Dear Ticabus

I recently took Tica Bus from Guatemala City to Managua. I would like to make some suggestions that, if addressed, could actually encourage me (and probably some others) to decide to travel via Tica Bus rather than one of the many alternatives.

  • We are in a sub-tropical region. Many of us actually live here and others have chosen to travel here because it is warm. We all appreciate how you have invested in air conditioned buses in order to make us comfortable but appreciation should be enough. Maintaining the inside of the bus at meat locker temperatures is just not necessary. While many people had been pre-warned that this is typical and had blankets or jackets, others just suffered. I admit that after a group of us complained, the temperature was raised for a couple of hours to what I would call "uncomfortably chilly" things seemed to regress to the meal locker temperatures later in the day.
  • A previous NicaLiving post talked about a broken toilet on a Tica Bus. While he didn't get into specifics, the toilet on our bus had a not new sign that said the toilet was only to pee in. My question is whether "just something to pee in" is what you now consider a toilet?
  • You suggest two different places to stay in San Salvador. In your description you say that one (the more expensive one) has a restaurant. What you didn't say was:
    1. The restaurant didn't offer any vegetarian dinner choices or even fish. (The good news was that it was only a short walk from real restaurants.)
    2. I expected the restaurant to be open for breakfast. Bad assumption.
  • When a few grumpy folks got on the bus with no breakfast or even coffee, we noticed that those who had stayed in the hotel with no food seemed to have coffee. Explaining things correctly/in advance would be good.
  • Some time later we were informed that we would stop for breakfast. Again, it would have been nice to have known that earlier. In any case, we stopped in "a gas station with something that looked like food". In addition, they seemed to think that Nescafe was a reasonable substitute for real coffee -- something that is grown in Central America.
  • Before entering Honduras (but not before we were in route) the cost of entering Honduras was announced. For usanos it was $18. Had I known this I would have flown from San Salvador to Managua. Not because it would have been cheaper but giving the government of Honduras $18 for the right to sit on a bus is not high on my list.

I am interested to hear your responses. At this time I am leaning toward "María Jose" for my next trip. They make this trip in 16 hours instead of two days and they cost less. My guess is that they are more likely to stop at local places than gas stations that pretend to have food. They don't have a toilet on the bus but the good news is that they don't claim to have one either.

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Oof

This post is just embarrassing for everyone involved. I honestly thought this was a joke post at first.

You are going to complain to a third world bus company that they are terrible because they recommend staying at a hotel without mentioning that the hotel doesnt offer a vegetarian option?

The price of entrance to countries has NOTHING to do with a bus company. If you couldnt be bothered to do your research ahead of time to find all applicable fees, that is your fault. Regardless of whether you drive, fly, or take a boat, you pay an entrance fee when you go across borders.

I for one am glad the bus has never gone out of its way to go and stop at a gas station that doesnt serve Nescafe. I just want to get to my destination. So do most passengers. The bus station isnt, and shouldnt be responsible for whether or not a third party gas station along the way has premium coffee that is up to everyones standards. The bus station is also not responsible for whether or not people are grumpy because they didnt havetheir coffee, the menu of a hotel you choose to stay at, or your spoiled brat assumptions of third party places on your trip.

I dread running into people like you here in Nicaragua.

After being away for a while it quickly becomes obvious

Nothing has changed...

FYL make a comment and some "Missionary" has to take him to task. (No wonder I chase them off the property when they come to "save my soul".)

So what if he feels the Ac is set at too low a temperature. Does he not have the right to say so? And when I buy a ticket on a bus with a toilet, I believe I should have the right to its full use. (Otherwise they should have discounted it and sold "Urinal tickets".)

Maybe the no vegetarian meal issue is a little over the top, but then again, I am not 100% vegetarian so for me it would be no issue.

