Wednesday, 23 May 2018

MOROCCO: Royal Air Maroc To Fly To 5 East African Nations, Signs Codeshare With Alitalia

Royal Air Maroc RAM has signed a code sharing agreement with Alitalia to boost air links between Morocco and Italy.

Under the deal, they will increase air links between Morocco and Italy to 29 from 7, RAM said in a statement on Wednesday.

Royal Air Maroc (RAM) the national carrier for Morocco announced plans to launch flights to five other East African cities.

Royal Air Maroc already has flights from Casablanca to Nairobi.

Royal Air Maroc Country manager in Kenya, Othman Baba says the move, caused by their gainful experience on the Nairobi route.

Royal Air Maroc which joined the 23-member single African air transport market (SAAM) last year, has said it will ride on the continental aviation framework, to speed up regulatory approvals.

It is so far the only North African airline that runs a direct Nairobi—Ndjamena (Chad) flight.

We will be extending operations in East Africa in in the short-term with new destinations like Dar es Salaam, Harare, Kigali, Maputo and Khartoum,he said.

With more than 30 destinations in West Africa, it is imperative that Royal Air Maroc has decided to spread into East Africa to share on the lucrative East African market.

Royal Air Maroc started with two weekly flights to Nairobi in 2016, but has since increased frequency to three fights a week.

Royal Air Maroc, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian, South African and Egypt Air are Africa’s largest flying Airlines.

Air Maroc says its key success point remains its low ticket prices.

Royal Air Maroc maintains strict control over its costs structure and processes, resulting in lower ticket price and cargo tariffs.

Tourism Observer

KENYA: Kenya Airways Cuts Baggage Allowance,Seeks Exemption From Competition Regulations

Kenya Airways is seeking exemption from competition rules in its joint venture deal with Tanzania’s national carrier Precision Air.

KQ, which has a 41.23 stake in Precision Air wants regulatory approval to discuss revenue sharing, price setting, route schedules, sales and marketing on the two airline’s joint venture routes in Kenya and Tanzania.

The two carriers already have a code-sharing agreement that allows airlines to sell seats on each other’s planes on the Nairobi-Dar es Salaam route.

They have now applied to be exempted from competition regulations until April 2022.

In the joint venture agreement, the parties intend to align and coordinate reciprocal code sharing on the joint venture routes, said Competition Authority of Kenya director-general Wang’ombe Kariuki in a notice.

The routes in discussion are Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu, Dar-es-salaam, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar.

The parties intend to align and coordinate network management activities with respect to the Joint Venture including terms of routes, schedules, capacity and designation, pricing of ticket fares on the joint venture routes says Mr Wang’ombe.

The two airlines are also seeking exemption of competition rules in the management of any and all revenues attributable to the performance of the joint venture by any party.

These including without limit, setting up joint venues management systems and joint venue analysis systems, and joint marketing and sales activities with respect to joint venture.

Although competition laws forbid collusion to set prices, the law also allows companies to apply for exemptions. The Competition Authority gave the public 30 days to submit opinions on the proposal.

Meanwhile, Kenya Airways reduced baggage allowance on its intra-Africa routes to one bag, making it more expensive to fly with additional baggage.

The airline previously allowed users flying in Economy Class from one African country to another two bags of a maximum weight of 23 kilogrammes.

Flyers will now be allowed to have only one bag, with charges applicable for extra bags.

Baggage charges are a popular revenue makers for airlines.

Kenya Airways will implement a new baggage policy that will entitle its guests to 20 per cent discount on any extra bag purchases up to 24 hours to departure.

In addition to reduced extra baggage, fees within intra-Africa flights, guests will be entitled to one free bag in the Economy Class cabin at a maximum weight of 23 kilogrammes per passenger, Kenya Airways says.

The carrier however said the intra-Africa one bag allowance will not apply to passengers travelling to and from other continents, while Business Class passengers will maintain their allowance of two free bags at 32 kilogrammes maximum weight per bag.

Charges added onto the actual cost of a ticket have become a way for carriers to make additional income while keeping the cost of tickets low.

The carriers charge Economy Class passengers fees for baggage, legroom and seat selection.

The new baggage policy is part of Kenya Airways’ strategy to provide simplified and discounted competitive prices for passengers who book their extra baggage, any time before 24 hours to departure while enhancing customer service for our guests, says Kenya Airways Group Managing Director and CEO Sebastian Mikosz.

Tourism Observer

CURACAO: Free Trade Zone, Sex Destination. Prostitution Is Legal Here

Curaçao is an island in the Caribbean, among the group known as the ABC Islands alongside Aruba and Bonaire. This trio is located near Venezuela, and are considered to be outside the Caribbean's so-called hurricane zone.

This means that vacations to the island are rarely disrupted by such tropical storms. Curaçao is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

One of the most notable things about the island is its culture. This Dutch Caribbean island features building styles you'd find in the Netherlands, but painted in beautiful pastel shades.

However, the people of the island have developed a culture, and even a language, of their own. Papiamentu or Papiamento, is the island's native Creole.

Papiamentu is a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch. Official spelling has existed for only a few years.

Curaçao is a Lesser Antilles island in the southern Caribbean Sea and the Dutch Caribbean region, about 65 km (40 mi) north of the Venezuelan coast. It is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The country was formerly part of the Curaçao and Dependencies colony (1815–1954) and is now formally called the Country of Curaçao it includes the main island of Curaçao and the uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao or Little Curaçao.

It has a population over 160,000 in an area of 444 km2 (171 sq mi), and its capital is Willemstad.

Before the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles on 10 October 2010, Curaçao was administered as the Island Territory of Curaçao, one of five island territories of the former Netherlands Antilles.

Willemstad is the largest city in and capital of the Netherlands Antilles. It is on the island of Curacao.

Flights are regularly from Amsterdam, the other Lesser Dutch Antilles Aruba, Bonaire or US destinations.

There are no ferries or other regular connections by boat, but you do find the island on most of the cruise ships that pass by the vicinity.

Vienna Biergarten, Handelskade (Willemstad, Curacao). 08:00-22:00. Very good cafe with great food, Great beer & Great service. Right on the Harbor so watch the ships come in all day.

Curaçao experienced an economic downturn in the early 1980s. Shell's refinery on Curaçao operated with significant losses from 1975 to 1979, and again from 1982 to 1985.

Persistent losses, global overproduction, tougher competition, and low market expectations threatened the future of the Shell refinery in Curaçao.

In 1985, after a presence of 70 years, Royal Dutch Shell decided to end its activities on Curaçao. Shell's announcement came at a crucial moment; the fragile economy of Curaçao had been stagnating for some time.

Several revenue-generating endeavours suffered even more during this period: tourism from Venezuela collapsed after the devaluation of the bolivar.

The transport industry deteriorated with deleterious effects on the profits of the Antillean Airline Company, and the Curaçao Dry Dock Company experienced major setbacks.

The offshore industry especially financial services, also experienced a downturn because of new tax laws in the United States.

In the mid-1980s, Shell sold the refinery for the symbolic amount of one Antillean guilder to a local government consortium.

The aging refinery has been the subject of lawsuits in recent years, which charge that its emissions, including sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, far exceed safety standards.

The government consortium currently leases the refinery to the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.

Due to an economic slump in the late 1990s and early 2000s, emigration to the Netherlands has been high.

On 1 July 2007, the island of Curaçao was due to become a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On 28 November 2006, this was delayed when the island council rejected a clarification memorandum on the process.

A new island council ratified this agreement on 9 July 2007. On 15 December 2008, Curaçao was scheduled to become a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands as Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles were.

A non-binding referendum on this plan took place in Curaçao on 15 May 2009, in which 52 percent of the voters supported these plans.

The dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles came into effect on 10 October 2010. Curaçao became a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with the Kingdom retaining responsibility for defence and foreign policy.

The kingdom was also to oversee the island's finances under a debt-relief arrangement agreed between the two. Curaçao's first prime minister was Gerrit Schotte. He was succeeded in 2012 by Stanley Betrian, ad interim.

After elections in 2012 Daniel Hodge became the third prime minister, on 31 December 2012. He led a demissionary cabinet until 7 June 2013, when a new cabinet under the leadership of Ivar Asjes was sworn in.

Although Curaçao is autonomous, the Netherlands has interfered when necessary to ensure that parliamentary elections were held and to assist in finalizing an accurate budget.

In July 2017, Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath stated that he wants the island to take full responsibility, but asked for more cooperation and assistance from the Netherlands.

He asked with suggestions for more innovative approaches to help Curaçao succeed, increasing the standard of living.

The Dutch government reminded Curaçao that it has provided assistance with Oil Refinery negotiations with the Chinese on numerous occasions.

Curaçao, as well as the rest of the ABC islands and also Trinidad and Tobago, lies on the continental shelf of South America. Curaçao's highest point is the Sint Christoffelberg 372 m (1,220 ft)[30].

The coastlines bays, inlets and hot springs offer an on-site source of natural mineral, thermal, or seawater used in hydrotherapy and mesotherapy, making this island one of many balneoclimateric areas in the region.

Flora of Curaçao differs from the typical tropical island vegetation. Xeric scrublands are common, with various forms of cacti, thorny shrubs, evergreen, and the watapana tree, called divi-divi on Aruba, characteristic for the ABC islands and the national symbol of Aruba.

Curaçao has a tropical savannah climate with a dry season from January to September and a wet season from October to December.The temperatures are relatively constant with small differences throughout the year.

The trade winds bring cooling during the day and the same trade winds bring warming during the night. The coolest month is January with an average temperature of 26.5 °C (80 °F) and the warmest month is September with an average temperature of 28.9 °C (84 °F).

The year's average maximum temperature is 31.2 °C (88 °F). The year's average minimum temperature is 25.3 °C (78 °F).

Curaçao lies outside the hurricane belt, but is still occasionally affected by hurricanes, as for example Hazel in 1954, Anna in 1961, Felix in 2007, and Omar in 2008.

A landfall of a hurricane in Curaçao has not occurred since the United States National Hurricane Center started tracking hurricanes. Curaçao has, however, been directly affected by pre-hurricane tropical storms several times.

The latest to do so were Tomas in 2010, Cesar in 1996, Joan-Miriam in 1988, Cora and Greta in 1978, Edith and Irene in 1971, and Francelia in 1969.

Tomas brushed Curaçao as a tropical storm, dropping as much as 265 mm (10.4 in) of precipitation on the territory, nearly half of the annual precipitation in one day.

This made Tomas one of the wettest events in the island's history, as well as one of the most devastating; its flooding killed two people and caused over US$28 million in damage.

Meteo, the Curaçao Weather Department, provides up to date information about weather conditions, via its website and mobile apps for iOS and Android.

The northern sea floor drops steeply within 60 m (200 ft) of the shore. This drop-off is known as the blue edge.

On Curaçao, four major geological formations can be found: The lava formation, the Knip formation, the Mid-Curaçao formation and Limestone formations.

Curaçao has an open economy, with tourism, international trade, shipping services, oil refining, storage (oil and bunkering) and international financial services being the most important sectors.

The Venezuelan oil company PDVSA has a lease on the island's oil refinery expiring in 2019; the facility employs 1000 people, refining oil from Venezuela for export to the US and Asia.

Schlumberger, the world's largest oil field services company is incorporated in Curaçao. The Isla oil refinery is claimed to be responsible for Curaçao's position in the world's top five highest countries for CO2 emissions per capita.

Curaçao has its own currency and its economy is well developed, supporting a high standard of living, ranking 46th in the world in terms of GDP (PPP) per capita and 27th in the world in terms of nominal GDP per capita.

Curaçao possesses a high income economy, as defined by the World Bank. Activities related to the port of Willemstad like the Free Trade Zone make a significant contribution to the economy.

To achieve the government's aim to make its economy more diverse, efforts are being made to attract more foreign investment. This policy, called the Open Arms policy, features a heavy focus on information technology companies.

Reduced foreign demand due to Venezuelan unrest has led to decreased exports along with increased public demands for services and goods which has resulted in economic stagnation since 2016.

Expansion was recorded in the construction, financial intermediation, and utilities sectors while other aspects of the economy contracted.

While tourism plays a major role in Curaçao's economy, it is less reliant on tourism than other Caribbean countries. Most tourists originate from the Netherlands, Eastern United States, South America and other Caribbean Islands .

It is a leader in the Caribbean in cruise tourism growth with 610,186 cruise passengers in 2013, a 41.4% increase over the prior year.

Hato International Airport received 1,772,501 passengers in 2013 and recently announced capital investments totaling US$48 million aimed at transforming the airport into a regional hub by 2018.

In 2017 the tourism sector was expected grow at 1% in terms of the total tourist stay over and by 15% in total cruise visitors versus 2016.

The island's insular shelf has a sharp drop-off known as the Blue Edge which is often visited by Scuba diving tourists.

Coral reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving can be reached without a boat. The southern coast has calm waters as well as many small beaches, such as Jan Thiel and Cas Abou.

The coastline of Curaçao features numerous bays and inlets which serve as popular mooring locations for boats.

In June 2017, the island was named the Top Cruise Destination in the Southern Caribbean by Cruise Critic, a major online forum.

The winners of the Destination Awards were selected based on comments from cruise passengers who rated the downtown area of Willemstad as amazing and the food and shopping as excellent.

Some of the coral reefs are affected by tourism. Porto Marie Beach is experimenting with artificial coral reefs in order to improve the reef's condition.

Hundreds of artificial coral blocks that have been placed are now home to a large array of tropical fish.

Curaçao trades mainly with the United States, Venezuela, and the European Union.

It has an Association Agreement with the European Union which allows companies which do business in and via Curaçao to export products to European markets, free of import duties and quotas.

It is also a participant in the US Caribbean Basin Initiative allowing it to have preferential access to the US market.

Prostitution in Curaçao is legal only for foreign women who get a temporary permit to work in the large open-air brothel called Le Mirage or Campo Alegre that has operated near the airport since the 1940s, and for the men locals included who make use of their services.

Curaçao monitors, contains and regulates the industry. The government states that the workers in these establishments are thereby given a safe environment and access to medical practitioners.

This approach does exclude local women or men to legally make a living from prostitution and does lead to loss of local income as the foreign prostitutes send or take most of their earnings home.

The U.S. State Department has cited anecdotal evidence claiming that, Curaçao is destination island for women trafficked for the sex trade from Peru, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, according to local observers.

At least 500 foreign women reportedly are in prostitution throughout the five islands of the Antilles, some of whom have been trafficked.

The US Department of State has said that the government of Curaçao frequently underestimates the extent of human trafficking problems.

Prostitution in the Dutch Caribbean - Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten is legal and regulated.

At least 500 foreign women are reportedly working in prostitution throughout the islands. Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Curaçao are sex tourism destinations.

Prostitution has been known to exist in Curacao since pirates and privateers used the island in the 17th century. In the 1920s, oil refineries were opened on the island.

Women migrated to the island to service the needs of the oil workers and sailors from the tankers. In the 1930s and 1940s, Venezuelan, Colombian, and Dominican prostitutes operated in the town centre.

The arrival of the Dutch and American navies to guard the island in the 1940s increased the demand for prostitutes. The government banned prostitution from the town centre, but this was unenforceable.

The governor appointed a commission that included the police, the public health department and the clergy with a view to solving the prostitution problem.

They concluded that the best alternative was to concentrate prostitution in one location away from the town centre, The plan was for a complex of appeasements where prostitutes could work independently.

On May 30, 1949, the complex named Campo Alegre also called Le Mirage was opened.The brothel is still open and is the largest brothel in the Caribbean.

Only foreign prostitutes are allowed to work there, regular health checks are carried out and the women have to carry a health certificate or pink card.

Some prostitution occurs in other bars on the island and in small unlicensed brothels. Open-air snacks, where drinks and fast food are served are also places prostitutes attract clients.

Sex trafficking is a problem in the country.

There is a single state sanctioned brothel on each of the islands of Bonaire, Curacao, and Sint Maarten.

Curacao, Aruba, and Sint Maarten are destination islands for women trafficked for the sex trade from Peru, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.

In 2011, a human trafficking ring was broken up after trafficking women for sex exploitation from Colombia to Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and Bonaire.

Curaçao is a polyglot society. The official languages are Dutch, Papiamentu and English. Dutch is the sole language for all administration and legal matters.

