Getting around on the Emerald Coast

Now that we have been in Tola a few weeks we are learning some things that one has to be here to know about. One of the things we learned has to do with getting around. Because the beaches of Tola are a popular tourist destination, and also being close to San Juan del Sur, there are quite a few options for transportation. Of course having your own vehicle makes things easier and this is what many here have, but if you don't have a car or you are just here for a short visit you still have a lot of options.

Sadly, many tourists get stuck with an opportunistic taxi driver that charges them astronomical prices, essentially a penalty for their ignorance. Taking the bus is very easy just like anywhere in Nicaragua. From Rivas which is the main city in the department, there are buses directly to Tola, Playa gigante, popoyo, San Juan del Sur, and many other locations. most of these cost less than a dollar, including the one to San Juan Del Sur. These buses run every day, so be careful not to be fooled by a sly taxi driver. Many times we have been approached by one and told "there are no more buses today, you will have to wait until tomorrow... but I can take you" Or something along those lines. They have no shame in lying about the bus schedules and the prices.

SJDS

Now if you have some bags and you're not comfortable riding the chicken bus you can take a taxi. But be careful of any taxi drivers that approach YOU. It is better if YOU are the one to select the taxi. The car doesn't have to be pretty, but in Nicaragua the law is that all taxis have a special liscence plate, this means they are a legitimate registered taxi. It is white with black letters/numbers and TWO RED BARS. One at the top, and one at the bottom. If there are no red bars, it is not a taxi. Anyone can buy the yellow taxi sign, it has to have the red bars on the licence plate. Another tip is if they tell you the price in dollars, just walk away. Also avoid people that speak English. They learn English in order to take advantage of white tourists. Its helpful to look online, some expats in San Juan del Sur have a facebook page that includes average prices for taxis to common locations.

Colletivo terminal in Rivas
The other option with taxis, and this is personally one of my favorite, is to take what is called a "collectivo" or "collective taxi". These are licensed taxis that are contracted to run one particular route. They sit in the market right next to the bus terminal, and wait until they have enough passengers going to a specific place to fill the car, and then they leave. A collectivo to San Juan del Sur from Rivas costs 50 cordobas. That is less than two dollars. To Tola from rivas is 25 cords, just less than one dollar. You may have to wait 5-10 minutes but you will get there twice as fast as the bus. A private taxi will rightfully charge more than this, but if someone comes up to you asking $20, just walk away, don't bother negotiating the price with them because you already know they are a thief.

Riding in the Collectivo
Blue dot is the location of the collectivo
taxis for both SJDS and Tola
I'm not against paying more money for a service that may be better, and its totally fair that some people don't want the hassle of finding the Collectivo, or asking prices in Spanish. But the real danger is that if someone is opportunistic and dishonest enough to target a foreigner to try and take advantage of his ignorance, what else is he capable of doing? I heard one story here in Nicaragua where a wealthy individual offered a taxi driver $150 to drive them around all day. That was a generous offer as they probably would have normally made $10-$20 in the whole day. Was the driver grateful? No... upon learning that her fare had that kind of money she decided to meet with some friends and rob the person of everything else they had, which was a few thousand dollars in cash. The driver was arrested of course and got away with nothing, but it just shows the danger of flashing large amounts of cash around.


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