And Mr. Missionary.... How would you feel if you or you child needed a blood transfusion and no substitute acceptable to your weird religion were available? Would you still have the same attitude and just shrug your shoulders saying, well that's just the way it is? Others feel just as strongly about their coffee and they have a right to say they wished the bus had stopped at a place where good coffee is available.

But of course I may be wrong. So why don't you come and try to convince me otherwise. My 98lb dog Rodney loves to chase things and people. The last "Missionary" almost broke the Olympic record running down the hill...

Oh that's right, you don't know where I live. Let's keep it that way.

vinyljunkie, as a Jehovah’s Witness missionary...

I thought you would be a little more understanding.

And seeing you were quick to throw this one out:

"If you couldn't be bothered to do your research ahead of time to find all applicable fees, that is your fault."

How come you didn't research your own vehicle legalization issue first?

Here is a quote from your blog...

"Our car is almost finished being nationalized. It cost more than twice as much as i thought it would, and was originally told it would, but its almost done. I never thought I would miss dealing with the bureaucracy of the united states, but comparatively, its a breeze to get things taken care of there. Its been 3 months, and dozens of trips to various places all around town, etc. But hopefully on Monday, it will all be finished and the car will have Nicaragua license plates and will be legal here to drive".

Only trouble is How? No residency no car registration?

Sorry but I don't much care for your Holier than Though attitude...and I was bored.

"....I dread running into people like . . .

you here in Nicaragua .."

You're going to love me . . .

If we don't tell it like it is, nothing will ever change. . . The sad thing is, some people consider Nescafe an upscale product. It hasn't been that long since we were drinking Farmer's Brothers coffee everywhere in the US.

VOTE WITH YOUR FEET: Instead drinking the crap, say, "Do You Have Any Real Coffee ??" There's absolutely no reason to give someone your money for poor service, a dirty environment, and a less than acceptable product. If you bend over and smile, you have to bear some responsibility for the inevitable result.

The driver and the ayudante probably adjust the AC so they are comfortable up front with the sun shining into those big windows. As long as they are filling the bus nothing is going to change. It's like the Claro girl at the airport talking on her mobile while you wait patiently . . .and then covering the phone and an annoyed "Que quieres?" Like that famous line,,,,, "Jake, it's Chinatown . . .

TicaBus shouldn't be running a 3rd world operation. It's Costa Rican owned, and CR hasn't been 3rd world for quite some time. It's too bad more Nicaraguans can't spend some time in CR, see the possibilities.

I refrain from counting the cliches in every post you make

Basically, for most people here, coffee is an export crop -- try buying top grade green beans in either Jinotega or Matagalpa unless you know someone who grows some off contract for house use.

If you want better coffee here, grow, roast, grind, and brew your own, and try to get Nicaraguans with money interested in coffee. Carry a grinder, beans, and a way to make coffee (Porlex hand grinder and an Aeropress or a pour over cone and some roasted beans make a nice travel set up). Try to show people what better coffee is.

I don't have the trouble you have with Claro, but then I was taught to exchange pleasantries when entering a shop and service tended to be decent or better after that. The only time I've had genuinely crap service here was from a waitress who seemed to be reacting to seeing two older gringa women with two young brown skinned men. Went back later and had no trouble at all.

All of us, even me, thought there were more of us here than turns out to be the case. It's more like Japanese in Patrick County (one or two per 18,000 population, than like Hispanics (enough to get Hispanic food stocked in the local supermarkets). You have to go to Roanoke for Japanese food. I have to go to Matagalpa for brown rice and lentils, and I doubt those are being stocked just for the gringos.

My impression is that Nicaraguans are less likely to tell you to take the highway out than Celts, but that they find a lot of this gringo "Cater to me; I have money" as annoying. There's also the flavor of the indigenous amusement with the crazy white people that the Cherokee are pretty upfront about "Eventually, every nut in the world comes through Qualla Boundary." Sometimes, white Americans come across as adult babies -- I especially saw that side of them when I left Nicaragua in October, two year olds with lots of money, very self-centered. The world is about them.