Most of Curaçao's population is able to converse in at least two of the languages of Papiamentu, Dutch, English, and Spanish.

The most widely spoken language is Papiamentu, a Portuguese creole with African, Dutch and Spanish influences, spoken in all levels of society.

Papiamentu was introduced as a language of primary school education in 1993, making Curaçao one of a handful of places where a creole language is used as a medium to acquire basic literacy.

Spanish and English also have a long historical presence in Curaçao. Spanish became an important language in the 18th century due to the close economic ties with Spanish colonies in what are now Venezuela and Colombia and several Venezuelan TV networks are received.

Use of English dates to the early 19th century, when the British took Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire. When Dutch rule resumed in 1815, officials already noted wide use of the language.

According to the 2001 census, Papiamentu is the first language of 81.2% of the population. Dutch is the first language of 8%, Spanish of 4%, and English of 2.9%.

These numbers divide the population in terms of first language and do not account for the high rate of bilingualism in the population of Curaçao.

Because of its history, the island's population comes from a number of ethnic backgrounds.

While the majority of Curaçaoans are of Black African descent, there are sizeable minorities of Dutch, Latin American, French, South Asian.

East Asian including Javanese who descend largely from workers contracted from the island of Java in the former Dutch East Indies or modern Indonesia, Portuguese and Levantine people. Additionally, there are both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews.

The people of Curacao are of various faiths as follows:

- Roman Catholic; 72.8%

- Pentecostal; 6.6%

- Other Protestant; 3.2%

- Adventist; 3%

- Jehovah's Witnesses; 2%

- Evangelical; 1.9%

- Other; 3.8%

- None; 6%

- Unspecified; 0.6%

This includes a shift towards the charismatic renewal or charismatic movement since the mid-1970s. Other denominations include the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Methodist Church.

Alongside these Christian denominations, some inhabitants practice Montamentu and other diaspora African religions. Like elsewhere in Latin America, Pentecostalism is on the rise. There are also practising Muslims and Hindus.

The Catholic diocese of Willemstad encompasses all the territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean which includes Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and the islands of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

The diocese is also a member of the Antilles Episcopal Conference.

While small, Curaçao's Jewish community has had a significant impact on the island's history. Curaçao has the oldest active Jewish congregation in the Americas, dating to 1651.

The Curaçao synagogue is the oldest synagogue of the Americas in continuous use, since its completion in 1732 on the site of a previous synagogue.

Despite the island's relatively small population, the diversity of languages and cultural influences on Curaçao have generated a remarkable literary tradition, primarily in Dutch and Papiamentu.

The oral traditions of the Arawak indigenous peoples are lost. West African slaves brought the tales of Anansi, thus forming the basis of Papiamentu literature.

The first published work in Papiamentu was a poem by Joseph Sickman Corsen entitled Atardi, published in the La Cruz newspaper in 1905. Throughout Curaçaoan literature, narrative techniques and metaphors best characterized as magic realism tend to predominate.

Novelists and poets from Curaçao have made an impressive contribution to Caribbean and Dutch literature. Best known are Cola Debrot, Frank Martinus Arion, Pierre Lauffer, Elis Juliana, Guillermo Rosario, Boeli van Leeuwen and Tip Marugg.
Local food is called Krioyo and boasts a blend of flavours and techniques best compared to Caribbean cuisine and Latin American cuisine. Dishes common in Curaçao are found in Aruba and Bonaire as well.

Popular dishes include: stoba which is a stew made with various ingredients such as papaya, beef or goat, Guiambo - soup made from okra and seafood, kadushi - cactus soup, sopi mondongo - intestine soup, funchi - cornmeal paste similar to fufu, ugali and polenta and a lot of fish and other seafood.

The ubiquitous side dish is fried plantain. Local bread rolls are made according to a Portuguese recipe. All around the island, there are sneks which serve local dishes as well as alcoholic drinks.

The ubiquitous breakfast dish is pastechi: fried pastry with fillings of cheese, tuna, ham, or ground meat. Around the holiday season special dishes are consumed, such as the hallaca and pekele, made out of salt cod.

At weddings and other special occasions a variety of kos dushi are served: kokada - coconut sweets, ko'i lechi - condensed milk and sugar sweet and tentalaria - peanut sweets.

The Curaçao liqueur was developed here, when a local experimented with the rinds of the local citrus fruit known as laraha. Surinamese, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian and Dutch culinary influences also abound.

The island also has a number of Chinese restaurants that serve mainly Indonesian dishes such as satay, nasi goreng and lumpia which are all Indonesian names for the dishes.

Dutch specialties such as croquettes and oliebollen are widely served in homes and restaurants.

Curacao has a tropical Savannah climate, with little rain and warm temperatures throughout the year. Travelers will enjoy the low humidity and frequent breezes penetrating the heat of the day.

The native language of Curaçao is Papiamentu, which is a richly unique mixture of Portuguese and African languages, Spanish, with some influences from Amerindian languages, English, and Dutch.

Most people from the island speak this language in addition to Dutch, English, and Spanish. Almost everyone speaks some English. A few people also speak French, Portuguese or German.

Curaçao exists outside the right to abode laws of the Schengen Area therefore Schengen E.U. freedom of movement laws don't apply to

Although Curaçao is part of the Kingdom of Netherlands makeup, those living ouside Curaçao have limited freedom to visit Curaçao. Dutch nationals and citizens living outside Curaçao can visit visa-free for 6 months.

Visa Free. Those living in the countries and territories listed below can visit Curaçao visa-free for 30 to 60 days.

European Union/European Free Trade Association countries, Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil. Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia.

Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Grenada, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica.

Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican City, Uruguay and Venezuela.

These country's citizens get a lot of attention at Immigration. Those living in British Overseas Territories must follow the same visa exempt policy as the other countries mentioned.

Citizens of Canada, European Netherlands, Ireland, Saint Martin, a Schengen country, United States, United Kingdom holding a valid residence permit of the country/territory you live in are exempted from the visa requirement.

In early 2016 Curacao's Hato Airport was the first in the Caribbean to implement E-gates. Visitors can pre-register like with the US ESTA for Visa free entry to Curacao.

Filling out an online ED-Card can qualify you for the Curacao Visa Waiver Program and save you a lot of time waiting for a human Immigration Officer on arrival.

Captain, crew and passengers aboard a ship or aircraft are exempted from the visa requirement for no longer than 48 hours.

Those holding a official United Nations Laissez-Passer are exempted from the visa requirement.

Those who want to travel by air can enter at Curaçao's airport, Hato International Airport (CUR). It is located in Plaza Margareth Abraham, on the North side of the island, not far from the capital of Willemstad.

Services mostly International and regional carriers. American Airlines has daily flights from Miami and JetBlue offers 2 flights per week from New York's JFK airport. Also there are daily flights from Amsterdam KLM & TUIfly formerly Arkefly.

If you fly Insel Air, give yourself at least 24 hours grace period between any connecting flights. Insel Air is notorious for their unreliability and poor customer service.

Hato International Airport is located on the island. Its runway parallels, and is adjacent to, the northern coast.

It has services to the Caribbean region, South America, North America and Europe. Hato Airport is a fairly large facility.

It has the third longest commercial runway in the Caribbean region after Rafael Hernandez Airport in Puerto Rico and Pointe-a-Pitre International Airport in Guadeloupe. The airport serves as a main base for Insel Air, the national airline of Curaçao.

Cruise ships arrive at Curaçao Mega Pier or the Curaçao Cruise Terminal. From these ports it's just a short journey to many of the island's popular tourist destinations.

Travelers can also enjoy nearby shopping at duty-free stores. Larger ships will arrive at the Mega Pier, and smaller ships will dock at the Cruise Terminal.

Sailors can enter at ports in Willemstad which has various marinas at which seafaring travelers can dock their ships.

Cars can be rented for about $45 U.S. per day, from a variety of merchants at the Hato Airport and across the island.

The island is quite small, about 60Km long and up to 15Km wide, therefore renting a car on Curacao will maximize your reach and allow you to make the most of all the island has to offer.

Driving in Willemstad is pretty similar to most Caribbean locations, with aggressive drivers, loosely enforced traffic laws, and driving on the right side. Take special care on the weekends after 4pm.

As yet there is no way of measuring/enforcing driving under the influence of alcohol or speed violations.

Signs will be in Dutch and European traffic markings. Be advised that most streets are not marked with any signage, so get a map of Curacao out in advance.

If you are involved in an accident, local laws prohibit moving your car. You'll need to dial 199 for road service.

Do watch out for road hazards in the more rural stretches of the island outside of Willemstad, such as donkeys, goats, and iguanas.

If public transit isn't your style, and you don't want to rent your own car, taxis are another option. Be aware that taxis on Curacao do not have meters but has fixed rates stipulate by the government of Curacao.

They, too, are marked, and their plates read TX. Some taxi drivers will even be your tour guide for the day, if you ask. But remember to agree on a fee before heading out.

A standard fare from the Hato Airport to Willemstad will cost between US$30-35 for up to 4 passengers 7,50$ per person. It is advisable to either rent a car or ask your accommodation if they provide airport transfers.

These usually cost between US$10-20 per person.

There are two types of buses on the island, BUS. and Konvoi. The easiest way to ride is to go to one of the two bus stations in Willemstad.

These include Otrobanda Station, located across the street from the Rif Fort and Punda Station, at the post office, across from the Circle Market.

For the most part, the Punda bus station serves stops along the Eastern side of the ring, and to the East.

This including Salina, Zelandia, Mambo, while the Otrobanda station serves destinations West of the Bay, to include the Airport, Piscadera and even Westpunt.

The destinations do not typically overlap, so a 10-15 minute walk between stations may be necessary for cross island trips.

Konvoi are large metro-style buses which run infrequently between major points in the city. Prices and routes are set at about 2 NAf.

BUS., on the other hand, are 9-12 passenger vans which look a lot like a taxi. You can spot a BUS. by a cardboard cutout in the front windshield listing a number of its stops, instead of the yellow Taxi sign in the windscreen or on the roof.

Unlike taxis, the BUS. prices are not negotiable (1-3 NAf), but the route is. A common practice with bus drivers is to negotiate how close the driver can take you to your destination.

Be sure to ask the bus driver if the bus stops near your destination before entering. You can pay the driver while the BUS. is en route, or before exiting the bus.

You can board a bus anywhere on the island by waiting at one of the ubiquitous yellow Bushalte signs and waiving at a coming BUS. or Konvoi.

Taxi drivers will also try to lure you in. So make sure to look at the sign in the window or a licence plate that says BUS. to avoid paying high taxi fares.

The bus schedule varies, from about 6AM-8PM for most stops, and until 11pm or even midnight and sometimes later to Salina and Mambo.

If you are ever lost during daylight hours, just find a yellow bushalte sign, and the bus should take you to either Punda or Otrobanda.

The 2A and 2C from Punda and, presumably, 4B from Otrobanda all serve the airport. Don't bother trying to use the bus if you have lots of luggage.

Ferries are a great way for shoppers to get to and from some of the island's main shopping areas. Please do note however that there is no available ferry service between the ABC islands or to neighboring Venezuela.

There is a June 2015 initiative by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations of The Netherlands to implement a fast ferry between Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire to help foster budget travel between the Leeward Dutch Caribbean Islands

- Museum Kura Hulanda, Willemstad. Open Daily from 10:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. This anthropological museum chronicles the African slave trade as well as the cultures of Curacao. Entry: $9

- Postal Museum, Willemstad.

- Maritime Museum, Willemstad. Open Tu-Sa 9AM-4PM.

- Queen Emma Bridge or The Swinging Old Lady, Willemstad. A floating pontoon bridge that links the Punda or Point Side and the Otrobanda or Other Side of the Willemstad across the Sint Annabaai Channel.

You get to see the bridge open and close to away marine traffic into St. Anna Bay. In the event the bridge is open for a prolonged time, there is a ferry service across the channel as well.

- Queen Juliana Bridge, Willemstad. At 185 feet, this is highest bridge in the Caribbean and one of the tallest bridges in the world. The bridge overlooks St. Anna Bay as well as Willemstad.

- Christoffel National Park, West Point . A national park that is run by the by the Carmabi Foundation.

- Christoffel National Park is home to Boca Grandi, Indian caves where you can see paintings left by the Arawak Indians and Mount Christoffel. At 1292 feet high, Mount Christoffel is the highest point in Curacao.

- Shete Boka National Park, West Point. A national park also run by the by the Carmabi Foundation, Shete Boka is home to the 7 boca's including Boca Tabla and Boca Pistol also known as - The Shooting Pistol.

In season, some of the boca's serve as sea turtle breeding grounds.

- Curacao Sea Aquarium, Bapor Kibra Z/N. Home of the Dolphin Academy. This is one of the most popular attractions in Curacao.

If you wish to do a Dolphin activity book as early as possible. Entry price depends on activity you choose But paying for an activity such as something at the Dolphin Academy gets you entry to all of the Aquarium.

- Hato Caves, F.D. Rooseveltweg Z/N Open 7 days a week, with tours 2 times a day. Coral and limestone caves that was carved out below the sea and born when the sea level dropped.

There are beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations as well as water pools and a waterfall. The cave is also home to a colony of long nose fruit bats.

Because of the colony, photography is limited and not allowed in certain chambers.

- Snorkeling and Diving at Curacao's Marine Park. The complete southwestern side of Curacao is one large coral reef and marine park.

In the north you can dive at the Banda Abou National Park, in the center at the Central Curacao Underwater Park and in the south at the Curacau Underwater Park.

Curacao offers plenty of dive sites, from easy shore dives, pristine coral bay dives to sheer drop-offs especially in the southeast.

- Curacao Ostrich & Game Farm, Santa Catharina. The Curacao Ostrich Farm is one of the biggest Ostrich farms outside Africa. The tour takes you around the ostrich pens and incubator.

Meat from this farm is shipped to Aruba Ostrich is a red meat, which is high in protein and low in fat.

- Fort Amsterdam, Punda Side, Willemstad. The seat of the Netherlands Antilles, Fort Amsterdam sits at the mouth of the harbor at the end of the Sint Annabaai Channel on the point. The complex has restaurants, shops as well as the Governors Palace.

- Fort Nassau, Willemstad. Fort Nassau was built on the hill to defend both St. Anna Bay as well as part of the city of Willemstad. The fort is open for tours and there is also a restaurant that overlooks the bay.

- The Floating Market, Punda Side, Willemstad. The floating market is actually a mini boat fleet that comes in from Venezuela and sells ultra fresh fish and fruit at the best prices.

You'll find it roughly one block north of the Queen Juliana Bridge on the east side of the harbor mouth.

Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue. The oldest continuously operating synagogue in the western hemisphere, with a sand floor and museum containing ancient artifacts.

- Amazonia The Lost Cultures, Guided 1 hour tour, Santa Catharina 66 Right in front of Koral Tabak in L'Aldea, 9 am till 4.30 pm. A guided one hour tour with more than 100 exotic reptiles.

See amphibians, small mammals and big birds surrounded by acient cultures's ruins, temples and piramide. Tour hours .9 am - 10.30 am. - 01.30 pm. 3 pm. -04.30 pm. $10 and $20.

- Mikve' Israel Emmanuel Synagogue, Willemstad. Completed in 1730, this is the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the entire Western Hemisphere.

It was build by sephardic Jews whose ancestors fled to the Netherlands from Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition. A very interesting site to see. USD$10.

- Klein Curacao, Only accesible by ferry. This small deserted island 15 miles off the coast boasts Curacao's longest and most pristine white sand beach. You'll never see water any clearer and get to snorkel with sea turtles!

The island is only accesible by ferry or boat for day trips. Numerous companies leave several times per week for day trips.

Most packages include food. Mermaid Boat trips is the only company with beach chairs and huts to relax on the island as well as having large boat to prevent sea sickness. Well worth it and highly recommended. $USD100.

- Made in Curacao, Curacao. To do Made in Curacao, visit the site and find local producers. Find, feel, small, taste and experience the local culture.

The diving on the island can be quite nice, with warm waters, mild currents, and decent visibility. Numerous dive shops/centers are available and the average going rate for a one tank guided dive is 125 gilders ($70 USD), with gear included.

A popular site for diving and snorkeling is Tugboat, which has a pretty good coral wall though the wreckage of the tugboat itself may prove more interesting.

