General Information

Geography
Bordered by Costa Rica on the South and Honduras on the North, Nicaragua is the largest Central American republic. The vast Pacific Ocean forms her western border, the balmy Caribbean Sea the east. Is is a warm and friendly land of lakes and mountains; rivers and volcanoes, sea and sun. The country is divided into three geographic regions: the Pacific Lowlands on the west, the mountainous Central Region and the Atlantic Lowlands on the east.

The Pacific Lowlands:
This lowland area runs from the Gulf of Fonseca, on Nicaragua's Pacific border with Costa Rica south of Lake Nicaragua. From this lowland strip, the Maribios mountain range, with its 25 volcanic cones, towers overs some of the most beautiful and impressive beaches found anywhere else in Central America.

This region is the most populated. About 27 percent of the nation's entire population lives in and around Managua, the capital city, on the southern shores of Lake Managua. Few Latin American capital cities share Managua's picturesque location. Being on an open plain, it does not suffer the pollution of other capitals trapped in mountain valleys.

In addition to its beach and resort communities, the Pacific Lowlands is also the repository for much of Nicaragua's Spanish colonial heritage. Cities such as Granada and Leon abound in Spanish colonial architecture and artifacts.

The Central Region:
An ecologically active area with mountains and ranges over 3,281 feet above sea level. Oaks, pines, moss, ferns and orchids are abundant in the massive cloud forests of the region. Large coffee plantations often welcome a weary visitor with a steaming cup of the homegrown product.

Hikers and backpackers, walking along the tree shaded paths can quench their thirst in the clear waters of the mountain springs.

A lucky bird watcher may be able to add a rare quetzal to their inventory. Most certainly they will see goldfinches, hummingbirds, magpies or toucanets. Taking a branch of the famous Pan American Highway, the traveler can drive through the heart of this region to the border with Honduras.

The Atlantic Lowlands:
Nicargua's tropical east coast is far 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 and the population resembles that found in many typical Caribbean ports.

Nature lovers will find much to peak their interest in the tropical forests of the area. A great variety of birds are to be studied including eagles, turkeys, toucans, parakeets and macaws. Animal life in the area includes several different species of monkeys, ant-eaters, white-tailed deer and tapirs.

It is well worth the time to take the short flight from Bluefields to the Corn Islands. These small, beautiful islands are fringed with white coral and are a popular resort area for many Central Americans. They are a perfect spot for bathing, surfing, fishing and the small island even has a mountain to climb. If you are a lover of seafood and shell fish, the Corn Islands is the place to be.

Climate
Nicaragua has a predominantly tropical climate, alternating between two seasons: rainy and dry (winter and summer). This is the result of its geographic location between 11 and 15 degrees latitude north and the humidity from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans which give it a fairly stable season.

In the Central Region the rainy season lasts from May to October. The dry season occurs from November through April. During December the weather is more temperate. The warmest months are March, April and May, Nicargua's "sea season".

The climate in the Atlantic Coast has been classified as having the highest temperature and humidity. The temperature in this region corresponds to that in tropical jungles and ranges above 89° F.

Population
The "Nicas" are friendly and obliging people, with a matriarchal society.

The country is multi-ethnic with no official religion. Nicaragua's population is very young, 60 percent is under 17 years of age. Mestizos of mixed Indian and Spanish blood make up the majority of the population and they are the originators of Nicargua's colorful folklore, music and much of its religious tradition.

Managua is the nation's capital with a population of approximately one million, 27 percent of the entire country's popultation. On the Atlantic Coast there is also strong African influence which has its roots in the black workers brought in by the British to work the plantations and in Jamaican immigration. Another predominant ethnic group is the Miskito Indian.

Government
Nicaragua is independent, free, sovereign, unitarian and indivisible. It is a democratic, participative and representative republic. Managua is the nation's capital and the seat of the Government.
Language
Spanish is the official language. On the Atlantic Coast the indigenous population speaks English and Miskito.
The Economy
The economy is based on agriculture, principal exports items being coffee, cotton, sugar, bananas, beef, tobacco, sesame seed, rice, corn, beans and sorghum. At present agriculture constitutes 60 percent of its total exports which annually yield approximately US$300 million.
Education
Through education Nicaragua's Government promotes the formation of nationals, giving them a decisive, scientific and humanist conscience. Education is free and the same for all Nicaraguans. Elementary education is free and compulsory. Communities localted on the Atlantic Coast have access to education in their native language. Higher education has financial, organic and administrative autonomy, according to the law. Also, freedom of subjects is recognized.
Media
Nicaragua has four major newspapers and five TV channels with national coverage. There are also several private and government radio stations.
Working hours
Some government offices are open Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. and others from 8:00-12:00 a.m. and from 1:00-5:00 p.m. Generally, the private sector opens all day and stores open Saturdays.
Banking hours and currency exchange
Nine private banks and 3 state banks. Open 8:30, close 5:30 pm. Visa, Mastercard accepted almost everywhere. American express in some locations only, basically hotels. Travelers Checks are accepted.

