Are you soon to be arriving at MGA, the Managua International Airport? Would you like a step-by-step look at what to expect? Here you go, enjoy!
The drill will be:
- Get off the plane, follow the people and signs down hallway and then down the escalator to Immigration.
(Note: If you use the VIP service, you will stay on the same level and someone from the service will have a placard with your name on it!)
- Get in one of the lines (the ones on the right side of the room seem to be shorter generally speaking, but YMMV).
- Have your forms, passports, and $10 ready (they just swipe your passport, stamp it, then take the money).
Note: Speaking of forms, if you are coming to stay at the Farmstay, write down “km. 10 1/2 Carretera a Masaya, Managua” in the space on the form titled “Direccion Prevista”
Note: Keep the little piece of paper they give you, this is your visa and should be kept with your passport. It is automatically given for a 90 day period.
- Follow the other people towards the baggage claim area…there is a tourist information desk on your left if you want to grab some brochures and you can stop and use the bathroom on the right if necessary (optional )
Note: There is a money exchange there too, but I do not recommend exchanging money at the airport. They give you a really lousy exchange rate, about a fifth less then what you can get from a bank or a street exchange.
- Get a free baggage cart or two if needed (they are on the left side of the baggage claim area, near the windows where you will see lots of people waiting for the new arrivals)
Note: There will be airport workers there to help you if you want it, they will just want a tip of a dollar or so…could be well worth it if you have multiple pieces of luggage.
- Get your bags off of one of the two carousels.
- Get in the line for the bags to be checked and give that person your remaining customs form. (Also, have your baggage claim tickets ready, they check to make sure you are taking the correct bags.)
- After that you move towards your final check, where put your bags on a conveyor belt. It will go through an x-ray machine (half the time no one is even looking at the screen).
- Put your bags back on the cart and turn left.
- After retrieving your bags, head towards the exits. There are two, one on your right which takes you curbside and the other by going forward, staying in the terminal building, heading towards the Rental Car desks.
- If you have arranged transport for your first night’s lodging already, look for them but don’t panic if you don’t see your pickup person immediately. They’ll find you!
Note: If you are staying at the Farmstay, do not go out to the curb, after turning left, go straight through the automatic glass doors into the terminal. I usually stand away from the waiting people that tend to crowd the area just on the other side of the sliding glass doors. Just keep your head high and with complete confidence, keep walking past all of them, ignoring their offers for taxis and transport, and look for me in front of a little coffee bar on the right with my sign.
Note: If you have a scheduled pickup with another lodging option, look for their sign. If you are looking to rent a car, keep going forward and you will see the sign pointing to the rental cars. If you need a taxi, look for the men in the yellow or blue shirts, they are the official airport taxis. Actually, they’ll find you!
- If you are staying with us, look for me holding the sign “FARMSTAY”
Note: If you have nothing previously arranged, you have some decisions to make. You can stay across the highway at the Best Western, which, while rather expensive, has an undeniably handy location, or any number of other hotels. See my guide to your lodging options: Where should I stay on my first night (or last night) in Nicaragua?
Note: You can also look for transport to Granada, which many people do, but it will cost you about $40. There’s a case to be made for staying that first night in Managua where you can catch the public bus to Granada the next day and save money.
Note: Once you are in the terminal or outside on the sidewalk (or even inside the terminal), there may be street urchins looking to give you a sort of origami flower made from straw, help you with your bags, or just asking for “dame un dollar” (give me a dollar) usually followed by “chele” (roughly translated as “whitey”). Lately, the authorities have done a better job keeping them off the airport grounds.
Welcome to Nicaragua! If you are going to Granada and to a lesser extent Leon and San Juan del Sur, expect to see lots more of these children. The best way to deal with them in my experience is to give them a firm “No gracias” followed by a stern (louder) “No!” and keep an eye on your things, do not maintain eye contact. If you do want to give them money, best you give them a Nicaraguan coin, no more than five cordobas. But just understand, you do not have enough coins/money on you to give money to everyone who asks! There are several orphanages, street children’s help centers, and other worthy charities in the major cities where you can help these young people at risk.
ON EDIT: I cross-posted this topic to NicaLiving.com and some of the locals over there had some good additional tips about getting taxis and about keeping your visa paper with you in your passport during your stay in Nicaragua. Thanks guys!