Nicaragua Traveler Information- Travel Advice
Travel Advice with a Travel Advisory overview from the US State Department. Here we cover Visa, Safety & Security, local Laws and Insurance in our Nicaragua Traveler Information guide.
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Note: Always check that your destination country is one approved for travel by your travel insurance provider.
PASSPORT VALIDITY: Length of stay.
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: One page per stamp.
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: No (90 days or fewer). Tourist card at airport. See Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements below.
VACCINATIONS: Yellow fever (in some cases, see Entry Requirements section).
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY: Must declare $10,000 USD or more in cash.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT: None.
Embassies and Consulates
Km 5 ½ Carretera Sur
Telephone: +(505) 2252-7100
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(505) 2252-7100
Fax: +(505) 2252-7250
See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Nicaragua for information on U.S. - Nicaraguan relations.
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
Nicaraguan authorities have denied entry to or expelled foreigners, including NGO workers, academics, and journalists, for unclear reasons. Travelers have also been arrested at the airport while attempting to leave the country.
- For visitors other than tourists, the Nicaraguan government recommends that you pre-register your trip by following the instructions available on the Nicaraguan immigration website (in Spanish only). See our website for additional information.
- All travelers should have an onward or return ticket and evidence of funds to support yourself while in Nicaragua.You must carry a valid identity document at all times.
- You must purchase a tourist card for $10 USD at the airport (exact change recommended), valid for up to a total of 90 days in any of the member countries of the Central America-4 Border Control Agreement. Visitors remaining longer must obtain an extension from Nicaraguan Immigration.
- Many travelers must show proof of yellow fever vaccination administered at least 10 days before travel in order to be permitted entry to Nicaragua. Please review the requirements on our website to see if you need this vaccination before your travel to Nicaragua.
- If you use a passport of a different nationality than you did on prior trips to Nicaragua, Nicaraguan authorities may deny you entry.
- Medical officials conduct a remote body temperature scan of all disembarking passengers at Managua’s airport. If you have been to West Africa or a region with medical epidemics, Nicaragua may quarantine you or not allow you to enter the country. For specific information, contact the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health.
- You must exit Nicaragua with the same passport used for entry. If your U.S. passport is lost or stolen while in Nicaragua, you will need to get a new entry stamp from Nicaraguan Immigration before you can depart.
- There is a $42 USD departure tax, often included in the plane ticket price, or you can pay the tax at the airline counter when departing.
- The Government of Nicaragua requires special notification for official travelers. All U.S. citizen employees of the U.S. government and their family members should inform the U.S. Embassy in Managua, regardless of whether they are entering Nicaragua by car, plane, or boat and regardless of whether they are traveling on their official/diplomatic/regular passports.
- See the U.S. Embassy website for information regarding departure requirements for children under 18 who also are Nicaraguan citizens
Advanced Coordination Required for Volunteer Groups: You should email both the Embassy of Nicaragua in the United States (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Nicaraguan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (email@example.com) to inform them of your trip if you are leading one of the following types of trips, even if your group has worked in Nicaragua previously or has a local office:
- Volunteer mission,
- Charitable or medical brigade (the latter also need permission from the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health), or
- Assistance visit organized by NGOs, religious groups, schools, or any other group doing this type of work in Nicaragua.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Nicaragua.
Safety and Security
- The Government of Nicaragua is authoritarian, limits freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, represses internal dissent, and monitors and responds to perceived threats to its authority. Nicaragua’s Sovereign Security Law and its Terrorism and Money Laundering law allow for discretionary interpretation of unlawful activities that threaten the peace and economic stability of Nicaragua. Convictions under these laws are largely arbitrary and result in long prison sentences.
- Nicaraguan authorities and violent, armed civilians in plain clothes acting as police (“para-police”) may physically or electronically monitor, detain, deny entry to, expel, or question private U.S. citizens and U.S. government officials concerning their activities, including contact with Nicaraguan citizens. Particularly sensitive topics are:
- The proposed interoceanic canal,
- Elections, and\
- Criticism of the Government of Nicaragua or President Daniel Ortega.
- The government-controlled legal system can result in prolonged detentions of U.S. citizens. There is no due process or respect for rule-of-law by Nicaraguan authorities.
- Demonstrations or strikes may occur throughout the country; in the past, these have turned violent. Avoid demonstrations and exercise extreme caution around large gatherings.
- Roads may be closed, and public transportation may be disrupted due to large crowds celebrating the following holidays:
- Semana Santa (the week before Easter),
- Repliegue Histórico a Masaya (early July),
- July 19 celebration of the Sandinista Revolution,
- Celebration in Managua of Santo Domingo, the Patron Saint of the city (August 1st and August 10th),
- Day of the Nicaraguan Army (September 2),
- Nicaraguan Independence Day (September 14 and 15), and
- Immaculate Conception (December 8).
