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Practical Travel Guide 2020: Transportation in Nicaragua (Chicken bus, Microbus, Shuttles, …)

Nicaragua is a country where the majority of its inhabitants travel by local transport.

They are very cheap and allow you to reach the whole country without difficulty. There are also private transportation such as cabs, private shuttles or international bus companies. The latter are more expensive but can save you a lot of time.

Let’s go for a little practical guide!

Local transportation tips and tricks

  • In the majority of the buses, you will find a driver and a “cobrador”. It is the latter who is on the side of the road, shouting out the cities where the bus stops, telling the driver when to stop and asking you for money for your trip.
  • There are very few official stops. The most common practice is to stand at the side of the road and wave to the bus you are interested in. Same for getting off: tell the driver or cobrador where you want to get off. In cities or on the side of the road, if you see a pile of people on the side of the road, no doubt: it is an official unofficial bus stop!
  • Prices are fixed from the departure terminal to the terminus. On the other hand, if you get on and/or off along the way, the price must be lower (with rare exceptions, such as some Penas Blancas – Managua buses that cost 150 cordobas, regardless of the distance traveled). How do I know how much money to donate? Good question … Try to estimate a fair price based on the distance traveled and the total price of the trip. Or look at how much the locals give.
  • Know one thing in Nicaragua: when there seems to be no more room for other passengers, well, there is always room. But fortunately, most of the time you will find a seat. Don’t take the transport during rush hour (6:30 – 9 am and 4 – 7 pm) and everything will be fine! Or go to the bus terminals to make sure you have a seat and arrive early for buses leaving at fixed times.
  • Don’t pay extra for your luggage if it doesn’t take the place of a potential passenger (if it is put in the trunk, on the roof, under the seats, on your knees). Otherwise, it may cost you the seat of a passenger.
  • Many of the bus terminals are in the markets (or the other way around … We don’t know anymore!). And many rural people take the bus line to the terminal, do their shopping and then go home. Buses can be filled with all kinds of goods… Live chickens included ! The advantage for you is that it is impossible to die of hunger or thirst. Eating in the markets is also the most economical.
  • Most cities have several bus terminals. Find out which one you need to go to upstream. Cab drivers are good advice. So is this website: https: //
  • Another special feature: throughout your journey, street vendors will get on the bus to sell you all kinds of things. Snacks, fruits, drinks, or even whole dishes (chicken, coleslaw, plantains) but also chargers, headphones, school supplies, etc.
Interlocale “La Concepcion – Managua Eastern Market”

The Chickens bus

Who are they? They are the buses you will see the most, in the whole country. Most of them are old US school buses. You can’t miss them. Some of them are painted, others remain in “original version”. Very cheap, they are however quite slow because they stop as many times as necessary. Travel time can be doubled depending on the number of people. The destination is indicated on the front of the bus.

Local atmosphere guaranteed!

Where to take them? They are present in all bus terminals (except for the UCA Managua bus terminal). You can also stop them on the way

How? Usually the chickens bus leave at fixed times. Depending on the destinations, there are more or less regularly. Ask beforehand because for some destinations only 3 or 4 buses leave per day (for example: Léon – Matagalpa, 3/day). Depending on the destinations, you have to buy your ticket at the ticket office before departure (for San Carlos, Blueflieds,…) or pay directly in the bus at the request of the cobrador

Chicken bus with intact “US school bus” design

The Interlocales

Who are they? They are minibuses with between 16 and 30 seats. Faster than chickens buses, they are a little bit more expensive. They serve relatively close cities (maximum 3 hours trip). The destination is written on the hood of the microbus. Here are some examples:

  • Managua UCA – Granada
  • Leon – Chinandega
  • Jinotepe – Rivas
  • Managua UCA – Leon (the only espresso: it is direct between Managua and Leon)

Where to take them? You will find them in almost every bus terminal in the country. You won’t find them on the island of Ometepe and the Corn Islands in the Caribbean. You can also stop them along the way. Namely: the UCA bus terminal in Managua, which is located in front of the Universidad CentroAmerica (link google maps) is reserved for interlocutors. Here is an instagram article about this terminal.

How? These are usually buses that leave once they are full or once the driver is tired of waiting at the terminal. You will pay at the cobrador once on the way or before leaving as for the espresso UCA Managua – Leon.

Interlocale UCA Managua – Granada

Las rutas

Who are they? These are the internal buses in Managua and Ciudad Sandino (close suburb of Managua). They are old buses/coaches. Very often in poor condition and crowded, they are the most economical way to get around Managua. In fact, the trip costs 2.5 cordobas (0.07 euros) no matter how many stops you make. Beware, these buses are a haven for thieves (it’s a bit like the Parisian subways!) so hide your phone, your money and travel with the bare necessities for the day. Keep your bag in front if you are standing

Where to take them? Unlike other buses, you have to get on and off at specific bus stops. You will find on this site all “las rutas” with destinations, stops, etc

How? Get on to the front of the buses and get off at the front or back. You pay for the trip by getting on, directly to the driver. If your bus is full, get to the exit doors one or two stops before yours

Una ruta marking the stop at UCA Managua


Who are they? They are cabs as you will find them all over the world. Sometimes you can share them with other travelers if they are on your way. You will find them in Managua, Granada, Leon, Matagalpa, Chinandega, etc

Where to take them? Anywhere, as long as there are some. You’ll find them in all major cities

How do you do it? Just give them a sign. Sometimes they signal by honking their horn. In some cities the prices of the races are fixed (for example in Leon it is between 25 and 30 cordobas/person/race, in Granada between 15 and 20 cordobas/person/race = between 50 and 90 cents). Otherwise, always ask and negotiate the price before getting into the cab. If you don’t have an idea of the price, ask in the street or at your hostel for a Nicaraguan!

