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I spent 3 weeks in El Salvador. I didn’t think much of it … so, I cut my trip in El Salvador short and headed for Nicaragua early.
I made my way from El Esteron, El Salvador to Potosi, Nicaragua by shuttle and boat across the Gulf of Fonseca.
I got stuck for a night in Potosi. I arrived just after 3pm … and, the last bus out of town leaves at 3pm!
My hotel room was not very nice … but, cheap at US$10 / night (N$300).
It was time to head for the northern Pacific beach at Jiquilillo.
POTOSI TO JIQUILILLO:
I was up early, ate Breakfast at my hotel (a ‘tipico’ with coffee for N$75). From there, it was a short 30 meter walk to the corner of the main road and a side-street that leads down to the school (‘escuela’). I was targeting the 7:30am bus.
It arrived on time. My suitcase was put up on the roof and I jumped in.
I asked the conductor to drop me off at the road junction to Jiquilillo. The price was N$30.
AT 9:10am we arrived at the Jiquilillo junction and the conductor came to get me to make sure that I got off at the right stop. My suitcase was already waiting for me on the side of the road as I disembarked the bus. It was 8 more kms from here to Jiquilillo.
I sat and waited for over 1 hour. No busses passed. The busses come from Chinandega and (I hear that) they go to Jiquilillo every 2 hours in the mornings.
A passing Ute stopped and the 2 guys inside asked if I wanted a lift. I accepted. They dropped my off outside of my hotel: Vistas Del Pacifico.
Jiquilillo is located on the pacific coast in the north west corner of Nicaragua.
There is just a smattering of shacks along the waterfront. Fishing is still the main economy … but, they rely on tourism to bring in the extra income that the village needs.
At dusk men gather on the sand to roll their boats into the waves where they will spend the rest of the evening / night. Come sunrise the beach transforms into a fish market where every local shopkeeper and family barters for the catch and the rest is taken away in crates to Chinandega.
Jiquilillo is a popular surf beach.
As I went for a walk on my first evening, I was approached by Bert.
Due to a ‘misdemeanour’ he was thrown out of the USA a few months ago; he left his wife and 9 children behind. But, I’ll let Bert tell you his own story if he chooses to.
Bert befriended me and made it his ‘mission’ to look after me. It was really nice to chat away in English for a change.
Bert admits, himself, that he has to ‘hussle’ … he has to in order to survive. He makes something out of whatever he can sell you or where he can take you. You just accept that fact.
He will take you down to Wilson’s Place to eat. For bringing in customers, he gets a free (small) meal. The reality for you is that you are paying a bit more for your meal – to cover the price of his.
I was happy with that. I was happy to help him out. And, found myself shouting him some beers every night too.
But, don’t forget that you are his ‘meal ticket’ … he’s always looking to make a ‘margin’ if he can … but, he’s also happy to help you out for nothing if he can’t.
WALK AROUND – PHOTO GALLERY:
My walkabout starts at my hotel …
By beach, you can get to Padre Ramos in about 45 minutes.
But, nowhere to eat and no bars.
WHERE TO STAY:
Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find online … this is for 1 night at the start of November 2017 (at the start of their ‘dry season’) …
HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):
Agoda had no properties listed.
Expedia had no properties listed.
PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites usually display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You may have to add up to 18% to the displayed price to get the final price.
VACATION RENTALS (Weekly Rates):
If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AirBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.
Due to additional ‘service’ and ‘cleaning’ charges, Holiday Rentals are usually best rented by the week. A comparable search reveals the following … please note that these prices are in US$s …
PLEASE NOTE: Vacation Rentals are usually displayed INCLUSIVE of TAXES but EXCLUSIVE of any ‘Security Deposit’ (if required). BUT, the displayed price may also be EXCLUSIVE of the host site’s Extra Fees (which can add as much as 16%).
In S.E. Asia, I wouldn’t touch AirBnB with a barge pole … in my opinion and experience the accommodation that you find is an absolute rip off. However, here, they are worth a look.
If you rely solely on the internet, GRANDPAckers will struggle to find accommodation within their price range.
… BUT, READ ON ...
I searched for them on Facebook and for their own websites. The only one within GRANDPAcking price range was the Vistas Del Pacifico.
I arrived at about 10:30am and looked at their room options. There is only 1 option for GRANDPAckers … they only had one room with a private bathroom (they were finishing off a second one when I was there). The Shared Bathroom was not clean enough for my liking. The whole place looked a bit ‘unkempt’ … but they were in the process of tidying it up for the start of Dry Season (their peak season).
They wanted US$20 / night. I negotiated them down to US$18 for single occupancy and booked 4 nights (to carry me over the weekend until Monday).
A pleasant place to sit and relax during the day.
Have a look yourself:
INTERNET / WIFI:
You will not find wifi in the cheaper hotels nor around the town restaurants. You will need your own Internet Plan on your Smartphone.
On the day that I arrived in Nicaragua, I bought a Claro SIMcard and Internet Package in Potosi. It cost N$20 for the SIMcard and N$230 for a 15 day 1.5GB Internet Package. There is no Claro Nicaragua Smartphone App – you have to use USSD codes and call to get your status report (in Spanish); useless for tourists.
I used up the data quickly and recharged my phone with N$130 in a local store so that I could buy a new 7 day 1GB plan. I got an SMS message from Claro to say that the N$130 had been received. I got another SMS asking me to reply option ‘C’ to buy and activate my new N$130 plan – which I did. From then on, I couldn’t get an internet connection on Claro at all. I used USSD codes to confirm that I had an active plan but Claro wouldn’t actually give me access. Claro just kept asking me to ‘Sign In’ which, if I clicked on the message, took me to a link where I had to buy another package.
