NicaraguaOfficial Name: Republic of Nicaragua
Length of stay
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page per stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
No (90 days or less), but tourist card at airport. See Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements below
None. Centers for Disease Control suggests Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus and diphtheria.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
Must declare $10,000 USD or more in cash
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Embassies and Consulates
Km 5 ½ Carretera Sur
Telephone: +(505) 2252-7100
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(505) 2252-7171
Fax: +(505) 2252-7250
See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Nicaragua for information on U.S. - Nicaragua relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
Entry: To enter Nicaragua, you must have:
- U.S. passport valid for length of stay OR Nicaraguan passport if you are also a Nicaraguan citizen and plan to stay more than 90 days;
- Onward or return ticket;
- Evidence of funds to support yourself while in Nicaragua; AND
- Tourist card purchased for USD$10 at the airport (exact change recommended).
Medical officials conduct a remote body temperature scan of all disembarking passengers at Managua’s airport before allowing them to proceed to immigration. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Nicaragua. If you have been to West Africa or any other region with medical epidemics, Nicaragua may place you under quarantine or not allow you to enter the country. For specific information, please contact the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health.
Immunizations: See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Nicaragua page.
Permitted stay: The entry card/stamp for tourists permits up to 90-day stays in any of the member countries of the Central America-4 Border Control Agreement (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua). Visitors remaining longer must obtain an extension from Nicaraguan Immigration. If the card expires while you are in Nicaragua, you are illegally present and risk arrest and detention by Nicaraguan Immigration authorities. If you are detained, you will remain in custody until you pay for your deportation, resolve your immigration status and/or pay required fines of at least 50 Nicaraguan cordobas (USD$2) per day of illegal presence.
Identity documents: Nicaraguan law requires foreigners to have a valid identity document at all times. Authorities may request to see it and detain travelers without identity documents. If you take a domestic flight to Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast, you must show your passport or residency card to an immigration officer. If your U.S. passport is lost or stolen while in Nicaragua, please contact the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible to replace it. You will need to get a new entry stamp from Nicaraguan Immigration at the airport or their Managua office before you can depart.
Exit: There is a USD$42 departure tax, often included in the ticket, or you can pay the tax at the airline counter when departing. You must exit Nicaragua with the same passport used for entry. Minors with a claim to Nicaraguan citizenship must meet departure requirements for Nicaraguan children under 18, even if they have another citizenship.
Other: Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international parental child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Safety and Security
Civil Unrest: Political, economic, and social demonstrations occur frequently throughout the country. Typically, protests in Managua happen at major intersections or traffic circles (rotundas). Outside of the capital, they often take the form of road and highway blockages. Activities observed during past protests include:
- use of tear gas and rubber bullets
- fireworks (often launched via improvised mortars)
- tire and/or vehicle burning
- road blocks
Because even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can escalate into violence, we advise you to avoid crowds and blockades during such occurrences, to monitor local media reports, and to exercise caution when near any large gathering.
Certain holidays and celebrations draw large crowds and can lead to road closures and disruption of public transportation. Be aware of those days and plan accordingly. Events for these celebrations are often announced only days in advance, making it difficult to plan ahead. A partial list of such holidays/celebrations includes:
- Semana Santa (the week before Easter)
- Repliegue Histórico a Masaya (usually occurs sometime in late June)
- July 19 celebration of the Sandinista Revolution
- Celebration in Managua of Santo Domingo, the Patron Saint of the city (August 1st and August 10th)
- Feast of Purísima (December 8).
The next major election in Nicaragua will be in November 2016 for President and the National Assembly, and we anticipate (and have already begun to see) demonstrations and political rallies on an increasing scale as the election nears. During the last Presidential election in 2011, there were widespread demonstrations and political rallies all over Managua. Violence also escalated in rural communities. Confrontations between the largest political parties erupted along main thoroughfares and locked down Managua for brief periods.
Travel Restrictions: All travel by U.S. government personnel to the Northern and Southern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Regions must be pre-approved.
Crime: Violent crime occurs throughout Nicaragua, and street crime is very common. There have been a large number of reports of vehicles burglarized in restaurant, gas station, and convenience store parking lots. Pick-pocketing and occasional armed robberies occur on crowded buses, at bus stops, in taxis, and in open markets like the Oriental and Huembes Markets. We prohibit off-duty U.S. government personnel from entering the Oriental Market due to high levels of theft and other crime.
Police presence is extremely limited outside of major urban areas, including in the remote beach communities on the Pacific Coast and Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast.
Several U.S. citizens have been the victims of sexual assault in recent years.
Due to an increase in crimes committed against foreigners driving rented vehicles, we recommend that you exercise extreme caution when renting or driving vehicles in Nicaragua. Dozens of people who have rented cars have reported that “Good Samaritans” pulled over to assist them to change a flat tire. While the driver was distracted, an accomplice stole the driver’s possessions.
