Guide to Taxi Service in Nicaragua


Nicaraguans undergo a strange personality change behind the wheel of a taxi. In every other setting in Nicaragua, aggression and speed are frowned upon. The Nicaraguan mantra is, “Manana” or “Tranquilo”. But, put a Nicaraguan in the driver’s seat and he portrays all the calmness of a hooded bandit in a lynch mob.

I shouldn’t be so hard on the taxi drivers in Nicaragua, but it took us many drivers before we found one that we can trust with our lives, our possessions, and our pocketbook. Apparently, there are no standard rates, nor do the taxis have meters. So, how does one know how much a taxi ride should cost in Nicaragua? Below, you will find my guidelines for getting a taxi in Nicaragua, but first a little about my favorite taxi driver, Francisco.

Francisco is our local taxi driver. Since we don’t have a car, nor do we want a car in Nicaragua, Francisco takes us everywhere. The first time I met him, he offered us a ride in Rivas for 10 cordobas. We had just turned down a $10 taxi ride to the ferry…a little over a mile, and I was hot, tired, and angry with the taxi drivers in the market for trying to rip us off. When I asked for Francisco’s telephone number, he handed me a crumpled Winnie-the-Poo sticker from his son’s backpack and scribbled his number on it. After that, I was sold on Francisco’s warm smile, his honest taxi service, and his safe and tranquilo attitude.

I wanted to help Francisco increase his business, so I offered to make him some business cards. Since my biggest complaint is that we never know how much a trip will cost, I convinced Francisco to put the prices on the back of the card. As a result, Francisco is the first taxi driver to have his prices on a professional business card and his service has increased daily.

Guide to Taxi Service in Nicaragua

1. How much should a taxi ride cost?
A good rule of thumb is to plan on paying around $10 for every 20 kilometers.
Distance calculator in Nicaragua
2. Never get in without agreeing on a fare. Period!
Since none of the taxis in Nicaragua have meters, it is very important to agree on theΒ Β  price before getting into the taxi. Make sure the rate is per person or for more than one person. Does it include luggage? We’ve made this mistake several times and ended up paying 4 times the normal fare. I hate to be taken for a fool. If you are only going a short distance, from one street to another in the same town, ask for a collectivo. A collectivo generally has a standard rate in town and they will pick up and drop off many passengers.
Standard rates for collectivos in Rivas are: 15 cordobas per person
In Granada: 10 cordobas per person
3. To put your luggage in the trunk or not?
BF ( Before Francisco), I never put my luggage in the trunk of a taxi. If I was going to have a big dispute over the agreed upon fare when I got out of the taxi, ( and you probably will at one time or another in Nicaragua) I wanted to have all my luggage with me. If your luggage is in the trunk, it is easy for the taxi driver to hold your luggage for ransom during a dispute. Plus, I always carry my laptop in my day pack on a longer trip and I don’t want to subject it to over 100 degree temperatures in the trunk of a taxi.
4. Have the proper change.
The story of our lives in Nicaragua. Don’t go anywhere without the proper change. It always amuses me when a taxi driver requests a $15 fee and when you arrive at your destination, and hand him a $20 bill, he looks at you shocked that he is supposed to make change. Usually, after a little argument, I give up and tell him it’s a tip. It’s not worth the hassle. Bring small bills and give the taxi driver the exact change. On another note, I always give Francisco a tip, but that is not the norm in Nicaragua unless you have an amazing taxi driver. More chances than not, you will be overcharged just because you are a foreigner who doesn’t know any better, and I consider that the tip. It may be calloused, but I’ve learned the hard way.
5. Check the condition of the taxi before getting in.
I’ve ridden in some literal death traps in Nicaragua. The doors don’t unlock, the windows don’t work, the tires wobble…oh the tales of horror. Unless you know the driver or have a recommendation for a good driver… if the car looks unsafe, don’t get in. There are plenty of other taxi drivers in large cities. Just say, no!
6. Just say, NO!
It’s perfectly fine to be aggressive and just say, NO, especially if you get a strange feeling. Some taxi scams in Nicaragua:
The buses aren’t running scam.
You are on your way to the bus station in a crowded market to catch a bus. A taxi driver yells,” Where are you going?” You respond, “Granada.” The taxi driver says, “You just missed the last bus to Granada. There are no more buses today. I’ll take you, cheap.”
Taken to an isolated spot, robbed, and dropped off in the middle of nowhere scam
You are waiting in a market for a bus. A friendly local strikes up a conversation with you. “No need to take a bus,” says the local. “I’m waiting for my friend who is a taxi driver. He’ll take you to Granada after he drops me off.” You get in the back of the taxi, and your local friend gets in beside you. Then, the taxi driver picks up another person, who gets in the backseat on the other side of you. You are driven to an ATM and forced to withdraw money…usually at knife point or sometimes by gun point. Then, you are forced back into the taxi, driven to an isolated spot, beaten and sometimes raped, and thrown out of the taxi.
I really hate to scare you, but these incidents have happened often in Nicaragua. In both cases, JUST SAY NO! Walk away. Trust your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right…just say NO!
7. Get the directions in Spanish
You will be lucky to find a taxi driver that speaks English. If your Spanish is poor, always get the directions to your location in Spanish. Most hotels and hostels have brochures or business cards with their addresses printed in Spanish. Grab one and stick it in a safe place. After a night out on the town, you can simply hand the taxi driver the card or brochure and tell him to take you there. If you want to do a day trip to another place, ask your hotel or hostel employee to write the directions for you in Spanish and you can hand it to the driver.
8. Ask your hotel, or a local friend for recommendations for a taxi driver
Hotels and hostels want customers to return, so they will usually have taxi drivers available that they recommend. Always ask them for recommendations. The only bad experience we had in this area was my last trip back from the states. We stayed at the Best Western Hotel across from the airport in Managua and Francisco was to return to pick us up. My flight was canceled at the last-minute to Nicaragua, Ron was waiting for me in Managua at the hotel, and his Spanish was poor. So, he asked the desk attendant at the Best Western to call Francisco for him and tell him to pick us up the following day. The desk clerk called Francisco, but he told Francisco that my flight was delayed and not to pick us up. Ron wasn’t aware of what the desk clerk told Francisco and the desk clerk was hoping for a commission from his taxi driver.Β  The next day at 11:00am we were waiting for Francisco. Thirty minutes later, Francisco wasn’t there, which was very unusual. A few minutes later, the phone in our hotel room rang and it was Francisco. He asked me how we were getting back to Ometepe because the desk clerk told him not to pick us up. I was furious. Francisco arrived an hour later and I told the desk clerk about the incident and said he just lost two good paying customers. We will never stay there again.

