Looking for a exotic vacation but don’t have anyone to go with? Ladies, meet Nicaragua. It’s beautiful, tropical and just a convenient flight from the U.S. Also solo female travel in Nicaragua is safe, and might I add– a truly good time.
During my five weeks in the country I traveled in a few different ways: sometimes solo, another time with a female friend and then also with a male friend. From this, I can say I’ve seen all sides of travel around the country. Each way was great, but one thing I like about Nicaragua is this: traveling alone wasn’t any harder or less enjoyable.
If you’re planning on going there on your own, don’t fret. Here is my guide to solo female travel in Nicaragua to help prepare even the newest femme globetrotter.
Why Solo Female Travel in Nicaragua?
If you haven’t heard much about Nicaragua recently, time to get informed. In the last 5 years tourists have been flocking, slowly exposing the country from an unstable post-military dictatorship to a safe and beautiful place to travel.
In my opinion, solo female travel in Nicaragua is the perfect way to see the country. For one, it’s easy and safe. Secondly, there are loads of other solo travelers to meet and tons of social hostels around the country to stay in. Lastly, there is so much to do so you can’t really get bored. From beaches, colonial cities, volcanoes and Caribbean islands, there really is something for every type of traveler.
Did I mention the ever-flowing supply of cheap good quality rum? Yes, that helps too.
Solo female travel in Nicaragua: Safety
While overall I’d say Nicaragua is a safe place to travel, that doesn’t go without a few disclaimers. A few necessary precautions should be taken into account.
Probably the biggest concern for any traveler in Nicaragua is keeping yourself safe from pickpockets, or on the rare occurrence, muggings. Just like in any other country, you should maintain habits like locking and keeping your valuables safe.
While the entire country isn’t swarming with pickpockets, certain places are more infamous for it than others. In fact, Nicaragua is the only place I’ve ever used my money belt! Whether this is because I’m becoming more responsible nowadays or if it was actually necessary, I’m not sure.
Regardless, in our hostel in Granada we were told to not go out at night with our small purses. The locals working at the hostel insisted we keep our money either in our bras or like I said, in a money belt. I also often just kept my phone in my room. Granada especially, and the larger cities in general, are not places to be walking around with valuables visible, especially at night and never if you are alone.
There seemed to be only one place in the country to be weary of scams: San Juan del Sur. While I enjoyed my time there, it was the only place were I felt like tourists were constantly being targeted. I also encountered one myself.
While out for drinks and dinner with friends on one of the beach front restaurants, we compiled all our money, leaving extra for tip and handed the check to the waiter. Upon walking out, I decided to turn around and go check the table one more time for leftover possessions. We had a fair deal of rum so it felt like a good idea. With my friends unknowingly walking out of the restaurant without me, I was corralled by the wait staff telling me we hadn’t paid enough. Being sure we did, I argued with them for a while until I realized there wasn’t much I could do. Unless I paid they weren’t going to let me head downstairs and find my friends.
Morale of the story: watch out in San Juan, there are shady people just waiting for you to be off your guard and take advantage.
Cat-calls: the worst part of solo female travel in Nicaragua
The ultimate worst thing about traveling Nicaragua as a woman is the cat-calling men. In fact, I found Managua and Granada to be the worst places I’ve ever been for it. While it is overall harmless, it isn’t emotionally. It’s uncomfortable, ignorant and unnecessary. That being said, be prepared for it and just ignore all attention. If you don’t let it bother you, you’ll have a much better time.
Being with a male will diffuse the attention somewhat; a benefit of befriending guys while in the cities. Some men might even go as far to try and touch your arm while walking past. Just keep straight-faced and don’t let them anger you. Usually a reaction or attention is what is wanted.
Sadly, this is just what will come with solo female travel in Nicaragua.
The rum is free flowing in this country and Flor de Caña, the national brand, will probably become your best friend. Still, keep your wits about you and obviously never let your drink out of your sight.
Regardless of the above, solo female travel in Nicaragua isn’t anything scary. Of course there are a few horror stories heard here and there, but there is no reason why you should feel afraid to travel the country alone. With a good head on your shoulders you shouldn’t encounter any problems.
Solo Female Travel in Nicaragua: Packing
How to dress:
The climate in Nicaragua is split up into two seasons: wet and dry. While this seems pretty straight forward, the weather can vary drastically from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean islands.
Basically though, it’s hot. And while most of your attire will probably be shorts and dresses, be forewarned the cat-calling is already bad and skimpy clothes may make it worse. Still, tank tops, short shorts and dresses is what the majority of female travelers are wearing. Pack whatever makes you comfortable.