Street crime and petty theft are common problems in Puerto Cabezas, Bluefields, and other urban areas along the Caribbean Coast. Due to the area’s geographical isolation, our ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens who choose to travel in the Caribbean coastal area is very limited. Police presence is minimal on the Corn Islands, and there are no forensic doctors there, so victims of violent crimes, including sexual assault, must travel to Bluefields at their own expense for medical examinations and collection of evidence.
Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should contact the U.S. Embassy.
Report crimes 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.
- 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 U.S.
- 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
Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime. You may find the police, including the Nicaraguan National Police, unable to assist in emergencies or respond effectively due to a lack of resources, vehicles, and personnel.
Presenting copies of receipts or other proof of ownership of high-value items such as computers, cameras, tablets, and smart phones may assist in the completion of police reports. However, we have received reports of police refusing to file reports of a crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
Please also see our tips to avoid becoming a crime victim in Nicaragua.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
Coastal Disputes: On the Caribbean Coast, nautical travelers should be aware that there is an ongoing boundary dispute with Colombia over maritime waters surrounding the San Andres Island archipelago. The Nicaraguan Navy has challenged vessels transiting its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
- Nicaragua and Costa Rica have stationed security forces at Harbor Head (also called Isla Calero) at the eastern end of the San Juan River due to a border dispute.
- Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador have maritime and land disputes over islands and access to fishing rights in the Gulf of Fonseca, a closed sea under international law.
For further 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 at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from 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 Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled or imprisoned. You should know that we are limited in what we can do to assist detainees, and your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or imprisonment.
Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Nicaragua are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Marijuana remains illegal in Nicaragua, even with a prescription. Possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana can yield a prison sentence of 6 months to 3 years, while more than 20 grams can yield a 5 to 15-year prison sentence.
Nicaragua has recently implemented new laws protecting women and children. Penalties for domestic violence, psychological abuse, and non-payment of child support are also very severe and interpreted broadly.
Arrest Notification: Nicaraguan authorities do not always notify us when a U.S. citizen has been detained, especially if the arrestee has dual nationality. If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials and friends or family to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Nicaraguan Legal and Penal Systems: Despite rights of due process under Nicaraguan law, in practice, the legal, judicial, immigration, and penal systems often operate in an arbitrary manner, subject to corruption and political influence. It is difficult to predict how the local legal system will function in any particular case, which can result in prolonged detentions of U.S. citizens without charges or due process.
In many instances, police and prison authorities have ignored or significantly delayed implementing judicial orders to release, deport, expel or transfer prisoners. Detainees may be held for long periods without being charged.
The Embassy cannot provide legal advice, represent you, get you out of jail, or provide funds for legal assistance. If you are detained or experience any legal issue while overseas, you must hire a local attorney. You should be aware that civil disputes can become criminal in nature. Several U.S. citizens in Nicaragua have reported being arrested or threatened with arrest in property disputes, for example.
Purchasing Property: Exercise extreme caution before committing to invest in property in Nicaragua. The country’s weak judicial system, land titling issues, and corruption create serious challenges to purchasing and using property in Nicaragua; several U.S. citizens have reported arrest threats or actual arrests as a result of property disputes. Potential investors should engage competent local legal representation and investigate their purchases thoroughly in order to reduce the possibility of property disputes.
Environmental Concerns: Strong currents off sections of Nicaragua's Pacific Coast have resulted in a number of drownings. Powerful waves have caused broken bones, and stingray injuries are not uncommon at popular beaches. Warning signs are not posted, and lifeguards and rescue equipment are not readily available. If you visit Nicaragua's beaches, exercise appropriate caution.
Hiking in volcanic or remote areas is dangerous. Hikers should wear appropriate clothing and footwear and carry sufficient food, water, and communication equipment. Individuals who travel to remote areas are encouraged to hire a reputable local guide familiar with the terrain and area. Individuals hiking Volcan Maderas and/or Volcan Concepcion on Ometepe Island are required by law to hire a local guide. Hikers have been lost or perished on these volcanoes, as the terrain is treacherous.
Volcanic activity recently increased, resulting in a minor eruption of the Volcan San Cristobal near Chinandega in September 2012, a minor eruption of Volcan Telica in 2014, and increased seismic activity under other volcanoes, such as Volcan Concepcion on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua and Volcan Momotombo. In May and November 2015, Telica became active again, as did Concepcion in May 2015.
Disaster Preparedness: Nicaragua is prone to a wide variety of natural disasters, including earthquakes, hurricanes, 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.
In the event of an earthquake, volcananic 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).
