Arriving in a new country can be daunting, especially when you don’t speak the language. Throw in trying to navigate the streets using public transport, and you’ll soon be looking for the nearest dark corner to hide in. It took me a couple of days to build up the courage to catch a bus in Nicaragua.
Coming from South Africa, I don’t rely on public transport to get around, but in Nicaragua, I didn’t have an alternative option. Making matters worse, I had only completed a 6 week Spanish course before arriving. There was no way I would be able to communicate easily with locals or the bus driver.
I was terrified… How do I explain where I want to go? How do I know when to get off? Hell, how do I even get on the damn bus?
If you find yourself in a similar situation, fear not! Here’s everything you need to know about catching a bus in Nicaragua.
Here’s what I learnt about catching a bus in Nicaragua:
1. Stand on the street
Anywhere you like – and flag a bus down. Seriously! There’s no need to head to a bus stop and there’s no bus schedule. You simply wait outside your house and hope for the best.
2. Shout out your destination when catching a bus
When the bus slows down either shout out the destination or point your hand in the direction you would like to go. There’s usually a crazy looking guy hanging out the door, climbing the bus roof, or standing on the bumper. He’s the guy you’re going to want to talk to – he’ll let you on the bus and collect your money.
3. Don’t try pay when you step on the bus
That crazy man hanging out the bus will walk round and collect all the money half way through your journey. He might look scary, and it may look like he’s trying to kill himself, but they’re super friendly and always give you the right change so don’t worry about bringing the exact amount.
4. The price of catching a bus
The price of the bus trip varies depending on where you’re going. There’s no signage on the bus, so unless you speak Spanish and can ask the price before entering, I would suggest bringing a couple of dollars worth of Cordobas (the currency in Nicaragua). My bus trips usually lasted an hour as I travelled from La Boquita to Diriamba and cost 16 Cordobas (that’s about USD 50c) per person one way.
5. Hop on/Hop off
Every now and again, the bus will slow down and men will jump out and start running into houses. Don’t panic, they’re just dropping off bills or collecting payments.
6. Feel free to bring ANYTHING with you.
Roosters, a bicycle… Just bring it along, pop it on the bus roof and you’re sorted.
7. Through the backdoor
If you see random men running and jumping through the backdoor of the bus (while the bus is flying down the road). That’s cool… This is not a hijacking! Let them find a seat and catch their breath.
8. Oh and about finding a seat… Good luck with that!
9. The last stop
The bus will usually have its last stop in a central area. For me, it was the Diriamba Market. You’ll know the spot, because everyone will be getting off with you. It’ll also be the same place you get back on to the bus to return to your apartment. Make sure you find out the time for the last bus – for me, it was as early as 18h30. You don’t want to miss that bus – you’ll be screwed.
But if you need to get off the bus beforehand, don’t stress. Just indicate that you would like to leave, there’s no button to press, so simply stand and start making your way to the front exit near the driver. He’ll then slow down, and stop. You hop off and boom, done!
Travel tip shared by Worried Wanderer