Some dive schools on Curacao also provide free transport to and from your accommodation. The most innovative of these have partnered with a hotel to offer a cheap and hassle free way of experiencing the island underwater.

Curaçao's beaches are concentrated on the southern coast, especially the western side. Find these from Rif St. Marie up to Westpunt.

This site provides aerial videos of the best Beaches on the West side of Curacao.

Playa Kalki, also known as Alice in Wonderland, is located at the far west end of the island past the town of Westpunt.

Kura Hulanda Lodge has a restaurant at the beach and Ocean Encounters West which is a full service dive shop. For a small fee, you have use of a dive locker for storage of personal items while diving/snorkeling and use of fresh water showers and equipment cleaning area.

Playa Grote Kenapa, also known as Big Knip is a large sand beach west of the town of Lagun.

Playa Kleine Kenapa, also known as Little Knip is another beach past the town of Lagun.

It is a nice secluded beach with plenty of shade trees if you desire to stay out of the direct sun. The bar/restaurant on this site operates on a sporadic schedule, so visit prepared.

Playa Jeremi is a small secluded beach slightly north of Lagun. There are no facilities here.

Playa Lagun, is a secluded bay towards the western end of the island in the town of Lagun. It is a small sandy beach on a rectangular shaped bay with tall cliffs on each side.

The waters adjacent to the cliffs is excellent place for snorkeling. Both sides of the bay along the cliffs are teaming with a wide variety of marine life and corals.

The left side of the bay has a greater variety of underwater structure for a better experience. The beach has the Discover Diving Curaçao dive shop which also has a small restaurant.

Playa Porto Mari is a large beach with a full service restaurant, and a complete dive shop including fresh water showers and restrooms operated by Porto Mari Sports

Cas Abao is a beach on a plantation. It is a long stretched sandy beach with lots of facilities including huts, beach chairs, restaurant, fresh water showers and bathrooms.

Daaibooi Baai is near Habitat in Rif st. Marie. Limited facilities. Huts, restrooms, grill area. Beautiful protected cove with calm waters. Avg depth: 20m

Pirate Bay is located on the Piscadera Bay. The location is a short drive a few miles west of downtown Willemstad near The Marriott and Hilton hotels. It has many beach amenities including showers/bathrooms, Hook's dive center and an excellent full service restaurant.

Habitat Beach is located in Rif St. Marie on the SW coast. It is Curacao's Newest beach and has a full service Dive Operator, DiveVersity, Habitat Dive Hotel, Oceans Restaurant, and in the gated community of Coral Estate.

Kontiki Beach is is about a ten minute drive east from downtown Willemstad near Breezes hotel. Kontiki is a full service beach offering watersports, shops, beachbar and a restaurant. It is also serviced by Ocean Encounters dive center.

Mambo Beach, Is next door to Kontiki beach and is the place where locals and tourists alike visit for the nightlife partying here.

Seaquarium Beach

Jan Thiel Beach


Barbara Beach Private beach and future home to the Hyatt Hotel.

The Dutch Antilles Guilder also called Florin is the official currency, but The U.S. Dollar($) is readily accepted.

Automatic teller machines are widely available throughout the island, and many machines will dispense Guilders and the U.S. Dollar. Currency can generally be exchanged at local hotels, casinos and places of business.

The exchange rate is generally pegged to the USD and stable. It is unlikely for tourists to be taken advantage when changing currency, but it is best to be aware of the current rates prior to arrival.

There are a plethora of random shops and markets around Willemstad offering clothing, souvenirs, crafts, and other goods. These include a commonly-termed duty free enclave in the downtown area.

Offerings emphasize European goods, to include jewelry, timepieces/watches and linens, plus the usual collection of souvenir shops. Perhaps not noted for great bargains, you may find items at decent prices you'll see nowhere else in the Caribbean.

A water front market lies on the near north side of the main shopping area. It's packed with fresh foods and flowers, best seen or shopped in the mornings.

On Sundays, however most businesses except restaurants in the city are closed.

Local cuisine in Curaçao is a mixture of European, West-Indian and East Asian particularly Indonesian flavours. Dutch influences are found in the use of cheeses, bread and seafood, which are also important in Curaçaoan food.

Indonesian cuisine, a migrant from Suriname, another of the Netherlands' former colonies, can be found on the island, and explains the widespread availability of Sate and Peanut sauce along with the islands more Caribbean fare.

Also, Chinese snacks can be found all over the island serving cheap Chinese food. They cater mostly to locals, but most serve good food.

Vegetarians will find enough options available if they are willing to go a bit out of their way to look. Also, some knowledge of basic Spanish or Dutch words describing food is helpful when speaking with locals to determine whether a dish is vegetarian.

Curacao is littered with Snacks, small bar restaurants which serve Chinese Food. These are typically inexpensive, double as convenience stores and bars, and are typically open later than most other restaurants which cater to local rather than European patrons.

Five Fingers Indonesian/Suriname Bar Restaurant, Breedestraat 1, Otrobanda - Blue House on the corner of Roodeweg .

Across from the Curoil and Colon Shopping Center. 11:00am to 6:30pm. Surinamese Restaurant & Seafood, Everyday Specials, Home-Cooked Meals & for a Good Price. $6 - $16.

Plasa Bieu, located in Punda, about 300 meters ENE of the floating bridge in Punda, is the favorite lunch spot of most, if not all, of the island's local-born population working in Punda.

Open M-F, 10am-3pm, the Plasa Bieu has about five restaurants within it, serving Chinese, Jamaican and Krioyo (local) food.

Try t Cabritu Stoba (stewed goat) at Grasia di Dios, for an excellent example of the island's local cuisine, at one of the only restaurants in Punda which offer it. 8-14 NAf

Downtown Cafe at the Hotel Estoril Breedestraat 179, located 200 west of the Arti Supermarket, on the Otrobanda Side's main shopping strip the Breedestrat/Roodeweg.

Open seven days per week 7A-8P, el Estoril, as the locals calls it, packs its seven or so tables full from about 10am-4pm, with Venezuelan, Colombian and Dominican expats.

The Estoril serves a mix of local and latin dishes, all served in a more typically latin style. Order at the bar and sit down when a seat becomes available. You'll be expected to share a table if your party cannot fill it. 8-20 NAf.

Seaside Terrace is located next to Breezes Hotel and close to Lions Dive Hotel and Mambo Beach near the end of Penstraat. Seaside Terrace has a limited menu, but serves delicious fresh fish - red snapper, dradu, tuna, etc.

If available, very well prepared lobster against very fair prices. The owner Amigo is very friendly and makes you feel at home right away.

On y va picnic With a picnic basket full of delicacies from On y va, your day at the beach becomes a unique experience. Order your favorite basket one day in advance and pick it up along the way to the beach, or let us deliver it.

They are located on your way to the beautiful beaches on the west side of the island. 26-45 NAF
Gouverneur de Rouville is a popular restaurant in Willemstad that serves a variety of continental European dishes in a wonderful atmosphere.

Located Just north of the floating bridge on the Otrobanda Side, 25-45NAf.

Oceans Restaurant is located at Habitat Dive Resort in Rif. St. Marie on the SW coast. Serves a wide variety of International and regional cuisine. Overlooks the Caribbean Sea in an open air casual decor. Has full service bar. 15-35 Naf

Wilhelmina Plein Cafe located 200 meters East of the Floating Bridge in Punda, this cafe is a favorite among the island's many Dutch interns and businessmen.

Wilhelmina Plein Cafe offers exclusively outside seating along a major pedestrian thoroughfare, with good food and one of the island's better beer selections. 18-28 NAF

Vincent's Cafe Copa Cabana is a relatively hidden cafe just East of the Iguana Lounge's Main bar along the water on the Punda side of the bay.

Skip the overpriced and mediocre waterfront restaurants on the Punda side and go to Vincent's for great sandwiches as well as a number of good daily special entree's.

Vincent's is an outdoor Cafe under the shade of a number of trees and the two buildings between which it is sandwiched, which also create a very pleasant breeze. 8-20NAf. M-S Lunch - 6:30PM.

Old Dutch Cafe Located on the Pietermaaiweg 500m East of the Bay on the Punda Side, the Old Dutch Cafe serves inexpensive Dutch cuisine with a Kitchen that stays open late into the night. 15-28 NAf. Closed Sundays.

Kontiki Beach Club is a seaside restaurant offering good food in an idyllic location right on the beach. It is a little outside of the city, but it is well worth the short drive.

La Granja is a Peruvian influenced chain restaurant with a very local feel, serving great latin cuisine, including excellent Whole Chicken, Lomo Saltado, and other great dishes. Sta Rosaweg 15-25 NAf. Open 7 days.

Il Forno is a popular italian/pizza restaurant with two locations, Caracasbaai location and Doormanweg location serving European (though not Italian) style pizzas with fresh and delicious ingredients. 15-30 NAf.

Kasbanini located in the Rif Fort, 100m South of the floating bridge on the Otrobanda Side, is probably the best of the Rif Fort's five or so mid level restaurants. Offering typical seafood and chops with a bit of local flair. 30-40 NAf. 7 Days, Lunch and Dinner.

La Pergola located in the Old Fort on the Southwest Side of Punda, is likely the island's best italian restaurant.

Offering good pasta dishes as well as a few innovative 'secondi', La Pergola's quaint waterfront view completes an excellent dining experience. 25-40 NAf.

Golden Star is located on the Dr. W.P. Maalweg, on the way to Salinja. It serves local creole food and drinks, and is a good value for the amount of food you get. Prices vary from 15-25 NAf for a main course with sides.

L'Aldea (Brazilian all you can eat steakhouse), Santa Catharina 66, Right before Koral Tabak. 6pm till 11 pm. L'Aldea is a brazilian all you can eat steakhouse. Huge salad bar with cold and warm dishes.

Ambience: rainforest and Mayan and Inca's ruins. Free shuttle from Hotels available with reservation. $26 - $46.

Bistro le Clochard, located in the Rif Fort, offering outstanding French Cuisine with a beautiful waterfront view, Bistro le Clochard is an excellent restaurant with superlative service. Open 7 days. 50-80 NAf

Scultpure Garden Restaurant located in the Kura Hulanda Hotel one block West of the Governeur Restaurant, Sculpture Garden offers excellent international cuisine with some very innovative specials

Amstel Bright Beer. Amstel Bright is a beer that used to be locally brewed by Antillaanse Brouwerij which is a subsidy of Heineken International. It is a pale style lager an usually served with a wedge of lime.

Curacao. is famous for the blue alcoholic beverage of the same name, now also available in yellow/gold. It is made from bitter oranges grown on the island.

Tap Water. which comes from a large seawater desalination distillation plant, is excellent tasting and perfectly safe for consumption.


Poppy Hostel Curacao, Mgr. Niewindtstraat 20, Otrobanda 10min walk from Pontoon bridge down Breedestraat. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 12:00. Private Rooms @ Hostel Prices. Cozy restored and renovated UNESCO listed property in Central Willemstad.

10 min walk to anywhere in town, some beaches included. All 5 rooms are private no dorms and sleep between 1-3 persons. Common areas: Lounge, Kitchen, Covered Patio. 2 large/modern bathrooms for 7 guests max. Free Wi-Fi. from 25-50$ p/night.

Sunscape Curaçao, Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd 78, Willemstad. All inclusive beachfront resort. It includes three restaurants; Oceana (Seafood), Di Mario Restaurant (Italian), and Himitsu (Pan-Asian), plus a beach grill, and a children's snack bar.

Curacao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino has excellent restaurants such as the Portofino Restaurant and the Seabreeze Bar and Grill, which specialize in local dishes and fresh seafood.

Curacao Island rentals has many properties available for rent ranging from simple 1 bedroom accommodation to luxurious 4 bedroom villa's located all over the island.

Flamingo Villa, St. Willibrordus. Luxury villa that sleeps 12 people with a private pool and overlooks the magnificent Caribbean Sea.

Hilton Curaçao, John F Kennedy Boulevard PO Box 2133, Willemstad.

Hotel Scharloo, van den Brandhofstraat 12, Willemstad. A new hotel in town, an old colonial building that has been totally restored.

Pietermaai Smal Apartments, Pietermaai Smal 51, 20 meters away from the Caribbean sea. In a 200 years old renovated country house surrounded with an stylish swimming pool, you will find boutique hotel style apartments. Apartments with a distinctive design.

Seaside Curacao, St. Willibrordus, Banda Abou. 10+ private villas to choose from. New beach-bar and restaurant, private pools sleeps 4-10 in a pure countryside setting with friendly security.

Westhill Bungalows, Westpunt, west from Willemstad. A place for a short or extended stay. Just up from Playa Forti and a short drive from other great beaches, each of the 2 bedroom bungalows are well equipped and all have kitchens. Nice grounds, pool and wonderful owners. 100.

Villa Carpe Diem Curacao, Vista Royal B6, Curacao, Jan Thiel. Luxury villa with private pool. Located in Jan Thiel, within walking distance of the beach and the Spanish Water. Perfect for large families with children.

Ritz studios, Scharlooweg 25, Eight minutes walk from down town. checkin: 2:00; checkout: 12:00. The Ritz Studios are situated in the former Ritz Ice cream factory and loacetd in the historic heart of Willemstad.

City center and historic places are on walking distance. Pool, tv, kitchenette, mini market, car rental, walk to downtown and buses. Friendly staff. $35-$

Villa Seashell, Coral Estate. Oceanfront villa with private pool. Beach, restaurant & dive shop just down the street. Sleeps 8, with 4 bedrooms all with a private bathroom.

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Santa Barbara Plantation, Porta Blancu, Nieuwpoort, Curaçao. Experience luxury at the Santa Barbara Beach Resort in Curaçao, with golf & spa services to meet all your needs in paradise.

Safety is not a big issue on Curacao. The locals are friendly, welcoming, and willing to give assistance. After all, a major part of their island's income comes from tourists. There is crime but this is not something the average tourist needs to worry about.

It is generally safe to walk the streets of the capital, Willemstad, during daylight, even in some of the less populous areas.

In regards to walking at night some locals say it's safe with no problem, while others recommend against it. Nevertheless, this island is most definitely among the safest of Caribbean travel destinations.

If you rent a car, do not, under any circumstances, leave any personal belongings in the car. Like anywhere else, car break-ins are not uncommon on the island. If you think you are alone, you may not be.

If you think your trunk is a safe place to store belongings, it is not. Even if your items are of little value, you still have to deal with the cost for a replacement window, the headache of dealing with your rental car company, and a wasted day filing police reports.

Exiting Curacao will require you to pay exit tax not included in your flight ticket, Unless you're flying KLM or TUI/Arkefly about 40 USD for international flights, Visa and Mastercard accepted and 20 USD for regional connections in cash only.

Ferries to the other islands or to Venezuela are not available, yet. Do not try to arrange passage to South America from Curacao on a ship without investigating the requirements.

Aruba, Smallest of the ABC island, 20 minutes away by airplane.

Bonaire, A paradise for divers, 20 minutes away by airplane.

Saint Martin, A former member of the Netherlands Antilles, with many Gourmet, Shopping and Beach options.

Suriname, A former Dutch colony in South America, culturally linked to the Dutch Caribbean.

Venezuela, South American mainland to the south; the nearest country.


Otrobanda is one of the historically important quarters of Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao.

The district was developed in the 18th cenury and picked up in the early 19th century when the once walled city of Punda became overpopulated.

Otrobanda was connected to Punda in 1888 via the Queen Emma Bridge and in 1974 by the Queen Juliana Bridge. The main center of Willemstad is separated in two quarters: Punda and Otrabanda, which stands for 'city' and 'the other side'.

Kura Hulanda is one of the best restorations of Otrabanda. Many of the over 700 UNESCO listed buildings in Willemstad have been restored and or renovated to serve as homes, shops, offices and accommodations like Poppy Hostel Curacao.

The restored area now shelters Riffort Village, a shopping and entertainment center that offers panoramic views of Punda and the sea. The Brionplein is the centerpiece of Otrobanda’s waterfront.

Willemstad, Capital of Curaçao

Willemstad is the capital city of Curaçao, a Dutch Caribbean island. It’s known for its old town center, with pastel-colored colonial architecture.

The floating Queen Emma Bridge connects the Punda and Otrobanda neighborhoods across Sint Anna Bay. By the water is the 19th-century Rif Fort, now housing a shopping center.

