Saturday, March 19, 2016

How to get from the Managua airport to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

If you are looking at this article, you are most likely flying into the Managua International Airport (MGA) also known as the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport.  You have a variety of options to get from the Managua airport to San Juan Del Sur.  Below we will outline the different options.

Airport Shuttle - $110 + tax - 1 way for 1-2 people

Surf Ranch Shuttle
The safest and most reliable way are the airport shuttles that we offer our guests at the Surf Ranch Hotel & Resort.  The shuttles are used for everyone, even if you are not staying at the resort.  The shuttles run 24/7 by qualified drivers and you can book within an hours notice.  You will be greeted by one of the drivers at the airport with your name on a sign, as soon as you leave baggage claim area and you will be escorted to the vehicle.  The great thing about this is that after a long day of flying, the last thing you want to do is be hassled and surrounded by the swarm of taxis.  You can also pay and reserve online in advance so you do not have to worry about paying in cash, exchange rates or even tips.  You can book online here

Renting a Car - $50 - $100 + tax per day

You are able to rent a car from the Managua International Airport, and you have a variety of options including Dollar, Avis, and Easy Rent a Car.  You will need a valid drivers license and need to be 25 years or older. The great thing about renting a car is that you have freedom to go anywhere you like and anytime you like.  However along with this comes a lot of responsibility.
There have been many incidents of tourists renting cars which is great to know before deciding to do so.  In Nicaragua, first of all, if you accidentally hit someone, do not move the vehicle or it will be your fault.  You will need to wait hours until the police show up and you will have to pay $500 - $1500 in damages to the company of the vehicle you rent if it's fairly bad.  In Nicaragua if you hit someone and kill them, you will be sent to jail right away, not something you want to be doing on your vacation.  Driving in Nicaragua is not like back home.  You are dodging animals, people, horse carts, semis, sometimes all at the same time. 

Another thing to watch out for are the corrupt transit police, which on average have around 8 stops from Managua to San Juan Del Sur.  If you make it through all of them, you are lucky.  If not, and they waive you over, the police will take your ID, give you a ticket for no reason and say you have to go to the bank to pay then pick up your ID in a few weeks, which in reality, you will never see it again, unless you bribe and pay them on the spot, which is usually 100 - 200 cordobas.

If anything, I would suggest to find another way to San Juan Del Sur and rent a vehicle in San Juan Del Sur, from Avis, Budget, etc... That way you avoid the risk of highway driving and being targeted by thieves as soon as you leave the rental car parking lot.  That is another story in itself.

Taxis - $80 - $110 for 1 - 2 people

Another option would be to take a taxi from the Airport to San Juan Del Sur.  The downside to this is that as soon as you leave the airport, you get swarmed by taxi drivers and you have to bring out your spanish skills and start bargaining.   We have a lot of experience with taking taxis and can not recall a time where it went perfect.  Once you get to San Juan Del Sur, if you want to go anywhere else than downtown, they charge you an extra $5 - $20 dollars.  They also sometimes demand tips upon arrival.  Or ask you for money if they get pulled over.

 Another important factor is that you need to make sure the taxis are real.  They should all have the licence plates with red/white on them.  Otherwise they are not a real taxi.  Unfortunately, there have been many incidents with "fake" taxis robbing tourists.  Their most popular method is picking up 2 of their friends a mile down the road, they get in, put knifes to you and spend the next hour going to all of the ATM's with you, getting out all the cash that your debit cards and credit cards can take out for that day.  Not really a great way to begin your trip.  We have had friends who had this happen, but they took it to the next level and left them naked in the middle of Managua with nothing but their passports and a few bucks. Make sure that they are not "collectivo" taxis and that you want to go directly to your destination without any stops. However like anything, just be careful and know what you are getting into.  Do not be a naive tourist. Pay more for a legitimate taxi to take you to your destination.  Bargaining down a few bucks is not always the answer, as you get what you pay for.

Flying - $200 - $300 per person

 The newest way of getting to San Juan Del Sur would be to fly from the Managua airport to the new Costa Esmeralda airport in Tola, which just opened.  From Tola, you can take our Surf Ranch shuttle or a taxi to San Juan Del Sur or anywhere on the Emerald Coast.  You might even just want to hang out in this new tourist hot spot and then visit San Juan Del Sur near the end of your trip.  San Juan Del Sur is still about an hour drive south from the Costa Esmeralda airport.

There are two daily flights from the Managua International Airport on Saturdays and Sundays.   You can fly through Sansa or La Costena airlines, which you can view times and book here (scroll to bottom of page).

Above are the 4 main ways to get from the Managua International Airport to San Juan Del Sur, which is just over a 2 hour drive.  There are other ways such as hitchhiking, chicken bus, etc...however we do not recommend it and hope you do not even consider it for your own well being.


* If you decide to rent a car from the airport, make sure you have a phone with internet access, install an app called Waze, this way you can see all the locations that the police are stationed along the way so you do not pass on a solid line, etc...and get pulled over.

* If you get pulled over by police, do not pay them unless you absolutely have to do so to get your ID back.  Then pay just 100 - 200 cords.  If you pay $100 - $200 usd which a lot of tourists do, it ruins it for everyone else.  Just pretend you do not speak spanish (even if you don't know how), and make it hard for them.  Half the time they will just give it back and tell you to go.

*If you rent a car and get in an accident or someone hits you, stop and do not move your car until police arrive or it is automatically your fault.

* If you are taking the Surf Ranch airport shuttle, the drivers will stop anywhere you like on the way, if you need to pick up drinks or food at a gas station along the way, do not be afraid to ask.  If you are a resort guest, the drivers, upon arrival at the Surf Ranch will provide you the key and show you to your room if it's after 11pm, when the reception closes.