Almost everyone I've talked to here has kin in both CR and in the US (recent person I talked to had his kin in California; most have them in Miami; my Spanish teacher's mother is in San Francisco). Several hundred thousand Nicaraguans do the heavy lifting and service jobs in Costa Rica, so they're familiar with it. Not all Nicaraguans want or expect the same things from life, and some of the ambitious kids want to skip CR and head directly for the US.

If 350 of us demand fresh roasted, fresh ground coffee and 4 million Nicaraguans drink instant, we're not enough of a concentrated market to matter. Bring coffee gear, your beans, and a grinder, and try to win people over to something tastier, without any assurance that they're going to share your particular tastes or that having a coffee experience every morning is one of their priorities.

On Google Plus, I'm a member of a coffee speciality group, but the guy who owns the group fights an uphill battle with people who just love Starbucks. Most people, world wide, like things where promotion plays a bigger part in getting their attention than does actual quality.

The changes in Nicaragua will be the changes its population wants and negotiates within its own various classes and regions. We're not them, and they've got a history of resisting us.

Proportionately, there are more Hispanics in Andy Griffith's home town of Mount Airy (across the state border from Patrick County) than there are us in northern Nicaragua. Possibly proportionately more Asians in Roanoke than US citizens here, too, certainly far more in Fairfax County and up on Skyline Drive on the weekends.

Rebecca Brown

I agree that the guy's criticoizm

was a little tough but -

Submitted by KeyWestPirate - There's absolutely no reason to give someone your money for poor service, a dirty environment, and a less than acceptable product.

You have the beginners naivety we all went through & have a LOT to learn about Nicaragua!

There is no translation from English to Nica Spanish for terms like "customer service" and a few other words I won't mention. "Cause and effect" and "Concern for tomorrow" are almost unknown concepts here. Virtually nobody cares and complaining usually gets you into the doghouse. Subtle persuasion works best but it is very advantageous to speak perfect native Nica Spanish (I don't by a long shot) so you can be "one of their people" rather than an outsider like the classic "ugly American".

Submitted by KeyWestPirate - CR hasn't been 3rd world for quite some time. It's too bad more Nicaraguans can't spend some time in CR, see the possibilities.

You have that right and many Nicas who have moved to the states and come back here to visit say the same thing.

However, a few Nicas who were not born rich have risen well above the crowd somehow and my felicitaciones to them for beating their own system! They have succeeded against much worse odds than we have and consequently deserve the absolute highest respect. The ones that got left behind can truly blame "the system" for their problems - They are doing what they were taught and that in a nutshell is the main problem holding Nicaragua back. In addition to that if a native is not a hard core outspoken Sandinista supporter and won't convert he faces another huge problem. I know a couple of upscale educated Nicas that converted just to survive in the business world.

As far as customer service

As far as customer service related to restaurant wait staff goes, I have observed how my Nica brother in laws (BILS) interact with them. A Nica restaurants I've been in are not like those in USA trying to turn tables. In Nica, we go into one and generally sit where we want to. The adults sit and wait for the kids to get settled in, meanwhile just making small-talk until that happens.

When we are ready, the BIL summons the waiter over and we order. Sometimes we see a waiter before they are summoned, but if not they are summoned over with a wave or call. The waiters I have seen like there job, as far as I can tell. They were not overtly friendly, but came when called.

Once the food or drinks come, the SILs direct them to the proper people that ordered the meals. If we need more napkins or condiments, then more summoning. Sometimes the waiter comes over to ask about the meal quality.

When we are done, we get the bill... invariably it always seems to be wrong... The SIL gets her calculator and re-adds the bill with the waiter watching.

It's very different than USA restaurant customer service. In Nica service is requested once we are ready for it... it's a slower pace for sure, but we are not in a hurry either.

Pigeonholing?