City restaurants serve dishes influenced by the island's mostly Dutch and Afro-Caribbean cuisines.

In the city center is the sand-floored, 18th-century Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue. The adjoining museum offers religious and cultural artifacts.

The Kura Hulanda Museum has displays tracing the history of the African slave trade, as well as cultural relics and Caribbean art.

The city is a gateway to western beaches such as Blue Bay, where scuba divers can access a vertical coral wall from the shore. Other beaches include Seaquarium Beach, next to the Curacao Sea Aquarium.

The aquarium is home to stingrays, sea lions and sea turtles, and features an interactive touch tank.


Curaçao's Carnival is one of the largest and longest-lasting Carnival spectacles of the Caribbean and one of the best times to visit the island.

Carnival began as a Catholic rite to represent the Christian practice of “Carne Levale,” or giving up meat for Lent.

In the 19th century, Curaçao continued the tradition by organizing masquerade parties and marches in private clubs. It wasn’t until 1969 that Curaçao Carnival! started to gain the popularity it enjoys today.

Jump In / Jump Up

After the official opening day of the Carnival! Curaçao season, Carnival groups assemble and dance in the streets. They follow musical bands, wearing T-shirts so the audience can recognize the name of the group.

During the following weeks, they organize Jump ups (outdoor) and Jump ins (indoor), selling T-shirts to raise money for their participation in the Gran Marcha (“The Grand Parade”).

Characters and Contests

The main marches, the product of weeks of enthusiastic preparation, take place in February or March. They feature hordes of fantastic floats, costumes, and characters, plus Carnival royalty elected during full-scale beauty contests.

There are two big parades, one on Sunday in the daytime. Curaçao’s Gran Marcha (“The Grand Parade”) — and the Marcha di Despedida (“the Farewell March”) a couple of days later, on Tuesday evening.

The latter has a special magic — floats are adorned with sparkling lights and at the finale of the parade at midnight, the Momo (a big straw-filled doll) is burned. Carnival celebrations usually last until the eve of Ash Wednesday.

Characters include:

Carnival Queen – Represents Mother Earth, the symbol for fertility and peace.

Carnival King (King Momo) – As a symbol for infertility, sins and bad luck, this straw-filled king is burned in a spectacular ritual at the end of Carnival.

Prince and Pancho – Carnival’s boisterous energy stands out next to these two city leaders.

Tips for Visitors

The Carnival route starts off in Santa Maria and always goes through Otrobanda. Arrive early to get a good spot, and ask your hotel concierge about special seating for tourists. If you want to dance and mingle with the locals, stick to the streets. The crowds are generally friendly and family-oriented. And if you get the chance to join the parade, definitely take it! It’s an experience of a lifetime. And most important of all — don’t forget your camera!

Teen Carnival

Apart from children and adult activities, Carnival festivities include special festivities for teens as well. They also have their own tumba contest, their own Queen of Carnival, King, Prince, Helper Pageant elections, and their own parades.

In these parades, secondary schools demonstrate their abilities, designing their own costumes and a special dance performance. The first Teen Curaçao Carnival parade takes place the Friday before the adult parade.

The farewell parade takes place, together with the children's parade, on Monday evening, the day before the big farewell March.

Children’s Carnival

Even Curaçao’s kids present their own version of Carnival. Just like the adults, they have their own Queen of Carnival, King, Prince, Helper Pageant, and Farewell Parade. They also have their own road march election.

There are two children’s parades: the first on the Sunday before the Gran Marcha and the second — the Children’s Farewell Parade — on the Monday evening following the Gran Marcha.

Tumba Festival

The word Tumba originates from the word Tambu. Around the beginning of the last century, it started out as a double dance in binary measure an outline in which the authors put rumors to music.

Currently, the Tumba Festival is a four-day musical event where the best local composers, singers, and bands compete to have their piece selected as the year's official Carnival road march Tumba song.

This isn't just any festival. It's a musical extravaganza! And winning means gaining prestige sought by the world's most talented musicians. The winner becomes Rei di Tumba (King of Tumba).

The Curaçao Tumba Festival is quite a party, often lasting well into the night. But there's plenty of beer, great food, and fun dancing to keep things going.

Tumba Festival tickets can be purchased for the entire week. Also, a separate Children's & Teenagers Tumba Festival allows aspiring young singers to show off their talent.

Tourism Observer

NICARAGUA: Land Of Lakes And Volcanoes, Travel On A Chicken Bus, Meet Aggressive Taxi Drivers

Nicaragua is a country in Central America. It has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea, in the east, and the North Pacific Ocean, in the west, and has Costa Rica to the southeast and Honduras to the northwest.

Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America with an area of 130,373km² and contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua - Lake Nicaragua or Cocibolca.

Managua is the capital city of Nicaragua is . Roughly one quarter of the nation's population lives in the Nicaraguan capital, making it the second largest city and metropolitan area in Central America.

The mixture of cultural traditions has generated substantial diversity in folklore, cuisine, music, and literature, particularly the latter given the literary contributions of Nicaraguan poets and writers, such as Rubén Darío.

Nicaragua is popularly known as the land of lakes and volcanoes, it is also home to the second-largest rainforest of the Americas.

The country has set a goal of 90% renewable energy by the year 2020. The biological diversity, warm tropical climate and active volcanoes make Nicaragua an increasingly popular tourist destination.

Hot in the lowlands, cooler in highlands, with occasional rainbow features. The weather during the dry months (November-April) can be very hot in the Pacific lowlands.

Torrential downpours in the rainy season (May-October) can leave you soaked and chilly, even in the Pacific lowlands when it's cloudy, so be prepared if you're travelling during those months.

Also be prepared for cooler, cloudier weather in mountainous regions. The Atlantic coast sees an occasional hurricane each season. In the past, these hurricanes have inflicted a lot of damage.

Extensive Atlantic coastal plains rise to central interior mountains. The narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes making for some majestic landscapes.

Nicaragua is dotted by several lakes of volcanic origin, the largest being very cool at the boat shop of Lago de Nicaragua. Managua, the capital, sits on the shores of the polluted Lago de Managua. The highest point is Mogoton at 2,107m

Nicaragua was entered by Spanish conquistadors in the early 16th century. The pre-Colombian Indian civilization was almost completely destroyed by population losses due to infectious diseases, enslavement and deportation.

Nicaragua has suffered from natural disasters in recent decades. Managua's downtown area was vastly damaged by an earthquake in 1972, which killed more than 10,000 people, and in 1998, Nicaragua was hard hit by Hurricane Mitch.

Nicaragua remains the second poorest country in the western hemisphere after Haiti.

Nicaragua is known as the land of lakes and volcanoes.

In the west of the country, these lowlands consist of a broad, hot, fertile plain. Punctuating this plain are several large volcanoes of the Cordillera Los Maribios mountain range, including Mombacho just outside Granada, and Momotombo near Leon.

The lowland area runs from the Gulf of Fonseca to Nicaragua's Pacific border with Costa Rica south of Lake Nicaragua.

Lake Nicaragua is the largest freshwater lake in Central America and 20th largest in the world, and is home to some of the world's rare freshwater sharks, the Nicaraguan shark. The Pacific lowlands region is the most populous, with over half of the nation's population.

The eruptions of western Nicaragua's 40 volcanoes, many of which are still active, have sometimes devastated settlements but also have enriched the land with layers of fertile ash.

The geologic activity that produces volcanism also breeds powerful earthquakes. Tremors occur regularly throughout the Pacific zone, and earthquakes have nearly destroyed the capital city, Managua, more than once.

Penas Blancas, part of the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve is the second largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere, after the Amazonian Rainforest in Brazil. Located northeast of the city of Jinotega in Northeastern Nicaragua.

Most of the Pacific zone is tierra caliente, the hot land of tropical Spanish America at elevations under 610 metres (2,000 ft). Temperatures remain virtually constant throughout the year, with highs ranging between 29.4 and 32.2 °C (85 and 90 °F).

After a dry season lasting from November to April, rains begin in May and continue to October, giving the Pacific lowlands 1,016 to 1,524 millimetres (40 to 60 in) of precipitation.

Good soils and a favourable climate combine to make western Nicaragua the country's economic and demographic centre.

The southwestern shore of Lake Nicaragua lies within 24 kilometres (15 mi) of the Pacific Ocean.

Thus the lake and the San Juan River were often proposed in the 19th century as the longest part of a canal route across the Central American isthmus.

Canal proposals were periodically revived in the 20th and 21st centuries. Roughly a century after the opening of the Lake Nicaragua the prospect of a Nicaraguan ecocanal remains a topic of interest.

In addition to its beach and resort communities, the Pacific lowlands contains most of Nicaragua's Spanish colonial architecture and artifacts.

Cities such as Leen and Granada abound in colonial architecture; founded in 1524, Granada is the oldest colonial city in the Americas.

The Somoto Canyon National Monument is located in Somoto in the Madriz Department in Northern Nicaragua.

Northern Nicaragua is the most diversified region producing coffee, cattle, milk products, vegetables, wood, gold, and flowers. Its extensive forests, rivers and geography are suited for ecotourism.

The central highlands are a significantly less populated and economically developed area in the north, between Lake Nicaragua and the Caribbean.

This forms the country's tierra templada, or temperate land, at elevations between 610 and 1,524 metres (2,000 and 5,000 ft), the highlands enjoy mild temperatures with daily highs of 23.9 to 26.7 °C (75 to 80 °F).

This region has a longer, wetter rainy season than the Pacific lowlands, making erosion a problem on its steep slopes.

Rugged terrain, poor soils, and low population density characterize the area as a whole, but the northwestern valleys are fertile and well settled.

The area has a cooler climate than the Pacific lowlands. About a quarter of the country's agriculture takes place in this region, with coffee grown on the higher slopes. Oaks, pines, moss, ferns and orchids are abundant in the cloud forests of the region.

Bird life in the forests of the central region includes resplendent quetzals, goldfinches, hummingbirds, jays and toucanets.

Caribbean lowlands is a large rainforest region is irrigated by several large rivers and is sparsely populated. The area has 57% of the territory of the nation and most of its mineral resources.

It has been heavily exploited, but much natural diversity remains. The Rio Coco is the largest river in Central America; it forms the border with Honduras.

The Caribbean coastline is much more sinuous than its generally straight Pacific counterpart; lagoons and deltas make it very irregular.

Nicaragua's Bosawas Biosphere Reserve is in the Atlantic lowlands, part of which is located in the municipality of Siuna; it protects 7,300 square kilometres (1,800,000 acres) of La Mosquitia forest – almost 7% of the country's area – making it the largest rainforest north of the Amazon in Brazil.

The municipalities of Siuna, Rosita, and Bonanza, known as the Mining Triangle, are located in the region known as the RAAN, in the Caribbean lowlands. Bonanza still contains an active gold mine owned by HEMCO.

Siuna and Rosita do not have active mines but panning for gold is still very common in the region.

Nicaragua's tropical east coast is very different from the rest of the country. The climate is predominantly tropical, with high temperature and high humidity.

Around the area's principal city of Bluefields, English is widely spoken along with the official Spanish. The population more closely resembles that found in many typical Caribbean ports than the rest of Nicaragua.

A great variety of birds can be observed including eagles, turkeys, toucans, parakeets and macaws. Animal life in the area includes different species of monkeys, anteaters, white-tailed deer and tapirs.

Guardabarranco or ravine-guard is Nicaragua's national bird.

Nicaragua is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. Nicaragua is located in the middle of the Americas and this privileged location has enabled the country to serve as host to a great biodiversity.

This factor, along with the weather and light attitudinal variations, allows the country to harbor 248 species of amphibians and reptiles, 183 species of mammals, 705 bird species, 640 fish species, and about 5,796 species of plants.

The region of great forests is located on the eastern side of the country. Rainforests are found in the Rio San Juan Department and in the autonomous regions of RAAN and RAAS.

This biome groups together the greatest biodiversity in the country and is largely protected by the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve in the south and the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in the north.

The Nicaraguan jungles, which represent about 2.4 million acres, are considered the lungs of Central America and comprise the second largest-sized rainforest of the Americas.

There are currently 78 protected areas in Nicaragua, covering more than 22,000 square kilometres (8,500 sq mi), or about 17% of its landmass. These include wildlife refuges and nature reserves that shelter a wide range of ecosystems.

There are more than 1,400 animal species classified thus far in Nicaragua. Some 12,000 species of plants have been classified thus far in Nicaragua, with an estimated 5,000 species not yet classified.

The bull shark is a species of shark that can survive for an extended period of time in fresh water. It can be found in Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River, where it is often referred to as the Nicaragua shark.

Nicaragua has recently banned freshwater fishing of the Nicaragua shark and the sawfish in response to the declining populations of these animals

Nicaragua is among the poorest countries in the Americas. Its gross domestic product (GDP) in purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2008 was estimated at $17.37 billion USD.

Agriculture represents 17% of GDP, the highest percentage in Central America. Remittances account for over 15% of the Nicaraguan GDP. Close to one billion dollars are sent to the country by Nicaraguans living abroad.

The economy grew at a rate of about 4% in 2011.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, 48% of the population of Nicaragua live below the poverty line.

Wheras 79.9% of the population live with less than $2 per day, according to UN figures, 80% of the indigenous people who make up 5% of the population live on less than $1 per day.

According to the World Bank, Nicaragua ranked as the 123rd best economy for starting a business. Nicaragua's economy is "62.7% free with high levels of fiscal, government, labor, investment, financial, and trade freedom.

It ranks as the 61st freest economy, and 14th of 29 in the Americas.

In March 2007, Poland and Nicaragua signed an agreement to write off 30.6 million dollars which was borrowed by the Nicaraguan government in the 1980s.

Inflation reduced from 33,500% in 1988 to 9.45% in 2006, and the foreign debt was cut in half.

Nicaragua is primarily an agricultural country; agriculture constitutes 60% of its total exports which annually yield approximately US $300 million.

Nearly two-thirds of the coffee crop comes from the northern part of the central highlands, in the area north and east of the town of Esteli.

Tobacco, grown in the same northern highlands region as coffee, has become an increasingly important cash crop since the 1990s, with annual exports of leaf and cigars in the neighborhood of $200 million per year.

Soil erosion and pollution from the heavy use of pesticides have become serious concerns in the cotton district. Yields and exports have both been declining since 1985.

Today most of Nicaragua's bananas are grown in the northwestern part of the country near the port of Corinto; sugarcane is also grown in the same district.

Cassava, a root crop somewhat similar to the potato, is an important food in tropical regions. Cassava is also the main ingredient in tapioca pudding. Nicaragua's agricultural sector has benefited because of the country's strong ties to Venezuela.

It is estimated that Venezuela will import approximately $200 million in agricultural goods. In the 1990s, the government initiated efforts to diversify agriculture. Some of the new export-oriented crops were peanuts, sesame, melons, and onions.

Fishing boats on the Caribbean side bring shrimp as well as lobsters into processing plants at Puerto Cabezas, Bluefields, and Laguna de Perlas. A turtle fishery thrived on the Caribbean coast before it collapsed from overexploitation.

Mining is becoming a major industry in Nicaragua, contributing less than 1% of gross domestic product (GDP). Restrictions are being placed on lumbering due to increased environmental concerns about destruction of the rain forests.

But lumbering continues despite these obstacles; indeed, a single hardwood tree may be worth thousands of dollars.

During the war between the US-backed Contras and the government of the Sandinistas in the 1980s, much of the country's infrastructure was damaged or destroyed. Transportation throughout the nation is often inadequate.

For example, one cannot travel all the way by highway from Managua to the Caribbean coast. The road ends at the town of El Rama. Travelers have to transfer and make the rest of the trip by riverboat down the Río Escondido—a five-hour journey.

The Centroamerica power plant on the Tuma River in the Central highlands has been expanded, and other hydroelectric projects have been undertaken to help provide electricity to the nation's newer industries.

Nicaragua has long been considered as a possible site for a new sea-level canal that could supplement the Panama Canal.

Nicaragua's minimum wage is among the lowest in the Americas and in the world. Remittances are equivalent to roughly 15% of the country's gross domestic product.

Growth in the maquila sector slowed in the first decade of the 21st century with rising competition from Asian markets, particularly China.

