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Report from our visit to Managua, Nicaragua

Buenas dias!

The following is a summary of some of my experiences in Managua and tiny
bits of Nicaragua late April / early May 2012. While I spent 14 days there
in total (as private vacation), for the last three days I was joined by 
Gunnar Wolf (on DebConf12 funds), to make sure my impressions about the 
local team, the status of the preparations and everything were correct. 
Our visit also seems to have been very motivating to local team members,
whom I've seen really enthusiastic to welcome a huge Debian crowd for
the first DebConf in Central America in just a few weeks!

At the last DebConf12 IRC meeting I summarized it like this: "in very
short: my two weeks were great, I had a great vacation, met many 
members of the localteam, which is way bigger then it seems on irc,
saw and liked UCA (Universidad Centroamericana, the DebConf12 venue), 
had zillions of reunions (meetings, see schedule wiki page) and met 
many nice people and a very hot & interesting country+capital with great

The deadline for sponsored accomodation ends in three days - see 
http://debconf12.debconf.org/dates.xhtml - so if you haven't registered
yet, hurry up, DebCamp starts in 49 days! :-) 
(After that registration is still possible, but you will need to pay 
for your costs yourself.)

Below is a thematically sorted list of impressions and advice written
by Gunnar, Norman, Leo, Felix and myself.


The first impression was a nice barbecue with some local team members where it literally rained Mangos :-) And very 
nice warm weather - it was evening after all...

Activities done
  You can find an incomplete schedule of our activities on http://wiki.debconf.org/wiki/DebConf12/PreConVisit - 
basically we had many meeting with several UCA people, some people from the government, local free software groups 
and individuals, with Navega (an ISP), who will hopefully become our uplink provider, attended FLISOL and also 
enjoyed some nature, ie saw an active vulcano from very close, swam in a lagoon, ... and (Holger) learned some more 
Spanish too! :-)

  thermal water sauna
  certainly very important here, so high on the list!!1
  the only place where it was really cool and refreshing: after you go inside, it's cooler outside for 10min., 
which is when you go inside again... 8-)
  20km away in Tipitapa
  has two pools as well, filled with hot water. very strange to go inside at first, but actually pretty nice.
  Drinks are obviously available, food as well
  opens at 5 AM, closes around 8 PM

Localteam rocks:
  Up until recently only four people seemed involved, i.e. from watching IRC. We're happy to report that the 
localteam consists instead of 15-25 people, of whom roughly 10 are very active (and hopefully soon more are active 
on IRC & the lists as well.)
  they are very dedicated and have distributed load 
  Even if some local team members claim they cannot speak English they speak better English than Holger's Spanish.

UCA (Universidad Centroamericana)
  wide friendly, lots of shady space outside (some with power plugs), several extra/external food places, 
  very nice auditoriums (excellent audio conditions), good (cool) hacklab, suitable server room with fiber 
connections (which we can use) between the buildings
  talkroom 1: http://layer-acht.org/fotos/660_Nicaragua_2012/20120424_020_Sm.jpg.18.html
  talkroom 2: http://layer-acht.org/fotos/660_Nicaragua_2012/20120428_024_Sm.jpg.68.html
  workshoproom: http://layer-acht.org/fotos/660_Nicaragua_2012/20120424_026_Sm.jpg.24.html
  hacklab: http://layer-acht.org/fotos/660_Nicaragua_2012/20120424_010_Sm.jpg.8.html
  map: http://media.debconf.org/dc12/map/Map_DC12_UCA.png 
  non smoking campus (just walk 50-100m and you can smoke almost everywhere outside...)
  We are in good contact with the University, they are supportive and are looking forward to host us at DebConf12!

Customs, migration, etc.
  We both arrived at Managua (MGA) airport.
  You have to pay 10 US dollars at the immigration desk to enter the country
    you can pay in cordobas (230 cordobas in early May) but they will not have change. (they have change in USD)
    they will not take euros (but will escort you to an ATM where you can draw cordobas)
      (if you spot some nonsense, you're right ;)
  make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 more months after your *entry* date
  if you need a visa, get one. if you're unsure about your status, contact visa@debconf.org
  You have to provide the address for your hotel upon entry, or just write "Managua".
  after picking up my backpack I was asked by some official where I was coming from, to which I replied (slightly 
tired...) "Amsterdam" at which he looked in disbelief, so I corrected myself to "Panama" (which was the last leg of 
my flights indeed), after which he let me pass. 
  Then my backpacks were scanned like all the others and I went out. There was no comment about my 2 laptops, 1 
access point, a video camera and various other hardware. (Which I obviously brought privately, as this is what 
computer professionals like me need to survive on a vacation... :)
  From leaving the plane until I was outside the airport building it took me probably 23 minutes of which I had to 
wait about 10 minutes in the queue to get my passport stamped and to pay those 10 USD.

 Note: when you leave the country you will be handed the entry form again... you need to fill it out again, but 
enter where you're leaving too... besides that leaving was uneventful.

