Travel Tips & FAQ’s
Banks and ATMs
Esteli has all the national banks in town. There are several ATMs, four of which are on “Bank Corner”, two blocks from the Parque Central. BAC is preferred with both USD$ and Cordobas.
Bring a spare credit card for emergencies /sudden illness, like appendicitis, etc.
The local currency is Cordobas (C$) but the US Dollar ($) is also valid currency. Use Credit cards to withdraw your money here to avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
There are Western Union outlets everywhere for wiring money in emergency.
Internet, Calls and Mail
In the cities, there is good, at times, internet, often free in hotels and hostels, coffee shops, cafes and parks, however there is no internet in rural locations.
Cafe Luz & Luna Hostel is a WIFI zone.
Phone calls can be made from any internet cafe, international or national, from only C$2-4 per min.
Mail can be sent and collected through Cafe Luz itself, please ask at bar. We do have a PO address. The international mail service is quite reliable but not fast.
Send to: Juanita Boyd, (then write your destined recipient), A.P. 40, Esteli, Nicaragua, Central America.
In Cafe Luz, we can offer scanning and fax service in office hours.
In Café Luz y Luna Hostel we offer same-day wash & dry, for $1 per lb of washing.
Cafe Luz can provide you with luggage storage. For our guests, it is a free service and there’ll be very small charge for other guests in town, but we will gladly look after your backpacks while travelling to Miraflor or Somoto.
Climate change is very obvious in the tropical and developing countries. The rains are becoming more intense in hurricane season. The weather is becoming inconsistent and drought is becoming more frequent.
The rainy season runs from May until Dec/Jan. Heaviest rainfall is in October, sometimes September, with coastal tropical storms bringing heavy rains that last for a few days. Otherwise rain is generally short-lasting, and shelter can be found. The rest of the day stays warm and a little humid.
In July to August there is usually a “veranillo/canicula”, a break in the rains.
Esteli provides much relief from the intense humidity of the coast. The rains provide lush greenery, a cooler climate and precipitation is sporadic not persistent.
The dry season is the verano (summer), and runs from Feb to April. The heat peaks around Easter time. It can be breezy and the nights are cool.
Locals usually use umbrellas. Mud is a given fact, so bring good walking sandals or boots.
In Miraflor and Tisey Nature Reserves, fleeces or sweaters are essential for the evenings and early mornings. It can be exposed, very cold and windy, so be prepared.
Boots and flip flops can all be bought economically in Esteli.
Longer term accommodation in Esteli
There are many places to rent in town, including private rooms within family homes, unfurnished apartments or houses and several new fully furnished apartments on Parque Central.
It’s recommended to come and stay for a week, and by walking the town and asking an ideal solution is usually found. Rents vary from $50/100 pcm for a room to about $300-500 for a house to share for 3-4 people. Food is relatively expensive to buy here, plus gas and cookers on top but eating out can be cheap in the right places.
There are several small schools set up in town. The climate is ideal, there are less English speakers than most Spanish school venue cities and there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer or chat to the locals in Nicaragua that you’d really never find anywhere else.
Dengue Fever and Chikungunya can be more prolific in urban areas and care should be taken to avoid daytime mosquito bites. Long trousers and insect repellents help. If you get Dengue or Chikungunya, cover yourself at night with a mosquito net to avoid spreading the infection to others close-by.
Dengue is rampant at the end of the rainy season in urban areas. Take care to cover up, avoid shorts, wear repellent on ankles, feet, arms and hands and face at dusk and dawn and when sleeping. These tiny striped-legged mosquitos bite quickly and are unheard.
It is a short and sharp flu-like virus that can deal a subsequent blow to the immune system. The headache is unbearable at first, and you don’t always get the other symptoms of rash, vomiting or diarrhea, so be warned. Just take acetaminophen, as per recommended dosage, and fluids.
Chikungunya is a very similar virus, spread by the same mosquito and more endemic this last year, 2015/6. Fever is pronounced at the start, a rash across the arms and body, and more severe aching joint pains, that can linger for a longer time than the fever. There is no cure, but it is recommended to take freshly squeezed lemons in a glass with fresh honey and bicarbonate of soda, 3 times a day. Plus oral rehydration therapy (suero oral), paracetamol (acetaminophen) according to dose, and rest. Do not take antibiotics. Local tests can confirm the viral infection.
Malaria is hardly ever found in Estelí and certainly not in the mountain regions. Precautions may be taken for travelling in other low-lying areas, ask your local clinic.
Leptospirosis is present and most likely transmitted in areas of poorer living conditions. It can develop after bathing or wetting feet or open wounds in water infected by rodent faeces. Simple antibiotics can be taken if exposed but are not so effective in later stages.
Parasites and diarrhea are common in tropical countries. Oral Rehydration Therapy (“Suero”) must be taken when fluids are lost at any level. Easily bought at local pharmacies, it is always good to have some on hand. Local laboratories quickly process samples for results between bacterial and parasitical infections, and pharmacists or local doctors can quickly prescribe the remedial drug. Gatorade also helps. Consider where you eat, but drinking water in the cities is good around Nicaragua. We recommend a local cure known as ‘Jarabe de Guayaba’ which is made from guava leaves and is a very effective cure for diarrhea and bad stomachs in general. Ajo (garlic) remedies for parasites are also very effective.
