Managua taxis: a how to guide

Everybody need to get around but nobody wants to be taken for a ride. Here are some tips for taking taxis in Nicaraga’s craziest city by far…Managua.

1. Safety

This is everyone’s biggest concern so I will tackle it first. The majority of Managua taxis are safe. That being said, if today 100 visitors blindly hop into cabs in the city, one might get in trouble and tomorrow’s next 99 will all get spooked. Yes, taxi drivers have been known to rob people. But know how to prevent it and be part of the 99% that happily reach their destination.

Taxi in Managua

That hard-to-read writing on the door is the registration number.

Take note of taxi numbers. All cabs have a special registration number located on the back and side of the vehicle. Remember it. If the car does not have a number, it could very well be a fake taxi. DO NOT FEEL BAD TO GIVE THEM THE FINGER WAVE “NO”.  If anything happens the first thing the police will ask you is this number then roll their eyes and huff if you don’t have it memorized.

Ride alone. Taxis will always stop to pick up other people if their destination is not out of the way. Though rare, there have been some reports of express kidnappings from riding with other people. Though your ride will cost more, it could be worth it.

Wear your seatbelt. Taxis here drive like bats out of hell, especially the younger drivers. Taxis are  pretty adept at getting from point A to point B as fast as possible, and if you forget all the things I have written, this will be the first one you remember when you close the door and take off. Wear your seatbelt.

Night time taxis. Taxis in Managua run on 8-hour shifts, and the night shift is a lot different than the day shifts. Taxi drivers are victims too, so transit rules are bent to accommodate. For example, if you are wondering why your taxi home from Oriental at 3 am is flying through red lights, it’s because your driver does not want to risk getting held up by bandits at the stop light (and wtf are you doing hanging out that late in Oriental?).

Typical scene from inside a taxi.


2. How much to pay

Taxi prices depend on several factors. Where you are leaving from, where you are going and if you are an obvious tourist or not.
Where are you leaving from? The airport terminal? Expect to get your wallet raped by Nica standards. Yes these taxis are secure and courteous but they also charge upwards of $20 – $50 for a ride across town (there aren’t any destinations in the city that cost more than $4). If you are on a budget just go across the street and hail a normal taxi from the bus stop (see the first rule on taxi safety). Whatever price you are given, haggle it down to C$100 or less and you will be good to go. Same is true for hotels. Walk out to the street and save ten bucks.

Where are you going? All destinations have different prices depending on how for Mr. Taxi has to go. Going to Galeria? An arm. Going to the airport? A leg. Airport to US Embassy? Your first born. If you like to haggle, take the driver’s first offer, cut it in half and bargain up to 75% of his initial price. Um… you are deciding on the price before you get in the taxi, right? Regardless, like I said before, there isn’t a destination that should cost more than $4. 

Are you an obvious tourist? Depends. Did you greet your taxi driver with a hearty “HOLA Uhmigo!”? Did you ask him about the lovely beaches on the lake? Did he see you take that photo of the horse cart in your lane? If so, expect to pay a $5 tourist tax directly to your driver. Locals get local prices only because the taxistas know they can’t charge more. Tourists get the “gringo discounts” because it might mean the difference between the driver’s family eating dinner that night. That and they are assholes.

Good news for those taking taxis in cities other than Managua…rates are set. Corn Island taxis are C$18 during the day and a little bit more at night or with luggage. That’s as expensive as it gets outside of Managua.

Nicaragua moto taxi

Driver hurt, passengers hurt

3. Moto taxis

Locally known a Caponeras, these are common in smaller towns around the country. They safely hold two but carry up to twenty five, cost about half a regular taxi fare and are slow, much to the annoyance of other drivers. There are two types, the “driver get hurt passengers get hurt” style, usually seen putting around Carratera Masaya at half the speed of the surrounding traffic, and the “driver gets hurt passengers die” style that buzz around the markets and the zona franca.You don’t want to wreck in one of these. 355w" sizes="(max-width: 216px) 100vw, 216px" /> Driver hurt, passengers die