Getting to Know the Managua Taxi Scene

Almost all of the taxi drivers I’ve come across so far have been super nice, and have absolutely loved talking to me about the their relatives in the United States, my travels, Nicaragua, and their beloved city of Managua.

In just a day and a half, I feel that I’ve become a pro at haggling with these men. The one slight mistake I’ve made only cost me about US $.50 more than I should have paid; so, I’m very happy with my street negotiation skills so far.

One guy started me off at five U.S. dollars today. We haggled. I began to walk away when he slickly got me to agree to two U.S. dollars. Upon getting in, I said:

Hey, that’s still 44 Cordobas.”

I realized in an instant that he had outdone me. Regardless, this would prove to be my one of my most memorable rides ever.

The guy drove like a maniac, but he was a pro at chaotically navigating this sweltering city where street signs are don’t exist. During one instant, he was looking at me while talking and not looking at the road. I had to say:

Mira!”

He came so close to two people on a bike that were coming right at us on the passenger’s side. The two on the bike weren’t fazed. They didn’t even seem to notice. There were at least two other instances when I thought my passenger door was about to get crushed by an oncoming vehicle. This guy possessed cojones. He turned right into traffic on a few occasions. I made faces and noises and flinched. He just laughed. Still, throughout the whole ride, I wasn’t worried as I somehow trusted him. These guys seem to love it when I tell them that I think Nicaraguan girls are beautiful.  At one point, he said:

Mira la flaca.”

He then yelled out to her:

Hola negrita!”

Women in most Latin American countries seem used to this behavior and don’t appear to think much of it. This particular girl ignored the driver, something that must be second nature to her.  As for the term: ‘negra’, this sounds strange if translated into English but is a term of endearment in Spanish. The man just laughed and I agreed that she was indeed beautiful.

Finally he dropped me off.  I gave him two, one-dollar bills. They prefer dollars but will take Cordobas just as easily.  22 Cordobas equals one dollar.

The next cab ride I took after refusing a man who wanted 50 Cordobas. He wouldn’t take my firm offer of 30. Then, I had to haggle with another man who turned out to be a great conversationalist. He agreed to the 30. Now, I just say:

30, vamos?”

It’s worked every time except for last night coming back from the Malecón. I’ve since found out that after a certain time of night the prices almost double. This holds true for many cities on earth.  The man asked me what the other driver had commanded for a fare. I told him:

50.”

I then said:

So, when you pick up tourists who don’t speak Spanish you must charge them two or three times as much.”

He laughed and said:

.”

Three Time World Champ: The Pride and Glory of Nicaragua

The taxi drivers of Managua seem to love their city.  He pointed out a beautiful statue of the most famous Nicaraguan boxer ever, Alexis Argüello, and then said:

He is a three-time world champion and the glory of Nicaragua.”

He asked me where I was from.  After I answered he said:

My sister and brother-in-law live in Los Angeles.”

The man also proudly told me about many great tourist destinations in this country. There were so many new names that there was no way for me to process them all. Both him and the crazier driver asked me.

What do taxi rides cost in the United States?”

It’s a very different system. We don’t negotiate rides. The meter starts off at about $.50 and then it just depends on how long the ride is and how much traffic exists.”

I figured that telling them that taxi rides in the U.S. cost an arm and a leg in comparison wasn’t a good idea. The man dropped me off at my inn. I paid him his 30 Cordobas which is less than $1.50. We shook hands and were both very happy to have had our conversation while puttering through a hot and what appeared to be a practically police free Managua.

I can’t imagine that people get pulled over for reckless driving here.

5 Responses to Getting to Know the Managua Taxi Scene

  1. lobo says:

    Hi e.d.,

    Thanks for the additional info. It’s much appreciated! I’ll be down in Nicaragua at the beginning of June for about 7 months (checking out property, business opportunities, etc. Maybe we’ll run into each other. Feel free to use my email to reach me if you have any additional advice!

    Cheers!

  2. earthdrifter says:

    LOBO: Thanks for reading. As for bartering, I saw a boy give the ticket man a can of Coke at a pro baseball game in Rivas, Nicaragua, Otherwise it seems like cash is king most of the time.
    When taking taxis in Central America it’s great to ask locals how much a taxi fare from one place to another should cost. Then you simply tell the taxi driver what you’re paying just before you hop in. They usually agree. I also feel that it’s important to know how to count in Spanish or whatever the local tongue is, this way the number that you agree upon with the taxi driver is very clear to him or her.

  3. lobo says:

    Great article! Any more specific advice on bartering? I am curious how you calculate what distances should cost, and any additional methods you use.

    Thanks again for the info!

  4. earthdrifter says:

    If you love taxi ride lore and haven’t seen the 1991 Jim Jarmusch film “A Night on Earth” then you must see it. The whole movie takes place in five different zany taxi rides in five cities on the same night. It’s highly entertaining.
    Speaking of taxis, I’m now in a city of 200,000, much smaller than Managua. Just a little while ago I was out walking to get some street food when a taxi driver drove by me and casually called out “Yankee Imperialista”. I was shocked for a split second.

  5. Ah great post. I love taxi ride lore. When I went to Mexico and Jamacia oh yea they drove like maniacs in those little bitty cars. I came real close to proposing to my wife in a taxi cab in Mexico but changed my mind quickly or was it I lost my train of thought beacuse we almost crashed. So the feeling went away…….

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