Rabies is rare. Dogs are vaccinated annually throughout Nicaragua, even the wandering street dogs. If working with bats, precautions must be taken in advance.
Bites: Care should be taken and people allergic to mosquitoes and scorpions should take advance precautions. Incidents are rare, but scorpions and snakes do live in tropical countries. Local knowledge is the best remedy.
H1N1 Flu Virus, otherwise known as Swine Flu, has been present in Nicaragua and has stabilised. It has taken hold slowly and is known locally as “Gripe A”. There is vaccine and care is taken for those who live with families and children and pregnant mothers. Symptoms include chest infections and bad headaches. Take a blood test at a laboratory or private clinic and don’t rush to the public hospitals. Symptoms can overlap with common travelling symptoms in a tropical country – temperature, diarrhea, vomiting, etc. But the flu hits the respiratory system.
In general: Bring anti-bacterial gel, use it! Don’t be alarmist. Take “Suero”/oral rehydration therapy sachets/liquids and REST! Don’t rush to the hospital, but be careful.
Health care is free in Nicaragua at public health centers and hospitals. However private consults with doctors, lab tests (for stomach upsets), and more efficient private clinics all charge, reasonable prices. ($2 for tests, to $25-30 consultation with doctor). The central hospitals in Managua are very good, free and private.
In Esteli the city hospital is called the Hospital Juan de Dios, situated 1.5 km south on the Pan-Am highway (“La carretera”).
The city drop-in health center, “Centro de Salud Leonel Rugama”, is situated 1km south on the Boulevard /Calle central, before “la salida”.
The recommended Private hospital is currently “Hospital Adventista”, a small but efficient place, good for quick service and to have friends to be at your side (barely allowed in public hospitals). It is situated opposite the ‘Hospital Viejo’ on Calle central.
Laboratories: There are several located throughout the city and this is where you need to have blood, sputum or stool samples taken to get results for local doctors or even basic self diagnosis. We recommend most UltraImagen, opposite Hotel Chico, and Laboratorio Central, adjacent to the Hospital Viejo (actually now a renovated social security wing /’provisional’).
Dentists are everywhere and prices range, they are private, but the best are good.
Natural Medicine and chronic complaints; Esteli is a research centre and haven for natural medicine. There are two research labs, Cecalli and Isnaya, and their products can be found at their centers or also across the city’s many ‘Botanical’ stores. Try Botanica Miraflor, next to Pali, Calle Central. Excellent cures for stomach disorders, diarrhea, anemia, stress, anxiety, coughs and sleeplessness etc. Highly recommended. Many homestays in Miraflor have expert knowledge in natural medicine and provide remedies.
Travel risks in Managua
Please note that there have been less reports in the last year, and we believe that the situation has been controlled.
This is a desperately unfortunate reality which has occurred in two known areas of Managua with dodgy taxis. At the Roberto Huembes bus terminal and the UCA Managua (the university microbus stop).(Very few) tourists have been taken hostage and forced to submit cash from the ATM’s, by force, when thinking they were boarding a taxi with local women and other national travellers. No one has come to real harm, and it’s very hard to deal with. Try to get off your buses before arriving in Managua, prior to these terminals. We use the MOVISTAR (Cell phone head offices) bus stop, on the highway as you come down to Managua. It’s small and open, on the highway and from there you can get any passing taxi, who are unlikely to be part of a scam.
In case of any incident, you should try to contact any Managua police, it cannot be reported out of the city itself. Also please report any incident to INTUR, the tourism offices. If you are targeted it is important not to resist. Your personal safety is paramount. Money is only money.
Safety in Esteli
Esteli is a fairly safe city. You should still take a few precautions, though, like staying out of bad areas, not walking alone in the night and keeping an eye on your belongings. As petty theft does happen to anyone, don’t carry around more money and valuables than needed, and try to keep it in a safe place where you are staying.
Keep a copy of your passport and visa entry stamp at all times, you are obliged to have this when travelling anywhere in Nicaragua, and not just on your phone, what if your phone disappears?
If you feel that trouble of any kind is emerging, just walk away. Seek help from anyone nearby you, locals are very friendly and can try to help.
Life is undoubtedly less hassle-free if you are a young woman here. The more skin you expose (shorts, sling-tops etc) you will get jeered at, whistled at etc. Very rarely you will be physically touched, just eyes down avoids an interaction. More conservative clothing can help that, but don’t be hostile to it, just smile calmly or ignore it.
Citizens of U.S.A, Canada, most European countries, and most other countries will receive an automatic 90 day tourist visa, on arrival, that costs $10. Through over-land borders, the entry fee is $12 plus local authority fees. This visa is valid for Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
A few nationalities need to apply for a visa in advance, though, so you need to check that before you go. You should also check well in advance whether you will need a visa in a transit country. If your flight is passing through the U.S.A. you will need to have a current ESTA visa which you can apply for online (https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/) and is valid for two years.
Visa Renewal “Prorroga”
If you are staying for more than 90 days, you can easily renew your visa for another 90 days, in country, at the migration office in Esteli or Managua. Always say you are a tourist, even if you are volunteering for us. After 6 months total stay you will need to leave the country and re-enter to start the process again. Since Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have a common visa program (C4), you have to go to Costa Rica to get a new three months stay. You cannot do it in the C4 countries.
Do you have more questions? For example about pharmacies, supermarkets, hairdressers, exercise in Esteli or other things? Please contact Treehuggers Office.