León is the second largest city in Nicaragua, after Managua. It was founded by the Spanish as Santiago de los Caballeros de León and rivals Granada, Nicaragua, in the number of historic Spanish colonial churches, secular buildings, and private residences. The city had an estimated population of about 205,000, which increases sharply during university season with many students coming from other regions of Nicaragua. It is the capital and largest city of León Department. León is located along the Río Chiquito, some 90 kilometres northwest of Managua, and some 18 km east of the Pacific Ocean coast. León has long been the political and intellectual center of the nation and its National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) was founded in 1813, making it the second oldest university in Central America. León is also an important industrial, agricultural, and commercial center for Nicaragua, exporting sugar cane, cattle, peanut, plantain, and sorghum. The city has been home to many of Nicaragua's most noteworthy poets including Rubén Darío, Alfonso Cortés and Salomón de la Selva.
The two similar festivals are parades and processions celebrating the Immaculate Conception in the early weeks of December in the lead up to Christmas. They are held in the cities of Granada and Leon, and provide a true spectacle which most of the townspeople come out to enjoy.
Tropical with hot and humid conditions year-round. Rainy season is from June to October mainly.
The closest commercial airport is in Managua IATA: MGA. Managua is roughly an hour and a half drive from León.
Ruletos (trucks) serve as local buses (C$ 4 per ride). They go from the mercado north of town where the buses to Managua and other long distance destinations arrive and leave to the Mercado in Barrio Subtiava where buses to the beaches of las Peñitas and Poneloya leave and arrive. Taxis are C$ 20 per person anywhere in the city before 7pm, C$30 after 7:00pm.
The city is very walkable if you can stand the heat. You do not really need a car once there, unlike Managua. The locals get around by bicycle and walking, and if you need to get across town you can take a taxi. However, to go to the places outside the city, such as the beach, a car is convenient.
Definitely have to go to the oldest restaurant in town, located in the heart of Leon, in the opposite corner of the Basilica Cathedral called "El Sesteo", it has diverse menu from typical local food and beverages to fast food. Definitely worth trying.
|Bigfoot Hostel||Media Cuadra al sur, Banco Procredito||Hostel||-|
|Hostal Colibrí||Iglesia de La Recolección 1/2 cuadra al norte||Guesthouse||82|
|Hostal Tortuga Booluda (The Lazy Turtle)||Calle Marcoleta 517, 3.5 cuadras al oeste del parq De la Iglesia San Juan de Dios, 1.5 Cuadras Oeste||Hostel||-|
|Hostel El Albergue||gasolinera petronic media cuadra abajo, Barrio San||Hostel||-|
|Sonati||3ra calle noreste 211||Hostel||-|
|Surfing Turtle Lodge||Isla Los Brasiles, Poneloya Leon||Hostel||-|
There are free-of-charge volunteer opportunities with Quetzaltrekkers  an organisation raising money for street kids by offering hikes to volcanoes around León. You can volunteer as a hiking guide for a minimum of three months.
Las Tias - the supported organization - also takes volunteers, taking care of the streetkids, with a two months minimum.
Ask around at the cafe run by "Edad de Oro", whether this organisation got some (volunteer) work for you - they're pretty cool too.
Some people find work at the Big Foot Hostel, and for long-term visitors (6 month or so) it's sometimes possible to teach English.
Spanish at one of the schools. Dairiana Spanish School is a good option. It is located in the center of the city and will arrange a homestay if you are interested.
You also can get excellent classes with private teachers, which actually is much cheaper.
Internet cafes can be found in most larger cities and popular areas, but even in smaller towns you will usually be able to connect somewhere.
Wifi is generally free at most hotels, with the notable exception of larger chain hotels, which generally charge between US$3 and US$8 per day.
See also International Telephone Calls
The international phone code of Nicaragua is 505. The general emergency number is 911, though you can contact police (118), fire (115) and ambulance (128) separately if you want.
Nicaragua's cell phone system utilizes GSM 1900 technology. So, if you have a GSM phone that supports the 1900 band you can either use your phone as is at international rates or if your cell phone is unlocked , you can purchase a SIM card for your phone and you will have a local cell number and be charged local cell rates. Both Claro and Movistar provide cell phone service in the country. Claro is run by the old national phone company (ENITEL) that has now been privatized.
Another option is to buy a cell phone locally. Disposable cell phones are quite inexpensive, usually costing about US$20.
You can also purchase local prepaid phone cards that can be used at pay phone across the country. The different pay phone systems each have their own phone cards, so pay attention to which type you purchase.
Correos de Nicaragua provides postal services. It's fairly cheap but not extremely reliable or fast. Post offices are generally open Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 6:00 pm and Saturday from 8:00am to 1:00pm. Airmail postage for a standaard letter or postcard from Nicaragua to North America is US0.60 and US$1 to Europe. Mail takes on average between 7 and 10 days to get to the U.S. and Europe. Though it's fine for sending a postcard, you'd better use companies like TNT, DHL, UPS or FedEx to send parcels internationally.
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