Also, it’s to note that on the main backpacking route you’ll see the usual backpacker attire. This doesn’t also go for the Corn Islands. I found that most people there are actually dressed in normal street or nice vacation clothes. With the abundance of vacationers and with the high cost of traveling/living there, you won’t see many people in hippy pants and ripped tanks.
I became to find out that Nicaragua is where electronics go to die. Maybe it was the humidity, the salt water, the unstable electricity currents or just bad luck, my computer charger fizzled out only a couple weeks after arriving.
Bring appropriate converters and just be forwarned. Also, don’t forget any important electronics at home. Anything imported to the country is expensive, and in some areas can be really hard to track down.
- Hair serum: it can be humid!
- Sandals or flip flops that can get wet. In the wet season or during random downpours your shoes will get wet and/or muddy!
- Frebreeze: I never travel without it! Besides, when your clothes and bag gets musty it is a life saver.
- Good tennis shoes or hiking boots: like trekking? There are tons of volcanoes to climb.
- Hot sauce or chili pepper: the food can be bland!
Solo female travel in Nicaragua: Where to go & stay
First off, solo female travel in Nicaragua does not mean you’ll actually be alone or lonely!
Nicaragua has a great backpacking circuit with the likes of Southeast Asia. This means a lot of travelers will be taking somewhat the same route and you’ll most likely run into familiar faces over and over again. For those solo travelers who want to meet people and travel together, this is a great benefit.
Managua: Get in and get out as there isn’t much to see and isn’t the safest of places. If you happen to need to stay overnight due to flights, stay at Hostal Monti Cristi. This guesthouse is the only economical option near the airport. Calvin and his wife are super friendly and will do both pick ups and drops offs free of charge from the airport.
Granada: Lakeside Granada is a hustle-bustle city offering the country’s best preserved colonial buildings. I loved staying at Oasis. They have a pool, large common areas and organize trips to hang out at Laguna de Apoyo each day.
San Juan del Sur: On the Pacific Coast, SJDS is party central famous for the Sunday Funday pool crawl. There are loads of hostels to choose from, the most popular ones book up early.
Ometepe: This beautiful island in Lake Nicaragua is a must visit, but can be difficult to travel around. It is actually quiet large and buses can be infrequent. Taxis will do the trick but the costs may add up. To meet other travelers and party, Little Morgan’s is the place to be. While the staff isn’t great (they seem more there to hang out than be helpful), it is the most social place in Santa Cruz. It is also set in an amazingly beautiful location, but bring your bug spray.
León: To get a more authentic feel of Nicaragua’s colonial cities, head to Leon. This university city is definitely a more authentic look at the country than touristy Granada. Also, it is the best place to plan volcano treks in the area.
While there may be other more popular hostals, I stayed at Lazy Bones because of the pool. This was crucial for me as Leon IS HOT. I also liked the layout and the gallo pinto for breakfast was the best I’d had anywhere in the country.
Little Corn Island: If you’re not doing a diving course and/or you don’t meet anyone on the journey over, Little Corn could be a hard place to meet people. The island has it’s fair share of couples and many people stay in single bungalows.
Luckily, Little Corn now has a social hostel perfect for solo females wanting to make friends. The Green House Hostel was opened this year by Alex of Finding the Freedom and it is everything solo travelers on the island needed. It’s also one of the only places on the island where you will also find WiFi, privacy curtains and an individual fan in your bunk! (Luxuries here!)
Extra ways to meet people:
- Go on an organized trek in León. Quetzaltrekkers in a great, non-profit company offering group treks from 1-3 days. They also do the famous volcano boarding.
- Get diving certified: Little Corn Island offers diving courses from two different dive shops. If you decide to obtain your PADI Open Water you’ll spend a few whole days with a few other newbie divers. The whole thing becomes a pretty social and bonding experience.
- Take day trips around Granada. Granada offers loads of different places to visit nearby. Going on a day trip to any of them, from Masaya volcano to Laguna de Apoyo, is a good way to meet other solo travelers to hang out with while in the city.
Solo female travel in Nicaragua: Transportation
There are a few ways to travel around the country. If you are on a very tight budget, the chicken buses will get you around for as little as $1. The journey just might take most of the day.
If you have more to spend, the shuttles are perfect for solo female travel in Nicaragua. These are private van transfers which took far less time than chicken buses and were still decently cheap ($10-15) per trip. These can be arranged at your hostel and usually have one departure time per day.
If you happen to meet a few other travelers, taxis are also a very common way to travel the country. For around $55 you could take a taxi all the way from Managua to San Juan del Sur! This will obviously be the fastest way to get somewhere, but is best when the cost can be shared between four.