Get a driver's license
This is based on my personal experience on May 27, 2004 updated with some new informaiton. Your mileage may vary.
It has been said that you need a Nicaraguan cedula to get a driver's license. But, I know non-residents that have acquired one. Using the "acting like I know what I am doing" approach, I decided to get one. It worked. Apparently, you don't need one if you are still a tourist and, if you are anything else you should have a cedula. But this, like most things in Nicaragua, seems to be rather flexible.
The law (ley431 which is the complete vehicle code and is available here on this site at http://www.nicaliving.com/files/ley431.pdf) actually says your current license can be used here until it expires. Thus, you sorta need a reason to tell them that you want a Nicaraguan license.
Licenses are different for motorcycles, cars, cargo trucks and people transport vehicles such as buses. There is a different test for each. There is also a good chance you will get told you need to take "the class" and the test. While I got my vehicle license, when I went to add a motorcycle to it I got told that unless the head honcho signed off on me, I had to do the class (9 hours) and the test.
The drill looks like this:
- Go to the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) and get a examen de sangre (blood test) and examen de vista (vision test) for your license. The blood test is apparently just to get your blood type for the license. Total cost C$80.
- Get a photocopy of the photo page of your passport and of your driver's license.
- Go to Banpro (Bank of Production) and deposit $C150 in account number 100-10000025581-5. This is the account of the National Police and there should be deposit slips for this at the counter of the bank.
- Get the name, location and phone number of an emergency contact.
- Go to a transit police station that issues licenses (that's Transito which is different from the people with the guns but it is where you get a gun permit) armed with all of the above plus your original license and passport.
- Tell them where you live and your phone number. Be prepared to tell them 2 or 3 times that you don't have a cedula and have a reason why you need a license. (I explained that I had a 2-year volunteer contract in Estelí and that my residency was in process but takes a while.)
- Expect to be able to negotiate the duration of the license.
- They take a photo and about 5 minutes later you leave with a license.
Note that the license does have your photo on it, your blood type, your name and your passport number. It also has an expiration date and your emergency contact info. And your address such as it is. But, it is not signed by you, it does not have your age and it is not good for ID--at least in Nicaragua. It just says you can drive. You still need a cedula or a passport for ID.