Alternatives ? There are 2 Uber-type VTC services in Managua: Aventon and Ray Nicaragua. For example, a ride in VTC Airport – Center of Managua will cost you 250 cordobas (6.7 euros)/car

Two cabs in Managua

Motorcycles and ciclo-taxis

Who are they and where to take them? They are “tuk-tuks”, by motorcycle or bicycle. Motorcycle cabs are often found in villages, neighborhoods, roads where there are no buses. The ciclo-taxis are very present in Léon. Beware, their “drivers” are often quite aggressive when getting off the bus at the terminal of Léon, will announce prices in dollars and take advantage of tourists. Honestly, I never take them and prefer the cab

How do you do it? Always remember to negotiate the price before you get in

Motorcycle cab of the “Pueblos Blancos” (White Pueblos)

Shuttles and private drivers

Who are they? They are small companies or independent drivers who offer collective shuttle services or private transportation. They are the fastest and most comfortable way to travel around the country or to reach other Central American countries, but it isn’t the most economical way. Here are some examples of prices:

  • San Juan del Sur – Granada: $15/person
  • Border Penas Blancas – San Juan del Sur : 80$/minibus 15 seats
  • Granada – Leon : 15$/person
  • Leon – San Juan del Sur: $25/person

Where to take them? You will find shuttle services in all tourist cities, or ask your hotel/inns directly. You can search in facebook groups such as “Backpacking Nicaragua – Travel, Backpack, Surfing, Tourism“, “Backpackers Nicaragua” or “Les français & francophones au Nicaragua”.

How? Simply book in advance (the day before or a few days in advance), and see the payment terms with the company or your driver

Contacts :

Shuttle of tourism Granada – Leon

International bus companies

Who are they? They are bus companies operating international routes between two (or more) Central American countries. They are buses with superior comfort (reclining seat, air conditioning, Wifi, film, WC) and help you (for 1 or 2$ …) at border crossings

Where and how to take them? Meeting points are usually in the capitals or in the major cities along the way. It is necessary to book and pay in advance in a store or directly on the internet. Then go to the indicated terminal or stopping place. Outside the capitals, the meeting point is often a petrol station outside the city. Be early. Note: these companies make long trips (from Mexico to Panama for some), buses can arrive late at the meeting point. Ask beforehand for a Whatsapp number to be kept informed of the progress of the bus

Some companies: Ticabus Central LineNicabus – etc

By the way, if you want to know how to cross the land borders in and out of Nicaragua, I will let you read the corresponding article here.

Bus of the company Central Line

The plane

Which company? La Costena is the company that operates internal flights in Nicaragua (Managua, Bluefields, Bonanza, Corn Island, Puerto Cabezas, Siuna, Waspan) and connecting Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. These are small planes. Due to the political crisis of 2018, several destinations have closed for the moment (San Carlos, Ometepe)

Where to book? You can book and pay online on their website. You can also book in the store of La Costena in Nicaragua. Tickets are open for several weeks. You can therefore change the dates of your flights within the limit of available seats.

How? The regional airport of Managua is a small building to the right of the international airport. In the rest of the country it is more of a runway with a small house than an airport worthy of the name. This is the adventure! Be 1h30 in advance.

Plane of the Costena
Costena boarding pass: reusable ticket! So they would be eco-friendly?

The lanchas

Who are they? These are more or less long motorized boats that can navigate in sea and fresh water. Indeed, some parts of Nicaragua are only accessible by river, as in the department of Rio San Juan, or to reach the big and small Corn Island.

Where and how to take them? You have to go to the landing stages. Find out beforehand about the lanchas’ schedules. Some areas aren’t served every day (Solentiname Archipelago, Los Guatuzos Refuge, etc.). It is best to reserve your place about an hour in advance

It is a great experience, which mixes means of transportation and “sightseeing” because the rivers are full of extraordinary fauna and flora in Nicaragua

Landing stage of San Carlos (Rio San Juan)
Lancha San Carlos – El Castillo


Who are they? They are boats with a greater capacity than lanchas allowing the passage of humans, goods, vehicles and animals between two ports

Where and how to take them? In Nicaragua you will find two ferry lines: between the port of San Joge and the island of Ometepe (Lake Cocibolca) and between Bluefields and the Big Corn Island (Caribbean Sea). You have to go to the port and buy your ticket

Ferry between San Joge and Ometepe Island

Nicaragua is very well served by public and private transport. You are spoilt for choice. So good road to you!

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