Caution
October 19, 2023

Worldwide Caution

Update
January 10, 2024

Information for U.S. Citizens in the Middle East

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Nicaragua

Nicaragua
Republic of Nicaragua
Reconsider travel to Nicaragua due to arbitrary enforcement of laws, the risk of wrongful detention, and limited healthcare availability. Exercise increased caution in Nicaragua due to crime.

Reissued with updates to information on arbitrary enforcement of laws.

Reconsider travel to Nicaragua due to arbitrary enforcement of laws, the risk of wrongful detention, and limited healthcare availability. Exercise increased caution in Nicaragua due to crime.

Country Summary: Throughout Nicaragua, government and law enforcement officials continue to target individuals and organizations seen as opponents of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. U.S. citizens, including dual Nicaraguan-U.S. citizens, have been subject to revocation of Nicaraguan citizenship, reentry bans, expulsion, and other actions. The government and its affiliated groups have been reported to:

  • Arbitrarily prevent individuals from entering or departing Nicaragua by air or land for perceived associations.
  • Search personal phones, computers, and documents for anti-government content, limit photography of government property, and sometimes seize devices.
  • Systematically target individuals for political reasons, regardless of nationality, including former allies, political activists, business representatives, clergy, human rights advocates, civil society leaders, academics, and members of the press.
  • Arbitrarily target pro-democracy advocates and their family members.
  • Confiscate privately-owned land, residences, financial assets, and personal property without warning or due process.
  • Arbitrarily detain, accuse, and charge individuals with terrorism, money laundering, and organized crime offenses for political reasons without respect for fair trial guarantees.

U.S. citizen residents of Nicaragua also report increased scrutiny of alleged political speech.

U.S. citizens arrested in Nicaragua may find themselves subject to prolonged detention without charges or respect of fair trial guarantees. The judicial process lacks transparency, especially in politically motivated arrests and property dispute cases. Political influence and pressure may influence the outcome of legal proceedings.

The Department has determined the risk of wrongful detention of U.S. nationals by the Government of Nicaragua exists.

Travelers should exercise increased caution and be alert to the risks of crime, including violent crimes such as sexual assault and armed robbery.

Poor infrastructure in parts of the country limits the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in emergencies. U.S. government personnel under Chief of Mission security responsibility may be subject to restrictions on their movements at any time.

Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Nicaragua.

If you decide to travel to Nicaragua:

  • Consider arrangements to depart the country quickly.
  • Ensure your U.S. passport is valid and available for a quick departure from the country, if needed.
  • Avoid demonstrations and restrict unnecessary travel.
  • Do not attempt to drive through crowds, barricades, or roadblocks.
  • Maintain adequate supplies of food, cash, potable water, and fuel in case you need to shelter in place.
  • Use caution when walking or driving at night.
  • Keep a low profile.
  • Do not display signs of wealth such as expensive watches or jewelry.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Country Security Report for Nicaragua.
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
  • Visit the CDC page for the latest Travel Health Information related to your travel.
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Embassy Messages

Alerts

Quick Facts

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

U.S. Embassy Managua

Km 5 ½ Carretera Sur
Managua, Nicaragua
Telephone:
 +(505) 2252-7100
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(505) 2252-7100
Fax: +(505) 2252-7250
Email: ACSManagua@state.gov

Email: 

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

The Government of Nicaragua has denied entry to or expelled U.S. citizens, including dual U.S.-Nicaraguan citizens, for political reasons including perceived support for or association with disfavored people or organizations.  The Government’s actions have been taken against NGO workers, academics, religious workers, journalists, and many others.  The Nicaraguan government has revoked residency status for foreign nationals for actions or expressions it perceives as political. Travelers attempting to leave the country have been arrested or denied permission to travel for political reasons. Immigration authorities regularly review social media for evidence of political expression or activity and warn against such activities.    