Overall, we are fortunate to have found a wonderful and trustworthy taxi driver in Nicaragua. I consider him to be my friend, as well as my taxi driver. I hope these tips are helpful and I haven’t scared you. It’s always better to be knowledgable about the taxi service in Nicaragua or you could be in for a wild ride! πŸ™‚

Below are a few interesting links to articles about taxis in Nicaragua.

http://www.nicaraguadispatch.com/news/2012/10/taxi-protest-leads-to-violence-in-managua/5510

https://www.osac.gov/Pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=12334

http://www.tortillaconsal.com/transport_subsidy.html

http://www.vivatravelguides.com/central-america/nicaragua/nicaragua-overview/getting-around-nicaragua-by-taxi/

Advertisements

50 thoughts on “Guide to Taxi Service in Nicaragua

  1. Hi – This is Julieta and Mike owners of Hotel Julieta in Rivas.Hardly a day goes by we don’t have a guest or two who are headed to Ometepe .. we need a dependable taxi to meet them in San Jose landing by us calling in advance and take our guests to the Balgue area for a hotel …. cou;d you recommend one for San Jose pickups and one for Moyogalpa to Santa Cruz/Balgue after our guests stay a night or so in Moyogalpa? our tel is 2 – 563-3649 in Rivas

    • I certainly can suggest a great taxi driver or two.One is Adolfo and he lives in Moyogalpa. He has a van and can transport people all over Ometepe. His number is Claro 8845 3227. The other one is Franklin. He lives near me in La Paloma. He has a new van and a moto taxi and transports groups around the island. His number is Claro 8846 2254. Neither speak English. They are both reliable and time oriented. I would highly recommend either Franklin or Adolfo to your guests.

  2. Wow, nice article, I am visiting Nicaragua next month and if I hadn’t have a friend to pick me up from the airport I would have probably used Francisco’s Buisness card… haha’ but just incase something were to happen to my ride, I’ll bookmark this page just incase…

  3. What an absolutely thoughtful thing to do! I always keep the cards of good taxi drivers or tour operators to pass on to ppl I know that travel to the same places, but I’ve recently thought that it might be a good idea to actually start promoting some of these trustworthy ppl on my blog to their benefit, not just for those visiting their countries. And you’ve just confirmed why πŸ™‚ I’m headed to Nicaragua next week and make a point to try and use his services. Thank you!

    • Maia, absolutely wonderful. I always try to promote those who help me and Francisco is the best. When I had to take my cat to the mainland to be euthanized, Francisco was with us. He even cried with us and offered to bury Black Jack at his house on the mainland because it was a very hot day and we didn’t want to take him an hour across the lake on the ferry. His kids told me they even had a little ceremony for Black Jack. Now, that is a wonderful taxi driver, as well as a dear friend. Tell Francisco I said, “Hola.” And thanks for the comment.

