Should I Go to Nicaragua With Emory University?

s I am currently volunteering for the second consecutive year as a mentor in this micro-entrepreneur accelerator program, a professor of the Goizueta Business School at Emory University in Atlanta recently invited me to join a group on a trip to spend ten days in what is known as coffee country in Nicaragua as one of the programs in the Nicaragua module of the Social Enterprise @ Goizueta program. The group comprised of him, other professors, a guest, and several students currently matriculated for their Master of Business Administration degrees.

Should I Go to Nicaragua With Emory University?

The notice I was given was too short, as the most recent trip — which also included exploring Leon and Granada — concluded on Thursday, March 3, 2015.

I did initially balk at the cost for the trip: $2,100.00, which covers food, lodging, in-country ground transportation, and admission and service project fees — not including airfare.

The professor who invited me stated the reasons for the high cost — among them, that this is a form of volunteer work and not a vacation. I already understood that, as that was what initially interested me in the trip; and I also let him know that I had written an article pertaining to volunteer tourism in general — along with its potential pitfalls, as when not properly implemented, volunteer tourism can actually cause more harm to a local community and its people than good.

Although I have read that you have to be really careful about which companies and organizations are reputable, I have absolutely no concern with Emory University. It is a reputable institution; and this is not the first time or only program which it has conducted in conjunction with local residents in Nicaragua and a local partner there…

…and after our discussion, the professor had absolutely no concerns with me. I like to do what I can to do the right thing — and if I can enjoy the process as well, that is even better.

The next trip is scheduled in January of 2017; and the primary issue is the cost, which would be at least $3,000.00 total when everything is included.

Itinerary for Nicaragua

A copy of the itinerary is shown below, with any superfluous information removed.

Day 1

Tuesday
February 23

8 Travelers

Arrive in Nicaragua

PM: Depart Atlanta DL 369 for Managua (Arrives in MGA at 8:54 PM Local time)

(Travel by bus to Jinotega; Lodging at Finca El Peten) 

Day 2

Wednesday,
February 24

8 Travelers

Coffee and Coffee Communities

AM: Finca El Peten tour

PM: Introduction to Nicaragua Community Health Connection

Day 3

Thursday,
February 25

8 Travelers

Coffee and Coffee Communities

AM: Trip across lake to visit San Esteban

PM: Free time on the farm; poll travellers to gauge interest in small service project

Day 4

Friday,
February 26

8 Travelers

Coffee and Coffee Communities

AM: Travel to Prodecoop (Palacaguina)

PM: Prodecoop tour and presentation

(Lodging in Prodecoop) 

Day 5

Saturday,
February 27

8 Travelers

Transition to Leon

AM: Community visit (Prodecoop supported projects)

PM: (Travel to Leon / Free Time) 

(Lodging in Leon – Hotel to be determined) 

Day 6

Sunday,
February 28

8 Travelers

AM: Cerro Negro Volcano Hike and visit with El Hoyo Rural Tourism. Cooperative; with Quetzaltrekkers, optional volcano boarding

PM: Visit San Jacinto Geothermal Plant

(Lodging in Leon – Hotel to be determined) 

Day 7

Monday,
February 29

6 Travelers

AM: Visit with SosteNica and La Base

PM: Beach time, sunset and dinner at Las Peñitas

(Lodging in Leon – Hotel to be determined) 

Day 8

Tuesday,
March 1

6 Travelers

Transition to Granada

AM: Travel to Granada

PM: City Tour / Free Time

(Lodging at Hotel Con Corazon) 

Day 9

Wednesday,
March 2

6 Travelers

Free Day in Granada

AM: Choice of tourist activities

PM: Lunch and visit to Tio Antonio,

Travel to Managua, Dinner in Managua.

(Lodging in Managua- Hotel to be determined)

Day 10

Thursday,
March 3

AM: Depart for Atlanta from Managua Airport (8:45 AM, Delta Flight #370)

Summary

I am not a coffee person; but of course, that really does not matter for the trip in question. I think I would enjoy the trip while simultaneously being able to learn and do some good for other people…

…but I want to solicit your opinion. What are your thoughts? After reviewing the itinerary, should I consider going on this trip this coming January? Would you pay at least $3,000.00 — or roughly $300.00 per day at a minimum, which does include pretty much everything — to go on a trip such as this?