PLEASE NOTE: Many of these stores charge you an extra fee of N$20 to charge you up with more than N$100. If you go to the store at the Agrobanco sign, he tops you up for nothing.
I was frustrated. The locals all told me to buy Movistar. They said that Movistar is what they all use and that it is better and easier to use. I went to a store, bought a SIMcard for N$50 and loaded it with N$200 of credits. The Movistar app site was ‘down for maintenance’ that day, so I couldn’t get online to buy the data package that I wanted. The store used USSD codes to buy me a 7 day 500MB MegaPack that included some talk time and texts. I struck lucky – it was a ‘quadruple day’ and I got 4x my SMS and talk time credits … alas, these ‘double’, ‘treble’, and ‘quadruple’ days rarely apply to your internet data. The Movistar App is good and easy to use.
You can walk everywhere.
There isn’t anywhere to go really … a bus to Padre Ramos is N$7 each way.
There are very few eating options around. In fact, some don’t even look like they are restaurants.
It is very small and only has 2-3 tables … but, I liked the people.
Colleen never quite knows what to charge you. If Bert has taken you there, or is sitting with you talking, she tries to invent a number that covers the cost of Bert’s meal too.
As with most people around town, she is also ‘pushing her own cart’ and trying to find out how much she can get out of you. Living this way is a reality for these people – no matter how nice and friendly they are.
I was the only one that ate in her restaurant for the 4 days that I was there; she had to balance friendliness with the need to survive.
A ‘Desayuno Tipico’ with 2 eggs and coffee costs N$70 (if she knows and likes you) but N$80 if she doesn’t. Check the price with them first (sometimes she just invents a number when it comes to paying the bill). She charges N$10 per coffee.
She can do other things if you ask her. Another morning I had scrambled egg with ham, beans, and tortillas with a coffee for N$60.
Bert was always sitting with me at Breakfast time.
PLEASE NOTE: When I later arrived in Leon, I stopped for a ‘desayuno tipico’ at the Bus Terminal. It cost me N$45 and N$5 for a coffee.
Wilson’s do some great cheap snacks for as little as N$15.
I had a Fried Fish meal on the first night. The fish was double the size that I needed. It cost N$140. I shared my fish with Bert (who was only given a small meal of rice, beans, and salad). On my last night, I had a Fried Fish meal too – she tried to charge me N$200 … I gave her N$140 … she smiled and gave me a hug.
They don’t seem to have many options. There is no menu.
Bert was always with me at Dinner time … so, I was paying ‘premium’ prices to cover his meal.
Expect to pay an average of N$75 / US$2.50 for a cheap Breakfast with coffee – with Bert.
Expect to pay an average of N$50 / US$1.70 for a cheap Lunch with fruit drink – without Bert.
Expect to pay an average of N$140 / US$4.65 for a cheap Dinner with a Fruit Juice or Beer – with Bert.
A 1L bottle of 4-year Flor De Cana (rum) will set you back about N$350 / US$11.66 or, as the locals recommend, the 7-year costs N$450 / US$15.
They play their own game here … you pot #1 through to #15 in order and add up the value of the balls that you pot. The winner is the one with the highest score. The one with the lowest score pays for the table. Up to 4 people can play. It costs N$5 per game for the table.
Beers are cheap here: N$25 a 300ml bottle.
He can play. We had a great session of 28 games one afternoon. He beat me. Playing pool is always a very pleasant way to get to know the locals. We became very comfortable together. I had no problems at all. Pala would look forward to our games … and would send someone to come and collect me if I wasn’t already there.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
I bought nothing in the local stores so I cannot comment on prices, sorry …
But I did have my laundry done. There is no laundrette in town … you just ask around and they will find a local woman who will do it for you in her own home. I had 20 items of clothing that needed washing: trousers, shorts, and tops. This weighed about 3-4Kgs. She charged me N$100.
BANKS / ATMs / MONEY EXCHANGE:
There are no foreign currency exchanges in the area.
Hotels, restaurants, and stores will accept either Nicaraguan Cordoba (N$) of US Dollars (US$). They will give you an exchange rate of US$1 = N$30 (taking a 1.5% margin – which is reasonable).
HEALTH & SAFETY:
As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
There is no reason to feel unsafe. Obviously, be careful if you are getting drunk with the boys around a pool table.
The main problem is Petty Theft … which is a ‘typical’ problem in Central America.
When I was there, mosquitoes were around but, not a big problem.
Don’t drink the tap water.
WHEN TO GO:
November through April is the best time to go.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
Very little – surf. Relax.
You can take a trip to Padre Ramos where it is possible to rent a kayak to tour the inlet.
Local fishing boats can take you out for 4 hours fishing. The cost is US$120-140 for the boat … 6 people maximum.
I catch a bus from the Jiquilillo main street to Chinandega and another from there to Leon.
I will let you know how I get on in a future post.
If you don’t surf, there is very little to do.
This place is for backpacking surfing fanatics … not GRANDPAckers.
I won’t even bother posting a detailed budget. But, as a guide, 2 GRANDPAckers living to GRANDPAcking standard can exist on about US$38 / day (staying in an en suite double room at the Vistas Del Pacifico).
Jiquilillo DOES NOT make it into my RETIREMENT REVIEWS.