This article is part of our Internet and Phone Report series.
General availability: Medium-High
Quality of bandwidth: Pretty terrible
Frequency of internet in campgrounds: Rare
Frequency of internet in hotels: Surprisingly high. Everywhere we stayed had internet access.
Areas visited: With our CA-4 visas rapidly running out, and family coming to visit in Costa Rica, we didn’t have a lot of time to play in Nicaragua. We spent several days in each of these places: Leon, Granada, Isla de Ometepe and San Juan del Sur.
Same ol’ story here. Free hostel wifi connections are painful at best. Connections die constantly, especially with frequent power outages.
Most hotels have free wifi. In remote areas, like Ometepe, there may be a fee. We are seeing more typical coffee/sandwich cafés offering free wifi. Touristy places like Granada, Leon and San Juan del Sur had plenty of places to connect.
Like usual, if you need reliability, invest in a USB modem. If your work can wait, and you have the patience, free wifi from hotels and cafés will work just fine.
As with all other countries we’ve visited so far, we took time in our first stop in Nicaragua to purchase a prepaid SIM card and a USB modem.
There are two main cell phone companies in Nicaragua, Claro and Movistar. Claro modems are more expensive, 750 cordobas ($32.60 USD), but they come with an entire month of free time. Movistar modems are cheaper, about $25 USD, but they don’t include any free time. Also, Movistar doesn’t have any plans that last longer than a day, so you constantly have to activate new plans. The hassle made Claro a better choice for us.
The Claro modem had excellent coverage everywhere we went in Nicaragua, including out in the backwoods of Ometepe Island. Speeds were so good we could plug the dongle into our router and all three of us could work on the internet at once. Although $35 is steep for a modem, it was less than we would have run up in internet café fees without it.
While in Leon we also purchased a prepaid SIM card. It was Semana Santa and the Claro shops were all closed, so we decided to go with Movistar this time. The SIM card cost C$50 ($2 USD) if you immediately recharged with another C$50 ($2 USD).
Like most Central American countries, recharges have promotion amounts, usually double or triple your actual recharge. Unfortunately, with Movistar all of the promotional time is not available for international calls. It costs $.19 USD per minute to call the US or Canada. Some packets and promos are occasionally available, but given our short time in this country we decided not to bother to sort them out.
If you stick to the tourist route there will be plenty of wifi options, although the quality may be terrible. If you’re heading out to a remote area, or just want to spend some time away from the crowds, pick up a USB modem before you go.