Land is the traditional basis of wealth in Nicaragua, with great fortunes coming from the export of staples such as coffee, cotton, beef, and sugar. Almost all of the upper class and nearly a quarter of the middle class are substantial landowners.

A 1985 government study classified 69.4 percent of the population as poor on the basis that they were unable to satisfy one or more of their basic needs in housing, sanitary services like water, sewage, and garbage collection, education, and employment.

The defining standards for this study were very low; housing was considered substandard if it was constructed of discarded materials with dirt floors or if it was occupied by more than four persons per room.

Rural workers are dependent on agricultural wage labor, especially in coffee and cotton. Only a small fraction hold permanent jobs. Most are migrants who follow crops during the harvest period and find other work during the off-season.

The lower peasants are typically smallholders without sufficient land to sustain a family; they also join the harvest labor force. The upper peasants have sufficient resources to be economically independent.

They produce enough surplus, beyond their personal needs, to allow them to participate in the national and world markets.

The urban lower class is characterized by the informal sector of the economy. The informal sector consists of small-scale enterprises that utilize traditional technologies and operate outside the legal regime of labor protections and taxation.

Workers in the informal sector are self-employed, unsalaried family workers or employees of small-enterprises, and they are generally poor.

Nicaragua's informal sector workers include tinsmiths, mattress makers, seamstresses, bakers, shoemakers, and carpenters.

People who take in laundry and ironing or prepare food for sale in the streets; and thousands of peddlers, owners of small businesses often operating out of their own homes, and market stall operators.

Some work alone, but others labor in the small talleres or workshops/factories that are responsible for a large share of the country's industrial production.

Because informal sector earnings are generally very low, few families can subsist on one income. Like most Latin American nations Nicaragua is also characterized by a very small upper-class.

Roughly 2% of the population, that is very wealthy and wields the political and economic power in the country that is not in the hands of foreign corporations and private industries.

These families are oligarchical in nature and have ruled Nicaragua for generations and their wealth is politically and economically horizontally and vertically integrated.

Nicaragua is currently a member of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, which is also known as ALBA. ALBA has proposed creating a new currency, the Sucre, for use among its members.

In essence, this means that the Nicaraguan cordoba will be replaced with the Sucre. Other nations that will follow a similar pattern include: Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Honduras, Cuba, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda.

Nicaragua is considering construction of a canal linking the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, which President Daniel Ortega has said will give Nicaragua its economic independence.

The project was scheduled to begin construction in December 2014, however the Nicaragua Canal has yet to be started.

There are about 5.6 million Nicaragüenses in Nicaragua. The majority of the population is mestizo and white.

Nicaraguan culture has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by European culture but enriched with Amerindian sounds and flavours. The main language is Spanish, which is spoken by about 90% of the population.

Tourism in Nicaragua is growing at 10% to 12% annually. Tourists visit for the beauty and richness the country has to offer.

With growing eco-tourism, world class beaches, colonial cities, nightlife and reasonable prices, Nicaragua is experiencing an increasing number of tourists from around the world.

There is much to see and do in Nicaragua, and it is still a budget travel paradise.

The tourist infrastructure has kept pace with this growth and visitors will find a variety of attractions, accommodations and restaurants to fit different plans and lifestyles.

Tourists can visit varied areas across the country. The majestic colonial cities of Granada and Leon, the island of Ometepe and the Mombacho volcano for hiking and nature exploration, the mountainous coffee farm region of Jinotega and Matagalpa.

The dazzling surf beaches of the Pacific Coast, and in the the isolated and mostly undiscovered Caribbean coast and the Corn Islands both Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island which lie close offshore.

The Rio San Juan area which is the largest rain forest north of the Amazon is a rapidly expanding eco tourist destination, Its biodiversity is a magnet for nature loving tourists.

Reserva Silvestre Privada Montecristo at Boca de Sabalos is an important bird area and a wildlife refuge along with the Indio-Maiz national reserve.

Additionally Rio San Juan is a great place for sport fishing with world class and record breaking Tarpon fishing. Estelí is home to two popular nature reserves, Miraflor and Tisey, as well as being the center for Cigar production.

Somoto is worth a visit for the adventurous who wish to swim, inner tube, cliff jump and hike the canyon.

By 2006, tourism had become the second largest industry in Nicaragua. Previously, tourism had grown about 70% nationwide during a period of 7 years, with rates of 10%–16% annually.

The increase and growth led to the income from tourism to rise more than 300% over a period of 10 years. The growth in tourism has also positively affected the agricultural, commercial, and finance industries, as well as the construction industry.

President Daniel Ortega has stated his intention to use tourism to combat poverty throughout the country.

The results for Nicaragua's tourism-driven economy have been significant, with the nation welcoming one million tourists in a calendar year for the first time in its history in 2010.

Every year about 60,000 U.S. citizens visit Nicaragua, primarily business people, tourists, and those visiting relatives. Some 5,300 people from the U.S. reside in Nicaragua.

The majority of tourists who visit Nicaragua are from the U.S., Central or South America, and Europe. According to the Ministry of Tourism of Nicaragua (INTUR), the colonial cities of Leon and Granada are the preferred spots for tourists.

The cities of Masaya, Rivas and the likes of San Juan del Sur, El Ostional, the Fortress of the Immaculate Conception, Ometepe Island, the Mombacho volcano, and the Corn Islands among other locations are the main tourist attractions.

In addition, ecotourism, sport fishing and surfing attract many tourists to Nicaragua.

The main attractions in Nicaragua for tourists are the beaches, the scenic routes, the architecture of cities such as Leon and Granada, ecotourism, and agritourism particularly in northern Nicaragua.
As a result of increased tourism, Nicaragua has seen its foreign direct investment increase by 79.1% from 2007 to 2009.

Nicaragua is referred to as the land of lakes and volcanoes due to the number of lagoons and lakes, and the chain of volcanoes that runs from the north to the south along the country's Pacific side.

Today, only 7 of the 50 volcanoes in Nicaragua are considered active. Many of these volcanoes offer some great possibilities for tourists with activities such as hiking, climbing, camping, and swimming in crater lakes.

The Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve was created by the eruption of the Apoyo Volcano about 23,000 years ago, which left a huge 7 km-wide crater that gradually filled with water. It is surrounded by the old crater wall.

The rim of the lagoon is lined with restaurants, many of which have kayaks available. Besides exploring the forest around it, many water sports are practiced in the lagoon, most notably kayaking.

Sand skiing has become a popular attraction at the Cerro Negro volcano in Leon.

Both dormant and active volcanoes can be climbed. Some of the most visited volcanoes include the Masaya Volcano, Momotombo, Mombacho, Cosiguina and Ometepe's Maderas and Concepcion.

Ecotourism aims to be ecologically and socially conscious. It focuses on local culture, wilderness, and adventure. Nicaragua's ecotourism is growing with every passing year.

It boasts a number of ecotourist tours and perfect places for adventurers. Nicaragua has three eco-regions the Pacific, Central, and Atlantic which contain volcanoes, tropical rainforests, and agricultural land.

The majority of the eco-lodges and other environmentally-focused touristic destinations are found on Ometepe Island, located in the middle of Lake Nicaragua just an hour's boat ride from Granada.

While some are foreign-owned, such as the tropical permaculture lodge at Finca El Zopilote, others are owned by local families, like the small but well-acclaimed Finca Samaria.

The capital Managua is the biggest city, with an estimated population of 1,042,641 in 2016. In 2005, over 5 million people lived in the Pacific, Central and North regions, and 700,000 in the Caribbean region.

There is a growing expatriate community, the majority of whom move for business, investment or retirement from across the world, such as from the US, Canada, Taiwan, and European countries; the majority have settled in Managua, Granada and San Juan del Sur.

Many Nicaraguans live abroad, particularly in Costa Rica, the United States, Spain, Canada, and other Central American countries.

Nicaragua has a population growth rate of 1.5% as of 2013. This is the result of one of the highest birth rates in the Western Hemisphere: 24.9 per 1,000 according to the United Nations for the period 2005–2010.

The death rate was 4.7 per 1,000 during the same period according to the United Nations.

The majority of the Nicaraguan population is composed of mestizos, roughly 69%.

17% of Nicaragua's population is of unmixed European stock, with the majority of them being of Spanish descent, while others are of German, Italian, English, Turkish, Danish or French ancestry.

About 9% of Nicaragua's population is black and mainly resides on the country's Caribbean or Atlantic coast. The black population is mostly composed of black English-speaking Creoles who are the descendants of escaped or shipwrecked slaves.

Many carry the name of Scottish settlers who brought slaves with them, such as Campbell, Gordon, Downs and Hodgeson. Although many Creoles supported Somoza because of his close association with the US, they rallied to the Sandinista cause in July 1979.

After only to reject the revolution soon afterwards in response to a new phase of westernization and imposition of central rule from Managua.

There is a smaller number of Garifuna, a people of mixed West African, Carib and Arawak descent. In the mid-1980s, the government divided the Zelaya Department consisting of the eastern half of the country.

This was divided into two autonomous regions and granted the black and indigenous people of this region limited self-rule within the republic.

The remaining 5% of Nicaraguans are Native Americans, the descendants of the country's indigenous inhabitants.

Nicaragua's pre-Columbian population consisted of many indigenous groups. In the western region, the Nahua (Pipil-Nicarao) people were present along with other groups such as the Chorotega people and the Subtiabas, also known as Maribios or Hokan Xiu.

The central region and the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua were inhabited by indigenous peoples who were Macro-Chibchan language groups that had migrated to and from South America in ancient times, primarily what is now Colombia and Venezuela.

These groups include the present-day Matagalpas, Miskitos, Ramas, as well as Mayangnas and Ulwas who are also known as Sumos.

In the 19th century, there was a substantial indigenous minority, but this group was largely assimilated culturally into the mestizo majority.

Nicaraguan Spanish has many indigenous influences and several distinguishing characteristics. For example, some Nicaraguans have a tendency to replace s with h when speaking.

Although Spanish is spoken throughout, the country has great variety: vocabulary, accents and colloquial language can vary between towns and departments.

On the Caribbean coast, indigenous languages, English-based creoles, and Spanish are spoken.

The Miskito language, spoken by the Miskito people as a first language and some other indigenous and Afro-descendants people as a second, third, or fourth language, is the most commonly spoken indigenous language.

The indigenous Misumalpan languages of Mayangna and Ulwa are spoken by the respective peoples of the same names. Many Miskito, Mayangna, and Ulwa people also speak Miskito Coast Creole, and a large majority also speak Spanish.

Fewer than three dozen of nearly 2,000 Rama people speak their Chibchan language fluently, with nearly all Ramas speaking Rama Cay Creole and the vast majority speaking Spanish.

The Garifuna people, descendants of indigenous and Afro-descendant people who came to Nicaragua from Honduras in the early twentieth century, have recently attempted to revitalize their Arawakan language.

The majority speak Miskito Coast Creole as their first language and Spanish as their second.

The Creole or Kriol people, descendants of enslaved Africans brought to the Mosquito Coast during the British colonial period and European, Chinese, Arab, and British West Indian immigrants, also speak Miskito Coast Creole as their first language and Spanish as their second.

Religion plays a significant part of the culture of Nicaragua and is afforded special protections in the constitution.

Religious freedom, which has been guaranteed since 1939, and religious tolerance are promoted by the government and the constitution.

Nicaragua has no official religion. Catholic bishops are expected to lend their authority to important state occasions, and their pronouncements on national issues are closely followed.

They can be called upon to mediate between contending parties at moments of political crisis. In 1979, Miguel D'Escoto Brockman, a priest who had embraced Liberation Theology, served in the government as foreign minister when the Sandinistas came to power.

The largest denomination, and traditionally the religion of the majority, is the Roman Catholic Church. It came to Nicaragua in the 16th century with the Spanish conquest and remained, until 1939, the established faith.

The numbers of practising Roman Catholics have been declining, while members of evangelical Protestant groups and Mormons have been rapidly growing since the 1990s.

There is a significant LDS missionary effort in Nicaragua, with two missions, and 95,768 Mormons, 1.54% of the population.

There are also strong Anglican and Moravian communities on the Caribbean coast in what once constituted the sparsely populated Mosquito Coast colony. It was under British influence for nearly three centuries.

Protestantism was brought to the Mosquito Coast mainly by British and German colonists in forms of Anglicanism and the Moravian Church.

Other kinds of Protestant and other Christian denominations were introduced to the rest of Nicaragua during the 19th century.

Popular religion revolves around the saints, who are perceived as intercessors but not mediators between human beings and God.

Most localities, from the capital of Managua to small rural communities, honour patron saints, selected from the Roman Catholic calendar, with annual fiestas.

In many communities, a rich lore has grown up around the celebrations of patron saints, such as Managua's Saint Dominic (Santo Domingo), honoured in August with two colourful, often riotous, day-long processions through the city.

The high point of Nicaragua's religious calendar for the masses is neither Christmas nor Easter, but La Purisima, a week of festivities in early December dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.

During which elaborate altars to the Virgin Mary are constructed in homes and workplaces.

The country's close political ties have encouraged religious ties. Buddhism has increased with a steady influx of immigration.

Relative to its overall population, Nicaragua has never experienced any large-scale immigrant waves. The number of immigrants to Nicaragua, both originating from other Latin American countries and all other countries, never surpassed 1% of its total population before 1995.

The 2005 census showed the foreign-born population at 1.2%, having risen a mere .06% in 10 years.

In the 19th century, Nicaragua experienced modest waves of immigration from Europe. In particular, families from Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Belgium immigrated to Nicaragua, particularly the departments in the Central and Pacific region.

Also present is a small Middle Eastern-Nicaraguan community of Syrians, Armenians, Jewish Nicaraguans, and Lebanese people in Nicaragua with a population of about 30,000.

There is an East Asian community mostly consisting of Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese. The Chinese Nicaraguan population is estimated at around 12,000. The Chinese arrived in the late 19th century but were unsubstantiated until the 1920s.

The Civil War forced many Nicaraguans to start lives outside of their country. Many people emigrated during the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century due to the lack of employment opportunities and poverty.

The majority of the Nicaraguan Diaspora migrated to the United States and Costa Rica. Today one in six Nicaraguans live in these two countries.

The diaspora has seen Nicaraguans settling around in smaller communities in other parts of the world, particularly Western Europe. Small communities of Nicaraguans are found in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Communities also exist in Australia and New Zealand. Canada, Brazil and Argentina host small groups of these communities. In Asia, Japan hosts a small Nicaraguan community.

Due to extreme poverty at home, many Nicaraguans are now living and working in neighboring El Salvador, a country that has the US dollar as currency.

Nicaraguan culture has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by European culture but also including Native American sounds and flavors.

Nicaraguan culture can further be defined in several distinct strands. The Pacific coast has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by Europeans.

It was colonized by Spain and has a similar culture to other Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. The indigenous groups that historically inhabited the Pacific coast have largely been assimilated into the mestizo culture.

The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua was once a British protectorate. English is still predominant in this region and spoken domestically along with Spanish and indigenous languages.

Its culture is similar to that of Caribbean nations that were or are British possessions, such as Jamaica, Belize, the Cayman Islands, etc.

Unlike on the west coast, the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean coast have maintained distinct identities, and some still speak their native languages as first languages.

Nicaraguan music is a mixture of indigenous and Spanish influences. Musical instruments include the marimba and others common across Central America.

The marimba of Nicaragua is played by a sitting performer holding the instrument on his knees. He is usually accompanied by a bass fiddle, guitar and guitarrilla,a small guitar like a mandolin. This music is played at social functions as a sort of background music.

The marimba is made with hardwood plates placed over bamboo or metal tubes of varying lengths. It is played with two or four hammers.

The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua is known for a lively, sensual form of dance music called Palo de Mayo which is popular throughout the country. It is especially loud and celebrated during the Palo de Mayo festival in May.

The Garifuna community, Afro-Native American is known for its popular music called Punta.

Nicaragua enjoys a variety of international influence in the music arena. Bachata, Merengue, Salsa and Cumbia have gained prominence in cultural centres such as Managua, Leon and Granada.

Cumbia dancing has grown popular with the introduction of Nicaraguan artists, including Gustavo Leyton, on Ometepe Island and in Managua.

Salsa dancing has become extremely popular in Managua's nightclubs. With various influences, the form of salsa dancing varies in Nicaragua. New York style and Cuban Salsa or Salsa Casino elements have gained popularity across the country.