  • For visitors other than tourists, the Government of Nicaragua 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, such as a U.S. driver’s license or U.S. passport.  
  • 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 or be subject to large fines.  
  • Individuals traveling from countries at risk of yellow fever transmission must show proof of yellow fever vaccination administered at least 10 days before travel to be permitted entry 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.  If you possess multiple nationalities, you should carry a valid passport for all of them.  If you have Nicaraguan nationality, you should have both your U.S. and Nicaraguan passports with you.  
  • 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 by following instructions available on the Nicaraguan immigration website (in Spanish only).  This cannot be done at the airport on departure.  
  • There is a $42 USD tax that must be paid upon exiting (this tax is normally included in the price of the plane ticket for air travelers).  
  • See the U.S. Embassy website for information regarding departure requirements for children under 18 who also are Nicaraguan citizens.  
  • Nicaraguan government authorities may search personal phones, computers, and documents for anti-government content and sometimes seize such private property.  Equipment such as binoculars, drones, or other items will generally be confiscated without a mechanism to retrieve these items later.  

Advanced Coordination Required for Volunteer Groups: Please note that the Government of Nicaragua has forced the closure of more than 3,500 NGOs and charitable organizations.  Groups engaged in these types of activities, including the apolitical provision of basic services, may be denied entry.  You should email both the Embassy of Nicaragua in the United States (asistente.emb@embanic.org) and the Nicaraguan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (enlace@cancilleria.gob.ni) to inform them of your trip and secure advance permission 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.    

For the latest visa and entry requirements, visit the Nicaraguan immigration website (Spanish only).  

HIV/AIDS Restrictions:  The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors or foreign residents in Nicaragua.  

Dual Nationality and International Parental Child Abduction:  Find information on dual nationality, prevention of international child abduction, and customs regulations on our websites.  

COVID-19 Information:  As of July 21, 2023, the Nicaraguan government lifted all COVID-19 related travel restrictions.  Travelers arriving in Nicaragua do not need to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.  

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 often vaguely defined unlawful activities, such as threatening the peace and economic stability of Nicaragua.  Convictions under these laws have often been arbitrary and result in long prison sentences.  

Nicaraguan authorities and armed civilians in plain clothes known as “para police” may monitor, detain, deny entry to, expel, or question U.S. citizens concerning their activities, including their contact with Nicaraguan citizens.  Visitors should avoid any commentary on Nicaraguan politics or governance.  Nicaraguan authorities have subjected U.S. citizens, including dual U.S.-Nicaraguan citizens, to prolonged detentions which are often politically motivated or arbitrary.  Especially in politically motivated arrests, the judicial process has regularly been criticized as neither fair nor transparent.  

Demonstrations or strikes may occur throughout the country; in the past, the Nicaraguan government has violently suppressed them.  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 Historico 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.  Petty street crime is common.  Police presence is extremely limited outside of major urban areas.  The Caribbean Coast’s geographical isolation further limits the U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens living in or visiting the area. Uniformed police and para-police commit violence and intimidate civilians throughout the country for political reasons.  

U.S. citizens have been sexually assaulted in beach resort areas. 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.  

Medical services outside Managua are limited, including for victims of crime.  

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.  

Due to crime and other illicit activity, U.S. government personnel under Chief of Mission security responsibility are prohibited from entering Managua’s Oriental Market and gentlemen’s clubs throughout the country.  

International Financial Scams:  See the Department of State and the FBI page for information.  

Victims of Crime: Report crimes, including sexual assault, to the local police at 118 (Nicaraguan equivalent of “911,” in Spanish).  Report serious crimes to the U.S. Embassy at 2252-7100 immediately and minor crimes during business hours.  

Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes.  

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.  

The U.S. 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.  
  • Provide a list of local attorneys.  
  • Share information on victim’s compensation programs in the United States.  
  • Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or, limited financial support in cases of destitution.  
  • Help you find accommodation and flights home.  
  • Replace a stolen or lost passport.  

