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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.