“Are you worried when the police stop you?” I asked.
“Not at all,” he responded. “Everything is legal and correct.”
A friend, visiting Nicaragua for the first time, arrived in Rivas on a chicken bus. She needed a taxi to San Jorge to catch the ferry…about a five-minute ride. She told me that she paid $20 for the taxi ride from Rivas to San Jorge. I was furious because a colectivo ( a taxi that takes numerous people around the Rivas area ) charges 20 cords per person. An expreso ( a taxi that takes only one person to San Jorge from Rivas) charges 100 cords.
Lessons Learned about Legal Taxi Drivers in Nicaragua
1. Legal taxi drivers have red stripes above and below their license plates. They are required to have a license plate on the front and back of their taxis. They buy the license plates for a minimum of 3,000 cords depending on the regulations of the departmento
( kind of like the state in which they live). The license plates are good forever.
2. All legal taxi drivers have to have an emissions and inspection sticker displayed on the front of their windshield. These are renewed yearly.
3. Legal taxi drivers have to buy a plaque that they display in their taxi that shows if they are transporting clients or they are open for taking more clients.
4. The cost of transport is not regulated by the government for all trips. Thus, always ask how much a trip will be before getting into a taxi. Generally, in the Department of Rivas, a colectivo is 20 cords per person. An expreso taxi will only take one person or a family to one place and it will cost 100 cords.
In Granada, a colectivo costs 10 cords per person during the day and 20 cords per person in the evening. But, be prepared for a long ride because the taxi driver picks up people and drops them off depending on the route.
5. There are specific locations where colectivos and expresos wait for passengers in the Rivas area. Be cautious in the market in Rivas! The bus station is in the market and this is a problem area for illegal taxi drivers who ripoff unsuspecting tourists.
The expreso taxis are usually lined up on the main road in Rivas leading to the bus station. The bus will drop you off on the main road and if you want a taxi to San Jorge, it will cost you 100 cords and they won’t take any other passengers.
The colectivos are always driving around town, so you have to hail a taxi and ask if they are a colectivo. Your best option is to walk away from the market after getting off a bus and hail a colectivo.
6. Are all legal taxis safe? When I asked my taxi driver, he looked at me and chuckled. “It depends on where you are,” he said. “For example, in Managua, there are bandit taxi drivers. Some of them are legal, most aren’t. They will rob you at gun point and kick you out of their taxis.”
Which leads me to a very important question…How can I help unsuspecting tourists?
Always check for the legal taxi license plate.
Take a picture of it with your phone if you suspect there may be problems. Then, it is easier to show the police and they can track the bandito.
Always ask, Cuánto cuesta? BEFORE getting into a taxi.
It is probably a good idea to ask if it is a colectivo or an expreso. If you prefer an expreso, then you will pay more because the taxi driver won’t pick up other passengers.
Good luck and remember that generally, the legal taxi drivers want your return business, so they will always try to please you.