León to Granada can be done using multiple methods that could include a colectivo, minibus, regular bus, or even just a shuttle. Saving a bit of money by using local transportation ended up being a great option for us, and perhaps it could be for you as well. Hostels and hotels in León will definitely offer the easy shuttle option, though for us we found that getting to Granada was just as easily done by using the local transportation and of course making your own way there ends up making the journey that much cheaper.
So how do you get from León to Granada without the use of a shuttle? It is simple enough, and only requires one change in the capital Managua which for a seasonsed backpacker shouldn’t make the trip too strenuous with your heavy pack.
Step 1: León to Managua
To be able to catch the bus in León you need to make your way to La Terminal. This very busy terminal is approximately 1.5km outside of the main tourist area, lending itself to a walk that is almost too far for most with a heavy pack, or a simple and cheap taxi (or bike-taxi) ride away. It is located on 6ta Calle NE, next to a bustling market (making it hard to miss once you’ve seen the market!).
Beside the old chicken buses making their way to many different locations, you will see somewhat luxurious colectivo vans (some that are even air-conditioned) that will have Managua UCA adorned on their side or front. It will be hard to miss the vans, as you will also hear men yelling out their destination in attempting to get your attention.
The cost for this ride should be 54 cordoba as of February 2017, and in our case was plastered on a piece of paper within the colectivo itself (as an official government notice). It should take around 1.5 hours to get to Managua UCA depending on any stops that are made along the way.
TIP: These colectivo vans come regularly, don’t feel that you need to fill the last 2 seats and have your bags shoved somewhere that might damage them. Just wait for the next one and get the seats you want (and the storage space). The market is right there and offers up some great street food to pass the time!
Managua UCA to Granada
The next (and final) part of your journey will have you swapping in Managua UCA at a small bus station across the road from the university (hence the name “UCA” or University of Central America). You will trade-in your colectivo to change to a minibus that fits around 20 people.
The same rule applies here in Managua UCA in that many minibuses will pass through so never feel pressured to miss out on a seat on the bus if it is too full. Be firm but kind with the people in waiting for the next one.
In general, when you get off the colectivo at Managua UCA you will be immediately asked where you are going, and the people are actually quite nice in helping you find your way. Be careful with your belongings (as usual) but also don’t fret too much about taking on the help of the local people.
Now the pricing for this portion of the journey is a bit less straight-forward than the first leg, as the cost is not posted on the minibus like it was for the colectivo from León. We have read many different reports of what people have been charged, though in the end we were charged 75 cordoba for 2 people, including our bags. We think that we were charged 25 cordoba each for the ride, and an extra 25 cordoba for our 2 bags to ride in the front next to the driver (not too bad).
You will ride on the minibus for around 1 hour, but this journey time could blow out as the bus stops frequently along the way. Eventually you will arrive into the centre of Granada, with the actual bus “terminal” being on the street only a few blocks away from the central park of Granada.
It really is that simple to get from León to Granada, and at the end of it you’ve probably saved enough for your first nights accommodation in Granada! We would recommend staying at De Boca en Boca whilst you are in town. They offer a very central location (right next to the Iglesia la Merced – a great church to climb to the top of) and only a few blocks from the Parque Central. They also offer a free traditional breakfast and coffee each morning!
You can also use this guide to go in the reverse direction, making your way from Granada up to Leon. Whether you’re heading down to Granada, or up to Leon, we hope you enjoy your time in these great cities!