I had been told that US dollars are widely accepted in Nicaragua, but the extent to which it is possible to use dollars has actually been surprising. You would expect in many countries to find people selling things on the street who are happy to accept dollars, or euros depending on the country, in order to exchange them for the local currency. In Nicaragua, it is not just the case that people will accept dollars. They actually use them. In many places you will actually find prices in dollars rather than in córdobas. The exchange rate right now is probably almost 26 córdobas per dollar, but since it is still in the 25 range, doing the math for prices is pretty easy. A C$100 bill is worth $4.00 US dollars more or less. And a C$500 is $20.00 more or less.
I have mostly been paying in córdobas because I haven’t made any very large purchases and it is easier to both have exact change and to get exact change if you pay in córdobas. For some of the costlier transportation I paid in dollars, but if you pay for little things in dollars it seems like you cannot expect them to be able to give you exact change. If they do give you change, it might be in córdobas.
It is strange to me to go to a foreign country and have people understand my home currency as well as I do. What is also odd to me is to meet so many other backpackers and tourists from Australia, England, Switzerland, Germany, etc. who also tell me how much they have paid for everything, including airfare, in dollars.
I feel like I have gotten the whole experience by paying in córdobas rather than by relying on dollars. It is great practice to have to think about prices in a different currency and I actually think it might help with the street vendors that I both speak Spanish and pay in córdobas. Although, I will haven’t done much bartering. If I don’t like the price I just say I need to think about it, thank the person and walk away. We bought a quite a lot of jewelry from one guy who just kept lowering the prices and throwing in extras when he could tell I was interested but unwilling to pay his original price. If you want to offer me a good deal, I’ll certainly consider it!