Nicaragua is politically stable and attracts an increasing number of visitors and investors due to low prices, stunning scenery and the rising global interest in ecotourism. It has come far since the violence associated with the Sandinista revolution and Contra War in the 1980's, though there is still a lingering problem with corruption.
Roughly the size of New York state, Nicaragua is bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south with both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. The rugged Pacific coast is backed by a chain of volcanoes that form the Cordillera Los Maribios. Several volcanoes stud two huge lakes: Lago de Managua and the larger Lago de Nicaragua. The eastern half of the country comprises thickly forested Llanuras (flatlands) that smother the Carribean zone, while much of the Caribbean shore is lined with swampy lagoons. From the 1890's to the 1930's various coups, rebellions and dictators were part of Nicaraguan politics. The US sent troops on several occasions. The last few decades saw improvements in Nicaragua's physical infrastructure and world standing despite several natural disasters. One of the deadliest was Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which killed more than 4000 people and destroyed much of the country's agricultural land and infrastructure. Recent years have seen unprecedented growth as the tourism trade and real estate markets have taken off in the southwest.
Nicaragua is the poorest nation in Central America and second poorest to Haiti in the Western Hemisphere.
Nicaragua has a population of around 6 million, with about 1 million in the capital city of Managua.
Per Capita GDP (Goods and Services Per Person):
United States $55,800
World Average $15,800
Percentage With Access To Improved Water Sources:
United States 99%
World Average 91%
Percentage With Access To Improved Sanitation:
United States 100%
World Average 86%
Percentage With Internet Access:
United States 87%
World Average 39%
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From May to October, it is the rainy season, and the highs range from 81 to 90 degrees. From November to April, it is the dry season, and the highs range from 86 to 95 degrees.
Nicaragua does not have much of a distinct culinary tradition, though a number of uniquely Nicaraguan dishes are worth seeking out. Take advantage of the abundant fresh fruit. Corn is a staple and used in many foods, drinks, and desserts. The beans and rice dish known as gallo pinto is a common dish. You will be eating a lot of this! Other specialties include baho (stewed meat, bananas, and vegetables), nacatamales (meat and vegetables), vigoron (pork and yucca) and mondongo (tripe soup). Local beverages include frescos (tropical fruit drinks) and tiste (a unique corn and cacao drink).
Nicaragua is 58% Catholic and 23% Protestant.
Do's & Don'ts
Make a concerted effort to speak some Spanish. Tip traveling mariachi bands if you stop to listen while they play for you. Learn the points of reference used by locals: east is arriba (where the sun rises) toward the central mountains west is abajo (where the sun sets) towards the Pacific Ocean north is al lago (to the lake) south is a la montana (to the mountains) Some Nicaraguans are more time relaxed; showing up late is commonplace.
Don't run for cover if you hear a noise like gunfire. Firecrackers are a favorite toy of Nicaraguan kids. Don't be offended if someone refers to you by the color of your skin or your body type. A Nicaraguan who calls you gordo (fat), flaco (thin), or chelle (light-skinned), negra (dark-skinned) means no insult. Don't encourage begging by giving money to school-age kids who should be in school instead of on the streets
It's ALWAYS on Central Standard Time (CST). Nicaragua Does not participate in Daylight Saving Time.
Words & Phrases
Below are quick reference to some common words and phrases:
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