Lessons Learned about Legal Taxi Drivers in Nicaragua

IMG_8390Returning to San Jorge from Granada last week, I had an interesting conversation with my taxi driver. We were stopped by the traffic police in order to check the taxi driver’s legal documents.

“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.

Some more tips for a safe taxi ride can be found here A Guide to Taxi Service in Nicaragua and here Tourist Scams in Nicaragua: Taxi Robbery Edition

Good luck and remember that generally, the legal taxi drivers want your return business, so they will always try to please you.

17 thoughts on “Lessons Learned about Legal Taxi Drivers in Nicaragua

  1. Managua is the only city I know with negotiated prices. I advise people to ask what the local fares are — bus station folks, hotel staff, restaurant staff. Seems like most cities are 10 Cordobas during the day and a surcharge at night for collectivos. I long since stopped worrying about collectivos. If I’m taking a cab from Managua to Jinotega at night, I call someone when I’m in the cab. I’ve had a driver once who also called his wife to let him know where he was going to be.

  2. Hi Debbie. Sorry your friend got scammed. This happens worldwide. I was scammed in Bombay partly because I did not speak “rupees” but as it turns out the driver was quick through the traffic and helpful with other information, so not a big loss. I was also scammed big time in Chicago with the fare from O’Hare to downtown, first time I was there, as the driver took me for a joy ride. After twelve years there it could never happen again. It have never been scammed in Nicaragua, but I am sure given the opportunity it could happen. My grandmother rip, had a great saying, “En arca abierta hasta justo peca”. We all need to do our do diligence, particularly in a foreign country, as I learned in Chicago. Is Ron’s path holding up with the rains?

    • Thanks, Ernesto. I know we have to be diligent everywhere, but for tourists coming to Nicaragua for the first time, it is so confusing. I like Lovetotravel’s comment, “Learning to take a taxi is like studying for a university degree.”
      Ron’s path is holding up well with the rains. The key was to embed the stepping stones level with the ground. In our elementary school park, the stepping stones are all cracked and moving because they placed them on top of the ground instead of embedding them.

  3. As always, great information. While we were living in Granada we used mostly the colectivos and it was unsettling sometimes as passengers piled in and out during a specific trip . However, we were able to initiate some conversations and exchange smiles so it was worth the interaction. And the price can’t be beat! Anita

  4. Had great experiences with all my drivers last two weeks here in NIcaragua..super sweet…helpful…and fair.
    hope it continues when I move to GRanada in September!!!!
    Loved Ometepe..Via Verde b and b fabulous ..and food at Campastre..
    in Balgue…..Great!
    found a fabulous old colonial to rent for a year in Granada..with amazing furniture and style..looking forward to my next adventures in this lovely country!!!!!!

  5. I’m embarrassed to say that I was scammed in Rivas by a cab charging too much. What was the worst part is that I really know better! Bottom line: when traveling with 2 or more, always ask cada o ambos? Cada doubles your price.

    Great article, Debbie. I hope next time you’re in Granada, I will be here too!

    • Rich, I can’t begin to count the times we’ve been scammed by taxi drivers. It’s such a common occurrence. I am so grateful to have a trustworthy taxi driver who is like a part of our family. Sorry to have missed you in Granada, but I’ll be back soon to return the clothes I borrowed from Pat.

  6. I have a taxi story from San Jorge to Rivas. We negotiated a fair (way too much), and then rushed to the car, driven quickly, unloaded in rush, then the driver begged for more fair that was flatly refused. I determined that the final fare negotiation had been a distraction. It wasn’t until we reached Granada that I realized my smallest pack had not been unloaded. Luckily insignificant items where in the pack. I learned a valuable lesson that you can’t trust a smile when someone handles personal items. Next time I will be far more aware.

    On a happy note, I really enjoyed Nicaragua and would love to return one day. And of course Ometepe Island was a highlight our our adventure.

  7. In 2004 taxis in Panama were all colors. Now they are all painted yellow. I always determine the price before I get in. I do not make a fuss if the drivers overcharges by a quarter or so. A tip is not expected. A horn is a required piece of equipment. A foot on the pedal and hand on the horn is the only way to go. Most rides around town are $1.50 to $2.00. The local bus is 35 cents.

  8. I love travelling but the taxi situation can be so draining.. knowing what to take and how to take it safely. I am moving to Cairo soon and there are huge posts on the taxis there. Learning to take one there is like studying for a university degree. Managua is such a problem…no wonder the cities (or capitals) in Central/South America get such bad reputations when you feel like it is so challenging to move from point A to B safely and without getting majorly ripped off. I prefer to walk if i can safely.

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