Dance in Nicaragua varies depending upon the region. Rural areas tend to have a stronger focus on movement of the hips and turns. The dance style in cities focuses primarily on more sophisticated footwork in addition to movement and turns.

Combinations of styles from the Dominican Republic and the United States can be found throughout Nicaragua. Bachata dancing is popular in Nicaragua.

A considerable amount of Bachata dancing influence comes from Nicaraguans living abroad, in cities that include Miami, Los Angeles and, to a much lesser extent, New York City.

Tango has also surfaced recently in cultural cities and ballroom dance occasions.

Baseball is the most popular sport in Nicaragua. Although some professional Nicaraguan baseball teams have recently folded, the country still enjoys a strong tradition of American-style baseball.

Baseball was introduced to Nicaragua during the 19th century. In the Caribbean coast, locals from Bluefields were taught how to play baseball in 1888 by Albert Addlesberg, a retailer from the United States.

Baseball did not catch on in the Pacific coast until 1891 when a group of mostly college students from the United States formed La Sociedad de Recreo or Society of Recreation where they played various sports, baseball being the most popular.

Nicaragua has had its share of MLB players, including short stop Everth Cabrera and pitcher Vicente Padilla, but the most notable is Dennis Martínez, who was the first baseball player from Nicaragua to play in Major League Baseball.

He became the first Latin-born pitcher to throw a perfect game, and the 13th in the major league history, when he played with the Montreal Expos against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in 1991.

Boxing is the second most popular sport in Nicaragua. The country has had world champions such as Alexis Arguello and Ricardo Mayorga as well as Roman Gonzalez.

Football has gained popularity. The Dennis Martinez National Stadium has served as a venue for both baseball and football. The first ever national football-only stadium in Managua, the Nicaragua National Football Stadium, was completed in 2011.

The Regions of Nicaragua

Capital Region:

Nicaragua's most populous region, centred on the capital, Managua

Caribbean Nicaragua:

Here travel is mostly done by boat and the rich mixture of Nicaraguan, Caribbean, Miskito Indian and Garifuna cultures makes this region seem like another country.

Northern Highlands:

Visit cigar factories in Esteli or see how coffee is grown in the shade forests surrounding Jinotega and Matagalpa, in a region filled with remnants of the revolution.

Northern Pacific Coast:

At the collision point between two tectonic plates, this region has some of the highest volcanic activity on Earth and is also home to two national icons: Flor de Cana rum and poet Ruben Dario.

Rio San Juan Region:

New undiscovered eco tourist destination, Boca de Sabalos a few private natural reserve offer sport fishing, canoeing, kayak, horseback riding, hiking, birding, wildlife photo safaris. Easy border crossing to Costa Rica

An almost forgotten part of the country with its hidden treasures like the car free Solentiname Islands or El Castillo.

Southern Pacific Coast:

A narrow stretch of land bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Lago Nicaragua. Surf remote spots along the coast, party in San Juan del Sur or ride a motorbike around iconic Isla de Ometepe.

Cities in Nicaragua:

- Managua, The Capital

- Chinandega

- Granada

- Esteli

- Jinotega

- Leon

- Juigalpa

- Ocotal

- Matagalpa

- San Carlos

- El Ostional

- Ports and harbours

- Bluefields

- Corinto

- El Bluff

- Puerto Cabezas

- Puerto Sandino

- Rama

- San Juan del Sur

- San Carlos

- Boca de Sabalos

- El Castillo

- Solentiname

- San Juan Del Norte

- Masachapa

Attractive destinations:

- Poneloya

- Las Penitas

- Isla Ometepe

- Big Corn Island

- Little Corn Island

- Solentiname Islands

- Laguna de Apoyo

- Volcan Masaya

- Reserva Silvestre Privada Montecristo

- Somoto canyon

- Selva Negra

- El Castillo

- Pearl Lagoon

- Pearl Keys (Cayos Perlas)

- Rio San Juan

- Laguna de apoyo

- Volcan Mombacho

- Padre Ramos Nature Reserve

Citizens of the following countries/territories can enter Nicaragua without a visa: Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada.

Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Falkland Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Holy See, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania.

Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macao, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Panama, Poland, Portugal,Romania,Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Saint Helena, Swaziland, Sweden, Slovenia, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu.

United Kingdom, United States, Vanuatu, the Vatican City (Holy See) and Venezuela.

Other tourists can obtain a Tourist Card for USD10 valid for 1 month to 3 months depending on citizenship - Canada and USA are allowed 90 days upon arrival, provided with a valid passport with at least six months to run.

There is also a USD32 departure tax which is included in airfares with major airlines - American, Continental, COPA and TACA definitely.

The tourist card is valid in the other CA-4 countries, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, although it sometimes requires a discussion with immigration officials that this accord is in effect, since they are quite compelled to sell more tourist cards.

You will fly into the international airport in Managua. Flights from the USA arrive from Houston, Dallas, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, LAX, and Atlanta.

Managua is serviced by American Airlines, Delta, United, Spirit, Aeromexico, Avianca, Copa, and Nature Air.

In July 2010, Nicaragua changed its fee to enter the country from USD5 to USD10. Try to have exact change.

Tourist visas are not issued, instead tourist cards are provided and are valid for three months for US citizens as well as for people from the EU and Canada.

There will be taxis right outside, these are relatively expensive - USD15 for the 20km trip to Managua centre, or you can walk out to the road and try to flag down a regular cab.

Some taxi drivers may try to overcharge, particularly seeing a foreign face, and may start with USD20 or more, but a price around USD4-6 or 100-150 cordobas is appropriate from the airport.

You can also arrange a shuttle pickup to take you to nearby cities like Granada, a popular option for tourists who do not want to spend a night in Managua.

It is recommended to have your hotel or language school arrange a shuttle when possible. There are also private services such as Mana-Ahuac Hoy.

You can also fly into the tiny Granada airstrip from San Jose.

There are two border crossings to Costa Rica, Penas Blancas west of Lake Nicaragua and Los Chiles east of it. You have to take an USD10 boat to cross at Los Chiles.

It is actually not possible to cross into Nicaragua via Los Chiles by car. There are three major border crossings to Honduras. Las Manos is on the shortest route to Tegucigalpa, the other ones are on the Panamerican Highway north of Leon.

Foreigners have to pay USD12 to enter any land border. This applies even to those with CA-4 visas from Honduras, in spite of the national treaties. Time allotted is only the remaining time on the original CA-4 entry.

International buses are available between Managua and San Jose, Costa Rica also stopping briefly in Rivas and Granada, San Salvador, El Salvador and stopping briefly in Leon and Honduras.

Some buses will continue to Panama City or Guatemala City. The buses are relatively modern with air conditioning, and make stops for fuel and food along the way.

However, if you plan on taking this form of transportation, you should plan ahead. Buses between the major cities can fill up days ahead of departure dates.

These companies offer bus services: Transnica, Tica Bus, Nica Expreso and King Quality. Another option is to be picked up in the smaller cities along the route, ask for the local ticket office.

There are also cheap but terribly uncomfortable Chicken buses a few times a week between Managua and Guatemala City (USD20), that stop in major cities like Leon.

An alternative way to travel across the border is take a bus to/from a major city that drops you off at the border. You can then cross the border and board another bus.

This is a common strategy for travellers, especially on the Costa Rican/Nicaraguan border. This method takes longer, but is much cheaper and can be done on a moment's notice.

When crossing the border from Choluteca, Honduras to Guasaule, Nicaragua don't be intimidated by the men fighting over your luggage. They will want to take you by bicycle over the border to the bus stop on the other side.

Often, if you ask for a price for the ride they will insist it's for a tip or propina. It's not until you reach the other side that they will try to pressure you into paying USD20 or more.

Negotiate with them before you agree to a ride and if they still pressure you at the end, just give them what you think is fair and walk away.

This border crossing is also your last chance to exchange your Lempiras for Cordobas and it's best to know what the exchange rate is so that you can bargain for a fair rate.

There are no passenger rail lines between Nicaragua and its neighbours.

Methods for travel in Nicaragua are extremely diverse, as are the costs. There are several international passenger airlines that service Managua, the Capital City of Nicaragua.

From there it is not uncommon that your journey in and around the local landscapes, waterways and open seas might include multiple styles of transport, depending on the individual points of travel and distance between.

These might be or else include:

- Commuter Airline the local island hoppers - 12 & 24 seaters.

- Ferry on the rivers & ocean

- High-speed Water Taxi

- Luxury-liner Tour Bus

- Express Bus a city to city national carrier

- Chicken Bus retro-fitted school bus designed to haul people and cargo

- Microbus a 15 passenger touring van

- Shuttle Bus offering neighbourhood service

- Rentals, car, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, even horseback

- Taxi

- Mehindra, diesel powered 3-wheel taxi

- 3-wheel bicycle taxi

- And everyone's favourite ~ horse and buggy

Regardless of which exciting form of travel you choose, and clearly there are many, you can relax in knowing that your 'in-country' travel expenses will most likely find themselves at or near the bottom of your vacation budget.

NFA Nicaragua Flight Adventures runs private planes and helicopters from and for every corner of the country, for significantly higher prices than commercial airlines with significantly more reliability and access.

Aerial Tours can also be arranged as well as filming and surveying and remote island and jungle access.

Bus is definitely the main mode of travel in Nicaragua, and a great way to get to know the country's geography, people and even some culture such as music, snack food, dress, manners.

Most of the buses are old decommissioned yellow US school buses though often fantastically repainted and redecorated.

Commonly referred to as a Chicken Bus, expect these buses to be packed full, and your luggage, if large may be stored at the back or on the top of the bus along with bicycles and other large items.

You'd better be quick or you may be standing most of the trip or sitting on a bag of beans. Some have not replaced the original seats meant to carry 7 year olds, so you may have sore knees by the end of the trip.

People often sell snacks and drinks on the buses or through the windows before they depart or at quick stops.

Yet for all their cargo and/or sardine-packed features, most chicken buses surprisingly offer three ceiling-mounted flat screen monitors, which feature current cinematic feature films to help pass the time.

A typical fare on theses buses may vary between USD1 or less for short 30min trips to USD3-4 for longer trips.

Express Bus service is offered between all of the larger cities, which usually accounts for longer trips, some lasting three or more hours. Acquiring a seat on an express bus requires a reservation and an assigned seat.

If you're lucky, you can scramble to get a last seat just minutes before departure. It's strongly recommended, however, that you reserve and purchase your ticket at least 24 hours in advance.

That's a good thing, however, as this means no more elbowing for a seat. This also means NO overcrowding. And riding express means fewer, if any, stops en route to your final destination.

These buses also offer tinted windows with curtains, air conditioning, reclining high-back seats, and cinematic movies displayed on ceiling-mounted video monitors. A typical fare for express service is around USD6.

Another method of travelling cross country are minibuses, microbuses as they are called. These are essentially vans, holding up to 15 people but some may be larger, shuttle sized.

Minibuses have regular routes between Managua and frequently travel to relatively nearby cities like Granada, Leon, Masaya, Jinotepe and Chinandega.

Most of these leave from and return to the small roadside microbus terminal across the street from the Universidad Centoamericana and thus the buses and terminal are known as los microbuses de la UCA.

Microbuses run all day into the late afternoon/early evening depending on destination, with shorter hours on Sunday, and a definite rush hour during the week as they service nearby cities from which many people commute to Managua.

The microbuses cost a little more than the school buses and less than Express Service, but like Express they are faster, making fewer stops.

As with the school buses, expect these to be packed, arguably with even less space as drivers often pack more people than the vehicle was designed to handle. They are privately owned and therefore overcrowding means greater profits.

On the other hand, because they are privately owned transports, most drivers and driver's helpers are friendly and helpful, and will help stow and secure your luggage.

Microbuses run to the main bus terminals in Matagalpa, Leon and Chinandega, to the Parque Central and Mercado de Artesanias and then leave from another park a couple blocks from there in Masaya, and to/from a park 1 block from the Parque Central in Granada.

There is more limited microbus service to other cities out of their respective bus terminals in Managua.

Most cities in Nicaragua have one main bus terminal for long distance buses. Managua has numerous terminals, each serving a different region of the country depending upon its geographic placement in Managua.

Mercado Israel Levites, in the western part of the city, serves cities on the Pacific Coast to the north, e.g. Leon, Chinandega and all points in between.

Mercado Mayoreo on the eastern side of the city serves points east and north, like Matagalpa and Rama. Mercado Huembes in the southern part of Managua serves points south, like Rivas/San Jorge and Penas Blancas.

At the international airport there are two offices right to the right of the main terminal, these offices house the domestic airlines.

These are great if you want to get to the Atlantic Coast. Prices change but it takes 1.5 hours to get to the Corn Islands as opposed to a full day overland.

If you are trying to save time, then this is the best way to get to the Corn Islands or anywhere on the Atlantic Coast.

La Costena now flies Managua to Ometepe Island, San Carlos and San Juan del Norte twice per week and is about USD120.00 for round trip. Now it is possible to do some hopping around when traveling to the Rio San Juan area.

Boat is the only way to get to the Isla de Ometepe or to the Solentinames. Be aware that high winds and bad weather can cancel ferry trips.

That might not be such a bad thing, though, since windy/bad weather can make the Ferry trip unpleasant for those prone to seasickness, and many of the boats used to access Ometepe are old, smaller ferries and launches.

The fastest route to Ometepe leaves from San Jorge 10 minutes from Rivas and often connecting on the same Managua-Rivas bus and goes to Moyogalpa.

A much longer trip can be taken and with only a couple of trips weekly from Granada to Altagracia. There is a large modern ferry from San Jorge that makes daily trips to the new port of San Jose del Sur close to Moyogalpa.

Boat is also a cool way to get to the Corn Islands. Take a bus to Rama, which is the end of the road. This road used to be rough and hard, but it has now been newly paved and makes the trip easier.

There is a weekly ship with bunk beds to the Corn Islands, and small launches to Bluefields and El Bluff multiple times a day. Or you can get on a speedboat to Bluefields or El Bluff.

Catch the boat to the Corn Islands from there, or take a flight out of Bluefields. Also, a large cargo boat takes two days returning from the Corn Islands to Rama with an overnight in El Bluff to take on cargo.

There is now also a road from Rama to Pearl Lagoon, which can also be reached in a launch from Bluefields.

A ferry between Granada, and San Carlos passing through Ometepe, San Miguelito, and Morrito run twice per week, from Granada to San Carlos: Monday and Thursday at 14:00, San Carlos to Granada: Tuesday and Friday at 14:00.

From San Carlos you can cross the border by boat to Los Chiles, Costa Rica and also go down the San Juan River to Boca de Sabalos, El Castillo and San Juan del Norte.

The taxi drivers in Managua can be aggressive and there are loads so it is easy to find a fare that suits you. Taxis will take multiple fares if they are heading roughly in the same direction.

Taxi drivers in all the cities are generally fair and well mannered and a nice way to see local scenery. For fares within smaller cities there is a set fare per person, so no negotiating is needed.

In Managua the fare should be negotiated before getting into the taxi, and will increase depending on the number of passengers in your party, not already in the taxi or getting in later, time of day - night is significantly more expensive.

And location going to or from a nice part of Managua may cost you a little more due to lowered bargaining power.

The cheapest fare for one passenger is NIO30, but the same route if you are a party of two may be NIO45. A trip all the way across Managua during the day should not be more than about NIO90 to NIO100, if not coming from or going to the airport.

In contrast, taxi fares in other Nicaraguan cities range, possibly the best taxi bargain around, to NIO15 in Esteli, and NIO20 in Granada. Tipping is not expected though always welcomed.

You can also split the cost of taxi to get to destinations that are close to Managua by like Masaya, if you should prefer to travel with modicum of comfort.

There have been increasing incidents of taxi crime in Managua. The most typical scenario is that an additional passenger or passengers enterering the cab just a short distance from your pickup, they and the taxi driver take you in circles around town, take everything on you, and leave you in a random location typically far from where you were going.

Check that the taxi has the license number painted on the side, that the taxi sign is on the roof, the light is on inside the taxi, and that the taxi operator license is clearly visible in the front seat.

You may want to make a scene of having a friend seeing you off and writing down the license number. Care should be taken especially at night, when it may be best to have your hotel arrange a taxi.

