I need to make a post about this and hopefully current and future travelers find it. My girlfriend and I have been searching for weeks on how to travel to Rio San Juan. We’ve read books from Footprint, Lonely Planet and spent time on many websites regarding the area and all of the advice is shit.
Our original plan was to go from the Pearl Lagoon on Carribean Coast to Bluefields where we could catch a ferry (running Wednesday and Saturdays only) for $30 that would take us to San Juan del Norte and from there we would catch boats up the river. This ferry no longer exists as we found out in Bluefields.
We’ve read terrible things about the roads the bus takes and the ferry from Granada. The road is supposed to be one of the worst in Nicaragua and takes anywhere from 7-12 hours from Managua (depending on the source). The waters in Lago de Nicaragua are rough and shitty causing many people on board to become seasick and can take 9-14 hours depending on the source.
The best option was to fly from Managua for $80 one way or $120 round trip but you’re told to get to the plane early as they often overbook and you may not get a seat despite reserving one. The view is supposed to be spectacular but only from the 5 seats on the left side of the plane.
Tired and frustrated with everything we’ve heard and read, we decide to chance the bus and hope for the best. We were staying in Juigalpa where the bus from Managua is supposed to stop. The books didn’t say much about how frequent busses run but the lady at our hotel said they run regularily.
We got to the bus station at about 9:30am and weren’t sure what to expect (especially because it’s Sunday). The guy told us a bus would arrive between 10-10:15am. We got on the bus on schedule and it was full but there was lots of space in the back since a few seats were removed for people to put bags and other luggage.
We left around 10:30am and arrived before 2:30pm and that was with a half hour stop in front of a comedor for people to eat a quick lunch and use the restroom.
The road was smooth and the trip cost us 110 cords each. Not sure how much more it would be from Managua but the ride is easy, cheap and a great way to travel. seats opened up midway through the trip but we were comfortable sitting on our backpacks at the back of the bus where we could stretch our legs.
We have been told going down the river can get quite expensive but I will report back with as much as I can find out. From what I’ve heard, most boats are charging around $150 to go from A to B because they don’t have gas stations along the river. This is fine if you have a good sized group to share the fare with but if it’s that expensive, the 2 of us won’t be going too far down. We’re going to El Castillo tomorrow. We need to be at the dock by 7:30am to buy tickets for the 10am boat. We’re told around 100 cord for the trip but I’ll get back with actual numbers.
Again, the best way to travel to San Carlos is supposed to be by plane for $80/$120 return and takes about an hour. If you’re leaving from Managua, it’s about 6 hours by bus and I’m guessing around $7 since we paid just under $5 from Juigalpa. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind the ride, the bus is the way to go.
Hopefully fellow travelers find this information useful.