We have been in León, Nicaragua (Second largest city in Nicaragua) for three days and we plan to leave tomorrow morning, making our way to Costa Rica. We had a great time in this unique city. We ate great food. Pizza, Rice & Beans and really delicious chicken!! To make it even better, it was all at a reasonable price. We all had a great time and enjoyed roaming around the city. Here are some clips from our adventures.
Overall: León, Nicaragua is a great place to eat food and walk around. Amazing architecture, great food and reasonable prices. Lots of backpackers and plenty of hostels. Seems to be a safe city, however, I would imagine there is a lot of theft, so be careful. During our stay: we woke at 6 a.m. on the day of our departure to two men rummaging through the back of our truck (which was parked on the street outside of the hostel). They had managed to pull the tailgate down and had just begun searching through our stuff. When they saw us, one guy grabbed my dad’s suitcase and the other grabbed a backpack. They began to run. One guy dropped the backpack but the other guy kept running with the suitcase. Our friends began chasing them on foot and later via bike. All efforts failed. We lost them.
With one suitcase missing, we went about our day as planned. We packed up the truck and began our journey to Costa Rica. But that wouldn’t be the end of our misfortunes for the day. About an hour after leaving Leon, we approached two cops who had made a road block. One cop was on the side of the road, sitting on a motorcycle and the other was standing in the middle of the road, stopping vehicles. We were close to a football field away from the “checkpoint” when the cop glanced in our direction then did a double take and began waving to pull us over (we were told that with surfboards strapped to the top of your vehicle, you are a major target, in Nicaragua). We pulled over. The cop had a nasty grin on his face. He asked a series of questions in Spanish. “Where are you going?”… “Where are you coming from?”…Show me your passports…blah blah blah. About 10 minutes into the stop, after we told him where we came from etc., he asks, “Why didn’t you stop when the police tried to pull you over in Leon?”. We had no clue what he was referring to. No one had tried to stop us in Leon. He didn’t even know we were in Leon until we told him. He was obviously making things up. He then asked for my dad’s driver’s license, which we gave him. Big mistake. Once he had the license in his hands, his face lit up. He then asked for proof of insurance in Nicaragua. We didn’t need insurance, so we didn’t have proof. Long story short, he told us that he is going to write a ticket and we must go to Managua to pay for it (about an hour or more away) and come back to get the driver’s license. He gave us the ticket and told us it was a $300 USD fine. We proceeded to tell him that we were robbed and we didn’t have that kind of money. We asked if we could pay the ticket on the spot instead of in Managua (a slick way of asking if we could bribe him), he said no but we kept asking. We then proceeded to pull out money. About $50 USD, he still turned it down. I pulled out about $20 USD and our friends emptied their pockets of all of their money. About eighty dollars later, the cop glanced to his partner who was sitting on his motorcycle on the other side of the road. He was silent. We folded the money in the ticket he gave us earlier and handed it to him. He gave us the license back and told us we could go. Needless to say, we were all very upset. Though, the bribe did save us a lot of time and a little bit of money, we were amazed at all of our misfortune, so early in the day. First, a suitcase is stolen then we have to bribe a cop. And we still had a border to cross. What else would happen?
We were all very glad to get out of Nicaragua. In that same day we crossed into Costa Rica and managed to make it to Tamarindo without anything else too bad happening. That was a very long day! We had a good time in Nicaragua but with all of the bribes paid at the border into Nicaragua and the series of events that followed, we are hesitant to return. Be careful and never let your guard down. There is a lot of fun to be had in Nicaragua but there is also an evil side to this country, just like every other place on Earth, unfortunately.
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