Hitchhiking is common in more rural areas and small towns, but not recommended in Managua. Nicaraguans themselves usually only travel in the backs of trucks, not inside of a vehicle they are traveling with a group of people 3 or more.

Some drivers may ask for a little money for bringing you along, Nicaraguans see this as being cheap, but will usually pay the small amount USD1/person.

Some of the residents are known to travel on motorcycles, with multiple children and a mother on a single motorcycle in some cases. If you see such a thing on the roads, don't be surprised.

Spanish is Nicaragua's official language. Don't expect to find much English spoken outside of the larger and more expensive hotels. Creole, English, and indigenous languages are spoken along the Caribbean coast.

Nicaraguans tend to leave out the s at the end of Spanish words, usually replacing it with an h sound j in Spanish. Thus dále pues - alright then, a common term when wrapping up a conversation, becomes dále pueh.

Vos is typically used instead of tú, something that is common throughout Central America. However, tú is understood.

Guide to Festivals and Events NCX travel guide to festivals and events in Nicaragua. For anyone looking to get away from the tourist traps, it is advised to see some of the local festivals.

You will probably be the only foreigner there. The best resource out there for that is the Guide to Festivals and Events, written in English, which details over 200+ fiestas for the year.

Activities To Engage Yourself While In Nicaragua:

Highland Tours Location: From the Supermarket La Colonia 1.5 blocks north, Estelí. Thinking of visiting the Northern Highlands? Highland Tours provides transport to connect you with the North of the country as well as tours of Matagalpa, Jinotega, Esteli, Condega, Somoto.

City tours, tours of the nature reserves and adventure tours all with bilingual guides and private transportation.

San Cristobal Eco Tours - Ruido Verde Eco Tour, Chichigalpa, Chinandega. To anyone who is considering or planning a trip to Nicaragua's tallest Volcano San Cristobal.

You can contact Albor, a working cooperative that has been set up in the small town of Chichigalpa, which is about a 1 hour bus ride from Leon, and close to the San Cristobal natural reserve.

They provide guide services and logistics for the climb. All the guides on the tour who speak English and Spanish have superb knowledge of the local flora, fauna and landscape having grown up in the area.

They also love sharing the local legends and folklore stories with tourists.

Nicaragua Surf Cabin, Aseradorres, Chinandega region, a 30 min drive from Chinandega a little north of Leon. Great little rustic cabin on 2 acre plot near some awesome surfing beaches.

Two free bikes to use. Inexpensive meals organized by friendly local neighbors. Practice your Spanish. Kick back and relax in this super tranquilo setting. USD8-12 is total price for cabin.

O Parks, WildLife, and Recreation or Ostional Private WildLife Reserve, El Ostional, Nicaragua 3 km South of the Military Post.

7am - Dusk. O Parks, WildLife, and Recreation is located 33 kilometers (20 miles) South of the cruise destination port of San Juan del Sur.

It is nestled in the threatened tropical dry forests of El Ostional in Southwest Nicaragua. Designed by a retired New York City firefighter and 9/11 victim, it is claimed to be a means to have fun saving the world.

It has an extreme ecotourism theme which includes the following: the longest and fastest zipline in nicaragua, fruit tree forest, camping in trees, bicycle, walking and fitness trails.

The park is solar and wind powered, follows a Leave No Trace policy, has compost toilets, and offers fine baked goods and New York City and Nicaraguan cuisine treats to keep you charged during the day. Park entry fee USD5; Package prices vary.

Local Fiestas, Mana-Ahuac Hoy. Seeing the unique festivals is reason enough to travel to Nicaragua but few visitors get a chance to experience them.

Mana-Ahuac Hoy is a tour operator that specializes in connecting visitors to the one-of-a-kind fiestas patronales that happen nearly every day in the country.

They take people to locals only villages where few tourists go to see events like the Gueguense, Gigantona, dance of the little indians, battle of the Christians vs. the Moors, reproductions of the Passion of the Christ, Los Aguizotes.

The biggest and scariest day of the dead festival you will see, bullriding in the streets, carnival parades, greasy pig competitions, dance of the little black men and little red devils, the Cacique, La Griteria, Toro Huaco.

Chaining of Judas, Race of the masked Judases, stations of the cross by boat, the big fish parade, punta music and Garifuna festival, and much, much more.

Enjoy the Nicaraguan beaches, volcanoes and colonial towns but don't leave without experiencing some of the local fiestas.

Explore the rain forest of the Rio San Juan river - Reserva Silvestre Privada Montecristo, 2 km down river from Boca de Sabalos.

8:00 to 5:00. Montecristo is located 45 Kilometers down river from San Carlos, in the center of activity, 2 Km from Boca de Sabalos and 7 Km from El Castillo.

It protect over 200 acres of primary rain forest, is an eco-tourism destination designed by a retired Nicaraguan-American.

It has over 6 acre of garden, more than 6 km of trails for hiking and horseback riding, is a great place for birding and fishing, is the right place to start you canoe or kayak trips up or down river. USD20.00.

Sport fishing tarpon at Montecristo River Lodge, 2 Km donw river from Boca de Sabalos.

Mombacho Volcano, Mombacho Nature Reserve 12 kms south of Granada. Hikes, nature at it finest giant trees, monkeys, birds zip lines, a coffee finca with tours of the processing facility.

Do all or any of that in the cool lush vegetation of the forest. Ride or walk to the top to see the unique cloud forest and stunning views.

Have lunch at Las Flores cafe half way up or stay overnight on the volcano at Mombacho Lodge. All of this just 30 minutes from Granada.

Community Tourism, South slope of Mombacho Volcano, 13 kms south of Granada. Visit one of UCAs rural communities and support the locals with their tourism projects.

You can sleep in the community houses in a private room, dorm room or with a host family. Learn all about how locals live and what they grow. Go hiking, horseback riding, biking or swimming.

The communities are Nicaragua Libre, La Granadilla, Aguas Agrias and Charco Muerto. They are located at the south slope of Volcano Mombacho. 3-8$.

If entering the country from either Honduras or Costa Rica by land, get rid of those currencies as they are hard to exchange away from the border.

The national currency is called the cordoba (NIO). The official exchange rate is about 29 cordobas to one US dollar. The government deflates the currency about 5% every year to be competitive with the dollar.

Most places accept dollars but you will often get change in cordobas and businesses will give you a lower exchange rate. Make sure you have some cordobas handy when using collective buses, taxis, or other small purchases.

Nearly all banks exchange US dollars to cordobas but lines are often long, and you may have to use your credit card to get money rather than your bank card. Make sure you bring your passport when exchanging money.

All ATMs give cordobas and some can dispense dollars too. Make sure that the ATM you're using is part of the networks listed on the back of your bank card.

Though you may be able to find some ATMs that work on the Mastercard/Cirrus system, most will use only the Visa/Plus system.

If you need cordobas when the banks are closed or you can't use your ATM, street licensed money changers or cambistas can be found. Always count your money, though mistakes are rare if you use members of the cambista cooperative.

The rate of exchange can be better or worse than at the bank. However, it is rare during normal hours M-F 09:00-17:00 and Saturday to noon to get a worse rate than the banks, though near the markets you might do as bad.

Latest example January 2010 - Bank pays NIO21.90 per US dollar, cambistas offer NIO22.10.

In Managua, money changers can be found near Pizza Valentis in Los Robles, beside the Dominos Pizza near the BAC Building, and in the Artesania area of Mercado Huembes among other places.

Most modern stores, especially Texaco - Star Mart, Esso - On The Run, La Union - supermarket owned by Wal-Mart will take US currency, often at a slightly better exchange rate than banks or cambistas on the streets make sure to look for cambistas' ID badges, with change in cordobas (NIO).

Limit the bills to USD20 for best success. Cambistas have no problem with USD50 and USD100 bills. They won't accept Euros, Canadian money, or Traveller's Cheques.

To make sure you have Cordobas for taxis and buses from Augusto Sandino Airport in Managua, you can change US currency for Cordobas at a window right in the airport.

If you are going to take one thing home from Nicaragua it should be a hammock. Nicaraguan hammocks are among the best made and most comfortable ever.

The really good ones are made in Masaya, ask a taxi to take you to the fabrica de hamacas, the mercado viejo or the mercado nuevo. You will find the most variety and best prices in Masaya.

A simple one person hammock should cost under USD20. Hammocks are also sold in the Huembes market in Managua, which has the only large local goods and arts and crafts section in Managua.

Nicaragua also produces excellent, highly awarded rum called Flor de Cana. This is the most common liquor drunk in Nicaragua.

Those aged 4 go for Extra Light over Extra Dry or Etiqueta Negra and particularly 7 years (Gran Reserva) are a great buy for the money - about USD4-6/bottle.

Buy in the local stores as the prices at the duty-free airport shops are higher. Gran Reserva is the best value based on price and quality.

A trip to the artisinal towns of the Pueblos Blancos is the most rewarding way to shop for local arts and crafts. The best and easiest location for tourists to buy artisanal items is in the craft market in Masaya.

There is a similar market with the same products from a lot of the same vendors in Mercado Huembes in Managua with slightly lower prices than in the market in Masaya, but vendors and solicitors at Huembes tend to be pushier, especially if they see you`re a gringo.

Located just 10 minutes from Masaya, 30 minutes from Granada and 40 minutes from Managua, these towns are the arts and crafts centre of Nicaragua.

Catarina is home to dozens of nurseries with plants as diverse as this lush tropical country can produce, and also boasts a beautiful view over the Laguna de Apoyo the volcanic crater lake where you can enjoy the view from numerous restaurants.

San Juan del Oriente is the center of pottery production. You can find dozens of mom and pop studios and stores, meet the artisans and choose from a dazzling and creative array of vases, bowls and other ceramic items.

Some of the best shops with more original designs are a few blocks into town off the main highway. Finally, Masatepe is known for its furniture particularly wicker and wood, and with a special focus on rocking chairs, the favourite Nicaraguan chair.

Although you might not be able take any rocking chairs or ferns home with you on the plane, it definitely worth window shopping in these picturesque towns.

You can also find San Juan del Oriente pottery, Masatepe furniture and other arts and crafts in Masaya, Mercado Huembes in Managua, and in the streets of Granada, Leon and other places visited by tourists.

Remember to bargain. Although you may be a tourist, you can still bargain.

Shopping to Western standards is found mainly in Managua in shopping centers, the largest and most modern being MetroCentro near the rotonda Ruben Dario.

There are smaller and inferior malls at Plaza Inter and in Bello Horizonte at Plaza Las Americas. A new and large shopping center called Plaza Santo Domingo is located at Carretera Masaya at about Km. 6.

Shopping like the locals takes place at the mercados, or public markets. The largest and must be one of the largest in the Americas is Mercado Oriental.

This market contains everything in individual stores or stalls from food to clothes to home electronics. Mercado Oriental is one of the most dangerous locations for tourists in the city.

If you go, take only the cash you want to spend. No wallets, watches or jewelry and if you take a cell phone, take it in your pocket not visible to others. It is best to go with a local or better yet a group of locals.

Less frightening, safer and with a similar selection is Mercado Huembes. It is smaller and more open and less difficult to get trapped in a dark isolated passage.

This market has the aforementioned Masaya artisanal crafts at higher than Masaya prices.

There are a few other markets similar in nature, smaller in size, farther away from the beaten track and not worth looking for due to lack of safety and less goods at higher prices.

Nicaraguan cuisine is a mixture of Spanish food and dishes of a pre-Columbian origin.

Traditional cuisine changes from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast. The Pacific coast's main staple revolves around local fruits and corn, the Caribbean coast cuisine makes use of seafood and the coconut.

Gallo Pinto is a traditional dish of Nicaragua made with rice and beans.

As in many other Latin American countries, maize is a staple food and is used in many of the widely consumed dishes, such as the nacatamal, and indio viejo.

Maize is also an ingredient for drinks such as pinolillo and chicha as well as sweets and desserts. In addition to corn, rice and beans are eaten very often.
Gallo pinto, Nicaragua's national dish, is made with white rice and red beans that are cooked individually and then fried together.

The dish has several variations including the addition of coconut milk and/or grated coconut on the Caribbean coast.

Most Nicaraguans begin their day with Gallopinto. Gallopinto is most usually served with carne asada, a salad, fried cheese, plantains or maduros.

Many of Nicaragua's dishes include indigenous fruits and vegetables such as jocote, mango, papaya, tamarindo, pipian, banana, avocado, yuca, and herbs such as cilantro, oregano and achiote.

Nicaraguans have been known to eat guinea pigs, known as cuy. Tapirs, iguanas, turtle eggs, armadillos and boas are also sometimes eaten, but because of extinction threats to these wild creatures, there are efforts to curb this custom.

Food is very cheap. A plate of food from the street will cost 75-100 cordobas. A typical sit down dinner will consist of meat, rice, beans, salad and some fried plantains, costing under 120 Cordobas.

Street side, buffet-style restaurants/stalls called fritanga are very common, quality varies quite a bit. A lot of the food is fried in oil vegetable or lard.

It is possible to eat vegetarian: the most common dish is gallo pinto or beans and rice, and most places serve cheese fried or fresh, fried plantains and cabbage salad.

There are a few vegetable dishes such as guiso de papas, pipian o ayote a buttery creamy stew of potato, zucchini or squash; guacamole nica made with hard-boiled eggs, breaded pipian (zucchini), and various fried fritters of potatoes, cheese and other vegetables.

If you like meat, grilled chicken and beef is delicious, the beef is usually good quality but often cooked tough; also try the nacatamales, a traditional Sunday food, that is essentially a large tamal made with pork or chicken and other seasonings.

Indio Viejo is a corn meal or masa based dished made with either shredded chicken or beef and flavoured with mint. The typical condiment is chilero a cured onion and chile mixture of varying spiciness depending on the cook.

Nicaraguan food is not known for being spicy, though either chilero or hot sauce is almost always available.

Nicaraguan typical diet includes rice, small red beans, and either fish or meat. Nicaraguans pride themselves for their famous gallo pinto that is a well-balanced mix of rice and beans and is usually served during breakfast.

Plantains are a big part of the Nicaraguan diet. You will find it prepared in a variety of forms: fried (subdivided into maduros/sweet, tajadas/long thin fried chips, and tostones/smashed and twice fried), baked, boiled, with cream or cheese, as chips for a dip, smashed into a "toston".

Green bananas and guineo bananas are also boiled and eaten as side dishes.

Nicaraguan tortillas are made from corn flour and are thick, almost resembling a pita. One common dish is quesillo: a string of mozzarella-type cheese with pickled onion, a watery sour cream, and a little salt all wrapped in a thick tortilla.

It can be found on street corners or in the baskets of women who walk around shouting Quesiiiiiillo. The most famous quesillos come from the side of the highway between Managua and Leon in Nagarote.

They also serve a local drink, tiste and La Paz Centro. The best selection of cheeses, from quesillo to cuajada, is in Chontales.

A typical dish found for sale in the street as well as in restaurants is Vigoron, consisting of pork grind, yuca and cabbage salad, chilis can be added to taste.

Fritangas mid to large street side food vendors and grills that usually have seats and are found in most residental neighborhoods typically sell grilled chicken, beef and pork and fried foods.

They also commonly sell tacos and enchiladas that can be delicious but have very little in common with their 2nd cousins once removed in Mexico.

Tacos are made with either chicken or beef rolled up in a tortilla and deep fried, served with cabbage salad, cream, sometimes ketchup or a homemade tomato sauce, and chile on the side.

They are a little like a Mexican taquito/taco dorado. Enchiladas don't have anything enchiloso about them and not spicy.

They are a tortilla filled with a beef and rice mixture, folded in half to enclose the mixture, covered in deep fry batter and then yes, deep fried. They are served similarly to tacos.

One alternative to the fried offering in the typical menu is carne en baho. This is a combination of beef, yucca, sweet potato, potato and other ingredients steamed in plantain leaves for several hours.
One typical dessert is Tres Leches which is a soft spongy cake that combines three varieties of milk condensed, evaporated and fresh for a sweet concoction.

If you travel to Chinandega, ask the locals who sell Tonqua It is a great fruit that is candied in sugar and is only available in Chinandega. Most Nicaraguans outside of Chinandega do not know what Tonqua is.

Tonqua is a Chinese word for a fruit, because tonqua is a plant that Chinese immigrants introduced to the Chinandega area.