Either that or maybe I'm too blind to see those traits, at least in such general terms. Having been outside of Nicaragua for over 30 years set me up for a shock. A cultural shock. It is not that I became americanized, because by the time I left Nicaragua I had a solid ethical, moral and civil foundation passed on to me by my relatives and teachers. Friends my age tell me we are a dying breed, though I don't agree, at least we are in the minority. The level of education, not just scholar but also principles is poor. As a result we see more people acting or behaving in a counterproductive manner. The problem is that they don't see it like that. For them that is the norm. So, no foul, no harm as you guys say. Then you have to take into consideration how you, and nicas, present or conduct yourself. Most people can tell when they are being treated condescendingly. Our facial and body language can speak volumes without saying a word. Customer Service, Cause and Effect and Concern for Tomorrow are, I dare say, universal concepts. Some people don't know them or they just choose to ignore them. Another thing that maybe you don't know about most nicas is that we don't like to " Serve " . We do it because we have to not because we like to do it . Because we know this about ourselves we don't take it too personally, knowing too well that if we say something about it things could turn ugly, most of the times. Here we go by the old saying : No soy monedita de oro pa' caerle bien a todos. As a young kid in elementary school I loved reading about other countries and cultures. My imagination, fueled by the books, took me outside of Nicaragua and out of this earth long before I left Nicaragua for the first time when my mother took me as a pasante to Panama at age 11. Education, better education. At home and in our schools. Not everybody will be rich, money wise or pursue higher education, but at least there will be more of us with a set of principles and common sense that nowdays are so rare. That's a star don't you think?.

" Most people can tell when

" Most people can tell when they are being treated condescendingly. Our facial and body language can speak volumes without saying a word. Customer Service, Cause and Effect and Concern for Tomorrow are, I dare say, universal concepts. Some people don't know them or they just choose to ignore them. Another thing that maybe you don't know about most nicas is that we don't like to " Serve " . We do it because we have to not because we like to do it ."

That, in a nut shell, may be why I have so few problems here compared with what I hear from other people, but then I'd heard people who were in France talking about how French people in shops expect a bit of human exchange before getting down to business, and I've had Paquita scold me if I didn't slow down for the pleasantries. The customer and the server and the cook are humans beings first -- and acknowledging that in the customary manner takes the sting out of being the server, perhaps (most people don't like to serve -- and most servers have their own ways of supporting each other emotionally by making fun of the customers if the customers are rude).

I also grew up in South Carolina and North Carolina where restaurant service seems to be completely awful to visiting Yankees -- and I've been that Yankee in upstate New York expecting Manhattan level service at a country restaurant. I've also eaten at a Ivory Coast restaurant in Philadelphia which was amazingly slow, more like we were distant cousins who'd dropped by unexpectedly and needed to be fed along with all the rest of the family getting together than anyone with an hour for lunch and money. People who get upset by service here would explode in that restaurant.

Me, I'm embarrassed by people who want what they remember of North American service (and memory can be a deceiver). I don't notice service as being particularly other than neutral except when a woman may have thought two old gringas had young Nicaragua boy friends and that was amazingly chilly service. Service there since was just fine.

What I sense that I've seen in print that at least one other person sensed was post civil war shock, but then I knew people who spoke to the old men who'd fought in the Civil War, who lived where "Stoneman's calvary came and tore up the tracks again" and for some people, that's still real and hurtful after 150 years, so expecting a country that tore itself up in a civil war that's much more recent to have gotten well over it seems unrealistic. I can't heal those wounds; I can respect the losses and the still present gaps in people's lives. My grandfather's cousin was pro Klan and very racist; my grandfather was a Lincoln Republican in 1920.

Books took me out of the US South. I dreamed about NYC before I ever lived there.

Rebecca Brown

You find your own solutions

I no longer take ticabus to san jose after being freeze dried twice. Transnica and gulfos also run to most places. I think ticabus is coasting on its past reputation, kinda like general motors did for so many years. If a toilet in non-op for more than 1 run, it is because of the contempt of the company for the customers.

