Nicaragua "Welcome with open arms"

Nicaragua lies between Costa Rica in the south and Honduras and El Salvador in the north. it is a coutnry of barely 4 million inhabitants just recovering from the gory years of the Contra-Sandinista war. It enjoy a beautiful and extremly varied climate and two oceans.

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Nicaragua "Welcome with open arms"

Central America Language Tours has recently contracted the services of expert guides based in the magnificent colonial city of León located 88 Km. Northwest of the capital city of Managua, León is Nicaragua's second largest city and also the academic and cultural center of the country where Nicaragua's revered Poet Laurate Rubén Dario is entombed. Some 20 Km. south from León lies the active Volcano Cerro Negro replete with it's steaming Geysers. The entire area was nearly destroyed in 1998 after an eruption of the Volcano occured during 'Hurricane Mitch', burying thousands of square kilometers in volcanic ash. Nicaragua is no stranger to tradgedy. The country has been at peace since 1990 after the long Contra-Sandinista War while offical corruption and poverty still haunt the brave Nicaraguan people, who are the most open and friendly to visitors in Central America, if coming from Guatemala and El Salvador you will be suprised to see there is no "bargaining" in the Crafts Markets, since fair prices are set in a co-operative spirit........

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"no bargaining"

I have never been to a mercado in Nicaragua were bargaining wasn't the norm. I don't consider the starting price to be unfriendly, just culturally accepted. The price is expected to be much higher than they will take for it. This starting price will vary from a small amount above the normal price (if a matronly Nicaraguan woman is doing the buying) to many times the normal price (if a gringo is doing the buying).

Bartering is a custom that I enjoyed; I got fairly good at after awhile. Still, even when I was at my best a matronly Nicaragua woman would allways best my price.

As for set in a coopertive spirit. . .In the largest crafts mercado in the largest crafts city in Nicaragua (Masaya) I found that just going down the line from one merchant to the next caused the price to drop. The first couple would try to charge me gringo prices and their neighbors would overhear our exchange. When I talked to the next guy he would undercharge the guy I had just talked to to get my sale. This would continue until I had hit a point where they were unwilling to budge--then I'd buy.

As for the prices being fair. . .I remember a time in Leon when a group from a Christian church were walking down a street where I was seated. Right across from me they paused to talk to a guy selling pottery. I overheard their entire conversation. The Nicaraguan man charged them 5 times what I know he would get from anyone else, and they happily paid the man his asking price. I approached the group as they move on down the street and let them know that they had just been had. One of them gave me a blank stare and then said, "The man is barefoot, dressed in rags, and selling pottery on a sidewalk. It cost us less then we would have paid in the States; why wouldn't we pay him what he asked?" I had no answer to that. So, the prices are fair (relatively speaking).

Nicaraguans are extremely friendly people. The bartering system doesn't detract from this for me--it just adds flavor the the Nicaraguan experience.