Domestic Violence:  U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the U.S. 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 are uncommon.  Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified.  In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in major cities.  In the event of a diving injury, the only hyperbaric chamber is in Puerto Cabezas, over 100 miles from Corn Island where most tourists dive.  U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance.  See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.  

Beach Safety: Exercise caution at the beach. U.S. citizens have drowned at Nicaraguan beaches, and in lagoons and lakes. Warning signs are not always posted.  Lifeguards and rescue equipment are not normally available.   

Hiking in volcanic or remote areas is dangerous.  Wear appropriate clothing and footwear.  Carry sufficient food, water, and communication equipment.  If you travel to remote areas, hire a reputable local guide. Nicaraguan law requires tourists hire a local guide for several volcanoes, including the two volcanoes on Ometepe Island (Maderas and Concepcion).  

Disaster Preparedness: Nicaragua is prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and volcanic eruptions.  If you are at a coastal area when an earthquake occurs, move swiftly to higher ground (when safe to do so) to avoid possible tsunamis.  

In the event of an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or other natural disaster, U.S. citizens should pay close attention to local media reports. 

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. Furthermore, some crimes are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law.  For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.  

  • Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Nicaragua are severe, even for possession of small amounts of illegal drugs.  
  • Even with a prescription, marijuana is illegal in Nicaragua.  

There are severe penalties, including imprisonment, for domestic violence, psychological abuse, and non-payment of child support.  

Arrest Notification: Nicaraguan authorities do not always notify the U.S. Embassy when a U.S. citizen has been arrested or detained, especially if the arrestee has dual nationality.  If you are arrested or detained, ask both police and prison officials and friends or family to notify the U.S. Embassy.  After the U.S. Embassy learns of an arrest, it may be several days or weeks before the Government of Nicaragua permits a consular official to visit.  In the case of dual U.S.-Nicaraguan nationals, the U.S. Embassy may be denied consular access.  See our webpage for further information.  

  • The judiciary does not enjoy independence from political influence.  U.S. citizens who have been arrested in Nicaragua may find themselves subject to prolonged detention without charges, often for political reasons.  
  • 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.  The Nicaraguan government may confiscate privately owned land or residences without warning or compensation.  Armed individuals have taken over privately owned land.  U.S. citizens have been arrested or threatened over property disputes.  See our website for more information.   

Customs Regulations: U.S. citizens planning to import items should contract a recognized local customs broker for assistance well in advance of their visit.  The U.S. Embassy is unable to assist with the customs or import process.  

  • Nicaraguan customs officials may delay or block import of goods, including items intended 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.  
  • Drones and similar devices are not permitted and will be confiscated by Nicaraguan customs authorities.  
  • Photography equipment, videography equipment, and binoculars may be subject to seizure by the Nicaraguan customs authorities.  
  • Approval from the Ministry of Health’s Pharmacy Department is required to import large quantities of medicine, even for charitable purposes.  
  • 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 the following webpages for details:  

LGBTQI+ Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Nicaragua.  While violence against LGBTQI+ travelers is uncommon, widespread discrimination exists.  See our LGBTQI+ Travel Information page and the Department of State's Human Rights report for further details.   

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs):   The government of Nicaragua recently forced the closure of more than 3,500 NGOs and charitable organizations.  Employees of NGOs and volunteers supporting NGOs may be denied entry to Nicaragua.  Please see “Advanced Coordination Required for Volunteer Groups” above.  

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: There is limited or no accessibility assistance for public transportation and in many public areas.  There are few sidewalks and pedestrian road crossings.  

While Nicaraguan law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities, 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.  

Health

Government hospitals are understaffed and 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.  
  • 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)  
  • Rabies  

The Department of State does not pay medical bills.  Please be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas.  

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas.  Even with health insurance, most care providers overseas require cash payments prior to providing service.  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, review the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health's Pharmacy Department guidance on entering with pharmaceutical products.  Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging labeled with your doctor’s prescribing information.  

Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Further health information:  

COVID-19 Testing Information:  

  • PCR tests are available only through the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health.  The Nicaraguan government prohibits the import of COVID-19 tests.  The U.S. Embassy has received reports of tests being confiscated from U.S. citizen travelers upon arrival in Nicaragua.  
  • All testing in Nicaragua is carried out at the National Center for Diagnosis and Reference (CNDR) and the Nicaraguan Institute for Health Investigation (INIS) from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Test results are returned the same day between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. and can usually be downloaded after 4:00 pm.  
  • Travelers wishing to be tested must present an identification card (cedula) or passport and their flight itinerary.  The $150 fee must be deposited in either Banpro account 10010012253774 (U.S. dollars) or 10010002253784 (cordobas), both registered under TGR-MINSA.  Cash payments can be made at Conchita Palacios National Health Complex or at the INIS cashier.  

COVID-19 Vaccine Information:  

Sputnik V, AstraZeneca, Covishield, and Pfizer Vaccines are available in Nicaragua for U.S. citizens to receive. Visit the FDA’s website to learn more about FDA-approved vaccines in the United States.   

Covid-19 Medical Evacuation:  

Click here for a list of private companies offering medical evacuation of COVID-19 patients from Nicaragua to the United States. U.S. citizens seeking information about medical evacuation of COVID-19 patients should contact these private companies directly.  

LOCAL RESOURCES:  

Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety: Main roads between major cities are generally paved and in good condition. Other roads may have potholes, lack shoulders, be poorly lit and narrow.  Speed bumps are often poorly marked.  During the rainy season, roads may become flooded or have additional damage.  Horse carts, livestock, and pedestrians crossing roads in front of oncoming traffic are common, even on major roads in the main cities.  Most roads on the Caribbean Coast are unpaved.  Road signs throughout the country are limited or non-existent.  Road travel after dark is hazardous in all areas.  Carry a cellphone in case of emergency, but understand cell reception may be spotty in many areas of the country.  Do not drive outside urban areas after dark.  

Traffic Laws: If you are involved in a traffic accident, you must wait for the police and insurance company representatives to arrive before you move your vehicle.  However, especially during overnight hours, police and insurance companies may not respond.  Do not move your vehicle, unless a police officer tells you to do so, or you will be legally liable for the accident.    

Nicaraguan law requires that police take a driver into custody for:  

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (the legal limit is 0.05% blood alcohol content); or  
  • For 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 a legal settlement with the victim’s family. To avoid liability, consider hiring a professional driver through a reputable hotel.  

All drivers must carry:  

  • Driver’s license;  
  • Proof of insurance;  
  • Vehicle registration;  
  • Emergency triangle;  
  • Fire extinguisher; and  
  • Inspection and registration stickers   

These regulations also apply to drivers in rental vehicles.  Penalties for not having any of the above include fines and towing.  For more information, check with the Nicaraguan National Police or the Embassy of Nicaragua. 

Traffic Stops: Transit police often stop vehicles with either local or 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, email a complaint to Nicaragua’s National Police and forward a copy 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.  Depending on your length of stay, you may not be able to recover your license in a timely manner.    

Public Transportation: Buses, moto-taxis, and ferries often lack proper safety equipment.  

  • U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use public buses and most taxis (including 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 unsafe ferries and boats.  Check with local naval or police authorities about the safety of being on the water in local weather conditions.  Most vessels provide insufficient numbers of life vests and other safety equipment.  

Airports in remote locales often have short airstrips, minimal safety equipment, and little boarding security.  

See our Road Safety page for more information and the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism and National Transit Authority.    

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessed the government of Nicaragua’s Civil Aviation Authority as compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Nicaragua’s air carrier operations in 2015.  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.  

For additional travel information

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.

Last Updated: February 6, 2024

Travel Advisory Levels

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy Managua
Km 5 ½ Carretera Sur
Managua, Nicaragua
Telephone
+(505) 2252-7100
Emergency
+(505) 2252-7100
Fax
+(505) 2252-7250

Nicaragua Map