Bus from Managua to El Rama, Nicaragua

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The bus from Managua to El Rama is the way to start the adventure to the Corn Islands by land and sea. If you’re on vacation and short on time, highly recommend you take a flight. If you’ve got the time and believe that life is the trip, this is an interesting one.  Cutting straight to the chase, the bus will cost you C$ 150 and takes roughly 6 hours. Assuming you’ll be coming from Leon, Granada, Esteli or eslewhere so it makes sense to take the overnight… We left Managua for El Rama at 9PM.

Buses run to Rama from the Rigoberto Cabezas bus station and quite regularly. El Rama is not the nicest town and is the scene to lots of international freight coming in and out of Nicaragua via Bluefields. You’re only going to Rama to get to Bluefields and wouldn’t recommend spending a night there if you don’t have to. The mission in El Rama is to catch a cargo ship or panga speed boat out of there. It’s the last city you can get to by bus in Nicaragua, it’s all boat after that.

You can take a cargo ship from El Rama straight to the Corn Islands  for C$250 but timing it is the hard part. Most end up taking a speed panga for C$200 to get to Bluefields before catching another ferry for C$200. The Panga is a 2 hour ride and similar to the Mekong Delta fast boat in Laos, the cargo ship is a 6 hour ride or so to get to Bluefields. If you take the overnight bus you’ll arrive in Rama at the lovely time of 3:30am. The bus driver will probably let you stay on the bus until day light, he did for us. Some girls sat outside for hours, they looked as though their souls had been shattered by morning.

In Managua you can buy a ticket that gets you the bus and THEN the panga. If you aren’t sure about cargo ships and they are common but not that common, recommend booking in advance. The first panga which leaves a 6am is almost always full. If you buy your ticket in Rama, you’ll probably be on the 9AM. When you arrive in Rama, you’ll be glad you already have your panga ticket so you can leave at 6AM.

If you wish to take a passenger ferry from Bluefields or El Bluff (short panga from Bluefields) you’ll want to be on the early panga out of Rama. If not you may get lucky as we did. We took the 9am panga to Bluefields after having a terribly uninspired breakfast in Rama.  When we arrived all the passenger ferries had left Bluefields for the day but staying in Bluefields was not something on our “things to do list”.

Bluefields is NOT a place you want to vacation. It’s a very rough Caribbean port and you can just feel that “things happen here” upon arriving. If your spidey sense doesn’t go off in Bluefields, you simply don’t have one. Since the ferries were taken and some ladies I was with needed an ATM machine, we hung out in Bluefields for a few hours, it was enough. Definitely be on high alert with your possessions, especially in and near the ports.

Not far from where you arrive, you can take another panga to El Bluff for C$33 and it takes 20 minutes. From there you have a better chance of getting on a cargo ship. Your best bet is to ask someone at the port, try a military officer. If you’re stuck in El Bluff overnight recommend you try Hotel Sandra. If someone at the port offers to “find you a cargo ship”, I recommend you let them it’s what we did and made things simple. This gent got us on the next one.

Don’t be in a big rush to get to the Rigoberto bus station in Managua. It’s quite seedy and not a pleasant hang out. That said, do recommend getting there before dark. If you’re taking a public bus in Managua, watch your stuff and do it before dark. Crime increases drastically on those buses after dark and they become criminally overcrowded… Your best bet is a cab, seriously.

Stay tuned for the next segment in this mini series “Getting to Corn Island by Land and Sea”

It’s a beautiful day on Little Corn, off to sniff out some lobster or just go for a swim.

Tips hat,

8 Comments

  1. PHIL

    January 11, 2012 at 7:15 am

    If you come across some interesting persons that have an amazing life story you should write about it… Let us know how people from that region of the world live how they survive from day to day… would be interesting ?? dont you think.. Since you always say its the people you meet that makes things interesting..

    • Rob

      January 11, 2012 at 7:54 am

      Great thinking Phil, I’m on that assignment as of now.

      • phil

        January 11, 2012 at 9:42 am

        Yes I am sure it would be a hit… But I would guess that some of the folks you meet are really off the beaten path.. So they would probably not have access to someone like you who would visit the area they live in and would be able to share their stories… Good luck

        • Rob

          January 11, 2012 at 9:45 am

          Thanks Phil.

          The main issue is most of these people don’t want to be photographed or have their story discussed online. Many especially those less tech savvy tend to be very private. I feel lucky to have met them but not sure if they’d like to have their lives broadcast online.

  2. Ted Vernon

    January 18, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    I’m heading to San Juan Del Sur! You visit there? I’d love some tips and tricks!

    • Rob

      January 19, 2012 at 3:48 am

      I’ve never been but heard it’s a really good time. WIsh I could give you more info but have a great time!

  3. mike

    December 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    A friend of mine and I wish to travel to rama to view a farm I am 58and he is 74. Both of us are from the us. We are farmers. Neither of us speak Spanish. I do have a Nicaraguan friend who will travel with us who is bilingual. We will need to stay a few days in rama.

    Do you have suggestions for us? How do we get a driver and car in Managua?

    • Rob

      December 16, 2013 at 9:18 am

      Hi Mike,

      I wish I could give you more info but why not ask at the hotel / hostel you are staying at? That or go to Rama and look there? I think you’ll have more options in Managua. That said, be safe there and don’t carry expensive things; it’s a jungle and pays to play the role of someone with little to offer a thief.

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