita‘ or ‘Guapa‘ at me? This was common throughout Central America, particularly in the cities. It didn’t matter what I wore, or if I was solo or with friends. It was just because I was a gringa (foreigner). In Nicaragua, however, the guys would have a nasty habit of making loud kissing noises at me (and every other white female) which I found really irritating. I just ignored it, giving them attention is what they want, but it definitely grated on me, and I know it did to other female travellers too.

Yes, I'm a gringa. No, it doesn't mean you can cat call me.

Yes, I’m a gringa. No, it doesn’t mean you can cat call me.

Hostel Beds

 I probably shouldn’t complain too much about this one, the most i paid was US$7 a night for a dorm bed the whole time, the cheapest was UD$4. Bet it was a given that the mattresses would sag so much that rolling over, or curling up in bed was difficult. The sheets would be thin, soft with wear and faded with washing. often there were small, unexplainable holes in the sheets, and sometimes the cleanliness was dubious. It would always be hot and the whirring of fans seemed an endless necessary evil. Luckily I tired myself out enough in the day that I stopped caring too much, and slept without difficulty.

This was the best bed I stayed in In Central America...Possibly because it wasn't actually a hostel, but at US$10 p night, was a pretty good deal :)

This was the best bed I stayed in In Central America…Possibly because it wasn’t actually a hostel, but at US$10 p night, was a pretty good deal 🙂

Taxi Drivers

 Overcharging was a given. asking half the price that they suggested would sometimes be agreed upon so quickly that i suspected they not just doubled the price for us tourists, but tripled it. I don’t mind paying a bit more than the locals, but this was just excessive. In addition, several cities had multiple bus terminals and every taxi driver would offer to ferry you between them, always overpriced. After bargaining down the journey would no doubt take twice as long as it should, to justify the extra you had to pay, only to discover that actually, the second bus terminal was just around the corner from the first and you could have walked it! Ask a local (who’s not a taxi or bus driver) first to avoid their scams.

Littering

A common problem in developing countries, and an extremely sad one. i hate littering, i feel guilty if the wind catches my tissue and blows it away before I can catch it. We all know it’s bad for the environment, but it just looks and smells gross. Surely the locals can understand that? However it’s acceptable and common for rubbish to be thrown from bus windows, dropped in the streets, and left to litter their backyards. Sadly the beaches would more often than not be strewn with litter near the high tide line, especially if it was near housing. I wish I’d done a little bit to try and clean up while I was there, but there was so much it felt that I wouldn’t be able to make much of an impact. The locals often couldn’t afford to pay to dispose of it properly, it’s definitely a problem of poverty and mostly unnecessary packaging.

Litter along the shoreline behind local houses.

Litter along the shoreline behind local houses.

17 thoughts on “5 Things I Don’t Miss About Nicaragua

  1. I’ve lived in Nicaragua for 20 years. What you say has a lot of truth to it. Some things here drive me insane. On the other hand, for every for every negative I can find five positives. The folks are sweet rascals but they have an endearing side. If you met the cat-caller on a one to one basis he would be as courteous as if talking to his sister. The bravado is a show for their friends. The cops are a little silly and you can usuallly josh with them. Getting out of a traffic ticket has never cost me more than three and a half bucks (100 Cords)- Try that in the States and you’d be beaten to death. Trash is a problem but slowly the people are becoming aware. A group of women in the coastal village of Huehuete knit beautiful purses out of discarded plastic bags. They weather is great. the women beautiful and beer is under a buck a bottle.
    When you come back go to any La Colonia supermarket for artesanal chocolate. Visit Laguna Apoyo just outside Granada for a view you will never forget. I’ll still be here.

