We Took a Bus to Managua

We Took a Bus to Managua

- in Life
Behold...the mall!

Today we took a bus ride to Managua to hit up the mall there for some art supplies the wife needed. Though a new experience for me, the wife had taken a bus to Managua several times in the past while I was at work, and she rides there very often with our friends who own their own vehicle.

Not our bus, but a bus just the same.
Not our bus, but a bus just the same.

As we were approaching the bus depot in Granada a bus to Managua was leaving at that very moment. It stopped and a guy asked us if we wanted to get on. We did. This is not uncommon, as I’ll explain later. We didn’t buy a ticket or pay anyone, we simply jumped on and sat down. The bus was almost full. Roberta and Levi shared one seat and I took a seat a few rows back. It’s lucky we got on when we did. Soon it would be a standing-only ride.

Driving straight from Granada to Managua is about a 45 minute ride. This bus ride took us about an hour and a half, because the guy who’d asked us if we wanted to get on just hung out the door the whole ride and shouted at people along the way, asking them if they wanted to go to Managua. We swung through every bus stop on the way and this guy would jump out and see who was heading to Managua. Often times the bus would start taking off without him. He’d run to catch up and jump back in.

Highway through Managua.
Highway through Managua.

Several times we stopped when there wasn’t a bus stop, but a few people on the highway who flagged us down as if we were a taxi. Occasionally we’d stop to pick up some folks and a person would get on to sell the passengers stuff. They’d have bags of some homemade snack or drink, maybe some chocolate, and walk up and down the aisle shouting out what they had. At the next stop they’d get off and, I imagine, jump on the next bus in the opposite direction to do the same. I bet they do this all day.

Eventually the bus was packed – every seat taken and the aisle jammed with people standing, holding onto hand rails. At this point the guy who normally shouted out the door for people to jump on slipped through the crowd to collect fare, which was C$25 per person, or $1.00 USD. Not bad for a bus ride! That’s only C$5 more than a taxi in Granada.

We got off in Managua at the Galerias Mall, which is exactly what you expect a mall to be. We may as well have been in Barton Creek Square Mall in Austin, Texas. It was in a huge retail strip center with a Burger King and a gigantic La Colonia supermarket.

Behold...the mall!
Behold…the mall!

We were starving when we arrived so the first thing we did was eat. There was a Papa John’s in the mall and a Subway. The idea of eating at either of those places seemed somehow wrong to us, haha! They also had a pizza-by-the-slice joint in the food court called Sbarro Pizza, which surprised me since the only time I’d ever seen or eaten at one was in New York City a month ago.

We ended up at a local seafood restaurant called Marea Alta. It was damn good. I got the surf and turf and split it with Levi: chicken, steak, lobster, shrimp, french fries, and rice. Before we ordered, the waiter brought us all the seafood available that day, even several entire fishes, explaining how it would be cut for certain portions…unless we wanted the whole fish.

Yep, that's a mall before Christmas alright.
Yep, that’s a mall before Christmas alright.

The journey back to Granada was much the same as the journey there, except the bus ended up even more packed, somehow. By the time we got on, the place was packed and we all had to stand. But a few miles down the road a bunch of people got off and one seat opened up right in front of me and an elderly guy who had been standing the whole time. He told me to take the seat for Roberta and Levi. I insisted he take it, but he refused. Roberta and Levi came up through the crowd and took the seat.

A few miles later the same thing happened again and this elderly man told ME to take the empty seat. I said, “No! Por favor señor! Siéntate!” But he would have nothing of it. He insisted I sit down because he was getting off in Masaya just a couple of stops up the highway. Typical Nica…polite and helpful. I’d wanted to cover his fare for the trip because of his politeness, but at this point he’d already paid.

At one point a mariachi band got on. They got off with us in Granada and I realized that I’d seen them several times before. I guess every evening they ride the bus from Managua to Granada to play for tourists on La Calzada for tips.

Levi and Roberta walking the elevated pedestrian bridge over the highway to the mall.
Levi and Roberta walking the elevated pedestrian bridge over the highway to the mall.

About the author

I lived in Granada, Nicaragua for a while with my wife and kid. Now I don't. But we like to get back there whenever we can, unless we go somewhere else.


  1. I have loved reading your posts/experiences. I came to Matagalpa permanently after spending my first 41 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. My Nica partner and I arrived here in Nov. 2012, after my several visits with him to meet his family and see his Country. I am so glad we did. I particularly loved your periodic realizations of Holy crap, I’m really here. I still do this, almost daily. We have a visitor coming from CA to visit, and we’re playing tour guides, with two nights in Granada….perhaps we can catch a coffee and say “hey” compare Nica notes. In any case, thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for the comment! We should absolutely get together when you, your Nica partner, and your visitor are in Granada. Please email closer to when that happens, or even before! I look forward to it.

      1. Hi Clif……We’re arriving in Granada later today, and staying through mid-day tomorrow, Friday after coffee at Pan de Vida, an isletas tour, and Vigeron in the park. Maybe we can meet you in the park Fri. If you’re available? Let me know…..looking forward to it. Thanks, Thor. Gus’ (my partner) cell phone us 8209 0088. Cheers

        1. Hi Thor. Sorry for the late response! Even all the way over here in Nicaragua we we were tied up with Thanksgiving related distractions.

  2. Hi there! I am looking at volunteering for a few months at the Nicaragua zoo interior rehab centre. I would be with my husband and our 7 month old. Whosever we do have fears about a few things, maybe you could help? Is it safe with a child? Is there enough to do there for my husband to do with our child? We ideally wanted to be at the beach but the zoo is too far from the beach for me to commute each day so we would be living in Managua I think? Any thoughts or suggestions?? Thank you!!

    1. Hi! When we moved to Nicaragua our son was 4-years-old, so I don’t have much experience with a younger child there, but a few of our expat friends there had (have) younger children, even a newborn, and Granada was certainly safe (and fun!) for all of those kids. However, I don’t have much hands-on experience with living in Managua, but I can tell what I’ve heard from expats and locals…it’s rough. And it looks rough. Even locals warn against not going out alone at night. I always considered it the Nicaraguan version of Detroit from what I’ve heard and seen. I have been there many times, even staying overnight, to visit the mall or go to the airport, but never stayed long term. We did hear from a local realtor that they are building out the nicer areas into clean and safe suburbs, you might check with a realtor and see how things are progressing there.

      Will you be commuting daily with your own vehicle? If so, I’d suggest staying in Granada where we stayed. Very nice place. Very friendly people. And unlike Managua, a large and easily accessible expat community that makes transitioning easy. It’s only ~30 minutes from the zoo…UNLESS you’ll be taking a bus. Busses can take a long time because they make lots of stops. They can also get very crowded, which might be unnerving with a small child, although people we encountered on busses always gave a lot of consideration for kids…giving up their seat for our son and other mothers with children was pretty common.

      Another option is Masaya which is between Granada and the zoo and ~20 minutes from the zoo. We never stayed there, but visited many times (we bought our scooter there!) The expat community there isn’t very big, but all expats we know who’ve stayed there said it was a nice place. Obviously I’m no authority on it, but you might look into it.

      We have friends who own two restaurants in Granada. You might email them via their website with some questions. They have 3 children.


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