Getting around Nicaragua by car
It’s totally possible to rent a car in Nicaragua and create your road trip.
Rental prices aren’t too bad but remember you’ll probably need to pay extra for insurance when you arrive.
I’ve seen most people quote around $200-250 for extra insurance.
Renting a car and driving around Nicaragua will give you so much freedom to explore, and go off the beaten path. Of course, you’ll need to do your research on driving a car in Nicaragua and take all the necessary precautions.
You’ll need an international driving license, and it’s probably a good idea to download offline Google maps to find your way around!
If we went back to Nicaragua, we would probably rent a car! This post gives you a suggested road trip itinerary alongside some essential itineraries.
You can search for your car rental in Nicaragua right here.
Getting around Nicaragua by shuttle bus
This is the main way that Brad and I navigated ourselves throughout Nicaragua. Basically, from each of the main tourist spots, you can get a shuttle bus (essentially a minivan ride) to each place.
They’re typically quicker and more expensive than local buses, but they’re more comfortable and they have air conditioning, which is always a bonus!
You’ll be able to book these shuttles from each town in a local tour shop, of which there are loads to choose from!
The prices typically range from around $10-30 depending on where you are going, but we do recommend this as a safe and convenient solution for getting around Nicaragua.
Getting around Nicaragua by boat
Some parts of Nicaragua can only be accessed via boat, (or a very expensive private plane ride). One popular area that’s on the backpacker trail is Isla De Ometepe, which is Ometepe Island.
This is a fantastic place and it can only be accessed via boat.
There are different boat options, such as fast and slow, but it’s typically very cheap at around $3-5 for the ride. If you get seasick, I suggest you bring some tablets.
When you’re on Ometepe itself, then we would suggest you opt for a moped to see the island and get around!
You’ll also need to get a boat if you want to visit the Corn Islands from Bluefields. These leave on a Wednesday morning and typically costs around $40. You can fly to the Corn Islands too!
Another boat journey will be from Little Corn to Big Corn islands. It’s $6 each way and the tickets are sold on a first-come-first-served basis.
Getting around Nicaragua by moped
We wouldn’t recommend renting a moped to get around all of Nicaragua, but we would recommend renting one out at each town, city that you visit.
We rented mopeds in Ometepe, and San Juan Del Sur, and you can also rent them in Leon. If you’re confident driving, then you’ll enjoy the flexibility they offer. Just remember you’ll need an international driver's license and you need to wear a helmet.
Renting a moped in Nicaragua is nowhere near as cheap as Asia, and it’ll cost around $20 daily for your rental!
You may be able to negotiate a better deal if you’re renting for multiple days.
Getting around Nicaragua by local buses (chicken buses)
The chicken buses are the most famous transport option in Latin America! Chicken buses are leftover school buses from the USA which have been jazzed up! Chicken buses tend to get a bad reputation, but Bradley and I have never had a negative experience on one.
We’ve used them across Central America, especially in El Salvador, and we also used them in Nicaragua.
We got the local bus from Granada to Managua and it was cheap, cheerful and fuss-free!
Just use common sense when you’re using chicken buses for getting around Nicaragua.
Don’t flash your valuables, and keep your luggage beside you. I also suggest you track your journey via offline Google maps, so you know when to get off!
Ride-Sharing Apps in Nicaragua
As of 2019, there was still no use of Uber, or similar ride-sharing apps in Nicaragua, apart from one that was up and coming in the capital of Managua. You can of course use local taxis within Nicaragua, but I would agree on some form of the price before the journey so you don’t get ripped off.
So these are the main sources of transportation that you can use for getting around Nicaragua.
I’ll break this down a little further to help you get from each place that we’ve mentioned on our Nicaragua itinerary!
Getting from Leon to Granada
There are various tour agencies in Leon that can arrange transport to Granada (and other areas if you’re heading somewhere different). We used a company called Nica Time, which offered the cheapest transfer options and the cheapest tour for Volcano boarding in Leon!
It takes around 2.5 hours and costs approximately $15 per person.
You could also opt for a local chicken bus, but I’d ask your local hotel for times and prices.
You can also get a bus straight from Leon to San Juan Del Sur for $20 which takes 8 hours.
Getting from Granada to San Juan Del Sur
Shuttles run frequently between Granada and San Juan Del Sur.
These typically cost around $20-25 and will take around 2 hours. You’ll be able to buy tickets from many of the tourist shops located in both Granada and San Juan Del Sur in either direction.
You can also get the local bus to and from Granada to San Juan Del Sur, but we didn’t opt for this, however, it’s a fairly easy process and only costs $2-4 and takes around 2 hours. You can find out more here.
Getting to Ometepe
As mentioned earlier, the island of Ometepe can be accessed via boat.
You’ll need to make it to the town of Rivas (which is easily accessible by both Granada and San Juan Del Sur, depending on the direction you’re traveling through Nicaragua).
The Rivas ferry is a local ferry and it takes around 2 hours to get to Ometepe and costs $3. It’s a very fuss-free journey, and the boats run at a variety of times throughout the day.
Getting to Nicaragua from Costa Rica or Guatemala
So regardless of the direction, you're entering Nicaragua from, you can get a long-distance bus into the country.
We actually used this company throughout Central America for travelling between countries and would highly recommend it.
So there you have it, my guide to getting around Nicaragua. I hope you’ve found this guide useful, and if you’ve got any other tips or questions about getting around Nicaragua, then please do drop us a comment below!
From more Nicaragua travel tips, be sure to check out our backpacking Nicaragua travel guide for everything you need to know.