One US dollar is worth 10.35 Cordobas (May '98). Money exchange is available in banks, exchange houses, hotels and street vendores (not recommended). Dollars are readily accepted anywhere except in the countryside.

Entry requirements
Entry visas will not be required from citizens of any country, except for the citizens of the countries listed below. A Tourist Card (US$ 5.00) must be bought upon arrival. Traveller must have a passport that will be valid at least six months after entering the country. Everyone leaving Nicaragua must pay an airport tax of US$ 35.00.
Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, India, Irak, Iran, Jordania, Lebanon, Libya, Nepal, Pakistan, People's Republic of China, People's Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Vietnam, Yugoslavia
Taxes
Airport tax - $35.00
Sales tax is 15%
Public Services
Electricity is generally 110 watts and 220 watts for special services.

Drinking water is available in the major cities and chlorinated water can be obtained in any other city.

There is a national telephone service network. There are public telephones in Managua, major cities and TELCOR offices. International phone calls can be made by dialing 164 in Managua and 02-164 in any other department.

Restaurants
There are excellent restaurants in Managua which offer international cuisine prepared by first class chefs. There are also restaurants that offer local dishes. In Granada, Leon, Masaya, Chinandega and Esteli you can enjoy traditional dishes as well as an attractive international menu.
Shopping
In Managua as well as in major cities, tourists can buy national products such as clothing, shoes, handicrafts and souvenirs. Foreign goods are also available. Gold and silver goods produced in Nicaragua have great demand and can be purchased in major jewelry stores. Some of the largest and best stores are the Centro Comercial Managua, Metrocentro, Supermercados, Diplotiendas and Supermercados Internacionales.
Handicrafts
Easily obtained in Managua'a Roberto Huembes Market. However, a better place to obtain them is Masaya. Here you will find clothing, leather, hemp and wood goods, shoes, and pre-Columbian type ceramic, attractive souvenirs of your visit to Nicaragua.
Museums and historical sites
    National Museum of Nicaragua - Managua
    Acahualinca Footprints Museum - Managua
    Julio Cortazar Museum - Managua
    Alfabetización Museum - Managua
    Casa Hacienda San Jacinto - Km 39.5 Carr. Norte
    Tenderi Museum - Nindiri
    Ruben Dario Archive-Museum - Leon
    Adicat Museum - Leon
    Exposition Zapatera Collection - Granada
    Nicarao Museum of Anthropology and History - Rivas
    Gregorio Aguilar Barea Museum - Chontales
    Ruben Dario House - Museum - Ciudad Dario
    Masaya Volcano Museum - Masaya
Emergency medical services
Nicaragua has free hospital services. It also has private hospitals and clinics. Major hospitals and clinics in Managua are as follows:
    Carlos Marx Hospital / Tel. 490701
    Bautista Hospital / Tel. 497333 / 497118
    Villa Fontana Clinic / Tel. 74614 / 672696
    Montoya Medical Center / Tel. 281054
    Radiology Institute / Tel. 662740 / 666005
    Las Palmas Clinic / Tel. 660881
    Renovacion Clinic / Tel. 661325
    Tiscapa Clinic / Tel. 71300
    Davila Bolaños Hospital / Tel. 22764-66
    Berta Calderon Hospital / Tel. 601787 /601303
    Manolo Morales Hospital / Tel. 70990-92
    La Mascota Hospital / Tel. 897700-06
    Velez Paiz Hospital / Tel. 650009
    Lenin Fonseca Hospital / Tel. 666547-50
    Psychiatric Hospital / Tel. 667877-81
Nicaragua's Public Holidays
In addition to these national holidays, many cities and towns throughout Nicaragua celebrate their own festival and holidays throughout the year.
    January 1
    March or April
    May 1
    July 19
    September 14
    September 15
    November 2
    December 8
    December 25
    New Year's Day
    Holy Thursday and Friday
    Labor Day
    Revolution of 1979
    Battle of San Jacinto
    Independence Day
    All Souls Day (Día de los Muertos)
    Immaculate Conception (Purísima)
    Christmas Day


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