After a 1 1/2 year illness, I no longer eat in most restaurants in northern Nic and don`t drink the water.

I have stopped shopping at several Esteli hardware stores because of their sullen employees. I understand the trauma if one`s roids are acting up or their dog died, but everyday for life? i sometimes wonder if these employees are deadbeat relatives, hammock-mode owners, or minimum-wage types who need to be shoved out? Inquiring minds want to know, but meanwhile I take my business elsewhere.

Coffee is an everyday drink for most Nicas I know. Judging by what sells in the stores, they mostly go for the cheap stuff, toro and cafe Nic., but to each his own. The stores are full of better stuff at higher prices if you want it. Nescafe is expensive and most locals probably think it is a luxury item. At a minimum, it is consistent and often better than many restaurant coffees.

People here don`t grind their own coffee because it is a pita, sort of like re-inventing the wheel when the stores sell ground coffee. I occasionally do, mostly because I like the smell. It brings out the caveman in me, or something.

Restrooms, in general, are not Nic`s high card. The restroom in out humble home is prettier than many Nic museums or art galleries and larger than many Nic bedrooms. I like it!

When traveling in Nic or C.A., don`t forget that Maxipali sells nut mix, bananas, and powerade. Dirty restaurants with water of questionable origins are an option. ps: trail mix will pass airline security.

As far as CR`s status, it is still 3rd world by most accounts, but along with Panama it is bucking for a promotion. it takes more than a pretty capital to make a country first world, although I admit that it can be a fuzzy standard. Downtown Los Angeles looks crappier than downtown San Jose!

"Anything that is complex is not useful and anything that is useful is simple. This has been my whole life's motto."

Mikhail Kalashnikov, Russian inventor

I think they are family

Down on their luck (deadbeat relatives) that get told to put a few hours in for their keep.

The training starts as a teen, texting and working, then texting working and music in an earpiece. By the time they are twenty they can sit on swivel stool, reach most things and still text, listen to music, and watch TV all while serving you.

The Bank of Nicaragua Stats has a category for them; Unpaid Employees or Trabajador sin pago and there are over 200,000 of them working in family businesses for nothing and sometimes not giving much more.

The education system, sony, movistar, claro & Accion Diez can all take some blame.

As John S. quite rightly alluded to, hats off to those who can break the cycle.

$18

While I don't approve or like much of any aspect of current Honduran immigration (except that border-hopping for renewal again works for people I know here on tourist visas) setups, the $18 isn't for the right to sit on a bus; it is the land-border entrance fee for a 90-day stay - you just happen to use it while sitting on a bus and leaving the country right away. Since TicaBus cannot prevent you from getting off the bus in-country while in transit, the fee is the same for a few hours on a bus as it is for a backpacker coming from Nicaragua and intending to spent 3 months here - I think. The excessive amount is another matter from what the fees permit. There is no good reason for it to be above nominal per CA-4 and this fee, and the proposed but rejected-at-the-last-minute air arrivals fees (which would have made them one of the 3 most expensive countries to visit), have been the subject of a good bit of debate in the country. Then again, Nicaragua's $12 for N.A. going the other way is not exactly a deal either.

Almost but not quite

Our passports were collected before entering Honduras by the TicaBus staff and returned to us with a Honduran entry and exit stamp (but no visa) by the Nicaraguan authorities. Thus, we didn't have the option to stay in Honduras.

Option to stay

If TicaBus had the passports from El Salvador to Nicaragua, are you sure there never was a Honduran visa, transit pass, or receipt, in the passport?

No but ...

The Honduras stamps are little round ones rather than the typical box where visa information is generally placed. So, it is hard to know exactly what was going on.

Note that I have pointed Tica Bus at this thread and asked them to address the issues. We'll see.