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
Start date 15-03-2016 16:28:25
End date 30-11-2016 23:59:59
Poll Results:
Should I Go to Nicaragua With a Class From Emory University in January 2017?

The professor who invited me to attend the trip is on the left in the photograph at the top of this article. Source: The official Facebook Internet web site of the Nicaragua Community Health Connection.

6 thoughts on “Should I Go to Nicaragua With Emory University?”

  1. Andy says:

    Beautiful place, gorgeous scenery…volcanoes etc, nice colonial architecture, cheap.

    And you’re doing good?? Yep…Go!

    I enjoyed it (oh…and it’s safe)

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I never had a concern about safety in Nicaragua, Andy.

      Thank you for the recommendation.

  2. If you just want to check out Nicaragua, you can do so much more cheaply with points and miles. And even without points and miles you could still do that trip on your own a lot more cheaply. Tickets from the southeastern US should be around $500-700, you can get a nice hotel for less than $100 per night, and you can probably hire a driver for ~$50 per day.

    January is a great time of year to visit though.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I agree with you, Nick @ Personal Finance Digest — and thank you for your thoughts.

      I guess the “wild card” is potentially doing some good while being in Nicaragua. I wonder if I can have both the less expensive trip combined with that same ability to potentially do some good…

  3. Val says:

    My husband and I spent 18 days in Nicaragua at christmas time. The cost of $300/day is indeed very high. We travelled in “luxury” and spent a total of about $100 per day. I didn’t get the doing good part of this trip from your article. Is the extra money donated to some cause in Nica?
    Anyway, I am glad I went to Nica but not in a hurry to go back. Both the volcanoes and the ocean and beaches can be spectacular. The architecture can be beautiful (at least on the inside) and many of the b&b’s and small hotels we were in colonial style and quite gorgeous inside. However, walking around the cities you would not know how beautiful the inside of these colonial buildings are. The facades are usually very battered, with bars over all doors and windows. Most places are constantly locked and you have to ring to get in or out. The towns infrastructure is crumbling. Always be looking down as you walk as sidewalks and streets have many, many deep holes or uplifted blocks, or disused pipes sticking up. Lots of young men passed out in doorways. Walking around the towns was a little depressing.
    The people of Nica are friendly, but most of the population is very poor. The gulf between the rich and poor is very wide. The vast majority of the population can not ever afford even one meal out in a restaurant that you or I would go to. The food in Granada was very good, but mediocre in other places we went. Not bad, just not very good.
    You will be safe in a group, but robberies were a problem in one area we stayed – the hotel used to send an employee with guests that wanted to hike a trail nearby until recently when the robbers started attacking even these “guided” walks and an employee ended up in the hospital. Also, in Leon, a lady who came out of her house to sweep her walkway warned us out of the area. She said since the street was quiet and no one else was about we should turn around and go back the way we came. You will also see groups of police with automatic weapons here and there in the towns. They will also random stop drivers on the road to “check papers” which one taxi driver told us was a ploy for bribes to avoid fines.
    Finally, be prepared for extreme heat. A lot of places don’t have air conditioning. Hot water is also not a given.
    For an experienced traveller like you, if you don’t go on this trip I recommend you do go some other time on your own. There are some great things to see and if you can speak a little spanish you will love the people. For people who are wanting a luxury, easy vacation I think other spots in the caribbean or central america would be a better choice.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Thank you for the excellent information, Val. I appreciate it.

      The safety aspect seems to contradict what Andy wrote; but as I have written in past articles, safety is about being aware of your surroundings.

      My Spanish is self-taught and extremely limited — but then again, I somehow managed in places such as Argentina, Spain, Panama, Uruguay and Puerto Rico; so I might be okay.

      You are correct about local people, as they can really be the difference between a good trip and a great trip…

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