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Highway to Managua

June 11, 2012

I had quite the adventure today and no photos to show for it. I had to take a bus and taxi to a doctor’s appointment in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua.  The highway from Granada to Managua ranges from two to four lanes with many roundabouts, especially in the towns along the way.

I arrived at the bus station (a dirt lot) at 8am and there was no bus, just people waiting. Around 815am a bus pulls up and people queue to get on. Fortunately I got on as not everyone did. I had to sit on the right side and ended up over the rear wheels. This “bus” is actually a 15 passenger van with a sliding door on the side, but fairly nice. Once everyone was seated with a couple of people standing, they took off. Normally they stop at other spots in Granada to pick up passengers but for some reason today they only stopped a couple of times and we whizzed past people waving for us to stop. (Reminds me of the bus stops at rush hour in Southie) Once we got out-of-town on the highway we did stop to pick up people who by now were all standing and smashed up against one another.

The conductor collected the fare which was $1USD to go to Managua. He could not get through the people to reach all of us in the back so passengers just passed the money back and forth and you yelled out where you were going to get off. There are different cities and it is less if you do not go all the way to Managua.

My seatmate told me the cost which I did not know. She was a student at UCA (University of Central America) in Managua and took the bus daily to go to class. It is about an hour or more commute each way. I asked her (in Spanish) if she knew my exit stop and she said she did and would tell me when we were getting close. The bus only stops if someone tells the conductor (this is a different person than the driver) that they are getting off.

I was watching out the window because Flavia, my Spanish teacher, agreed to go with me to help me with the taxi in Managua. Flavia lives in Masaya which is about 20 minutes from Granada in the direction of Masaya so I had called her to tell her I was on the bus and she was waiting at a stop in Masaya. My role was to look for her and yell out the window so she would know I was on the bus, which I did and she boarded.  She found a seat up front and we waved at each other.

Thanks to my seatmate I got off the bus at La Galleria which was the location I needed. As I was pushing through the passengers I could not see Flavia and just as I was exiting I finally saw her and motioned her off.  There we were standing at the side of a 4 lane highway, trying to figure out where to catch a taxi.  Traffic is whizzing by and suddenly a taxi pulls over. Flavia told him where we were going-I had it written on a piece of paper-and he agreed to take us there (about 2 miles) for about $3USD.

The taxi ride went smoothly, just us and the driver. This was the tricky part as it is dangerous to take a taxi in Managua especially for gringos like me.  There have been many cases of a gringos getting in a taxi, the driver heads off and then stops and picks up an accomplice and they then rob the passengers of money, credit cards, camera, anything else of value.  Frequently they take the person to the ATM and force them to take out as much money as the bank allows (my bank only allows $400 at a time).  They force the person to give them the pin number –with a knife or pistol, and then they drop them off in some deserted neighborhood with no money. I have been told this many times by both expats and Nicas, so I was a little concerned.

The doctor was not in the office and the receptionist said I did not have an appointment. Great!  I had spoken with him on the phone Friday so I said I would wait. He arrived about half an hour later, saw me and then we were off to reverse the adventure.  The guard hailed a taxi and this time it was only $1.90 for the same distance.  There are no meters and you have to agree on the price before you get in the taxi.  The cost is always per person, not per ride.

The van on the way back was bad. It was old, dirty, falling apart and we had to stand for about twenty minutes. Finally the conductor told me to sit in a bench right behind the driver which was better but not great.  When he collected the fare I told him I was paying for Flavia who was going to Masaya (she was in the very rear seat by now) and me going to Granada. I did not have correct change so gave him a little more than needed and he just nodded and kept it all.  At this point I did not care.

On the highway back (on it, not next to it)  we passed several wagons being drawn by a horse, bicycles, motor bikes, people walking, other buses ranging from a smoking “normal” big bus by Mercedes-Benz, to vans like ours, to old school buses (called chicken buses) painted gay colors. We even passed a pickup driving toward us on our side of the road.  We just moved over.

During the entire trip the conductor leans out the open window on the sliding door and yells “Granada,Granada,Granada” in a sing-song, extremely loudly so that the people waiting at the stops know where the bus is headed. He also helps people and their “things” on and off the bus if they need it. Today the only “thing” was a child’s bicycle that was stuck in the rear window, but I have seen sacks of beans, suitcases, fans, anything you need to move with you. On a chicken bus we passed they were unloading a huge (8×8) sheet of plywood what was tied to the top of the bus and several boxes. It is just part of daily life here because very few people have cars and things need to be moved. Finally we arrived back in Granada and I was happy to walk home. Tomorrow I am off to the beach – in a car!


From → Granada

One Comment
  1. Evi Kovacs permalink

    Hi Marty,
    I’ve been reading your adventures and it sounds like you are really having a great time and truly living with and like the locals. I am so happy that you got to share your experience with your daughter and especially your granddaughter; she will always remember it. I wish you safe, safe travels and hope your spanish is getting great…I love working at GIT/Protravel it really has been a blessing..I just wish it would get busier 😉
    Hope to read more and hear from you soon.
    Take good care of yourself. I was so scared of the zipline in Costa Rica, you are one brave lady, not only for that reason ;-).
    All the best,



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