Not just Tica Bus

I think it is a pretty decent summary and mirrors our experiences and that of countless other stories I have heard. But, these are not stories of Tica Bus alone. Though I did not stay overnight on my recent trips, this is much the way Nica Bus operates, too (though I still much prefer them, and not just because the leave times and route suites me going from Tegus to Nicaragua). Our last 6 trips were pretty much like this description, half NicaBus, half TicaBus. One difference was that the food and the bus videos. Per food we always stopped at a highway restaurant that is likely owned by the brother of the guy who owns the bus line (just a guess). Not that this is necessarily bad. The warning is bad: only 10 minutes and we leave with or without you. Well, pushing 30 minutes later everyone is still waiting for the bus driver – who is eating elsewhere (better food?) where it takes a bit more than 3 minutes to deliver the meal. If you knew what time they really leaved, that might be helpful come decision making time (and on one trip we did leave without 3 people). Per videos, the attendant would simply play a movie that had been paused from some previous trip. So, it starts in the middle. When we changed buses, we saw the rest of some other video, also paused in the middle even though no one was still on that bus from the previous trip. Hard to believe pausing it benefited anyone given the routes. When some kids near us asked about this the attendant claimed it saved energy and wear and tear on the DVD player. Wasting energy is a concern per spinning a disc, though running the AC to keep the bus at 56 degrees isn't (close to the temp of the beer cooler at the bus route restaurant above). The only thing keeping some people from thinking how frickin' cold it is on the bus was that they may have been impaired by the chemicals drifting in from the bus toilet. Then again, if you got a migraine or are high from the toilet setup and on the verge of hypothermia, it probably doesn't matter that you missed the first half of "Midnight Run" – all 3 times it was shown (a country full of bootlegs and their choice is an English language film, without dubbing or subtitles, from 20+ years ago). When some students asked what the film was about since they missed the first half, the attendant claimed "its about some guys trying to do something or get somewhere". Unsatisfied the girl asked if that wasn't a description of most movies ever made. The attendant agreed is could be, but if so she had no reason to be surprised or to know more because "every movie has a story". Sad part is, most all complaints could easily be addressed with slightly altered staff training. But, I am not so sure thinking about this logically is the way to go. Not all trips are like this, to be sure, but quite a few are.

Frame this advice from MJT...

"But, I am not so sure thinking about this logically is the way to go".

Unreal

Expecting some modern comparisons and contrasts to Nicaragua life and you post this.

That bus has been the same for 15 years-is for poor people and young backpackers with limited funds.

Fyl....Fly

We are not getting any younger and you can't take that million with you....Fly next time.

16 hour buses and arguing over $18 is for us poor people and those young enough to need the money to last.

Besides, you sound so "Pinche"... :)

Answering both of you

First, I had a cédua and will have another soon. Mine expired (another long story that I probably won't post) and part of the renewal process was to pay the overstay fine, leave the country, re-enter as a tourist and then initiate the renewal. So, I did.

When I left by air I had a return ticket. The round trip cost less than $400 including all taxes and a "you can change it cheap" return ticket on COPA. Well, when I went to change the return trip the cost of the change was more than I had paid for the round trip ticket in the first place. As I needed to be in Managua on Monday to go to immigration and I was ready to leave Guatemala on Friday, how I traveled made no difference. That is, I would be in Managua before Monday whether I decided to fly or take the bus.

I had never been in El Salvador other than the airport and never in Honduras at all do I figured it was a good chance to look out the windows. That was also my excuse to take Tica Bus instead of del Sol where much of the trip would be at night. Or, to put it another way, it made sense at the time.

So, I have learned some things and would like Tica Bus to learn some things as well.

fyl..u do have a cedula ..

dont u..i thought with the new system..with a cedula we could pass from country to country free..18 bucks for hondurus..is too damn expensive

CA-4 Travel Realities

An earlier comment on that possibility: http://www.nicaliving.com/node/20574