  4. Thanks for the tips. I never would have known this about transportation. I couldn’t figure out how a cab ride during the day in Matagalpa costs USD .36 (36 cents) while my hotel in Managua is going to charge me $20 for the 5-mi. ride to the airport (I pay $80 for the 20-mile ride to the airport in Boston so it’s the same rate per mile). I am going to stick to the buses when I can and get a referral from the hotel management for cabs.

  5. Hello,
    I am interested in going from outskirts of managua close to ticuantepe to playa la Redonda. I have sent Francisco message on facebook and via email provided in the business card. I hope to hear back from him. How else can I communicate and make a reservation with him?

    Thanks

      • Thank you, I was able to get a response from him. Communication is a little slow over email. Do you think I will be able to hire him for my entire trip over 7 days. How busy is he towards end of this month.

        • I really don’t know how busy Francisco will be. It is close to Semana Santa. All taxis will be busy the week of Easter because most buses do not run. Send Francisco an email with your itinerary and he will give you a price for the entire week. Good luck. πŸ™‚

  6. Hi Debbie,
    Nathalie again !
    Does Adolfo speaks english? If we want to work with him, is the phone the only way to contact him? (email?). Thanks for all this really useful information !

  7. Would you also recommend a driver on Ometepe. We don’t necessarily want a typical guided tour, just few stops like Oro de Agua, Petroglyphs, Myogalpa, as hiking might be too much for our kids and we would only stay for the day.

  8. Hi Debbie,
    We are planning our trip to Nicaragua in February and would love to work with Francisco !
    Is he working only by himself or with different people ? If different people, are they as kind as he seems to be ? Should we ask specifically for Francisco ? What do you think ?

    • Hi Nathalie,
      Where are you planning on traveling in Nicaragua? Francisco lives in Rivas, but he can take you wherever you want to go. Francisco works by himself, but occasionally, if he is booked and I need a ride, he calls his brother to take me. He is the sweetest taxi driver that I know. He is honest and friendly, and would never think of overcharging. Last week he told me that someone left a very expensive camera under the front seat of the taxi. He didn’t realize it was there until he returned home and cleaned the car. Fortunately, the person who lost the camera realized that he left it in the taxi and called Francisco. Francisco delivered it to him and the man wanted to give him a big reward, but Francisco wouldn’t accept it because it was only the right thing to do. That’s the kind of man he is. Francisco only speaks Spanish, but if he needs help understanding, he can call another brother of his who is fluent in English and the person who hires him can talk with his brother, Jose.

      • Good to hear ! Thank you !
        Would you also recommend a driver on Ometepe. We don’t necessarily want a typical guided tour, just few stops like Oro de Agua, Petroglyphs, Myogalpa, as hiking might be too much for our kids and we would only stay for the day.

  9. If in Nicaragua and looking for a great, friendly, guy with safe, reliable, transportation and always on time, Francisco is your guy.

    • Thanks, Mike, for your confidence in Francisco. He’s the best! One day in October, Francisco took me to the Happy Pet clinic in Rivas with my gravely ill cat. He stayed with me, when Dr. Carlos said the best thing to do was to euthanize my cat. After Black Jack died, they put him in a little box, but I didn’t want to take him back to Ometepe because of the heat and the long ride. Francisco said, “Don’t worry, Debbie.” “I’ll take him to my house and we will bury Black Jack for you.” That’s the kind of man Francisco is!

  10. Hello, while doing some research, i accidentally found your blog. Being a native of Nicaragua, i wanted to thank you for taking the time to show your appreciation and loyalty to a deserving person. I have heard in the past that the best way to express your gratitude for a job well done is through a referral and my friend, you have done more for Francisco than if you had printed a full page add in La Prensa which is one of the main printed news paper in Nicaragua. You may be asking yourself, Why am i replying to your blog?, well, I left my native country at an early age when i was blessed with the opportunity to live in the US but i frequently visit my abuela and friends and i am proud to tell my north american friends that although Nicaragua it self is work in progress for many reasons, we have many Franciscos in that country. Although Francisco does not know me, i am happy for him and hope he benefits from your blog. Each time i travel to Nicaragua i meet a new Francisco and i always try to help them as they are the main ingredient to a great country in the fuoture.

    I also want to encourage others to visit Nicaragua, I will be a great learning experience for your and yours.