General advice
  if you are not used to direct strong sun light, you will get a sunburn in just a few hours. There are tons of 
shadow spaces available in the city and on the campus, just remember to use them or protect yourself against the 
sun. Sunblock cream is available in the supermarket in the mall close by.
  bring light and wide clothing
    light both as in weight as in color - avoid black t-shirts, and suits and jackets are just out of the question 
  bring umbrellas & hats
    at 8 in the morning the sun is hot like at noon in Spain in summer, then the sun is directly above you for the 
whole day until it gets dark in 30 minutes at around 6 in the evening. At night it cools down to 28 degrees Celsius 
or so
    umbrellas might also be useful because DebConf12 will probably experience a few hours of rain per day. (que 
bien!! It cools down a bit.) In July it rains for a few hours every few days, so not much to worry about :)
  bring sandals
    if you wear socks in shoes, bring plenty of thin socks. and consider bringing some (very) open shoes 
    if you're a sandals or barefoot person, two pairs of socks are plenty. (one for each flight ;)
  air conditioning does exist (basically everywhere) but is not brutal
  use deodorants several times a day - you don't want to be the usual smelly foreigner
  .ni is the safest country in Central America - still, don't walk around carrying laptops alone in the dark or do 
other silly things. Be sensible!
    and foremost, don't be afraid, the people are very friendly here, open, social and communicative. So you will 
probably get comments and be talked at (in a friendly way). So, yes, you can go out to the streets, in fact, we 
recommend you do ;-)
    Finally, the local team will provide some maps outlining areas recommended to visit (and areas to be avoided at 
  and, the civil war is over for roughly 20 years - if you thought otherwise, please go to Wikipedia ( 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicaragua#1990s_and_the_post-Sandinista_era ) and read about the current political 
situation and history ;-p
  the US Dollar is accepted currency everywhere but the exchange rate will vary
    use cordobas for everyday things (buying food, drinks, t-shirts, etc.)
  basic English is quite widely understood
  I drank lots of tap water for two weeks and still feel fine ;-)
  If you can, plan to spend some time before or after DebConf outside Managua. I'm quite sure you will not regret 
it: http://layer-acht.org/fotos/660_Nicaragua_2012/20120429_084_Sm.jpg.143.html

Moving around (and coming back to UCA)
  Nicaragua does NOT use street names or numbers - You will always explain relative to a well-known point. UCA is 
such a point.
    Moving around or explaining locations in Nicaragua is hard for all non locals.
  DebConf12 takes place at UCA (Universidad Centroamericana) and that area is also where the hotels are located.
  There are several universities in Managua, but _only one_ of them is called "UNI", and that's the UNI 
(Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería) and not the UCA. 
  And then the UNI has two buildings in the city (RUPAP and UNI Central), but "UNI Central" is right in front of 
the UCA.
  To add to this, there are also UNAN (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua) and UNA (Universidad Nacional 
Agraria) and other universities. Just remember that you want to go to UCA.

Food at DebConf and in general
  The people in charge of finding a catering provider are vegetarians - your needs will surely be covered
  Nicaraguan food is carbohydrate-heavy:
    Lots of rice, beans, corn in many many many many different presentations
    Almost always accompanied by some meat (which you can opt out of easily)
  NO spicy food
    Food is very seldom spicy, although all kinds of hot peppers are available
  Celiacs: there is lots of different corn-based food here.

Other food options in Managua
  There are many bars and restaurants and other food places available around UCA but also around Bolonia 
  Localteam has mapped many bars already and is in the process of uploading more and creating a DebConf12 specific 
map with good places and areas to go. If you want to help with this, please contact felix@delattre.de 

Pricing examples
  a liter of beer in the closest bar to UCA: 44 cordobas, so roughly two dollars. If you don't want to share you 
pay 1 USD per 12oz bottle (aka 0.3l)...
  a liter of water: 10-12 cordobas (in kiosks)
  dinning out: the cheapest is around 60 cordobas, and normal 200 cordobas

Pulperias & shopping centres
 Pulperias are local small shops selling everything and which are everywhere. 
 A huge shopping centre is close to UCA: 

Taxis are a bit special...
  Taxi prices are somewhat discretionary (not based on taxi meters), and being a foreigner will probably increase 
the cost. 
  Taxi prices also vary according to the time, crossing half of the city should be 40 cordobas by day and 80 by 
night. ask for the price in advance else some might try to charge you the same amount but in USD ;)
  A taxi from the airport to the venue is $20 using the official taxis of the airport (yellow t-shirt), $10 using 
an alternative taxi cooperative in front of the airport (blue t-shirts) or around $5 using the usual taxis (not 
recommended for non Spanish-speaking people).
  Do not expect any random taxi driver to understand English well - best try to go out with locals or Spanish-
speakers or work with your hands and feet
  The localteam is trying to find a trusted cooperative to improve the situation for us.

Pictures at the airport 
  Starting at http://layer-acht.org/fotos/660_Nicaragua_2012/20120507_020_Sm.jpg.248.html where Felix helpfully 
explains that you cannot take hot sauce on a plane.
  After that you'll see pics of taxi drivers with different shirt colors.
  The claro shop is directly at the exit of the arrival area, if you want to buy some sim cards directly upon 
  The red ATM is according to locals the one with the best rates. You'll find it by walking 30m from arrival to 
departure, where you turn left, as if you would leave the country. 

And finally, in July when you leave the airport in Managua (_into_ the country), remember what I said in the 
beginning: this is the country where you need to go to a sauna to cool down! 8-)

Oh, and it will rain more in July than what we have perceived end of April / beginning of May (which was nothing). 
I was told rain then+there means probably 1-3h (in total) per day where it simply rains, it it rains. 

As you can see, wheather will be very important at DebConf12! 8-) Make sure you can cope with it, it's (rather 
easily) doable and absolutly worth the fun!

We're looking forward to see you there and have a great DebConf together! Hopefully we sweat together while Wheezy 
is frozen :-D

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