Travel FAQ’s

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.

Washing/Laundry

In Café Luz y Luna Hostel we offer same-day wash & dry, for $1 per lb of washing.

Luggage storage

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

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.

Clothing

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.

Spanish schools

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.

Health issues

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.

Healthcare

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.

Visa

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.

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Our Projects

Luz Verde

TreeHuggers is proud to be a non-profit social enterprise based on the simple principle that tourism shouldn’t just benefit the tourists. We’re committed to providing amazing tours that help give back to the communities that we work with on an everyday basis. One way we do this is through an initiative we call Luz Verde.

Luz Verde Projects are supported by the earnings of the non-profit Luna International Hostel, the Cafe Luz and the TreeHuggers Tourism Office. Luz Verde supports local employment and income generation through these three enterprises. It also operates on a non-profit basis, supporting a variety of local social projects with all profits.

Luz Verde collaborates with projects focusing on education, women, youth work, environmental and community driven initiatives. Luz Verde facilitates educational development initiatives in local communities, ecotourism, organic gardens, library access and workshops, volunteers, expedition groups, conservation and restoration support, disaster relief funding, scholarships and music and theatre programs.


painting


The administration of the projects is supported from within Cafe Luz y Luna, sharing resources and offices.

Many generous donors and groups have supported us over the years, without their invaluable support we could not have made it this far! We Thank them enormously.

 



We are official partners with NGO’s Omprakash in the USA and Sustainability Partners in the UK who receive and process donations on our behalf.

Click here to find out more!


The Bibliobus! One of our favorite projects


 

Estelí Mural Tours

The Marvelous Murals of Estelí

A fascinating guided tour of the many varied murals of Estelí, including those related to the revolution and activism, educational murals and children’s murals. An ideal way to learn about the history and culture of the city, past and present, while getting to see some beautiful art.
Tours are possible in Spanish or English.
Morning Tours: 9am 
Afternoon Tours: 1pm
Reserve the day before in the TreeHuggers office for a morning tour. For an afternoon tour you can book the day before or the morning of the tour. Meet at Café Luz at least ten minutes beforehand.

$10 US per person, please pay at Café Luz. Discounts for groups of 5 or more.

Miraflor Reserve

Miraflor is an extremely diverse natural reserve that is home to a virgin cloud forest, mountains and fertile farming land that sustain about 6,000 people across 50 small communities.

With stunning views, waterfalls, excellent hiking, horse riding trails, birdwatching and organic coffee farming, it is easy to spend at least a few days exploring Miraflor.

We offer tailored guided tours, horseback riding and home stays with local families from eight participating communities. No matter what experience you’re looking for, we can help you find it.


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Hiking Tours are from US$15 per day (Groups of 1-3)*

We work directly with home owners and guides in Miraflor Nature Reserve and can help tailor your trip to your specific needs.

Horse Riding Tours – $10 per person plus guide**

Private land owners may charge between C$10-25 (up to US$1) for some hiking routes across private land.

Home Stays US$20 per night, Includes 3 Meals
The best way to experience Miraflor! You can learn about the life and culture of these rural communities, organic farming methods, community development projects, herbal medicines, the war and struggle for Nicaraguan independence, how they have recovered from hurricane disasters, and much more (just to name a few things).


Other accommodation

Cabins cost US$24 and includes 3 meals
Private enterprises start at US$30

 

*Tours of more than 3 persons charge an extra $5 per person. English speaking guides also charge an extra $5 fee for their services.

**Horse tours are a great option to see Miraflor. The price of a horse tour is $10 per person plus the guides fee ($15) plus the guides horse ($10). For example, a horse tour for 2 persons would cost $45 ($10 per person + $15 for the guide + $10 for the guides horse)

 

Somoto Canyon

Somoto Canyon is a stunning natural wonder best explored via tours involving hiking, swimming and scrambling through the canyon as the sheer rock face ascends 100 metres above you. Release your inner daredevil and jump off the 5-meter, 8-meter or the massive 12-meter ledge (optional of course) and plunge into the deep emerald pools of Somoto. At the end of the tour you can hop in a boat or lazily float in a tube downriver.



Somoto Canyon was first “discovered” by European scientists in 2004 and declared a national monument the following year. Since then, a local guide organization has been established and Somoto Canyon has become a vital source of income for the community that runs tours to the canyon.

We work closely with experienced local guides who are trained by Intur, the national tourism agency, and the community to book you the best tour possible. The money from the tours provides income for up to 15 families in Somoto.

To get there: Take the 7:30am bus from COTRÁN NORTE, north terminal in the south of Esteli. The trip takes 1.5 hours to the town of Somoto. Your guide will meet you at the terminal. The express return bus leaves at 3:15pm and the last bus is at 5pm.

008sFour hour Standard Tour or Five hour Large Tour, US$25/US$30 per person

Included are local experienced guides, lunch, life-jacket, wet shoes, a large group waterproof dry bag, entrance fee and transport from Somoto bus station (but not return). Lunch is provided after you finish the tour.

Bring: Water, snack, camera, hat, suncream, shorts and trekking sandals.

Tour Abajo, Four hours, US$25 per person
This takes you on an easy walk to the lower and most stunning section of the canyon and is ideal for children, non jumpers, or those with physical limitations.

Included are local experienced guides, lunch, life jacket, wet shoes, a large group waterproof dry bag, and transport from Somoto bus station (but not return). Lunch is provided after you finish the tour.

Horse Riding Tours, US$26.50 plus the price of the guide’s horse005s
Riding tours are available around local viewpoints and across cattle farms in the area but it is not possible to ride through the canyon.

Home Stays, US$20 per night
There is home stay accommodation near the canyon. The price includes 3 meals.

Camping form US$2 per night available at a look out or near the River Coco.

Ongoing travel to Honduras
The guides will arrange taxis to the bus terminal in Somoto or to the Honduran border at Los Espinos and buses for you. They can even organize and make reservations for most major tour company coaches to stop at the trailhead if you are travelling to Honduras and beyond. Just ask even if you already have your tickets or reservation.

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Eco Tourism in Estelí

Experience The North With Esteli’s

Tourism Experts


No trip to Nicaragua is complete without visiting Estelí, a region of culture and history and some of Nicaragua’s most biodiverse ecosystems.

Whether you want to spend a day exploring the famous Somoto Canyon, visiting traditional farm families in the wildlife-rich Miraflor Reserve, or learn all about how some of the best cigars in the world are made by hand in Estelí; you can do it all here with the help of Treehuggers Tourism Office!

We arrange for YOU: (click on the link for info)

OPEN EVERY DAY 8am to 8pm. Opposite Luna International Hostel and Cafe Luz Restaurant

Call us on (505) 8496 7449 or (505) 8405 8919

or email  treehuggers.ecotours@gmail.com / info@cafeluzyluna.com

Questions? Please contact us!