    GN

    • Geraldo, this is an absolutely touching and heartwarming comment. Thank you so much. Although Nicaragua is a beautiful country, the people sold us on moving here! They are warm, friendly, vivacious, and kind. I want to pay forward my blessings to all the Franciscos in Nicaragua. πŸ™‚
      Francisco has benefited from my blog. He has new business daily. The other day, he took me to Granada and along the way, we talked about the Grand Nicaraguan Canal Project. Francisco’s land and house sit right in the way of the proposed canal! I am so upset about this canal. Poor Francisco.
      When you visit, where does your abuela live? If you are ever on Ometepe Island, come visit. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

  11. Great blog post! Thanks for all the tips! I hope you don’t mind if we borrow Francisco when we are in Nica this winter! Does he speak any English? My Spanish is not great, but I plan on it getting a lot better before our visit. πŸ™‚

  12. Excellent blog entry! Thank you for all the tips. I hope you don’t mind if we “borrow” Francisco while we are in Nica this winter! Does he speak English at all? My Spanish is rusty, but getting better. πŸ™‚

  13. Thank you for the excellent briefing on Taxi’s in Nicaragua, many of the same things happen in Panama. If you are ever going to be in Panama, arriving at TocumΓ‘n or in PC, call or email Luis Arce, 507-6536-1179, luistaxi777@yahoo.com. He speaks English, has a mini van, so can accommodate a lot of luggage and is very honest. The first time we emailed him, 2 months before flying to Panama, he called us back in California from his cell phone in Panama, 30 minutes after I emailed him, to make sure that he had the correct information. How many taxi drivers ever call you long distance to confirm!

  14. As we were finishing one of our earliest trips to Mexico, we hired a taxi in Cd. JΓΊarez to take us across the border to the U.S. side. He was in a hurry, and drove on the wrong side of the International Bridge, a real feat of daring, as a hump in the middle of the bridge prevented him from seeing oncoming traffic. He then infiltrated back into the correct lane, but the Mexican officials had called the U.S. officials, and he had to go back to the end of the line..

    Much more recently, in Mexico City, we had our hotel desk call a cab to take us to the Airport. Because of the one way layout of the streets, it was much shorter a distance for us to begin our ride by backing up for about four blocks, including around a corner. As we emerged onto the main avenue, we narrowly missed another cab backing up. Fortunately, all this took place before dawn, and traffic was light.

    Saludos,
    Don Cuevas

  15. Great info. We too have a taxi driver that we use exclusively when we are in Portoviejo. Roberth is a sweetie and we consider him to be part of our family now. I’ll have to do a blog and tell my personal scary story and put out another warning of what not to do when you need a taxi. Glad you were able to find a driver that you feel safe with. Mary

  16. Wow, guess I’ve just been lucky – though I believe and trust your experience. (I’ve also heard some horror stories similar to yours.) But my taxi experiences have fortunately been generally positive. Usually I try to always take the passenger seat in front so no one can be crowded in beside me – even in a collectivo. Then I try to strike up a conversation with the cabbie about his history of driving, does he own the cab etc. Usually they take great pride and most (not all) of my drivers have probably been at least as safe drivers as U.S. taxis. (Again, maybe I’ve just been lucky.) I agree about the pricing difficulties but usually even my partial Spanish works out most deals favorably. I guess my overwhelming impression of cab rides in Nicaragua is continuing credulity that these guys (never had a female cabbie) can possibly make a living. The price of fuel and condition of roads means that the margin on even a lengthy cab ride is incredibly slim. No wonder some of them go bad – not unlike in other professions. All your precautions are well taken. But I still generally enjoy the adventure of a Nicaraguan cab ride and hope I never have reason to change that perhaps naive approach!

    • Great information, Jon. I hope you never have reason to change your naive approach, either. Actually, your approach is far from naive. It sounds like you take the normal precautions. I, too, am a very trusting person. I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had most of the horrible experiences, but I know too many people who have. I hate traveling in Managua, Granada, and Masaya and trying to find a taxi driver who gives me a “good” feeling. How does one know? Usually, everyone gives me a good feeling in Nicaragua…and that’s when the problems start. Once when traveling in Managua with our friend, Robinson, he told us to hide in the bushes and he would flag down a taxi. He negotiated a ‘local’ price, and then we popped out of the bushes and hopped in the taxi. Why should we have to do this? It’s crazy!
      I have never seen a woman taxi driver in Nicaragua. That’s why I specifically used the pronoun, ‘he’. I wonder if women taxi drivers exist? If I find one, I’m going to interview her for my blog.
      And the roads and obstacles on the roads are really frightening! Sometimes, I just have to close my eyes and grip my seat. The cars, buses, and motos weave in and out of cows, horses, bicycles, and people, as well as pass at frightening speeds on blind curves. It scares me to death. Francisco knows I’m a nervous passenger, and he is very gentle when driving with me. It’s kind of like “Driving Miss Daisy.” haha.

  17. Omg … francisco is very lucky to have you as a friend and loyal customer! I wish there were more taxi w fares set. Very useful info! thank you.
    Especially in a foreign land and not being fluent in the language the trouble will always b who can u trust!

I'd love to read your ideas and thoughts below....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s