„What?! You guys went to Nicaragua?! Are you mad?“ That is the usual reaction we get when we tell other backpackers or the people at home about our time in this beautiful country.
The thing was that, like all the other backpackers, we heard many stories: the borders are closed for tourists, there are road blocks, the hostels are closed etc. Moreover, all the foreign offices of the European countries really recommended to not go there.
For Germany, for example, there is a list where you can put your name passport number etc. down just so the country knows who is in this ‘dangerous country’ during what time.
This is why it took us some time to decide whether to go through it or fly over it. Like all backpackers, we are travelling on a budget, so the expensive flights to fly over Nicaragua helped our decision of actually passing through it. But now, after the trip we are so glad that we were ‘brave’ enough to do it because we had an unforgettable experience (in a positive way of course).
Now what makes Nicaragua so interesting, especially right now? To be honest: at first we just wanted to go through it as fast as possible (1-2 days), as we did not know about the current situation. But at the border we started with our ritual that we do at every border: Start talking to locals and trying to catch a ride to the next town. Just like at all other central American countries, this was no problem and we caught a ride on the back of a pickup truck together with a guy that worked at the border. He was really nice and gave us tips what places we have to see in Nicaragua. Roadblocks and violence? There was none. So we ended up staying almost 2 weeks instead of the planned one or two transit days.
Moreover: in contrast to all of the other countries, where we always tried to find the spots with the least tourists, in Nicaragua we were excited to see some other backpackers (because there are so few). In fact, we would stop and have a quick chat about what they have been doing and where their journey is taking them next or where they were before.
Also very interesting was that the locals were so happy that tourists are starting to come back. They talk to you without trying to sell you something. One guy even started to cry thanking God that the tourists and backpackers are coming back. To be fair: he was on drugs and from Basel but I think he resembled the struggle of the Nicaraguans really well: no jobs, no money, desperation… One night we even got invited to sit outside a bar with about 8 guys. Later that night they even invited us to their sushi restaurant (which celebrated its anniversary and would open again the next day after a couple of weeks) for a crazy after party.
To be fair, there are still some restaurants and hostels that are closed, but even during our short stay we saw that more and more places are opening up (like the sushi restaurant). This is so important as many western restaurant- or hostel owners just left to their countries when shit hit the fan, leaving the locals behind with no work from one day to another.
Another thing that we really enjoyed was that it is a complete different kind of travelling right now, as some hostels are still very or even completely empty. For example, when we went to the beautiful volcano crater lake Apoyo at a hostel where normally up to 70 people stay and we were literally the only ones: Finally, a hostel where there is no guy that snores, gets up really early or comes home super late and wasted. We owned this place and had the beautiful view over the lake completely to ourselves.
Another great example were our nights in Granada in a hostel called De Boca en Boca (You have to go there, their place is nuts!) where the two owners (Salut Apolline et Raman!) actually had-, but more importantly, took their time to explain the current situation in Nicaragua and answer all of our questions. But even more important for me was the help and motivation from you guys for our future project. THANK YOU! But that is still top secret for the rest of you guys, sorry 😛
One last point for all you budget travellers and backpackers: this place is incredibly cheap right now. All the prices are super low. What we always did was not haggle about the prices, but request a private room for the price of the dorm room. This was fair for both parties as there was always enough space to get a private room and the hostel owners still earned the same money.
So guys do yourself a favour and visit this beautiful country! By the way: our impressions are from September 2018, so I am sure that by now many more backpackers are around in case you are travelling alone and don’t want to drink by yourself 😉
My German friends and family that usually read the blog (hopefully!) might have some other questions: why did he write this masterpiece in English? Well, I wanted to reach out to as many people as possible to tell them about the safe situation in Nicaragua. Besides that, we also meet more and more friends on our trip that would like to read the blog in English. So there you go! You better read this one, suckers!
And yes, I know that I am also still missing the quick sum ups of Nicaragua and Panama… well I really don’t feel like digging down deep trying to find out how much we spent, where we stayed etc. Besides, we only stayed in two places in Panama (and one of them was the metropolis Panama City) so that would not really reflect how expensive this place was. So here’s a quick one for both: Panama: expensive (but still cheaper than Costa Rica) and Nicaragua: super cheap and awesome!
Kilometres travelled in Nicaragua: 423 km
Kilometres travelled in Costa Rica: 510 km
Kilometres travelled in Panama: 692 km
Kilometres in total: 6167 km