Crime: Vehicle burglaries, pick-pocketing, and occasional armed robberies occur in store parking lots, on public transportation, and in open-air markets like the Oriental and Huembes Markets in Managua. Street crime is also common in Puerto Cabezas, Bluefields, San Juan del Sur, Popoyo, El Transito, and the Corn Islands. Police presence is extremely limited outside of major urban areas. The Caribbean Coast’s geographical isolation further limits the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens there.
- Armed and violent uniformed police or para-police commit violence and intimidate civilians throughout the country. Official police often oppress the people rather than assist them.
- Several U.S. citizens have been sexually assaulted in beach locations or at hotels.
- Medical services outside Managua are limited. Crime victims outside Managua with serious injuries may not receive adequate medical care.
- There are no forensic doctors on the Corn Islands, so victims of violent crimes, including sexual assault, must travel to Bluefields at their own expense for medical examinations and collection of evidence. In several recent cases, police were reluctant to produce police reports or pursue charges. Please report such incidents to the Embassy.
- Exercise extreme caution when renting or driving vehicles. In one common scam, “Good Samaritans” pull over to help change a flat tire. While the driver is distracted, an accomplice steals the driver’s possessions.
- U.S. government personnel are prohibited from entering the Oriental Market in Managua and gentlemen’s clubs throughout the country due to high levels of crime and other illicit activity.
- U.S. government personnel and their dependents are not permitted to travel beyond a one-hour drive from Managua without special permission due to civil unrest that began in April 2018. They must also avoid all protests and demonstrations, and are prohibited from using public transportation and traveling to or from the Managua international airport after dark due to crime and transportation safety concerns.
Victims of Crime: Report crimes, including sexual assault, to the local police at 118 (Nicaraguan equivalent of “911,” in Spanish) or 101 (Tourist Emergency Hotline, English-speaking operators but only reachable from Claro cell phones) and contact the U.S. Embassy at 2252-7100.
Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
The Embassy can:
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the United States
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and, or, limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
Coastal Disputes: Be aware of the following border disputes:
- Nicaragua and Colombia have an ongoing dispute over waters surrounding the San Andres Islands.
- The Nicaraguan Navy has challenged vessels passing through its exclusive economic zone.
- Nicaragua and Costa Rica have stationed security forces at Harbor Head (also called Isla Calero) at the eastern end of the San Juan River.
- Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador have maritime and land disputes over islands and access to fishing rights in the Gulf of Fonseca on the Pacific Coast, a closed sea under international law.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified by the host government nor by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities and the only hyperbaric chamber for diving injuries is in Puerto Cabezas, is over 100 miles away from Corn Island where diving is most commonly practiced. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
- Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Nicaragua are severe, even for possession of small amounts.
- Marijuana is illegal in Nicaragua, even with a prescription.
There are severe penalties, including imprisonment, for domestic violence, psychological abuse, and non-payment of child support.
Arrest Notification: Nicaraguan authorities frequently do not notify the Embassy when a U.S. citizen has been detained, especially if the arrestee has dual nationality. The Government of Nicaragua does not consider U.S. citizens born in Puerto Rico to be U.S. citizens. If you are detained, ask police or prison officials and friends or family to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. After the Embassy learns of an arrest, it may be several days or weeks before the Government of Nicaragua permits a consular official to visit. See our webpage for further information.
- The legal system operates arbitrarily, which can result in prolonged detentions of U.S. citizens without charges or due process.
- Police and prison authorities have ignored or significantly delayed implementing judicial orders to release, deport, expel, or transfer prisoners.
Purchasing Property: Exercise extreme caution before investing in property. Armed individuals, acting on authority of the President of Nicaragua have taken over privately owned land, sometimes violently. U.S. citizens have been arrested or threatened with violence as a result of property disputes. See our website for more information.
Beach Safety: Exercise caution at the beach; U.S. citizens have drowned in Nicaraguan lagoons and lakes, and off the coasts. Warning signs are not posted, and lifeguards and rescue equipment are not readily available.
Hiking in volcanic or remote areas is dangerous. Wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and carry sufficient food, water, and communication equipment. If you travel to remote areas, hire a reputable local guide. Nicaraguan law requires tourists have a local guide for several volcanoes, including Volcan Maderas and Volcan Concepcion on Ometepe Island.
Disaster Preparedness: Nicaragua is prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and volcanic eruptions. If you are at a beach area when an earthquake occurs, move swiftly to higher ground (when safe to do so) to avoid any possible tsunami.
- Nicaragua has several active volcanoes. Frequent seismic activity and/ or eruptions can occur.
- In the event of an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or other potential natural disaster, U.S. citizens should pay close attention to local media reports, follow the guidance of local authorities, and monitor the websites of the Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies (INETER) and the Nicaraguan Emergency Alert System (SINAPRED).