Rum is the liquor of choice, though you will find some whisky and vodka as well. The local brand of Rum is Flor de Cana and is available in several varieties.

Light, Extra Dry, Black Label, Gran Reserva aged 7 years, Centenario aged 12 years and a new top-of-the line 18 year old aged rum. There is also a cheaper rum called Ron Plata.

Local beers include Victoria, Tona, Premium, and Brahva. Victoria is the best quality of these, similar in flavour to mainstream European lagers, while the others have much lighter bodies with substantially less flavour, and are more like mainstream US lagers.

A new beer is Victoria Frost which is similarly light.

In the non-alcoholic arena you will find the usual soft drinks such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola. Some local drinks include pinolillo' and cacao are delicious drinks from cocoa beans.

Corn and milk and usually some cinnamon, a thick cacao based drink, Milca', and Rojita, a red soda that tastes similar to Inca Cola or Red Pop, if you're from Texas or the southern United States.

Nicaraguans drink a huge variety of natural fruit juices and beverages, jugos naturales which are usually pure juices, and refrescos naturales which are fresh fruit juices mixed with water and sugar.

Popular are tamarind, cantelope, watermellon, hibiscus flower or flor de jamaica, limeade, orange, grapefruit, dragon fruit, star fruit usually mixed with orange, mango, papaya, pineapple, and countless others.

Luiquados or shakes of fruit and milk or water are also popular, most common are banana, mango or papaya with milk.

Also common and very traditional are corn and grain based drinks like tiste, chicha both corn, cebada (barley) and linaza (flaxseed). Most fresh drinks are around NIO10-20.

As in other parts of Central America, avoid juices made with water if you are not conditioned to untreated water, unless at a restaurant that uses purified water.

Accommodations can generally be had quite cheaply throughout Nicaragua. Options range from simple hammocks (USD2-3), to dorm rooms in hostels (USD5-9), to private double-bed or matrimonial rooms (USD10-35, depending on presence of TV, A/C, and private bathroom).

You will find more expensive hotel accommodations in some cities, as well as more intimate and exclusive B&B's where advance screening/reservation, payment and/or deposit may be required.

While Barrio Martha Quezada has typically been a budget destination for visitors to Managua due to its many inexpensive hotel options, it has become increasingly dangerous, especially for tourists, with robberies occurring in broad daylight.

Unless you need to be in this area to catch an early morning bus from a nearby terminal, it is advisable to avoid Martha Quezada, particularly since it is far from what is termed the new center of Managua.

The area near the Tica Bus station has a reputation for being dangerous as well, and tourists may be well advised to take a cab directly to and from the station, even if the walk is short.

Backpackers Inn near MetroCentro 5 min by taxi from the UCA microbuses, Hotel San Luis in Colonia Centroamerica 5 min by taxi from Mercado Huembes bus terminal are good budget options in safe neighborhoods.

As are numerous hotels of various prices in neighborhoods around the new center near Metrocentro and Caraterra Masaya i.e. Altamira, Los Robles, Reparto San Juan.

Look for pensiones or huespedes or hospedajes as these are the cheapest sleeps costing under USD5. They are usually family owned and you'll be hanging out with mostly locals.

Make sure you know when they lock their doors if you are going out at night. Hotels have more amenities but are more expensive.

There are some backpacker hostels in Granada, San Juan del Sur, Isla Ometepe, Masaya, Managua, and Leon; otherwise, it's pensiones all the way.

Spanish schools and courses are available in most cities, especially Granada. Look for specific listings in local guides, or just inquire when you're there.

Schools offer homestay as an option. Living with a spanish family helps to use your Spanish and you learn the culture as a bonus. The courses are usually 20 hours per week.

Employment opportunities for foreigners is limited. You are not permitted to work with a simple tourist visa.

One job of particular interest to foreigners is teaching. If you are a native English speaker and speak Spanish as well and have a bachelor's degree, you may be able to teach at a Nicaraguan university.

Again, you will need to arrange for the proper work permits. Instructors earn about USD500 a month.

Foreigners also enjoy volunteering. In Nicaragua, there are various opportunities for community service. Most of the organizations in Nicaragua can be used in obtaining community service hours for any organization or any college/university requirement.

Look into organizations like the Fabretto Foundation. Abundance Farm, a small family-run farm in Carazo, accepts volunteers but screens them through email prior to arrival.

It is a taste of the real Nicaragua and not for the faint at heart. To get an even greater overview of the opportunities available in Nicaragua you can also have a look at an online comparison platform for volunteering such as Volunteer World.

The official story is Nicaragua has made considerable strides in terms of providing police presence and order throughout the country.

Crime is supposed to be relatively low, though in reality there are some very bad neighborhoods. In the north, starting in 2008, reports of low-level gang violence began coming in from Honduras and El Salvador.

The National Nicaraguan Police have been successful in apprehending gang members and reducing organized crime.

Do not travel alone at night. Pay for a taxi to avoid being assaulted in dimly lit areas. Tourists are advised to remain alert at all times in Managua.

Although gang activity is not generally considered a major problem in Nicaragua, opportunistic attacks and murders do happen even in broad daylight, particularly in Rivas and Managua, caution should be exercised.

Tourists are advised to travel in groups or with someone trusted who understands the local area and not just Spanish.

There are local organizations that offer translator or guide services. One of them is Viva Spanish School Managua.

Sexual harassment of women of both tourists and locals can be best described as constant, even by Latin American standards, and it is particularly pronounced if traveling as a single woman or group of women.

Men and boys of all ages will make kissing noises and whistle or shout rude sexual comments. Ignoring the comments and walking on is sufficient. In the unlikely event you are followed, go into the nearest large shop or hotel.

Travellers should be advised that there is hysteria in the country regarding child pornography, and recently there was a series of arrests and detainments of Western expats in Granada for suspected pornography, news sites claim they were framed.

It is also advised that tourists refrain from using foreign currency in local transactions. It is best to have the local currency instead of having to convert with individuals on streets or non-tourist areas.

Banks in Nicaragua require identification for any currency conversion transactions. Use ATMs that dispense the local currency. When using ATMs, follow precautions and be aware of your surroundings.

Buses can be extremely crowded and tight in terms of space. An overhead rack tends to be provided for the storage of bags and other items, but tourists are recommended to keep their bags at hand, in their sight, at all times and maybe to put a lock on your bag.

Collective taxis are also risky as organized crime has flourished in this transportation sector because of fixed passengers.

In other words, drivers already know who they pick up and thus can mug the one extra passenger. This crime, however, is not common. When riding taxis, tourists are strongly recommended to close their windows.

Although extensive de-mining operations have been conducted to clear rural areas of northern Nicaragua of landmines left from the civil war in the 1980s.

Visitors venturing off the main roads in these areas are cautioned that there is still the possibility of encountering landmines.

You will need a little bit of money to go over international borders. Nicaragua charges a border toll of USD10-13 depending on the administrative tax.

This is on top of a CA-4 visa that's good for crossing the borders between Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Under the treaty establishing that visa, the border guards are not supposed to check people with such a visa, but they do so anyhow and charge tolls, which they claim are border crossing visa fees.

There are also illegitimate theft of foreigners belongings and detentions at immigration borders. They also charge a US$3 exit tax to leave the country by land borders—fortunately, not the same US$42 as in airport departures.

According to the US State Department's Consular Sheet for Nicaragua, the tap water in Managua is safe to drink, but bottled water with chlorine is always the best choice.

The water in Esteli is especially good as it comes from deep wells. Bottled water is readily available, with a gallon at a supermarket around an American dollar.

Given its tropical latitude, there are plenty of bugs/insects flying about. Be sure to wear bug repellent containing DEET particularly if you head to more remote areas such as Isla Ometepe, San Juan river region, or the Caribbean Coast.

Dengue fever is present in some areas and comes from a type of mosquito that flies mostly between dusk and dawn.

Malaria is not of serious concern unless you are heading to the Caribbean coast or along the Rio San Juan. You may be advised by a doctor to get Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccinations before heading to Nicaragua.

Even though there is a public health system and many public hospitals, these are terrible options for tourists apart from the gravest emergency and even then only until a private hospital can send an ambulance.

There are several private hospitals, in order of quality from best to worst are Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas at Carretera Masaya Km 10, Hospital Bautista, Hospital Militar near Plaza Inter and a few others.

Despite promoting medical tourism, these hospitals rarely have English speakers on staff for dealing with tourists.

If you insist or someone with you does, you may get an English speaking employee. It is still best to have some Spanish or attend with someone bilingual.

If you have a problem and Cruz Roja are called the Nicaraguan Red Cross ambulance service and you have money or insurance have them take you to one of the private hospitals in the order mentioned.

They will probably ask you anyway, but specify the private hospital or call the hospital for their ambulance.

Private hospitals are much less expensive than in the United States: a private room with private nurse in 2009 at Metropolitano was USD119 per day. An MRI of the knee in 2010 was USD300.

Emergency surgery in 2008 in Bautista including surgeon, anesthesia, operating and recovery rooms and supplies was USD1,200 with the private room under USD100 after that.
Granada is a Nicaraguan city on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. It’s home to multiple Spanish colonial landmarks that have survived repeated pirate invasions.

The city’s main plaza, Central Park, is dominated by the colorful, neoclassical facade of the Cathedral of Granada, originally dating to 1583.

The Centro Cultural Convento San Francisco nearby is famed for its displays of pre-Columbian statues.

From the bell tower of Iglesia de la Merced, a baroque church that was first built in 1534, visitors can admire the city, lake and the nearby 1,400m-high Mombacho Volcano.

Built by the Spanish in 1748, Fortaleza de la Polvora is a former fortress turned military museum that also provides panoramic views.

Beyond Granada, Las Isletas is a roughly 350-island archipelago popular with kayakers and bird-watchers.

To the south lies the Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve, which offers hiking trails around the volcano’s rim, as well as canopy tours.

Granada is the most popular expat location in Nicaragua. This beautifully refurbished colonial town delights the eyes with its colorful buildings, interesting markets with items and produce you've never seen before, old ornate churches that hint at the past opulence of the city, and more.

Take a boat ride to the 365 isletas for a relaxing day or have dinner on famous La Calzada street and enjoy unplanned evening entertainment right in the streets. Art schools, theater, and many celebrations make this city exciting.

You can buy an old colonial home that needs restoring for under $200,000.

These are magnificent properties designed with many rooms that branch off a central courtyard where you can build your pool and surround it with lush gardens.

Leon has always been Granada's rival, with both cities previously vying for the title of capital of the country until Managua was selected instead. Leon and Granada are still rivals, but now for tourists instead of politics.

Leon is the University town of Nicaragua, where thousands of young people arrive each year to further their studies.

With students, come coffee houses, healthy food eateries and fascinating intellectual discussions. You can find a furnished apartment for $350 a month here and a colonial house to refurbish for under $150,000.

The cost of living in all of these cities is relatively the same. A couple can live in Nicaragua for about $1,500 a month, which includes everything. A single person and more and more are coming, can expect to pay less.

Of course, if you want your comfort foods from home, your budget will go up, as it will if you buy a car to maintain.

Everything is relative and it's up to you to choose your method of working, playing, and controlling your finances, but you can live here very economically.
Managua, on the south shore of Lake Managua, is the capital city of Nicaragua.

Its cathedral, a shell since a 1972 earthquake, is on the Plaza of the Revolution.

Nearby is the tomb of Sandinista leader Carlos Fonseca. The 1935 National Palace of Culture houses the National Museum.

Hilltop Parque Historico Nacional Loma de Tiscapa is known for its crater lake and huge statue of revolutionary Augusto Sandino.

In the lakeside Acahualinca neighborhood, the Huellas de Acahualinca are fossilized tracks of people and animals from 6,000 years ago, preserved in volcanic mud.

A museum contains other relics found during excavations of the site. Southeast of town, Masaya Volcano National Park offers views of the active volcano crater.

Close by, Chocoyero-El Brujo Nature Reserve is home to forest trails and wildlife, including howler monkeys.

The reserve encompasses the waterfalls El Brujo, with waters that seem to disappear underground, and Chocoyero, drawing flocks of green Pacific parakeets.
Lake Nicaragua or Cocibolca or Granada is a freshwater lake in Nicaragua.

Of tectonic origin and with an area of 8,264 km², it is the largest lake in Central America, the 19th largest lake in the world and the 9th largest in the Americas, slightly smaller than Lake Titicaca.

With an elevation of 32.7 metres above sea level, the lake reaches a depth of 26 metres. It is intermittently joined by the Tipitapa River to Lake Managua.

The lake drains to the Caribbean Sea via the San Juan River, historically making the lakeside city of Granada, Nicaragua, an Atlantic port although Granada is closer to the Pacific Ocean geographically.

The Pacific is near enough to be seen from the mountains of Ometepe. The lake has a history of Caribbean pirates who assaulted Granada on three occasions.

Before construction of the Panama Canal, a stagecoach line owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt's Accessory Transit Company connected the lake with the Pacific across the low hills of the narrow Isthmus of Rivas.

Plans were made to take advantage of this route to build an interoceanic canal, the Nicaragua Canal, but the Panama Canal was built instead.

Mombacho Volcano, nature reserve, hiking, and forest.

Mombacho is a stratovolcano in Nicaragua, near the city of Granada. It is 1344 metres high. The Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve is one of 78 protected areas of Nicaragua. Mombacho is not an extinct.

Zapatera - Volcano and nature

Zapatera is a shield volcano located in the southern part of Nicaragua. It forms the island of Isla Zapatera in the Lake Nicaragua. Isla Zapatera constitutes one of 78 protected areas of Nicaragua

Waterhole - Natural volcanic spring swimming hole

Wooded site with a natural swimming hole of volcanic-origin water amid native plants & wildlife.

Iglesia La Merced - Baroque church with climbable bell tower

Visitors to this 1534 church can climb a spiral staircase to the bell tower for panoramic views.

Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Nature reserve, caiman, wildlife, and river

Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge has an area of 437.5 km² and is located south of Lake Nicaragua and west of the San Juan River in Nicaragua.

Los Guatuzos is a protected area consisting of tropical

Mombacho Volcano National Preserve, Trails, wildlife & an inactive volcano. A dormant volcano anchors this wildlife-rich nature preserve, which has hiking trails & a museum.

Mombacho is a stratovolcano in Nicaragua, near the city of Granada. It is 1344 metres high.

The Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve is one of 78 protected areas of Nicaragua.

Mombacho is not an extinct volcano but the last eruption occurred in 1570.

Nicaragua Canal, Canal and lake. The Nicaraguan Canal, formally the Nicaraguan Canal and Development Project was a proposed shipping route through Nicaragua to connect the Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean. Scientists were

San Francisco Convent, Museum with history & cultural exhibits

Historical monastery-turned-museum with Nicaraguan history & cultural exhibits, including artifacts.

San Juan del Sur is often called - the party town on the beach, but it has also been finding its way as an art town. Fledgling art organizations crop up and work together and separately to provide a new art scene for this tiny three-square-block city.

The prices are higher here than other parts of Nicaragua like anywhere else in the world with a stunning beach but still not bad. For budget-minded people, expect to pay $400 a month and up for a furnished one-bedroom apartment.

If you are interested in buying, three brand-new condo complexes offer you modern living, some with ocean views and all between $145,000 and $200,000. There are also townhouses and smaller condos available for around $110,000.

For big-city living, you might consider Managua. Like most big cities, population here is about 2.6 million, it has its attractions and detractions.

Here you will find the best hospitals and clinics, supermarkets like back home, upscale home decoration and clothing stores, theater, major concerts, nightclubs, and more.

Of course, you will also get more noise, car pollution, traffic, and rushing around, just like in any other city. Rents in good family neighborhoods go for between $400 and $700 a month for a two- or three-bedroom home.

Purchase prices start at $100,000 and can go up basically as high as you want.

Go to Matagalpa if you want a breath of fresh air. Situated on the side of a lush green mountain, this city has a temperate climate and is a nature lover's paradise.

A real middle-class city, Matagalpa has disability ramps on all streets, bans smoking in many places, has many alternative medicine pharmacies, and also has a lower cost of living than the other cities in Nicaragua.

Rents can be as low as $250 a month for a one-bedroom, furnished apartment and you can still find detached family homes in the city center for less than $100,000 and up to $300,000 for something that would cost substantially more in the States.

Tourism Observer