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Customs Regulations: All U.S. citizens, including mission/aid groups trying to import supplies/donations, should contract well in advance of their visit with a recognized local customs broker for assistance; we are unable to assist with the customs or import process.
In order to import medicine, even for donation to charity, you need the approval of the Ministry of Health’s Pharmacy Department.
We have received many reports of Nicaraguan customs officials delaying, and sometimes blocking, release of medicines and other items, even those intended for donation.
Before excavating archaeological materials or agreeing to buy artifacts of historical value, you should consult with the National Patrimony Directorate of the Nicaraguan Institute of Culture. Otherwise, severe criminal penalties may apply.
If you are planning to stay in Nicaragua for an extended period and will bring vehicles or household goods, consult Nicaraguan customs officials prior to shipment.
Please see our Customs Information for additional information.
Filming or Photographing in the Area of the Proposed Canal: There have been several reports in the press of journalists or foreigners detained and/or deported for reporting on the proposed canal. For questions about freedom of speech, expression, and press, please refer to the State Department’s Human Rights Report for Nicaragua.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.
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.
Persons with Mobility Issues: Accessibility and accommodation for people with mobility issues is a challenge. There is limited to no accessibility in public transportation, including few sidewalks and 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.
Retired Residents Law: Nicaragua promotes residency for retirees. Retirees can apply for residency through the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism, INTUR.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Major country-specific health concerns:
- Only basic, limited emergency medical services are available in smaller towns and villages;
- Ambulance services, where available, provide transportation and basic first aid only;
- Physicians and hospital personnel frequently do not speak English;
- Tap water is not reliably potable -- drink only purified bottled water;
- Some drugs, such as marijuana, are not legal in Nicaragua even if they are legal in some U.S. states.
Zika Virus: Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that can be spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. For additional information about Zika, including travel advisories, visit the CDC website.
In addition, the following diseases are prevalent:
- Mosquito-borne diseases (i.e., Dengue fever and Chikungunya)
- Upper respiratory viruses (i.e., Influenza)
- Infectious bacterial diseases (i.e., Typhoid fever and Leptospirosis)
- Intestinal illnesses (i.e., Giardia)
Insurance: We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments, including in Nicaragua. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance (our webpage) to cover medical evacuation.
Medication: Pack prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription, in carry-on bags. Bring an adequate supply for the duration of your trip, but not more than could be considered for personal consumption. Contact the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health's Pharmacy Department before you depart with questions about specific medications.
Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For further health information, go to:
Travel & Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: Highways connecting major cities are generally in good condition, but secondary roads are potholed, poorly lit, frequently narrow, and lack shoulders. 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. For safety, carry a cellular phone in case of emergency, and do not drive outside urban areas after dark.
- Damaged roads during the rainy season;
- Bicycles, oxcarts, animals, and vehicles without lights, even on main roads;
- Motorcycles darting between traffic with little or no warning;
- Pedestrians on busy roads;
- Other vehicles in poor condition;
- Drivers passing or parking on blind corners;
- Drivers signaling a turn by sticking their hand out the window.
Traffic Laws: If you are involved in a traffic accident, wait for police to arrive and follow their instructions. Do not move your vehicle at all 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 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 (in rented or owned vehicles) must carry:
- driver’s license,
- proof of insurance,
- vehicle registration,
- emergency triangle,
- fire extinguisher, and
- inspection and registration stickers (“Calcomania de Revision” and “Calcomania de Matricula” issued by police).
Penalties for not having the above include fines and/or towing to a pound. For more information about transit laws, Nicaraguan driver’s permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please check with the Nicaraguan National Police or the Embassy of Nicaragua.
Traffic Stops: Transit police conduct most traffic stops on foot at locations marked by traffic cones. The transit police are more likely to stop those in rental cars and with foreign license plates.
Transit police often demand on-the-spot bribes in lieu of fines. If this happens, 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. Also, advise your rental car agency if police say their vehicles do not meet transit regulations.
If you receive a traffic violation, police will confiscate your driver's license until you pay the fine at a bank. After paying, take proof of payment to Transit Police Headquarters (or a police station if outside Managua) to retrieve your license. Be aware that foreigners are rarely able to recover their licenses in a timely manner because of transfer delays to the Transit Police. Most foreigners leave Nicaragua before the transfer occurs
Public Transportation: Buses and mototaxis (caponeras) often lack proper safety equipment.
- Avoid public buses due to safety and crime concerns.
- Use only mototaxis (caponeras) recommended by trusted sources and only for short trips.
- Use only licensed taxis recommended by airport authorities, major hotels, restaurants, or other trusted sources.
- Have small bills because many drivers will not make change.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has 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.
When flying to remote locales, travelers should be aware that airports are likely to be poorly developed facilities with short airstrips, minimal safety equipment, and little boarding security.