- See the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website for information about disaster preparedness.
Customs Regulations: U.S. citizens should contract well in advance of their visit with a recognized local customs broker for assistance; the Embassy is unable to assist with the customs or import process.
- Nicaraguan customs officials routinely delay or block import of goods, including items intended for donation.
- Drones and similar devices or toys are not permitted and will be confiscated by Customs authorities.
- Approval from the Ministry of Health’s Pharmacy Department is required to import medicine, even for donation.
- If you are planning to bring vehicles or household goods, consult Nicaraguan customs officials prior to shipment.
- When entering with your vehicle, you must have the original registration and title.
- Before excavating archaeological materials or buying historical artifacts, you must consult with the National Patrimony Directorate of the Nicaraguan Institute of Culture. Otherwise, severe criminal penalties may apply.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our website for details.
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Nicaragua. While violence against LGBTI travelers is not common, widespread societal discrimination exists. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of the Department of State's Human Rights report for further details.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: There is limited or no accessibility assistance for public transportation, and there are few sidewalks and pedestrian road crossings.
Nicaraguan law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities, but in practice, such discrimination is widespread in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of state services.
Students: See our Students Abroad page.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Government hospitals are understaffed and may deny treatment to suspected protestors. Some hospitals throughout the country may not be able to assist in emergencies. Only basic, limited emergency medical services are available outside Managua.
- Ambulance services provide transportation and basic first aid only and are unreliable throughout the country. Ambulances have reportedly refused to respond or have been denied access to areas with individuals needing emergency care.
- Physicians and hospital personnel frequently do not speak English.
- Tap water is not reliably potable -- drink only purified bottled water.
The following diseases are prevalent:
- Mosquito-borne diseases (e.g. Zika, Dengue fever, and Chikungunya)
- Upper respiratory viruses (e.g. Influenza)
- Infectious bacterial diseases (e.g. Typhoid fever and Leptospirosis)
- Intestinal illnesses (e.g. Giardia)
We do not pay your medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health's Pharmacy Department to ensure the medication is legal. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: Main roads between major cities are paved and in good condition. Other roads have potholes, and are poorly lit, narrow, and, or, lack shoulders, and further damage occurs during the rainy season. Oxcarts, livestock, and pedestrians crossing roads in front of oncoming traffic are common, even on major roads. Most roads on the Caribbean Coast are unpaved. Road signs throughout the country are poor to non-existent. Road travel after dark is hazardous in all areas. Carry a cellular phone in case of emergency, and do not drive outside urban areas after dark.
Traffic Laws: If you are involved in a traffic accident, you are supposed to wait for police and insurance company representatives to arrive and follow their instructions. However, police and insurance companies sometimes do not respond, especially during overnight hours, because of increased criminal activity and civil unrest. Do not move your vehicle, unless a police officer tells you to do so, or you will be legally liable for the accident, whether or not you caused it.
Nicaraguan law requires that police take a driver into custody for:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol (the legal limit is 0.05% blood alcohol content) or drugs and/or
- Being involved in an accident that causes serious injury or death.
The minimum detention period is 48 hours. In fatal accidents, drivers are held until they reach an agreement with the victim’s family.
To avoid liability, consider hiring a professional driver through a reputable hotel.
All drivers must carry (including in rental vehicles):
- driver’s license,
- proof of insurance,
- vehicle registration,
- emergency triangle,
- fire extinguisher, and
- inspection and registration stickers
Traffic Stops: Transit police often stop those in rental cars and with foreign license plates.
- If transit police demand a bribe in lieu of a fine, request a receipt and the officer’s name and badge number.
- To report mistreatment by police, file a complaint with Nicaragua’s National Police and forward your complaint to the U.S. Consular Section in Managua.
- If you receive a traffic violation, police will confiscate your driver’s license until you pay the fine at a bank. Foreigners are rarely able to recover their licenses in a timely manner. Consult the Nicaraguan National Police (in Spanish) for more information.
Public Transportation: Buses, moto-taxis (caponeras), and ferries often lack proper safety equipment.
- U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use public buses and moto-taxis due to safety and crime concerns.
- Use only licensed taxis recommended by airport authorities, major hotels, restaurants, or other trusted sources.
- Exercise caution in the face of possibly overloaded or otherwise unsafe ferries and boats, and check with local naval or police authorities about the safety of being on the water in local weather conditions. Life vests and other safety equipment are often insufficient.
Airports in remote locales often have short airstrips, minimal safety equipment, and little boarding security.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessed the government of Nicaragua’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Nicaragua’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Nicaragua should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts on the Maritime Administration website. Information may also be posted to the websites of the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (select “broadcast warnings”).
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
International Parental Child Abduction
Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Nicaragua. For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.
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