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See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Nicaragua for information on U.S. - Nicaraguan relations.
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.
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:
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Nicaragua.
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.
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:
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
Coastal Disputes: Be aware of the following border disputes:
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.
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The following diseases are prevalent:
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:
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:
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):
Traffic Stops: Transit police often stop those in rental cars and with foreign license plates.
Public Transportation: Buses, moto-taxis (caponeras), and ferries often lack proper safety equipment.
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”).