Oct 21, 2019 - Oct 22, 2019
2 guests - 1 room
Managua, Nicaragua's capital and largest city, won't win any awards for its beauty. Earthquakes and poor urban planning have made this city a chaos of concrete, traffic, and honking horns. While Managua may not make a great first impression, if you dig just a little underneath the surface you will find a bustling city where the vibrancy of Nicaraguan life and history is fully on display. Energetic markets, fascinating public monuments, and interesting museums make Managua a unique tourist destination, and they are exactly why you should give this often overlooked city a chance for at least a day or two.
As a major city and Nicaragua's main gateway to the world, finding a hotel in Managua is easy. Whether you're looking for a family-run B&B or a large luxurious hotel offering countless amenities, you can find a comfortable place to sleep in Managua.
To the consternation of many visitors, Managua lacks an identifiable downtown and in many cases street signs are difficult to come by. Instead, Managua is more a collection of neighbourhoods loosely knit together to form one large city. That can make navigating the city particularly daunting for first-time visitors. However, when it comes to hotels it's important to keep in mind that most of them are concentrated in two areas of the city.
The first area for finding hotels is Bolonia. Bolonia has the benefit of being close to most of Managua's main attractions, including the Revolution Plaza and the Antigua Cathedral. This is an older area of the city and the hotels here tend to be smaller establishments. While that means you are more likely to have an "authentic" experience of Managua by staying in Bolonia, it also means that amenities can sometimes be more limited. That being said, there are a handful of major hotels here, most notably the Intercontinental. Also, Bolonia is great for finding some extremely affordable rooms, with most hotels going for less than $100 per night.
The second area is just south of Metrocentro. This area, home to universities, embassies, and shopping centres, is where you can find a more diverse range of accommodations. On the main arteries cutting through the area you will find large hotels belonging to major international brands, such as a Hilton and an Ambassador Hotel. These major hotels typically offer high-quality rooms for between $100 to $200.
If you go down one of the smaller side streets, however, you will find smaller establishments, such as backpacker hostels and family-run guesthouses. These places vary widely in terms of the services and amenities they offer, but the prices are extremely affordable, with rooms for less than $50 per night being the norm.
Check with your hotel to see if they will pick you up at the airport or bus station. Many of the major hotels offer this service, although the smaller ones may not. Keep in mind that while Managua has a public bus system for getting around the city, it requires a smart card and drivers do not accept cash, which makes it inconvenient for visitors. Taxis are probably your best option. Remember that Managua's street and address system is highly disorganized and if you want to get somewhere you are better off telling your driver the nearest landmark rather than the address. However, drivers should know how to get to the major and more famous hotels. Also, you can rent a car in Managua, but only do so if you are comfortable with Nicaraguan driving conditions.
Managua is a noisy dive. I did not feel safe. A special type of gringo would enjoy this sprawling low rise city. There are many areas where walking is not recommended. When I give it a second thought, this may be the ugliest state capitol I have ever seen. It is one of the very few cities where I never want to go back unless I have to.
Nicaragua is a very poor country. I went with my nursing school to help family's out. This little girls touched my heart. If you every get the chance try to make a trip there. It's a very beautiful country with volcanoes and wonderful beaches!
I lived in Managua for a summer while in grad school and recognize that it is a point of arrival and departure for most people, rather than a destination. That said, you may find yourself needing to spend a few days and nights there and it is not the worst thing in the world. The city is diffuse, and the devastation of the earthquake in the 70s is still apparent. So, if you are looking for a place to stay where you can also go out and do some things, you want to stay in Zona Rosa or Zona Hippos. These areas are almost contiguous, and further away from the "center" of town and the Malicon along the lake. They are near the Carretera Masaya, contain most of the modern business district as well, and they are generally safer than some of the places downtown where the Lonely Planet leads backpackers. The Hotel Princess is a Hilton hotel in Zona Hippos, and there are some nice, smaller places as well. Managua won't be the highlight of your trip, but it does not have to be a nightmare either.
I love Nicaragua, people are really friendly.