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    • That is true, I got to know some of the locals at a hostel I was staying in and you’re completely right, the guys were very friendly and courteous. I suspect Nicaragua has changed quite a lot in the 20years you’ve been there, and no doubt will continue to do so. I’m very glad I visited it now, and there are a lot of good things in Nicaragua and awareness about conservation, littering, and education are all improving which is brilliant. I guess that also, traveling through, you don’t get to see the multiple layers and culture in the same way as you do living somewhere. I actually really liked Leon, and I felt like it would be a really cool city o live in, which is something I rarely feel about places. I would actually love to go back and spend longer there, so I guess I’d best start improving my Spanish! Granada is beautiful, and I did feel very welcome during my time in Nicaragua.

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  2. Interesting post, some would agree with you and some would strongly disagree but it’s all subjective and part of backpacking. I think some who may live here may disagree with some points but they would be looking at your points from another angle. I live and own a hostel here and do agree with you on all points,partly because I see them myself (cat calls and littering) and partly because I hear these comments from other travelers.

    Your comments also made me smile because of our hostel, we have Western and local food for this reason and our chocolate bars sell very quickly, all our mattresses are super thick and something we get many comments about.
    A few years ago with the help of the police and signatures from other hotels we went to the Alcaldia to ask them to put a stop to the few taxi drivers charging excessive fares, I think you will find this anywhere with a few taxi drivers in cities around the world looking to take advantage of tourists.

    Glad to hear though that you enjoyed the country on a whole.

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    • Thanks Chris!
      This is just my opinion and I’m sure others will have different opinions because they’ve had different experiences. It’s nice to know you’ve heard the same things, and that you are working hard to prevent some of them (with your food and mattresses). The more hostels like yours the better, as travellers will go to the ones with comfy beds and a greater food variety. I didn’t know that you and others had petitioned about excessive fares, that’s brilliant so well done and thanks! Mostly it was ok, I just found it hard to know how to haggle, the culture is so different and it’s difficult to know if you’re getting a good price or not.
      Having said all of that, I loved Nicaragua, it is one of my favourite countries I’ve visited and I would happily return and explore some more. I certainly don’t want to put people off going to Nicaragua, but I also think it’s important to be aware of these things so as not to be caught out, or feel threatened by them.

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    • Yeah, I would say it’s best to take your own supply! You could get local chocolate too and it was nice, but it didn’t quite give me that chocolate fix, I think because it’s made differently. It’s probably way better for you, but hey. Although if you’re a fan of Hershey’s you’d also be fine! (I tried it for the first time there, not a fan!)

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  3. I guess its easier from a pick up truck as there’s no way you can do anything much about it. It’s a pretty common thing, all the girls I spoke to experienced it. It’s strange being in the minority and getting hassled because of it!

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  4. Awesome post! There is so much _ reasons to love ___ out there, it’s nice to see and hear the negatives! I love traveling, but it’s not all fun times all of the time.

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    • Thanks! There is definitely some bad mixed in with the good when traveling, but it’s that that makes you a stronger person and makes the good times even better 🙂 As long as the negatives don’t put you off going somewhere, it’s all part of a new experience.

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  5. Yeah, it was mostly from guys on their own, in broad daylight, and was more of a nuisance than anything, I didn’t feel threatened. That being said, I also didn’t leave the hostel alone after dark, and on the few times I did it was always on a group!
    I guess in a pick up it’s easy to yell out but as the men are already driving away there is little you could do anyway. It’s annoying that they never seem to do it to local women either, just us foreign gals!

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    • Thanks Brittany. Nicaragua is a beautiful country, and I also found catcalls were pretty common throughout Central America and Mexico, but in Nicaragua the guys would make kissing noises at me (and other female travelers) in the street! It didn’t happen anywhere else, and was more annoying than ‘guapa’ or ‘bonita’ that would follow. It’d be interesting to know if traveling as a couple would reduce/ stop the catcalls.

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      • That is definitely different than what I have experienced (just the usual stares, comments, and whistles)! I can imagine that would be uncomfortable. I would be interested to know that as well… When I was in Valladolid, Mexico, I was walking in the evening with a group (including two males and myself and two other females) down a main street, and a pick-up truck filled with local men in the back drove by and they whistled at us and made some comments that we couldn’t understand.

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